Lots has happened on the boundaries of my home while I've been feeling poorly. My thirty-something 'new neighbour' Toby (new in 2014 anyway) has carried out a programme we discussed and agreed on just before I fell ill.
Part of this has involved major tree surgery on the tall beech trees overhanging the bottom end of my rear garden (and indeed both our gardens) from the adjoining public open space. Conversations with the parish council had got nowhere. They refused to trim or thin out their own trees. No money in the kitty. Yes, we could cut back overhanging branches - at our own expense. But some of these were substantial. Getting a private firm in would cost an awful lot. I'd been worrying about how this would ever be afforded, even if all neighbours affected got together and agreed to share the cost. Meanwhile the trees needed lopping, mine especially, to stop them shading my rear garden - and my neighbours' - too much in sunny weather. It was getting worse every year.
But then Toby arrived next door. He had once spent ten years working for a tree-surgery firm, and so had the experience; and he still had all the equipment except for a suitable truck (which could be hired) to carry away the unwanted wood. It wasn't just my trees. He wanted to do even more work on his own. But my trees were the main culprit in blocking the sunshine from his rear garden - so he and his family would benefit immediately that way - and hence he was going to work on my trees for free. (Naturally, he could have all the logs cut from my trees for his wood-burning stove, as a side-benefit)
The other part involved replacing a between-houses section of 'my' boundary fence - six panels - and then extending that new fencing out into the front garden a bit. It was perfectly obvious that he could put in concrete fence posts and fencing to a professional standard, because I could see what a great job he had already done on 'his' boundary fence. His price? Simply the cost of the six panels from a local supplier. It would be about £25 per panel - £150 altogether. The existing fencing wasn't in bad condition, because it was in that sheltered space between our houses, and never really felt the wind. But it was quite old, discoloured, and I could easily see how this section rather spoiled the comprehensive 'new look' that Toby was trying to create for his property as a whole (Ever since he and Charlotte moved in last year, they had done an awful lot to modernise their new home. They showed me - it was impressively and beautifully transformed). In any case, I'd be getting a section of new fencing for the material cost only, plus a nicer trellis fixed on top. And effectively it was tree surgery and fencing, for £150 all in. Who wouldn't jump at it?
The frontwards fencing extension, stepped, was entirely for Toby's benefit - so no charge - even though technically it was 'my' fence. It would match a similar extension he had put in on his other side boundary, and provide agreeable symmetry for his house. But it would also make the front boundary line safer - close up to the houses, there was a step up from the level of his front garden onto mine. I'd tripped up on this, and fallen flat, one dark night in November 2010, injuring my palms and a knee (see Why didn't I get a torch? on 27 November 2010). Toby and Charlotte's young children might easily do the same. So might any delivery person. This fence extension would make such an accident impossible. One insurance risk eliminated! I also rather fancied that the front appearance of my own property would be improved with such a defining feature now there. (And indeed it has been)
So, my hard-working and energetic neighbour has worked his heart out. Before my illness descended into its more dire phase, he spent eight hours doing all the tree surgery. I watched fascinated, and admired his squirrel-like nimbleness and skill. At one point, at a natural break, I went out and gave him a bottle of my finest Rioja as a present, just as a token of my appreciation. More recently, after a few days of rain, he spent an hour popping in the six new fence panels with Charlotte's help (I wanted to be an extra pair of hands, but just wasn't up to it, and just cheered them on from my conservatory). The front garden fence extension went in yesterday. That took all day. It required digging deep holes, and he had a little help with the heavy posts: from his father, I think. I saw it finished at dusk, just before I went out for a quick round-the-block walk, to get some fresh air. A proper job and no mistake, I thought.
It looked even nicer in the crisp sunshine this morning. I said to my other neighbour, Jackie, 'Come round and have a look'. We agreed that my frontage was definitely improved. I exchanged waves with Charlotte, who was opening the front blinds, and gave her a thumbs up, to signify 'I like very much!' At midday I caught both she and Toby together, taking their children to the local playgroup, and thanked them sincerely for everything done.
Perhaps you can now see why I feel so well looked-after, living where I am, and why I have entirely given up any thoughts of moving. Not with great neighbours all around me.