Saturday, 24 December 2016

Shrub shortage

My thoughts have returned to neighbours, after Kylie told me about an Australian couple who got an anonymous letter saying their front garden was "in a disgraceful state" and they should "shape up or ship out".

Other less judgmental neighbours have rallied round to defend the Ackroyds, who can't understand what all the fuss is about.

The letter, directed at Ebony Ackroyd, objected to the kids' playground, the old tyres, the weeds and the lack of shrubs, and complained that her idle husband never did any work in the garden.

"Just take a walk up White Avenue and observe every house, there's none in the deplorable, lazy state as yours" says the letter. "If you and your husband can afford fancy haircuts, you can damn well afford six shrubs for your front."

If you look at White Avenue, Hamilton, on Street View, it's a sedate, suburban street with large houses and no doubt plenty of snooty, censorious neighbours who bristle at any garden without manicured lawns and well-tended flowerbeds.

So some households don't apply arbitrary aesthetic standards to their front gardens but just use them as they see fit. If they prefer kids' toys to shrubs, that's their business. It's not as if they're drilling for oil or selling fish and chips. Why does someone get so hot under the collar as to leave a stroppy anonymous letter in the mailbox?

I could think of a few front gardens in my own neighbourhood that are full of junk, builders' rubble and old bikes, but a snotty note isn't the answer. All that does is spread bad feeling and defensiveness. Especially if it's anonymous and you're looking suspiciously at all your neighbours, wondering who can't live and let live.

Just be careful where you put those old tyres.

Pics: the Ackroyds' front garden and Ebony Ackroyd


26 comments:

Ms Scarlet said...

I've seen worse.... this looks casual to me. I get grumpy with neighbours who are forever causing a racket with leaf blowers and hedge trimmers.... for heavens sake let it be.... what is the point of living in the countryside if you're going to shave off the greenery to an inch of its life, whilst making a disturbing din. Just a bug bear of mine.
Merry Christmas, Nick!
Sxxx

Nick said...

Scarlet: I also wonder why people have to suck up every last leaf from their gardens. I clear the leaves from the asphalted area in the front yard (with a broom) and that's it. All the rest stay put. They're good fertiliser for the plants. I don't mind hedge trimmers unless they're out every weekend.

Happy Christmas, Ms Scarlet!

helen devries said...

Years ago I was ticked off for growing rhubarb in my front garden by a suburban matron.
It let down the tone - and by implication - the value of property, it appeared.

I told her that it was gunnera - an ornamental shrub - and she huffed herself off. I continued to enjoy picking my rhubarb.

Nick said...

Helen: Goodness, gunnera has enormous leaves. It must have been a spectacular sight. Yes, I think property prices are often the unspoken motive for that sort of complaint about "lowering the tone".

Bijoux said...

It's a little odd to put a swing set in the front yard, but at least it's toys that kids are actually using and not just a bunch of trash. We had neighbors where we used to live who would leave broken glass on the sidewalk, and cars without tires in their driveway.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Broken glass and tyre-less cars would disturb me as well. The broken glass because it's obviously a safety risk, and the tyre-less cars because they're just an eyesore that can't be used.

CheerfulMonk said...

I think their yard looks friendly. :)

Nick said...

Jean: I agree. The other gardens in the street look rather staid and soul-less.

Anonymous said...

I thought you would wish your followers a Merry Christmas lol. Anyway I wish you a Merry Christmas and a peaceful 2017. I suppose we need it all.
Mia More

Nick said...

Mia: Did you indeed? And I thought you would make an interesting comment on my post. Anyway, a very happy Christmas to you!

Dave Martin said...

Those neighbours need to take the stick out of their arse. It's not like the garden is full of scrap cars and rubbish.

Nick said...

Dave: Exactly. What harm is her garden doing anyone? It just doesn't fit in with some preconceived notion of what a garden should look like.

Wisewebwoman said...

I remember one of my bros being told to take down his clothesline as it lowered the tone of the place. Seriously.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: People can be funny about clothes lines and clothes driers. But what's more natural than hanging your clothes out to dry in the fresh air?

kylie said...

I have just realised that our place is probably the one that everybody hates. The garden is, um, rustic? There is often a smashed car out the front and when the kids were younger there was a swing hanging in the tree.

The whole idea of complaining about the neighbours places is pretty unreasonable. Property prices are irrelevant unless you happen to be selling and the rest is mostly their business.

I once mentioned to someone that I didnt like the look of the mismatched blinds on the house across the road and the person I was talking to said to leave them an anonymous note. Ha! I may not have liked it but it sure wasn't my business.

Nick said...

Kylie: I just looked at your street on Street View and it all looks equally sedate and suburban! No sign of anything objectionable. No smashed car, and the boat has gone!

In my experience, property prices for a particular road aren't affected by the odd scruffy house or garden. As long as the road as a whole looks "respectable", that's all the buyers want.

I don't think I'd be bothered by mismatched blinds. Maybe if half the blind was missing or it was falling down....

kylie said...

There is a smashed car now! My husband doesn't have the will to fix it and wont accept the low offers made on it. I think it is out of rego now and therefore illegally parked, as well. Sigh

Rummuser said...

My neighbours have well trimmed lawns and plants in their gardens whereas I have used paving stones to fill up the space to avoid mosquitoes. None of our gardens however are visible from the road as all of us have hedges. None of my neighbours have complained in the last twenty six years!

That the letter was from an anonymous writer itself shows the character of the person who wrote it. It should just be ignored and treated with the contempt that it deserves.

Nick said...

Kylie: Is that the car with a black cover over it? (And that was 2½ years ago!)

Ramana: No complaints in 26 years is pretty good going. You'd think they might find something to complain about, even just an unduly tall hedge! Indeed, an anonymous letter deserves only contempt.

Rose Blackthorn said...

Hah! When I was married I lived on an estate like that. My neighbour directly opposite us used to wash down the paintwork of her garage once a fortnight. Everyone had neatly clipped leylandii hedges, grass clipped to a quarter inch...

Then there was us, a messy lilac hedge, gravelled over front garden, weeds growing everywhere and my then-husband driving a fourth-hand large yellow diesel transit van.

I think there must have been a collective sigh of relief when we moved out.

I never want to live on an estate again. Ever.

Nick said...

Rose: It certainly sounds like you were the neighbourhood oddballs! The other residents must have been lurking behind their net curtains, busily tut-tutting.

kylie said...

nah, it's a small car now with no cover and the truck is in the garage. It's musical cars here

Liz Hinds said...

I caught a snippet of a Steptoe and Son episode recently where the Steptoes were trying to buy a house in an upmarket area. Albert soon sussed out that the Residents' Association didn't want their type there - and got them to offer £500 not to buy.

That looks like a fun garden to me!

Secret Agent Woman said...

Anonymous notes are cowardly. Why not just talk directly with someone? And anyway, the yard isn't particularly attractive but it's friendly looking and designed for their children.

Hattie said...

A lot of people are hostile to children and their noise and clutter. I think that yard looks pleasant. When the kids get older the owners will probably fix it up.
We live in the jungle (literally, a tropical rainforest in Hawaii), and our yard is always unkempt. We can't keep it neat, even with help.

Nick said...

Liz: That's a clever ruse. I must try that the next time we move house. I'd ask a lot more than £500 though.

Agent: Exactly. Anonymous notes are creepy. Is it really so hard to knock on someone's door and say your piece? The worst they can do is slam the door in your face!

Hattie: Yes, it could be the person concerned simply doesn't like children and would rather they were kept out of sight round the back.