Last Saturday morning at around 10.30 I happened to glance outside the bedroom window. I often look through windows. There is nothing wrong with that. I often wonder why so many windows in Australia are covered, shutting out the possible excitement that might be going on outside. The Venetian blind had a lot to answer for.
The outlook through the window is somewhat marred by a paling fence opposite the drive-way passing through our housing compound, or condominium as it known by in the US. We have planted a jasmine against the fence which helps to soften the look of the paling fence. However, we know that the Chairperson, the Secretary and the Treasurer of our Body Corporate are ardent lovers of exposed paling fences. We are therefore in the minority trying to install some beauty and making the best of the ugly paling fence by trying to get greenery to grow up and hide them. The paling fence is a revered type of architectural structure by believers of privacy. Privacy is absolutely set in stone by most people. A much loved emotional stance. It must be defended by hook and crook against anyone who dares to infringe on it.
The paling fence is a kind of barrier between properties, a border but without guards looking for smugglers or refugees. Sometimes it causes friction when a ball happens to cross this boundary. Nasty neighbours have been known to refuse to throw the ball back. In shared housing complexes, the parking of cars and shared paling fences have been known to cause endless wars between maniacally ‘privacy’ seeking neighbours. The popular image of hanging over the fence by neighbours talking to each other is a myth but it makes us look a bit better. Only last week a 68 year old neighbour got murdered by his 73 year old next door life long enemy. The Newspaper described the neighbourhood as ‘a close knit community.’ The article included a photo of a tear-stained woman holding a little teddy bear as proof. The murder was a result of an (illegally) overhanging branch of a tea-tree.
As I said earlier, I was looking through the upstairs window. I noticed a determined looking Chairperson and her equally sharp looking Secretary walking by. An ominous sign was that the Chairperson was holding a garden clipper with the Secretary following her with a small barrow. What were they up to? They stopped right opposite our house and both crawled through some shrubs. The Chairperson is in her eighties and the Secretary in her fifties or so. When they reached the paling fence it came clear what they had conspired to achieve. It was some unwanted ivy that was growing up the fence. It was not to be tolerated. Within a minute they had cut the bottom of the ivy and started to rip it off the paling fence. Such dedication. And it was Saturday afternoon!
We had resolved to not give any oxygen to Body Corporate disputes since last time, when one of them, we know it was the Chairperson had left a threatening letter in our letterbox on behalf of ‘owners’ suggesting we sell up. We let the ivy be taken. Let them relish their nastiness. I was upset but restrained an urge to a dual strangulation. Instead I took the new cordless vacuum cleaner from the room’s corner and switched it on. Helvi noticed I was upset and my usual spirited and enthusiastic vacuuming was obviously lacking. My face was long and the spirit murderous.
She said, ‘why get upset, Gerard?’ True, it is only a trivial matter. The vacuuming did give some respite and seething anger did abate a bit. Even so, I consoled myself with a fervent hope that Alzheimer will soon get to the Chairperson. The sooner the better.
Helvi, as always remained sensible. I said, ‘how come you always stay so calm?’ ‘You give so much more than I.’ ‘So true, she said wickedly and smiled.’ ‘Let’s just plant more Jasmine.’