Real life

It’s war in my neighbourhood – and this time it’s gloves off

16 June 2018

9:00 AM

16 June 2018

9:00 AM

After sanding floorboards for two days I became even more demented than usual.

The hand sander was the exact right size to make it horribly arduous but just about possible to do the entire downstairs floor this way, and so I persisted even when I should have given up and hired a large machine.

By the time I had sanded seven boards I had started to mildly hallucinate. What was the keeper thinking, leaving me with a Black & Decker ‘Mouse’ while he went on holiday? I suppose he wanted to tie me up with a job that couldn’t lead to decapitation or electrocution until he got back.

The Mouse is so called, I presume, because after using it to sand floorboards for two days your right hand becomes a shrivelled little paw, pink and floppy, unable to grip or lift so much as a cup of coffee.

The sound was the worst thing: at first I thought it was saying ‘wah wah waaaaah!’ like a really cross baby, but after a while it became clear it was imitating a violent drunk wandering through the town centre at night screaming obscenities at people with nice lives.

I knew how it felt. After an hour, I was so in tune with its violent whining I had the distinct impression I might have knocked back a bottle of meths.

My head was spinning, my limbs were throbbing, and the boards I had done looked only a half-shade lighter than they had been before. The floor is utterly black with grime where the builder boyfriend dragged, with an old dog lead, hundreds of camel tubs full of rubble and earth over them to get it all through the house.


It seems like an eternity ago, and it makes me question my tenuous grip on sanity to think that this actually happened. But apparently, according to the few remaining brain cells in charge of memory recall I have left, he did that because the next-door neighbours refused to let me use my right of way from the back of my house, which is mid-terrace, across their garden and along the side of the end-of-terrace.

It seems so ludicrous I can barely get my head around it now, but we dragged all the building materials through the front door, and the rubble and earth up from the basement and out through the front door, month after month, because they refused to let me use the entry.

They bolted my garden gate on their side, locking me in, and combination locked the outside of the side gate to make sure I couldn’t use that.

Their tenant sent a volley of increasingly hysterical text messages, which I screenshotted for the lawyers, saying that she was not letting me through on the instructions of the owner and if she did let me it would have to be secret or the owners would throw her out.

‘God, it makes me furious,’ said my friend Alex, who is in property, as we sat out in the garden the other day eating lollies and looking at the gate, which is still bolted their side with a low bolt so I can’t reach over and open it.

‘People buy these end-of-terraces with rights of way across them cheap, then set about trying to get rid of the right of way.’

‘It made me angry too for a while,’ I said, languidly licking my Solero. ‘But now I can’t be bothered to be angry.’

When I want to get round with my garden bin, I get a ladder and climb the gate and open it. I fell off last week and told ‘the bolter’ I had hurt myself, and that made her really furious.

She refixed her bolt with long, sharp screws that stuck out my side so the next time I touched the gate a screw end stabbed my hand. Then she put a letter through my door complaining that I should stop complaining and be more neighbourly.

I couldn’t be bothered to reply. I didn’t think it merited a sheet of paper. I did a Jean Paul Getty and wrote the salient points in the margins of her letter and put it back through her door. This will no doubt cause her to retaliate. Possibly, she will fit anti-climbing spikes or the paraphernalia you put on gates to stop pigeons crapping.

Maybe hardware stores sell ‘Right of way deprivers’. I don’t really care. If I have to take the gate off its hinges, or smash it to bits and fit a new one every time I have a delivery or need to take my bins out, then I’ll just do that.

It feels like that is as reasonable as anything else that is going on around here.

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