Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Joneses, Joneses everywhere and not a hope of keeping up…

I am under siege at the moment – from aspirational family syndrome. Myself, Alfreda and the little tribe of Alfalfas are beginning to feel like the poor family that no one wants to live next door to.

We’re surrounded by families of ‘Joneses’ …. And I can’t keep up. To the right of us, the young, go-ahead dynamic couple with a kid that is only 5 but is already signed up to play for Liverpool F.C. have just had their entire front garden block paved. A huge area, that I bet can be seen from space, it’s a burnt umber and sienna mix with an attractive pattern in the centre. It hits just the right note of suburbian upward mobility….. *yawn*. Unfortunately, the company that did the block-paving – one ‘Jesse James and Co’ have made a bit of a pigs ear of it. The golden rule of block paving is to make sure that the gradient goes away from the house. Unfortunately, the cowboys didn’t know their arse from their slope, so when it rains an attractive moat gathers around the house. ‘Mr and Mrs Go-getter’ have mostly been ‘Mr and Mrs flooded out’ as Mother Nature, gravity, H2O and the ignored ‘golden rule’ conspire to bugger up their investment.

To the left is an aged silver duo – with loads of retirement cash and matching dark olive green Volvo estates. We rarely see them. They bought the house about a year ago and every couple of weeks some delivery van arrives with yet another bit of house kit. Double Glazing, double sofas, double garages…… and now a bloody monster big Conservatory that will no doubt include a couple of those twirly ceiling fans, and some posh wickerwork furniture.

In the middle is Alfie Manor. A bit of a ruin and generally not a pretty sight compared to ‘Left’ and ‘Right Fork’. Our garden can best be described as ‘rustic’. The most striking feature is the clump of ‘Great Willow Herb’ in the corner – just behind the pile of old faded block paving bricks that someone gave me a long, long time ago. I love this plant because it is the food for the caterpillar of Britain’s largest moth – The Elephant Hawk Moth – so I’m doing my bit for the environment aren’t I?. Over the years the pile of bricks has sagged and flopped into the long grass. It’s become ‘creepy-crawlie’ central, colonised by spiders and their many legged friends. Unfortunately, my flora and fauna enthusiasm is not shared with the ‘Silver Duo’, possibly because 5 billion Great Willow Herb germinated seeds dump themselves onto their immaculate lawn every autumn. Honestly, some people are so small minded aren't they?

A minor international incident has just been avoided as young Mr and Mrs ‘Go-getter’ have just installed a 6 foot high lapped fence to go with the block paving. It’s a Berlin Wall made of wood – the only things missing are watch-towers and slavering alsasians. Do you think they are trying to tell me something?

The fence had pinched a full 12 inches from our natural oasis. ‘Alfie the Beserker’ showed them the error of their ways - and the border has been redefined back to what it was. They've had the cowboys back to try to fix the 'gradient going the wrong way' problem - and have also built a grand brick wall to the front, with columns and concrete balls to boot. The problem with the border has left a nasty taste at Castle Alfie - and whilst there isn't outright hostility, an uneasy truce has broken out.

(But when their kid kicks over one of his footballs into our garden, I just don’t think he’s going to get it back)….