Gilbert and Harley were next door neighbours. Both lived alone without close family. Both were retired. Over the years Gilbert – who never married – had built up a cosy little retirement nest-egg. On the other hand, divorce had milked Harley of half his retirement gains and he was living hand to mouth.
Gilbert came up with a plan. Why don’t we share costs? The cost of power, and internet, and phone. The cost of groceries. The cost of rent or rates. Gilbert had plenty to tie both over. The small amount of money that came in for Harley in his pension wasn’t enough to live on, but it would create a lovely monthly bonus for each to split in half and spend it on themselves however they wanted.
In the first month Gilbert bought himself a much needed replacement for his toaster. Harley bought himself a wheelbarrow for the garden. It was a great system! It worked well for five years.
And then Gilbert – the one with the money – suddenly died. A distant third cousin twice removed claimed the inheritance.
Samantha’s next door neighbour, Anastasia, grew geraniums. There was a whole row of geraniums growing right along the boundary fence on Anastasia’s side. The gaps in the slats of the fence meant that Samantha could get her hand through the fence with a pair of scissors and pick a bunch of geraniums for her dining room table. Not that she cut them all from the same plant; just a bloom or two from here and there.
And of course the geranium flowering season lasted for months and months. Samantha was never short of floral arrangements during spring, summer, and autumn. Such lovely reds and pinks and whites to brighten the dullest of days!
There was a knock at Samantha’s door. It was Anastasia. Could she borrow a cup of sugar?
“Come in! Come in!” said Samantha, quite forgetting the pilfered geranium arrangement on her dining table.
“Oh look!” said Anastasia, “I have geraniums in my garden exactly like that.”
“I know,” said Samantha. “It’s what inspired me to go to the market and buy these!”
“Would you like some plants?” asked Anastasia. Oh yes, indeed!
That evening, Anastasia pulled out her geraniums, sprayed them with weed killer, and threw them over the fence. She wanted to grow agapanthuses anyway.
You see that tall wire-netting fence at the front of that house just across the road? It would be absolutely perfect for growing passionfruit. I don’t know why they haven’t planted passionfruit there. What is more, it would give the front lawn of their house some privacy.
Not only can I see the fence from my window, but I have to walk passed it every day on the way to work. Every time I pass I think why hasn’t anyone planted passionfruit to grow up it? I work at a supermarket, and you know the price of passionfruit these days? If they planted passionfruit to grow up their fence it would save a lot of money.
Some people have no imagination. To think of all the starving people in the world. Who wouldn’t like a passionfruit as a treat occasionally? The owners of this netting fence are so blind. They only think of themselves.
I’ve just had this thought. I KNOW WHY THEY HAVEN’T PLANTED PASSIONFRUIT. BECAUSE PEOPLE PASSING BY WOULD STEAL IT. THE MORALS OF THE MODERN WORLD ARE INEXCUSABLE. Boys on their bicycles would ride passed and pinch a passionfruit. It’s disgusting. No wonder there are so many people starving in the world today. It would simply be a temptation and opportunity for thieves.
I’ve a good mind to pull their fence down before they do something silly with it.
This house is going to be largely about dogs – canine and human.
Even prior to being ousted from the previous place we had found a house in town to live in. In fact, although we would spend part of each day at the previous place we had shifted most of our belongings to the new address and slept in the new place at night. We still had the cow and the goat at the old place. The end came suddenly and before you could blink we were ensconced at 27 Saint Annes Street, Levin.
It was a large two-story house with a steep staircase that had no bannister. To get to the main bedroom you had to squeeze past the staircase, which suggested that the upstairs had been an afterthought. Outside in the front were two gigantic trees; a gum and a copper beech. Next to them was a fairly busy road. At the back of the house was a substantial lawn with a large, but old, garage and workshop. We put in trellis gates to keep the dog at bay.
We always regarded this place as being temporary. It would give us space to search anywhere in the country for as near-perfect a house as possible. We made a list of what a rented house would have to have, and a list of what would be nice but not necessary. Every day we looked online at the houses available, from the top of the country to the bottom. In the meantime we got on with living a life.
We were permitted to have a dog, so of course Delia came too as did the cat. Delia didn’t like the place much. She was used to expansive rural settings where she could roam at whim. And then she was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Luckily an expert dog surgeon was visiting the town. He said an operation would be touch and go. We held our breath, but within a week Delia was happily home as large as life. Six months later we went for our daily walk. We came home. Delia sat down and died – tail wagging.
A month or so later we had the opportunity to get a puppy – a black and white Springer Spaniel. We named him Bubble.
