I sit on both sides of the fence

The council by laws officer knocked at our door again yesterday morning to complain that the roses on our fence line are getting out of hand. A sweet young woman, she asked me out to the footpath to show me how much the branches overhang the street.

She was right. Almost over night they had spread their tentacles and I could see signs of where some presumably irritated passer by had broken off a branch. The broken branch was white, like a wound bled of blood.
‘Can you let me know when it is fixed,’ the bylaws woman said.
‘I’ll do it now,’ I told her.

It was a Saturday morning and it was easy to get out the secateurs and hack away, satisfying even. In the back of my mind I imagined my complainant standing somewhere nearby and observing his/her success. He/she had forced me to take notice. The thorns now pricked my fingers.

I tell myself I’d prefer such people approach me directly. But it’s probably better to hear the news from a council person. The council folk are pleasant in their dealings, at least so far they have been.

I get the feeling they’re on my side. I get the feeling they know how hard it is to keep the roses in check, especially at certain times of the year when their branches are more likely to reach for the sky. The more you prune, the more desperately those branches reach out.

Roses inside the fence.

It’s still warm here, the tail end of summer, moving into a fruitful autumn. We’ve also had a lot of rain and so the garden thrives, especially the roses.

I sit on both sides of the fence as regards the rights and wrongs of this: I can imagine myself as the irritated passer by, annoyed that her walk along the footpath has been invaded by a thorny rose branch, and at the same time, I am the person from whose house the offending rose branch points its thorns. It happens so fast I scarcely notice it. I should of course be more vigilant.

I have found the best way to deal with complaints – assuming I agree with them – is to go along with them, to apologise, and to try to rectify the fault as graciously as possible. Underneath though, there is another me who would like to rant and rave at the extraordinary nature of a person who would go about making it their business to ring the council to protest about other people’s gardens. They must be seriously offended or vexatious to go to so much trouble.

As I get older I tend towards less graciousness. I complain more myself and I let it be known more and more often when I am unhappy about something. Such as when people telephone our house uninvited in order to beg for money for some charity, or to ask a series of questions for some research they are conducting.

I resent the effort required to answer the telephone, and the fleeting expectation of someone pleasant at the other end, someone with whom I might enjoy a chat, only to find a stranger who asks before I can speak, ‘How are you today?’
‘I’m not interested,’ I say without listening further and hang up.

And then there are those folks who occasionally leave a comment about my blog. ‘We love your blog, especially such and such a post. We’d like to promote it.’ And it is clear from the way they write, they have not even read my blog, and this assumes they are a person and not some computer generated piece of spam.

When I go to their blog to check out who should write such sweet nothings, I find they exist only as a blank profile, if at all.

After I had finished cutting back the roses I tried to ring the bylaws officer to report my good work, but the after-hours receptionist at the council told me I could not leave a message on the weekend. So I sent the bylaws officer an email:

Re: Rose pruning
Dear Eileen

I’ve pruned back the rose branches on our front fence, hopefully to the satisfaction of the person/persons who complain. The roses have been on the fence for the past twenty years but only in the past six months have we had complaints. Yours is the second.

We try to keep the roses in check but at certain times of the year they go berserk, as you can imagine. In any case, I’ve trimmed them back as far as I can. Hopefully, they’ll stay settled until the gardeners return in a couple of weeks and can give them another prune. In the meantime, I’ll keep my eye out for any stray vigorous and unruly branches.

best wishes

Let’s hope that keeps my complainants satisfied.

Roses outside the fence.

Stuck in reverse

It happens to me all the time in dreams. I can’t get the car to go forward. As hard as I try it sticks in reverse. I can see the traffic behind me ready to catch up faster than would happen normally, given we are each travelling towards each other and there’s nothing I can do to stop my car from careering backwards.

Invariably in my dreams we do not crash. The cars approaching the back of my fast advancing car always manage to change lanes, but I am still stuck going backwards. Sometimes I can even get my car into a sort of idling position, but to get it back into forward motion is the hardest thing of all.

The roses outside my window have all turned brown and soggy. They have lost their lustre. Two weeks ago I had a visit from the local Boroondara council inspector. Someone had complained that the roses that line our front fence were a menace. We must keep them trimmed to the fence line.

We try, but it is easier said than done in this weather, especially at the moment when we have had unseasonably heavy rains. The rains and the heat send the roses into a growth frenzy.

I pruned them myself last week. I took the secateurs to all the long tendrils and chopped them off. Yesterday I noticed they were already sneaking back. Those red tender tendrils still bearing thorns just waiting to scratch the unwary passer by and send my complainant back to the council.

The Day of the Triffids comes to mind. I read it first as a school girl. Whenever strange plants pop up in our garden, my husband and I call them triffids. Dangerous things those triffids.

A ‘triffid’ that has sprung up in the back of our garden.

As I recall, the tendrils of the plants made people go blind. The triffids took over the world in much the same way the birds took over the world in Daphne du Maurier’s story of the same name, The Birds.

My heart shudders even now as I think back to the story which I also heard as a BBC audiotape. It was even more frightening to hear the story than to read it. I could not bring myself to see the film.

The story ends dreadfully with the whole of London overtaken by birds and only one family barely surviving, bailed up in their house while the birds, the ferocious birds of prey, peck away at the walls and windows to get in and attack the family.

These birds also go for the eyes. Birds go for eyes and heads.

In October, in springtime, I have to be careful when I hang out the washing in our back garden. The magpies swoop down and go for my head. They are trying to protect their young.

I look up and shake my fist at the sky. I tell them I am not out to hurt their youngsters and they in turn should not hurt me, but still I hear them from time to time, the long low whooshing swoop, the flap of wings.

But they have never yet made contact with my head.

As a child I often walked through what we then called the Magpie Park for the very reason I have described. A mother magpie once drew blood. I can still see the streak of red in the blond hair of the schoolgirl who had dared to take off her straw hat and left herself defenceless.

What grim thoughts I am having today. Must be a reflection of my dreams, stuck in reverse. I cannot get the car to go forward as I prepare to die.