Life over the fence

Charli Mills has prompted us this week with

April 15, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about nurturing a neighborly relationship. It can be a next-door neighbor, a neighborhood critter or a neighborly place like a schoolhouse or community garden. Show what nurturing looks like for characters or places involved.

2014-07-17 17.25.08

Our House, circa 1960

I wrote about neighbours not that long ago, looking at the neighbours I had had since living in London. However, if I go back to my earliest memories, and my family home in Caterham in Surrey (we moved away in 1969 when I was 12) we had two very different families next door. On the right, as you faced the house from the road the Stoddarts and on the left the Haylors.

03- BOX - 023

The Stoddart’s on the right; Punch our boxer guarding the castle!

I don’t have a depth of memory but I do know the Stoddards were elderly, Scottish. Mr Stoddard had a fabulous Christian name – Hastie – though he seemed to me to be anything but. He leaned over the hedge with a surprised expression on his face and said things like ‘Did ye noo?’ to my father. I don’t think he approved of my father’s evenings out at the rugby club and more especially his discombobulated state on his return.

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You can almost see Hastie peering over the hedge…

The other memory is of his eyebrows – two volcanic explosions of white hair that appeared to be growing up his face. Of Mrs Stoddart I have no memory at all.

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And over that fence, the Haylors; se the Sugar Puffs packet on the table? You could collect glow in the dark spooks – they were probably slightly radioactive!

On the other side, the couple were younger than my parents. They adopted two children while we were there. Christopher and a younger sister, whose name has gone with the passage of time. In a reversal of my memories of the Stoddarts I recall Mrs Haylor – Olive, who of course brought to mind Olive Oil in Popeye though Mrs Haylor was I think rather better covered than her cartoon namesake. We visited the Haylor’s more, playing in their garden and more likely to have our tennis balls and footballs returned than was the case with the Stoddarts – I expect there was some Wee Free element to their coda for return, requiring us to suffer a little of the absence before we could be reunited with our playthings.

But both were friendly and my parents never said anything to make me suspect that, come a crisis they would have been there for us. That, after all is all you really want for a neighbour.

And so the flash and, of course, Mary, who last week started to try and take back some control over her life. I wonder how she’s coping with her new strategy? If you need a catch up, click here.

 Better than par.

 Mary didn’t know where to start restoring her parents’ garden, now the police had finished. There were the terracotta edging pieces for the flowerbeds, the plants and turfs, roughly stacked in a corner. The police hadn’t said anything about helping. And now Paul had gone away on business.

‘Hi. Mary?’

Just what she didn’t need. Her half-brother. She could just make out his eyes, like an old-fashioned Chad, peering over the gate.

She pulled it open. Rupert stood back, grinning. “I told them at the golf club about the mess. They all admired dad so they said they’d help.”


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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21 Responses to Life over the fence

  1. ruchira says:

    I liked how you could write about your neighbors with ease, Geoff 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m verklempt. (I secretly always kind of liked her hated half-brother.) Love the story of your neighbors…and the photos. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Norah says:

    Cute little boys having fun in the neighbourhood. Where do the years go?
    How wonderful of Rupert to bring around a team to help out – true neighbours. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Another great trip down memory lane from you, and what a huge garden that is. Punch looks like he guarded his territory very well. Did you know that Sugar Puffs have recently had their name changed?

    Glad to hear that Rupert has come to help, but I was hoping he’d been from the rugby club. Why or why did the police not put Mary’s garden back to how they found it? That’s not very nice of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Annecdotist says:

    Okay, so Rupert’s turned up with his friends to help out but you’ve still got time to make things bad for Mary – surely they’re not going to put the garden back how she wants it?

    Liked by 2 people

  6. roweeee says:

    Great post. So visual.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Ula says:

    Am I naive to think Rupert and his friends helping is a good thing?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Sacha Black says:

    awww you always have a lovely little twist at the end with Mary. 🙂


  9. Charli Mills says:

    I’m thinking it is all going to pick up for Mary, yet there’s this nagging sense she won’t get off easy…yet. But nice of the golfers to help out. I suppose they are adept at replacing sod. Always enjoy your remembrances. Mr. Soddart reminds me of the unseen neighbor is a 90s sitcom Home Improvement.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yvonne says:

    You haven’t changed a bit! (If you’re the one standing in the first photo that is; if not your brother looks like you!)
    Good that Mary’s brother and neighbours have come to help – or is it?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great photos, great dog, great characters for neighbours, great flash. I guess his motivation will become clear with the right prompt.

    Liked by 1 person

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