Friday, 24 July 2015

Worse than a phone call

So, the next big project in the Bear Household is finally underway. After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing and phone-calls and letters, and yes-but, no-but, what-about-ery we're finally having the monstrous shed demolished, the dying tree removed and a splendid new edifice constructed. It's going to be so splendid, we have decided to call it The Improvements. (This is a Bear Family joke that really won't survive the telling. I'm leaving it in solely for the two Bear Cousins that I know read this blog).

The Monstrosity

The Monstrosity might not look that bad here, but then we've done our best to hide it in some shrubs. It's made of pre-fab concrete, has an asbestos roof and a rotten wood floor suspended over an uneven concrete slab that the unwary are prone to fall through. Oh, and it used to have an electrical supply, but that's strangely gone missing. I mean, the wires are there, but there's no life in them. Which, as it turns out, is a Good Thing*. You can see why now we Got A Man In to sort it out can't you? Concrete, asbestos and dodgy mains electricity are simply not in my repertoire these days. Asbestos never was.

So, while we were all at work/nursery, the men came and started work...

Step one, and the asbestos is gone. Hooray!

The next day, another work/nursery day, they continued...

Step two, the Monstrosity is gone. Double Hooray!

And finally today, they came back for some hardcore chainsaw use to take out trees and shrubs. Me and LittleBear spent rather a while watching them from the window...

Step three, goodness the garden looks bigger!

So far so good. Except that, what with not having developed 3D photography for the home and garden yet, it's pretty tricky for you to see the state of the fence at the end of the garden. It's upright, just, I'll give it that, but in all other respects it looks as though it's been erected by a drunken lunatic. It essentially describes a zig-zag across the end of the garden. This is rather inconvenient when it comes to deciding where exactly to site The Improvements, as they will either have to come very close to the fence at some points, which will make maintenance tricky, or they'll have to be nearly a metre away from the fence at other points to provide access all the way along. And on top of that, I'm pretty certain it'll fall over if my daft cat jumps on it.

But that's OK, as we're responsible for all our boundaries, so the fence is ours to sort out. Except... apparently the man who lives beyond the end of the garden thinks it's his. And he was a bit ratty with the workmen when they started work. They've helpfully described him as "a bit wierd, you know, all smiles and then really bad tempered". Great, just great. A neighbour I've never met and he's already "really bad tempered". And my only way of sorting out what we're going to do about the fence is going to be to go round and talk in person. I can't get away with phoning since I don't even know his name, let alone his phone number.

"Hi! You don't know me, but you really hate what we're doing at the end of your garden, let's talk about fences shall we?" It's just going to go swimmingly.

I've even dug out my copy of the deeds to the house, and the land registry quite clearly states that we're responsible for that boundary. Given the competence of the land registry it's quite possible his deeds say he's responsible too though...

On top of not really knowing how to introduce myself without antagonising our neighbour, I don't even know what we really want to achieve. A straight boundary? What if that means nibbling into what's currently his garden? He's not going to like that, even if it is what's in the deeds. What if he has exciting plans for his perfect fence and is planning to enact them soon? What if he won't even speak to me? What if he starts ranting and raving at me? What if we replace the fence and he then takes it down? What if he replaces the fence and "straightens" the line by stealing some of our garden? What if this turns into one of those Nightmare Neighbours instances where the fence-war escalates beyond all reasonable proportion? What if I'm the nightmare neighbour? What if, what if, what if...

This is far, far, far worse than any phone-call. This is gut-churningly, hand-shakingly awful. I've spent most of today since talking to the workmen running over and over and over and over just the first few sentences of trying to talk to this neighbour. I've been feeling sick. I've been trying not to cry and upset LittleBear. I'm actually dreading going to bed because it's when I'm in bed that I'm liable to lie, in the dark and the silence, and let the demons crawl out of the dark spaces of my mind and start telling me all the worst possible things that could happen. The demons that think I'm always wrong. The demons that think everyone hates me. The demons that imagine everything bad in the world and pour their insidious poison into the very heart of me until I can't think straight, and it's dark and I'm alone and everything feels so hopeless and I cannot see any way that any of this can go right.

It's a bit late to back out of the whole project now, but that nice Mr Shakespeare knew a thing or two about how easily fear can throw one off course ...

And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o'er, with the pale cast of Thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn away,
And lose the name of Action.

Instead I shall gird my loins with a spot of Tennyson...

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
    Rode the six hundred.

At least the neighbour doesn't have any cannons. Or rather, I don't think he does...

* The workmen report that when they stripped the wiring out of the Monstrosity, they found that on the switched side of the mains supply, live and neutral were wired together. Extraordinary. My current theory on how the electricity mysteriously disappeared is that when the electricity meter and consumer unit in the house were replaced, the electrician found the feed going to the shed and refused to wire it back in on the grounds of safety and sanity.

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