A couple of weeks ago I painted three panels of a fence round our back garden. It’s a laborious task, even using a three-inch brush: given the contents of the neighbours’ garden behind, I could never spray it on.
Besides, there’s something worth the while of getting quite close to what are, if not your belongings, then at least your loans, your environment: these panels are I think technically the neighbours’ responsibility, but since Hugo has been kicked out for being an ass, there’s little chance of Chavette getting it together to ask the landlord to do anything with them. But being close up to otherwise mundane objects means you have to connect with them, inspect them and gain a measure of them that you don’t get the rest of the year, when such things as fence panels must necessarily recede into the background.
Today I cut a hedge out the front of the house. Once again, the hedge that defines our property boundaries isn’t actually ours; but it does grow over our property, and we’ve agreed with the neighbours (the other side this time: Brian and Sharon) for us to trim it for them. The hedge consists of lots of miscellaneous bushes: a low euonymous, a rubbery variegated plant that might be an aucuba, a tightly-packed cotoneaster-like shrub, some kind of buddleia that flowers at several points of the year like lots of little fireworks going off, and strands of struggling lavender. They’re all tangled up together and tend to reach towards the sun across our drive.
After the gales last year – that coincidentally blew down the fence at the back we were responsible for – one of the aucuba-likes tore away partly at the roots. But Brian neglected fixing it for so long – happy as he was for it to blow occasionally over and block our front door – that eventually the roots tore even further. Only after we had ostentatiously pushed it over onto his side one last time, to the extent that it really could not flop back, did he decide to remove it entirely, as it was by then too late for him to save it.
So I’m rather happier to trim the hedge – and in doing so, get a measure of it, and look more closely at the greenery, and feel like I know what’s going on around me – than leave it in Brian’s hands, for him to neglect, then chainsaw, then neglect once more. I might have had to fill an entire wheelie bin with branches cut by hand and blade and sweat, but rather that than wishing the long, slow aucuba’s death for those poor neglected fireworks.