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When neighbours are not so neighbourly

May 24th, 2009 · No Comments

Have you ever been accused of something that you didn’t do but couldn’t find your accuser to defend yourself?   Well I have, and my story involves a swimming pool, a steep hill and a large boulder.

If you are familiar my article, ‘Reviving the Spanish Revival’ you would know that we are in the middle of some serious house renovations.  Every weekend and most weekdays we work on the house – the ever-elusive moving day extend further and further into the future.  For the last three months our lives have revolved around the three Ps -paint, plaster and pain, we live and breathe renovations.

Our house is built on a hill and we live on the high side of the road. One Sunday afternoon I was taking time out from the busy renovation schedule to enjoy our view and noticed a stream of water flowing down our garden down the drive way and onto the road.  At first I thought our swimming pool was leaking but upon closer inspection we noticed that our neighbours were having the same issue – but even worse, their driveway was a small stream. We hunted around their garden to try and identify the source of the water. Perhaps a water main had burst?   In the meantime the flood of water was getting noticeable worse, I was thankful we had our tools on hand in case we needed to build an ark.

We knew the house directly behind us further up the hill had a pool so we made our way around the block to investigate further. We stuck our heads over their fence to discover that while he was doing some landscaping a large boulder had accidentally rolled into the pool causing the bottom to crack. He assured us that the water was now being emptied down the storm water drain instead of down the hill. So that was that, problem solved, we made our way back home after exchanging a few friendly neighbourly words and assumed that was the end of it.

Unless you are a hermit you would know there is water shortage in Australia. In Melbourne water restrictions come into play every time we open a tap – in particular though watering the garden is the most legislated.   Quite frankly I am not very concerned about water restrictions; you see the last time I even looked at my garden was when I noticed something brown and spiky trying to burrow into the dirt and then I discovered we actually had woodchips underneath thel overgrown bushes.  We live in the hills so we can get away with an unmanaged garden; it simply just blends in with the mountainous landscapes.

Julian was working at the house one day after work whilst I stayed home (to work on my blog of course) and calls me from his mobile.  He explains we have received a notice from the water company stating that we have breached water restrictions at 2.45 pm on Sunday.    ‘What were you doing with water?’ Julian asks me.

My mind frantically plays back the day searching for water clues, the only thing two things that come to mind are:

  1. spending 20 minutes relaxing by the pool; and
  2. rinsing my paintbrush in the laundry tub.

I know water is precious but surely looking at water isn’t breaching water restrictions (just yet) so I ruled the first option out which left the second option – rinsing my paintbrush. I became enraged, how could someone report me for rinsing my paintbrush in the laundry tub, did we have nosey neighbours that watched our every move from their window?  Did they think I was taking too long rinsing my paintbrush?  Hang on  – since when are we not allowed to rinse a paintbrush?  I just didn’t get it, how could they confuse this for breaching water restrictions.  I asked Julian to read over the letter again in case we missed any vital clues, he then mentioned the breach revolved around watering the garden.   Then it dawned on us – it was the pool incident – someone saw the pool of water trickling down our driveway and onto the road and assumed we had been watering our garden.

‘Oh my god’, I exclaimed to Julian, ‘we have a Mrs Mangle neighbour!’ For those of you are not familiar with Mrs Mangle, she was a painfully nosey and small minded woman from the early episodes of Neighbours who meddled with other people’s business.  Our meddling Mrs Mangle neighbour couldn’t even get her facts right.    I wanted to commit an act of violence.

A few scenarios played out in my mind, I decided to blow up the entire street in Arnold Schwarzenegger style, but then thought it might be slightly too harsh. I reconsidered and decided to hunt down the Mrs Mangle culprit and blow her up instead. I schemed about how I would try and ferret out Mrs Mangle by setting up surveillance cameras in the street, tapping phones and setting the bait by hosing down the drive way in broad daylight.

The next day I discussed the Mrs Mangle incident with my colleagues at work, everyone was incredulous but one person pointed out that having a Mrs Mangle neighbour can be a positive thing, it’s always the Mrs Mangle character that watches out for any suspicious looking people.  Well yes  true but I feared that Mrs Mangle would be watching my every move from behind her floral curtains.  Would she report me if one of the gum leaves fell from our  tree and accidentally blew onto her property or if I disposed of recyclables in the regular rubbish bin?

The water company was very sympathetic when I called them to explain that I wasn’t a water waster.  Apparently this kind of thing happens quite frequently. The Complaints Officer explained that neighbours often have feuds and there are frequentl misunderstandings and false reports about the misuse of water.  Gee that Mrs Mangle sure gets around.

What did I learn from all this?

  1. Rage mellows with time.   Part of me still wants to hunt  Mrs Mangle down but I’ve decided it’s more important to maintain good relationships with the neighbours rather than kill them, at least until the next incident.
  2. Someone who lives near us and breathes the same air is an un-neighborly tattletale.
  3. I have the memory of an elephant – no matter how many years go by, when saying hello to a passing neighbour by I will always wonder – was it you?

Tags: musings

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