Tuesday, 17 May 2011
It is a nuisance to have to waste time and energy on neighbour disputes, and I know a lot of you have had all kinds of problems with selfish or thoughtless people encroaching on your property. In comparison to the things I've read on other people's blogs I know I'm dealing with a pretty small and insignificant dispute, but it's an annoyance nonetheless.
I've already blogged about my next-door neighbour's decision last year to put a solid six foot fence along the entire length of my vegetable garden, in place of an open latticework fence which allowed the sunlight through. The impact of this has been noticeable over the last season. The fence runs along the south side of my garden, so the vegetable plot now gets no direct sunlight at all during the spring and autumn months, and even in summer the strip of permanent shadow is two or three feet wide, reducing the amount of growing space I have. It would be annoying enough if it was their fence boundary, but it isn't - it's ours. But in the interests of maintaining neighbourly relations, I decided not to put in a formal complaint about it. The fence does bring me some benefit to compensate for the loss of growing space; being in shade all through the winter does reduce the weed growth, and at least the fence now gives me some privacy and prevents the bloke next door from dispensing unsolicited gardening advice, which he was wont to do with tedious regularity.
Last week, however, I went out into the garden and found the neighbour perched up on the fence nailing a trellis panel on top of it, raising the height of the fence by another 12-18 inches. "It's just decorative", he said when I challenged him about the further loss of light it would cause to my growing area. Thanks a bunch. He was obviously a bit self-conscious about doing the work while I was working out there, and stopped for the rest of the day. As I've always got on fine with them, I thought the best thing to do would be to make a conciliatory approach explaining my concerns. I wrote a polite and friendly letter asking them to reconsider their plan to put trellis panels along the whole length of the fence, explaining the impact their six foot fence has already had on my property and hoping they would understand how much my vegetable garden means to me.
I got no response, but the next morning I found that they had snuck out early in the morning before I was up and nailed the trellis panels up all the way along. As a concession, they had put them slightly lower than they were originally going to be, but they still add to the height of the fence. I was not happy, to say the least, and I told the neighbour so the next time he stuck his head up over the fence. His response was that he'd rung the council planning department and they'd told him that he could basically do what he liked (thank you council), and if I didn't like it I'd have to take out a civil action. We had a good shout at each other but the selfish old bastard knew there wasn't anything I could do once he'd got the panels up - which is probably why he did it while I wasn't around.
To be honest, it's not the further erosion of my vegetable plot that bothers me; it's the disappointment that after seven years of being decent neighbours to them, and asking them nicely not to do something which impacts on my garden, they deviously went ahead and did it while I wasn't looking, and rather than listen to my concerns just told me I'd have to take legal action to get it removed. I'm well within my rights to do so, but I've got better things to do with my time and money than lining solicitors' pockets. I'm just baffled as to why they are being such arseholes.
Maybe the arseholeness was there already and I'd chosen not to see it. I already knew that the woman next door bad-mouths the neighbours while being friendly and polite to their faces. The first inkling I had that I was on the receiving end of this was when they asked me to go round and be a witness on some legal paperwork they were trying to get signed. Their daughter, who is about the same age as me, was there and I smiled and said hello ... and she scowled at me as if I'd just been caught trying to burn down an orphanage. I can't ever remember being greeted with such contempt and disgust by someone I've never met, and I thought oh well, it says more about her than it does about me. But then it transpired that her mum doesn't have a good word to say about anyone and has probably given her the impression that all the neighbours around here are freaks and degenerates. It's also telling how often they have offered me things during their clear-outs which have turned out to be broken. Plant trays with splits down the side, baskets where the handles have come off. They make a show of being kind and neighbourly when they are simply dumping worthless junk.
And now, following my shouting match with the old bugger last week, they have decided to take things a stage further and are now about to put up a solid six foot fence along the length of my greenhouse, where the one remaining lattice panel had been letting some light through. Clearly the chance to cast a permanent shadow over my greenhouse and render one side of it useless for growing plants was too great a temptation to resist. You have to feel sorry for people who are that small-minded, because it's really a symptom of how unsatisfying their lives are. Again, I've got better things to do with my time than getting involved in legal action, but I did take a few moments out of my busy schedule to draw an unwieldy erect phallus on the side of my rainwater butt to give him something to look at while he's working. Does that make me mean-spirited as well? Perhaps, but it's more fun than a solicitor and if he's going to behave like a prick then he may as well have one to look at. Besides, "it's just decorative".
Posted by Rebsie Fairholm at 3:36 pm