The newest arrival in the house over my back wall is a yapping dog – a noise I hate. But it could always be worse
and when the other day I went to see an old friend who had finally decided to sell her charming Victorian cottage, I banged my nose on the door of my own expectations.
Generally speaking (there are always exceptions, rules are proved by them) those of us who have a room want a flat, if you have a flat you want a house and so on, up the scale to something better. So I had always viewed her achievement as enviable. Helen (not her real name) knew what she was about 20 years before I did – that or I risk being as feckless as my mother described herself – and yes, I checked the word in the OUD before I used it.
So we sat in the dusk while she told me about finding the new place and the help of various friends, and the conveyancing solicitor, and I must have said something like “So the time had come …” “You could say that” she said and told me the horrid story. Please note, the details that I give are the details I was given and by giving them, I am not making sweeping statements. I have spent my life not making unqualified generalisations.
On one side is a property owned by a major housing association which for the last many years has been the home of what I call a screamer, ie never speaks only hollers, from the Horn of Africa, whose idea of child discipline is to zip her children into the trampoline and let them get on with it while she telephones, chats to her friends, drinks through the day and finds another father for another child (she is up to six).
Any polite intervention by my friend or indeed anybody else is met with “I can do anything I like!” and she probably can, violence inferred or actual.
In response to her calls down the years, the housing association has told Helen that they could not intervene because there were “social services’ implications” which probably means the rental of the property and the financial maintenance of the woman as the mother of however many children is a cheaper alternative than putting the children into care. Contraception, anyone ? What you might call a circular model.
On the other side is an Argentine couple with two sons who like to let off steam. Morning, noon and night and most weekends, unchecked. Of course they are now at school during the day but they make up for it when they are there, “expressing themselves” I hear it called – but do they have to do that unthinkingly, all the time ?
Last summer, when Helen found the screamer arranging speakers in the trees outside, she said aghast “You can’t do that.” Words were exchanged, Helen took a picture and within 20 minutes, two policemen appeared and accused her of taking pictures of the neighbour’s children, without her permission, and all that that implies. She offered her phone which was not checked. “I cried all night” said Helen. “Being accused of being a paedophile was my lowest ebb.” The next morning, unwilling to let this stand, she rang the local police station and was led by a sympathetic officer through making an appropriate complaint. (I was always told there is a good guy in every cop shop – but first you have to find this person.)
From then on, she was on her way. She squared everything up without lying and, having found her new place, she sold to a pair of thugs who just happen to be doctors. Heaven keep them away from any ear/nose/throat or trauma of mine. By the time you read this, she will have packed 25 years into Kiwi driven vans and set out to start again, somewhere she can sleep at night and go out in the garden in the summer and still hear herself think. Good luck to her.