Slightly Bemused: Everybody Needs Good Neighbours


Slightly Bemused writes:

They say good fences make good neighbours

Granny Weatherwax knew this, and so lodged next door to the biggest dealers in stolen goods in Ankh Morporkh. And along the way with practical advice enabled a certain lady rise to head up the Seamstresses Guild.

I was thinking of that over the weekend as I received my new uniform for work. Thankfully not a bad one, it is a very nicely made jacket and trousers, officially dark grey, or charcoal, but so close to black I cannot tell the difference. Little Slightly started to point it out, using the black trousers I have been using as reference. Then she took one look at my face and stopped. She was not met with confusion, merely amusement and that male issue of there only being primary colours. Everything else is a pigment of your imaginations.

The problem is that none of it fits just right. The trousers are the right waist, but they come in very long leg lengths. Cutting it to size will give enough for me to make a whole ‘nother pair. And I was commenting with Little Slightly about getting them taken up.

Now I was met with a face of confusion – this was not a term she was aware of. As she constantly reminds me when the chance arises, she inherited the short gene from me. This necessitates many times shortening the legs of her various trousers, pants, slacks, jeans, chinos… But she had never ‘taken them up’. So a new phrase for the lexicon.

She kindly offered to do the job for me, but not using my sewing kit, an emergency kit designed to reattach a button or hold together a seam until a more qualified and experienced seamster or seamstress could do it. I must suggest she speak with her aunt, my sister, who is an incredibly deft worker of sartorial miracles. And jam. She brought a pot – it’s gone already. Sadly with too much demon spread to help it along.

I grew up in a family with various excellent skills. My Dad cobbled our shoes and replaced the soles and heels often. He still had his lasts and his cobbler’s anvil last time I was in his garage, not long before he passed. He had a whole set of tools I believe he got, along with the lasts and anvil, from his own grandfather, who taught him this skill. Now, none of them were cobblers by trade, they just came from generations where you turned your hand to anything. And he taught me the best way to use impact glue, a skill I have used many times since.

He also cut the boys’ hair. Short back and sides was the order of the day, or indeed any day. The first time after I moved out I went to a hairdresser near my apartment in Dublin, wonderfully located across from my uncle’s camera shop so a wonderful chat and cuppa were in the offing. I had let my hair grow long for me, and sat in the chair. The lady could tell I had only ever had the ould SB&S treatment, and looking askance asked ‘Same again?’ To which I replied with delight ‘Absolutely not!’, I took off my glasses and explained that I was now blind as a bat.

I left my bangs to her experienced eye, gave her her freedom to remake my head as the world would now see it. And we had a great chat. As she was just across the street from my uncle’s shop we were doing the whole 6 degrees before that was a thing. My Dad, far from being upset, did compliment it the next time I was home. As he explained, he only knew one way to cut, and in his generation that was the way everybody’s was cut. Unless you used Brillcreem.

My Mum was a seamstress who kept our clothes together. Many was the time having worn out the seat of a pair of trousers, a gusset was patched into place, sometimes a mismatched colour for contrast and to provide a source of ribbing in college. In our home town no one cared – we were all in the same boat. But some of my college mates found this far beneath them. Patched trousers and a donkey jacket did not make me the epitomé of cool. But I was warm and dry in the winter, and my trousers fit.

And my Little one and I started talking about how much it would cost to have it professionally done. Before anyone gets upset, I truly think that those offering the service deserve to be properly recompensed. But I recall one time going to see if I could have a zip changed. It was from a pair of chinos from a certain shop that used have a whole lot of things for Christmas.

The cost of the repair was more than the cost of a new pair. So I demurred, and commented this to my family. Whereupon my sister asked for the old pair. A new zip was put in, and for a few years the chinos continued their life for her son. Until he grew up, and most definitely did not get the short leg genes. The short leg jeans I gather ended up on another family member.

So for a while yet I will be making do with my not quite the right colour black slacks, my shirt, and I will be going jacketless for a bit. At least the tie fits, but it is a clip on, and for that I am thanking any deity you may care to mention. I am not a fan of ties, and the last time I knotted one it was very close to a granny, and most certainly not the Windsor I was attempting.

And Tuesday morning I awoke to the sound of furious cutting. The fence between my garden and my neighbour’s has been gradually falling apart for a while. The brambles have been encroaching from what theoretically was our back line, keeping the low tennis balls at bay. About 4 years ago two panels between us came down. So we removed them, and this made it easy as we share a lawnmower. Whichever of us starts first cuts both.

Eventually more panels died, and we spoke occasionally about trying to find the end panels behind all the brambles. And Tuesday was that day. I wandered outside to see a small possie braving the thorns, using the right equipment and gear. So I talked nicely to the boss man and we agreed that he could do to my backline also. A price was negotiated, and I was up front that I could only pay once I get paid, later this week. He did the job anyway. Small town, if you give your word, you honour it.

So I have finally seen my end fence. Other than the excitement of seeing it, it looks pretty much like the side fences. And in surprisingly good shape. I learned that ivy and brambles do not mix. They fight for the same resources, and whichever gets the first hold wins. I will miss the blackberries this year, though. Although I do have to explain púca’s p*ss to Little Slightly at some point. She is talking about setting up a diorama for Hallowe’en in my porch, so it is kind of timely.

But the ivy got first dibs on the side of my shed, and one of the panels. More negotiating done, and people who knew what they were doing have released my shed from a quite literal bondage. It will probably collapse now, as I imagine that the ivy was actually holding it up.

So at this point, barring the end two panels, there are no fences between me and my neighbour up to the very first one behind the gates. It seems that contrary to the adage, good neighbours means no fences are needed.

Darn it Now I feel a Garth Brooks song coming on…

Slightly Bemused‘s column appears here every Wednesday.

Pic by Slightly

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5 thoughts on “Slightly Bemused: Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

  1. Niall

    Great article as always. I love the Discworld reference.
    However I now also have the Penney’s jingle running through my head :-)

  2. Marbe

    I can never have the front and the back door open together, unless I want a tornedo type hurricane rushing down the hall and through the kitchen taking anything loose with it. My Dad’s shoe last is the ideal door-stop, it weighs a ton and defies anything the four winds can generate. Thank you for the reminder of times past.

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