The winds had been at it all through the night. We were woken by the sound of it buffeting, trees that had stood for decades were relenting. Spring’s new hope was facing the rawness of the world. And yet it wasn’t the sound of the booming attack but the thoughts of others that kept us from sleep.
Good fences make good neighbours. Well, at least that’s what Robert Frost said. We have Covid 19 in the place of a fence and yet still that is not enough for our next door neighbour who has started to build his own, homemade, barrier.
The good weather has helped us out of our lockdown confinement of the house and into the open space of our garden. The house has an enclosing garden wall that keeps our family space at the rear rather private. There is a small gap in it, behind the garden room which was part of an extension that we made a number of years ago. The extension was a bone of contention for our new neighbour who was under the belief that his personal approval was required for anything to take place on our side of the wall. Unfortunately, this small gap, this non-walled space, this nothing that nobody would notice, has apparently become a bee in the bonnet of the barking body-builder who is our neighbour. Last night he set about constructing an impromptu fence where the wall used to be.
‘Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.’
This little enterprise of his came without warning or conversation. One moment there was the space that was not noticeable and the next there was a caveman monstrosity of construction. A piece of ancient chipboard had been placed on top of the wall whilst leaning against our garden room. I could not understand if this was ineptitude or outright ‘offence’, pardon the pun. My not so considered reaction was to push the offending chipboard back from whence it came.
‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’
The night eventually arrived and we slept until a banging sound had us out of our dreams. I blinked awake at the same time that my wife did likewise. No, ‘What was that?’ …. just a barefoot me, slipping through the shadows of the house and down the stairs. Slowly, as if to creep up on something, I slipped the latch and turned the key. The night sat waiting with a fresh armoury of cold. The warmth of the previous days had been vanquished and I listened for the sound of feet. And they came.
It was not the heavy tread of an ‘old stone-aged savage’ but the light padding of a cat that had spent some of the night outside the home. She gave her mumbled thanks or irritation and stroked past me into the warmth. Inside, she looked towards her food bowl as a way of telling me that breakfast had arrived early. It’s no use arguing with her, so fresh food was provided in order that she could sniff and reject it – which she did. I’m too old in the tooth to try to tempt a choosey feline so I went to bed. “What was the noise?” my wife asked. “Nothing,” I replied.
Sure as daytime follows night, the old troglodyte was in his back garden again. We heard him and then set back to watch. Without even a grunt, he was consumed by his new task of building a wall. He was using stones that he had discovered on his land and was piling them as high as he could in the space that wasn’t really a space. My daughters watched and waved at him from their bedroom windows. He moved with a cloud of thought above him. In his mind, the space that was not a space needed repairing. This was a time of Covid and the space was an avenue of infection. Perhaps his neighbours had been the original source.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’