The season of good-bye. The Gibson neighbourhood watch.
As the new year is upon us, or will be by the time Den post this blog, it is time for an update on the ‘neighbours’. These are the folk who live next door – not the ones below or above me.
To acquaint you properly with the main protagonists: John, who lives below me, is an ex-army Glaswegian, who I sometimes have trouble understanding. Somewhat right wing in his leanings, evidenced by the National Front banner in his window at polling time. And his flat is adorned with the paraphernalia of his time in the army: his uniforms, caps and helmets, complete with weaponry such as his machete, guns and medals. Not a man to ‘mess’ with. And he never cleans his oven. So that every time he cooks anything he sets off the fire alarms throughout the entire building… an horrendous din that scares the cats and sets the teeth on edge!
Now, John informs me that the ‘neighbours’ (Yes. The ones who do live next door on the top floor, despite the original arson attack and the more recent conflagration in the basement initiated by thoughtless youths) are due to be evicted in the new year. It seems the council, in their mercy, allowed the family to remain in the charred remains of the building over Christmas and are now set on rehousing them because they have condemned the house as a health and environmental hazard.
This condemnation has little to do with the family themselves. But is much more the result of the ‘squatters’ who inhabited the ground floor for some months before the latest fire, whose sanitary habits left a great deal to be desired. But as they had no running water in the building, it is hardly surprising.
I won’t go into the nauseous details. But they had five dogs and as many children in a one bedroom flat with no functioning toilet. Doubtless the children will grow strong and healthy, having developed an immune system to be envied!
The building is taking on a sad aspect.
Originally, after the basement fire, once the fire brigade had broken out the charred remains of the window frames, it was boarded up with some nondescript plywood sheets across the windows facing my kitchen. I was quite looking forward to watching it deteriorate under nature’s kiss, while I do the washing up, and grow a patina of decay to blend in with the surviving window frames, which have long since lost most of their protective paint and much of their substance to the elements. But lately it has been augmented with some perforated metal cladding, which is quite gruesomely ugly and without any promise of the charm offered by decay. It is so tasteless that even mother nature won’t nibble at it!
During the first chaotic days after the basement fire all manner of ‘inspectors’ came to view and examine the damage. The fire officers were obvious because of their uniforms. But all manner of folk seemed to be traipsing through my garden to get to the scene – my garden path offering easy access to the site. So, when a trio of clipboard wielders were gathered, chattering, just outside my bedroom window, I decided that enough was enough. And in my most mischievous manner, neatly dressed in imposing dark shirt with my moustaches neatly combed, I confronted them from the top of the steps which lead down into the garden. And in my most sonorous and authoritarian tones informed them that they were not on a public right of way, but in fact in my garden. And I would appreciate being informed when access was required.
This had the required effect. And with a nervous fluttering of clipboards they bleated that they were ‘from the council’. I was not impressed and informed them that I’d had quite enough trampling through my garden by assorted insurance estimators and the like. And would in future appreciate the courtesy of being asked.
John was accompanying the trio. And the look of horror that he gave me was priceless. I have never seen him so shocked. Evidently. he holds members of the council in some awe of authority. So, to defuse the situation, I casually turned back to my door with the dismissive comment: “But as I can see you are with John – carry on with your business.” And I disappeared inside with a definite smirk bordering on a chuckle.
So, sometime during the new year I can expect to be invaded by the ‘clean-up’ squad, equipped with shovels and barrows.
But now there is a fair chance they might ask first.
Read Ian Gibson’s previous column for Den of Geek here.
29 January 2009