A LOCAL COLD WAR BREWS

I received a letter through the door with no postage. A mysterious thing that said only  ‘to Craig’. So I opened it up and scanned the contents. A letter with ye old hand writing possibly from a feather quill. It came with a modern hundred page document that at first appeared to be about saving trees. A charity? A local event on how to stop the spread of fungal diseases for trees?

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But as it turned out on reading, the letter was from one of my neighbours. Now I live in a village that is primarily run by what is considered in some circles as the grey army. Now I’m not disrespectful to the old and wise. In fact I think it’s a marvel that people get to live to a grand old age indeed. But I began to wonder what exactly stopped this neighbour from knocking on the door? She lives on the other street so she has to walk all the way around just to get to mine, sort of back to back housing where the streets are at the front; naturally. The neighbour it turns out had highlighted parts of the document that was all about the sycamore tree. Oh I see, I’ve got one of those, a small one that came from bird crap most likely as it flew over. I don’t mind, I like trees. But then I began to get the picture. The narrative of the sycamore that destroys civilizations and causes starvation in third world countries; the roots man the roots!

No, I’m just messing here. But apparently the trees roots cause issues with foundations. But instead of grabbing my axe immediately I began to think about this. The tree is a sapling that you can’t see from over the fence that is say nine feet in height (no shit I’m telling you) the said mystery letter dropping neighbour also has her house at least thirty feet from the said tree. How does she know it’s there?

Now I’m not going to be an arse hole here and say no and dig my heels in, but I do recall that in her back yard way before she moved in there was a giant conifer about the size of the Eiffel Tower where giants used to come down looking for Englishmen. The thing would blot out the sun at about 5 in the evening in summer so that the day was not quite in shade but as though some apocalyptic eclipse.

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Thus I heard a rumour from my Mrs as she said ‘Oh Mr what’s his face from 24 asked Mrs do da at 22 to cut down the tree and it cost ten million pounds to do! So I feel a niggle plot arise within the confines of my neighbourhood and think about it for some sense to arise, as some geezer at the post office holds me up in the queue while he tries to ascertain the particulars of every kind of postal service there is. ‘So what is recorded delivery and why is it different from guaranteed delivery?’ Meanwhile I’m ready to post books off to some competition winners. Of course I forgot to stipulate how far and wide the range of this competition was. For some reason all the winners were from the other side of Mars where postage cost me over a hundred pounds. I hope they enjoy the book either way. But I’m not cheap by any means and I’m preparing to do it again for the Martians.

Well back to the point, you can’t beat those with too much time who have little time left, especially as I’m losing patience and reaching for a roll of wrapping paper that says happy birthday on it. Dark thoughts of impatience worm their way through my twisted mind. Is wrapping paper lethal? and how hard do you have to smack someone over the noggin for it to become so? Move man! I can’t stay in this post office any longer.

So I’ve got a tree that’s five feet tall behind a fence that’s nine feet tall where its roots are probably no where near the property; I’m thinking of adult stuff here, like some sort of middle class disputeer. Am I going to fold or am I going to debate the fact that the giant tree that reached all the way to the moon never caused any ones house to collapse into the ground as though it were the Poltergeist movie at the end. Am I suddenly that age where property boundaries are in dispute and we all get the blue prints out?

My god woman you printed a document long enough to engulf an entire rain forest the size of the UK and you want ME to cut down another tree; and you only highlighted one part of the article on one page! Couldn’t you have printed off that page alone and just knocked at the door to show me your concerns rather than scarper down the drive way. And why doesn’t word press have scarper in the dictionary? why does it think it is spelt wrong. Do I have a reputation that requires folk around me to knock and run. Well actually yes. This all stems from the affair of the drains.

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Before I moved to this property there was some street legend regarding the house and the drains. A bit like Dennis Nielson who chopped up people and stuffed them down the lavatory causing the local drain shafter to wonder what that red mush was clogging up the water works. Just kidding, but I swear it may as well be. Apparently the main guy who owned the house had re-built the entire drain system causing chaos. I had caught wind off people who lived in the area ‘Oh they had the council out, the FBI, the CIA doing an investigation that led nowhere. Another mystery why the drains didn’t work.

It’s the cant they said. He upset the cant. Now if I lived in London this would be a very different conversation in a cockney accent. But I set to work trying to see what was what, I mean I had installed drains down the side of railway lines as part of a job years ago. So the neighbours had my property down as the legend of shit blocking and cowboy antics. I wasn’t having any of it and bought some rods from Amazon. So there I was with my thirty foot of lengthy rod and lifted the drain cover. Now being a bit unprepared I began to scratch my head at looking at a shallow run through. Only a foot deep with a channel that was leading into next door. Mine wasn’t blocked so what was going on. This was turning into a crap episode of Columbo where I had the tools but no drain to unblock. I went next door to see the lady who was akin to Mummra off thundercats.