On one side of the house were neighbours Pearl and Norm. They were an older couple, and delightful. They would frequently pop in for a chat, as indeed we too would pop over to their place. Norm was into making home brew and I wasn’t beyond making a brew myself. Norm was a car mechanic and was called upon several times to fix our car. Pearl cared for half a dozen homeless cats.
There was a neighbour on the other side also called Norm; Norm and his partner Chelsea. All day, and for a good part of the night, you could hear them screaming obscenities at each other. (You get the idea). They had seven dogs; half a dozen fluffy lapdog yappers and a vicious Rottweiler. The Rottweiler knew how to jump the fence into our property right at the back where Norm had his marijuana garden. We were at times scared to go out on the back lawn, and little Bubble wouldn’t go there to pee. Luckily, Levin had a dog park of about ten acres. We would visit the park each day and Bubble would play and run with packs of other dogs of all shapes and sizes.
I continued to play the piano at the Levin Library when invited to give a concert. Usually I would play Scarlatti Sonatas or Haydn Sonatas. I loved it, and the library users appreciated it too.
Another thing that happened was a 7.8 earthquake. It was a biggie! It went on and on. In fact it was two earthquakes following one another without a break.
Rainwater had no escape from our back lawn, and the water from the roof of the house also gushed there. The back of the house with the wretched running Rottweiler became a muddy swamp. We made some raised beds to grow vegetables.
Then disaster struck. Norm-of-the-obscenities dropped dead at his front door. The body was taken away and the partying began. Crowds revelled at the house and a few stayed the nights. A second Rottweiler made an appearance. Chelsea could not control any of the dogs. They ran amuck. A month or so later their landlord called to ask why the rent had not been paid. He booted all out. The house had been trashed.
Peace at last, but we’d had enough of the place. With greater urgency we searched for a house we could call a home. We drove several hundred miles to view a place, but that is the next story. Eric went ahead to set up the new abode; internet and power and phone and so on. I stayed behind to supervise the removal truck and to shampoo the carpet. Three days later, with dog and cat, I set sail and left the wretched place behind.
You see the roof of that shed? It’s silver. I can just see it from my dining room window. My late husband planted those fast-growing trees quite a few years back to block the unsightly view of the corrugated iron shed. The elderly couple used to keep hay in the shed for their horses. They had two horses.
“It’s none of our business watching the neighbours feed their horses,” he used to say. “And the shed is unsightly. It ruins the view.”
With that, my husband planted the trees. They’re on our side of the fence. If the truth be told, it worked both ways. It stopped the elderly couple from looking up and into our dining room. Not that we were doing anything untoward. But it’s a question of privacy.
Well! The elderly couple died – as does happen – and the property was sold. It was bought by a couple of men who are – as Maggie from up the road says – “an interesting couple of blokes”. I’m not sure what goes on in that shed, but they ain’t got no horses.
Every day I curse my late husband for his lack of foresight when he planted those trees. Every day, around 11 o’clock, those two park their pickup just shy of the corrugated iron shed. They get out and go presumably into the shed. They’re there from several minutes to about an hour.
Maggie from up the road says they’ll be growing marijuana under artificial light, but I pointed out that it has a concrete floor and there didn’t seem to be any cables going into the shed for electricity. At least that was the case when I went down to the shed when those “interesting couple of blokes” were away for the day. Of course, the shed was locked, so I’m none the wiser.
Tomorrow’s a public holiday. They seem to go away on most public holidays. Goodness knows where to, although I have my suspicions. Maggie from up the road and I intend to go to the shed and find out what’s going on, once and for all. We’ll let you know.
Valencia had had enough. It rained and rained and rained. She wasn’t too worried about the Bloxham family, the neighbours on the left hand side; she was more concerned about Janet on the other side of the road. Janet lived alone, and with total lockdown demanded by the government, there really was no way that Valencia could check on Janet.
In the end Valencia could take it no longer. She had obeyed the lockdown orders for two months now. She left her house, strode across the road, and knocked on Janet’s door. Janet answered.
“I was just checking to see if you were okay and if there was anything you needed,” said Valencia. Everything was fine, so Valencia returned home.
It can’t have been more than twenty minutes before the police arrived. The Bloxham’s next door had seen and reported. Their neighbour was wandering the neighbourhood indiscriminately. Valencia explained to the police that she had been checking on a neighbour. That was not good enough. Valencia was issued with a warning.
Valencia had had enough. It rained and rained and rained. She went into the kitchen, turned on the gas, and stuck her head in the oven.
