Thursday, June 01, 2006

Let me trim your bush for you

Dear Mr Reluctant Nomad

It has come to our attention that your bush is too big and is a hazard to pedestrians. We urge you to get your bush trimmed to prevent further action.

Yours sincerely
Mole Valley District Council


A few weekends prior to receiving that letter, our meek-and-mild busybody of a neighbour, Alan Squirrel (no kidding), had stopped me in the road. As usual, he was wearing green wellies and wheeling his wheelbarrow.

Neighbour: Hello Alan, how are you? Lovely day, isn’t it?
Me: Very well, thanks, Alan. How are you? Yes, a lovely day.
Neighbour: Great day for doing a spot of gardening.
Me: Yes, it is.

The sky was grey and it was far too cold for me to be in the garden. Neighbour Squirrel spent his life in his. The squeak of his wheelbarrow trundling between his house at the far end of the cul-de-sac and the woods at the other end was our neighbourhood’s equivalent of the screech of chalk on a blackboard. It happened all year round, especially on Saturday afternoons.

Neighbour: Alan, I know you’re a busy man and work long hours so I was wondering if you’d like me to trim your bush for you?
Me: Bush? Which bush?

He pointed towards the dense, beautiful rhodendendron bush that created a very effective hedge between our garden and the street. Two weeks before, it was ablaze with purple blooms. Now they were over. The frivolous purple bits had fallen off revealing the handsome dark green foliage that would stand there solidly until the following spring. Vigorous spring growth had made it a bit woolly around the edges, giving it the dishevelled look of an old man in need of a haircut.

Neighbour: I’m often clipping away at things so I thought you may want me to trim your bush. It’s grown a lot in the past month.
Me (icily): No thank you. I can do it myself.

Its woolly look didn’t bother me at all. I also had no immediate inclination to trim it. Neighbour Squirrel’s interfering but well-meaning offer did, however, bother me a lot. Every stubborn fibre in my body stood at attention.

A week or so later, my wife was getting shopping out of the car when an elderly couple came walking towards her, on the pavement. As they reached the car, they stepped in the road, walking around it instead of walking between it and the bush. She glanced up at them giving them her best neighbourly smile, prepared to exchange a few pleasantries. They cut her dead, their faces throbbing with haughty indignation.

It took a few seconds before she realised that our bush was the problem.

When she told me about it that evening, I felt all those stubborn fibres standing at attention again. I could imagine the curtain-twitching neighbours tut-tutting about the inconsiderate South Africans who let their bush grow too large. And who wouldn’t accept kind help to have it trimmed.

The letter arrived a few weeks after that. I trimmed my bush a couple of weeks later.

POSTSCRIPT: This happened about 18 years ago, soon after moving to England for the first time. I'd heard of the suburban, Little England character before but it was my first experience of it. Contrasting this episode with the 'real issues' back in South Africa made it seem even more ridiculous.


Blogger Qenny said...

How awful! I hope you only trimmed it on the outside (i.e. the public facing side), and allowed it to continue to thrive in its unfettered, untrimmed shaggy glory on the side that faces into your property?

11:46 am  
Blogger Rob7534 said...

I like the "au natural" look in the old '70's flicks, but I believe that a trimmed bush, is a happy bush.

Don't let that stiffen your upper lip, Don Quixote! Something so thick and unruly throws off the rest of the proportions, and takes away from what is the real main attraction... if you catch my drift.

I think you do, I'll leave it at that. A word to the wise and all... :)

11:53 am  
Blogger kyknoord said...

whatalotoffun is a bit distraught because she's unable to access your blog. She asked me to pass the message on and I am happy to oblige. I wonder if she has any bush-trimming wisdom to impart.

12:58 pm  
Anonymous xmichra said...

hehe, good thing you added that little pastscript! the whole wife thing really threw me! I thought, what is he doing now?? ha!

BTW, i have moved domains. I am simply now.

1:22 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

qenny: To tell you the truth, I can't remember now but I think I may have shorn it on both sides.

rob: are you throwing innuendoes at me? Surely not?

kyknoord: thanks for the message. I know that there is a problem for some people accessing the blog. I think it stems from the music clips lower down in the page.

One clip in the bush is worth two in the hand. Or, something.

1:23 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

xmichra: I can see how it could be confusing. However, I'm still married to this very day...confusing, huh? Thanks for the domain info, will change my links later.

1:24 pm  
Blogger Caroline said...

And what shape did you prune it into?

Topiary is such fun...

1:30 pm  
Blogger The Tart said...

Great post. I just really can relate to all those stubborn fibers of yours getting freaked out. Hmm. Funny story. I think I would have to sneak over each night & grease the wheels on Squirrel's wheelbarrel. *wink*

The Tart
; )

3:11 pm  
Blogger nyasha said...

what would the council have done if you had ignored their letter? would you have gotten a fine or would they have sent the council's gardener? :D
when i am pushed into a corner like that, i tend to march in the opposite direction - and would have not trimmed the bush :) suburban England should mind their own business...

3:19 pm  
Blogger andrea said...

I understand your reticence to comply to the Anal Brigade (that type anyway :) so you should've just packaged the little bugger up and shipped him over here. You'd have lost your annoying neighbour and I'd have had a much neater garden!

6:04 pm  
Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

caroline: into a big christmas ball. Later on in the year, it was covered with Christmas lights.

jocelyn: Thanks for popping by. Knowing Squirrel, that wheelbarrow was very carefully locked away from reprobates like me.

coffee addict: A fine, I think. Like you, I tend to march in the opposite direction too. I eventually cut it just to keep the neighbourly peace. What sort of neighbour would actually complain about such things to the council?

andrea: Too neat a garden...a garden pruned, raked, combed, clipped and swept of most of its natural state.

10:28 pm  
Blogger justin said...

I can think of another Bush that could be trimmed - by the US electorate - to help everyone's environment.

11:58 pm  
Blogger Frog with a Blog said...

I'm also against neat gardens, the rough beauty of nature should be priviledged however the beauty and the length of the tree get often hidden by the bush. If you see what Rob means... or is the tree big enough to be seen through the bush?

PS: Have you always neglected all your bushes like that?

PS2: how I like innuendoes! (innuendi?)

12:04 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came home last night to be greeted by a couple of children scowling at me from next beloved had shouted at them for playing on our front lawn.

The shame of it.

11:06 am  
Blogger Pam said...

Nothing worse than an untrimmed bush !

4:47 am  

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