I mean, what can one do? The next door neighbours have been very kind. When my little girl was ill and I had to spend a lot of time with her in the hospital, the neighbours came over and mowed my lawn. Wasn’t that kind? I am a keen gardener and my property is not exactly tiny, so the lawn takes over an hour to mow. But that was no trouble to Nadine and Todrick, and what a lovely surprise to get home and see the lawn all shipshape.
Now it’s the end of the harvest season and the shops haven’t messed around in putting the price of vegetables way up. Tomatoes especially are a hideous price. So I picked the last of my tomatoes just before the cold weather set in, and I’ve been ripening them in a turkey dish sitting in the sun on my dining table. When they are all ripe I’m going to put them in a bag and take them over to Nadine and Todrick’s by way of thanks.
At least, that was the plan. My mother came in to baby sit my little girl while I went job hunting. It’s almost impossible these days to be a parent and look for a job. Once a job is found it’s easier to settle into some sort of routine. But looking for a job is erratic and hit-and-miss.
Anyway, when I got home my mother had kindly cut the tomatoes up and had made a green tomato pickle. That was sweet of her, but the taste is atrocious. I couldn’t possibly give the neighbours a jar of this pickle so now I’m all at sixes and sevens as to how I should thank them for their kindness.
Oh thank goodness! There is a God after all! I have just heard that Todrick is in hospital and gravely ill. Nadine spends all her time at the hospital of course. It will give me the opportunity to mow their lawn.
Dermot’s neighbour had a pet goat. The goat kept jumping over the fence.
Dermot was an enthusiastic gardener. In fact, Dermot was famous throughout the land for the developing of new varieties of sweet peas. Each variety, both in colour and shape, would take several years. There were four of Dermot’s sweet pea varieties available in the shops. The most popular one was called Night Knight. It was a beautiful navy blue.
One time the neighbour’s goat got over the fence and nibbled on one of Dermot’s sweet peas. It put back the development of that variety of sweet pea by several months. Luckily Dermot caught the goat in time, but he gave a warning to the neighbour.
“I earn my living growing sweet peas, so please ensure your goat stays on your side of the fence.”
Anyway, I forgot to mention; Dermot’s wife is an excellent cook. Tonight they’re having grilled goat chops with garlic, oregano and lemon.
Ghislaine’s next-door neighbour was Clotilde. To be honest, the boundary fence was way too close to Ghislaine’s house. It was only two or three steps away from Ghislaine’s sitting room window. Ghislaine planted some sunflowers in the space between in order to give a little privacy.
This worried Clotilde, not because it stopped her from looking into Ghislaine’s sitting room (she didn’t care about that) but because she loathed sunflowers. There was a good reason for this loathing. When she was seven years old her little sister had died and her parents put sunflowers on the coffin during the funeral. Sunflowers had become the unhappiest of flowers.
It’s not as if Ghislaine and Clotilde were enemies. They didn’t dislike each other at all. In fact, when the sunflowers weren’t there, Ghislaine and Clotilde would chat over the fence quite amiably. Clotilde decided to visit Ghislaine and tell her of her sunflower predicament.
Ghislaine understood perfectly. “Goodness!” she said. “I had no idea.” She pulled the sunflowers out at the height of their beauty despite Clotilde saying she would live with them for the season.
They reached a compromise; they bought a high trellis and together planted a beautiful yellow climbing rose. It was the perfect solution and gorgeous to behold!
This mutual and amiable conciliation reminds us all (surely) of today’s politicians.
You’ve no idea the trouble Ivy went to, to get twelve lovely photographs of the wonderful family who lived next door. There were five in the Winchcombe Family: Mum, Dad, and their three beautiful daughters. The Winchcombes were about as ideal next door neighbours as one could hope for. And every Christmas they would bring Ivy a basket of the tastiest homemade shortbread possible. Glorious!
The trouble was that Ivy always had trouble knowing what best to give them in return. She’d done chocolates at least five times. And then she got this idea. Wonderful!
She would get a calendar printed with a different family photograph each month of the year. Ivy started early gathering the photographs together. It was a difficult task because she didn’t want to let her secret out. The photos were perfect. There was a beautiful one of the family gathering mushrooms in a green field. Another shot was of the family at a fair ground. The loveliest photograph of all was an official portrait taken of the family sitting on a rug in front of a lake. With swans. And trees. And flowers. And… oh lovely! Just lovely!
Ivy was so pleased with the calendar when it was finished that she couldn’t wait to give it to the family. But she must be patient. She mustn’t jump the gun. Only a week to go!
And then the three girls called in with a basket of Christmas shortbread and said that their parents were getting a divorce.