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‘What do you need to check my drain for? It’s your fault when you started digging up your garden last week’ Last week I thought. Who exactly does she think I am ‘Listen Derek’ she said.

Derek. No I’m the new occupant, Craig see. Derek passed over at the age of a hundred, but I heard he slept in a tupperware box which accounted for him looking like a thirty year old.  So I built up a rapport with this woman and got into her drains. It appeared that her drain was the main junction for several houses and it wasn’t a pretty sight. I shafted the channels as far as my rods would go and then pop. The flow of joy went by as though the conveyor on the generation game. Cuddly toy, sweet corn and every kind of poo you can think of. Nice. Then something else happened. The woman began to say ‘It’s those tampons that ruin everything’ as though the sanitary devices were responsible for killing all the dolphins by clogging their air holes. But that was by the by as I couldn’t escape the legend of the drain even though I explained that her drain was the main junction point; note that I didn’t even accuse her drain of being a problem and that it could have been one further down the street. That’s right, I mapped out where the drains were going and coming from and the problem was bigger than it actually was; isn’t it always?

But this lady started something as we became pals. No this isn’t the confessions of a drain cleaner smut story. She said ‘can you hear the music? It’s ever so loud, is it you playing Frank Sinatra at all hours of the day?’   Lady I am a young man who listens to Hybrid or System of a Down or I don’t know, but Frank Sinatra? what the hell are you saying? So I said I couldn’t hear anything, which I couldn’t and probably because I listen to system of a down in the first place. So she seemed distraught and I said ‘I tell you what, if your drains need pumping or you need anything I’ll come round, here is my mobile number. Tales of a dirty pump fiend indeed.

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Now I used to work all hours and sometimes I would be in bed on a night quite late, sort of one or two in the morning. One night I was just about to nod off at around 3am when the phone rang. I say hello and a voice says ‘I know it’s you’

Excuse me?

‘I know what you are, trying to trick me. The music has gone now but I know you’ll put it back on as soon as I’m gone!’

So the next door neighbour has lost her mind over Frank Sinatra, but I haven’t even got a hi fi any more and the tv doesn’t go loud enough to escape the house double glazing. So she kept calling and visiting and I kept it cool and went round to check for Frank. I went around the streets with my ear trumpet listening out for it anywhere. What the hell was going on. But I failed to understand the nature of the beast here. It wasn’t that she was to blame and I could not really get upset by the accusations when the threat of police intervention was apparently on the cards; by her not me of course as I think I can handle a ninety year old lady perhaps. But in the next few weeks she came to be under a new system, where the alarm would go off at some surveillance centre if she left the house and where sniper turrets were placed at the end of her garden in case she vaulted the fifty feet tall barb wire fence. But it appeared that the music was a symptom of a condition of some kind. A sad story in the end then.

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Of course my long term detective skills hadn’t finished there. The poo blockages kept on coming, from the drains I mean. I went to the next house down and gave them a good shafting, then the next until I came to this guys house where his car was parked over the drain. Obviously I had asked permission to do some shafting at each property prior to this, except that this one entailed just that extra bit of cooperation.

I knock at the door and a lady answers, but it soon turns into a farce as she is playing echo to her husband sat directly behind her in the kitchen.

Hi, I live at number ten, I have been checking the drains to see where there might be a blockage, may I check yours to unblock them if they are blocked…deep breath, and relax.

The man who is also of retirement age isn’t too pleased and starts shouting to his wife to say this and that ‘I know you, you’re that man that ruined our drains. Derek right?

Hear we go again I thought. ‘Well It’s dinner time’ he shouted to his wife. ‘It’s dinner time’ she conveyed and then gave the impression that she suddenly understood what her husband had said ‘Well he is right you know it is dinner time’

‘Come on wench, where’s my dinner. He’ll have to come back, bloody drain breaker!’

‘I’m afraid you’ll have to come back’ the wife said.

So I’m thinking that this guy is being unreasonably awkward, but then he had made a point, it was dinner time. So after lunch I return and start the whole process where this time the man leaves his kitchen and comes outside. Full of verve and malice the man is on it akin to a ferret up the trousers ‘I tell thee now youngen’ he said ‘I remember when it got bad, you wouldn’t believe how bad it got. So bad we got the council out. Oh those were the days. That lass was living at yours back then, I remember. The council came out with rods like yours; they look like good rods those, aye thee knows good rods when I see them. But that man charged a hundred pounds for clearing the drains, so we sent the bill to that girl who used to live at yours. She comes knocking on my door crying her eyes out over the bill. I says oh, look love, it isn’t my fault you live in the house that ruins peoples lives’

So all the while I’m listening to the story about the hefty bill and how this man took glee at a woman crying and I’m thinking whether I can actually make him cry. I mean, I had the tools in my hand. Feel triumphant do you?! laughing when you handed the bill over were you! How about twenty feet of rod up your exit pipe and we shall say no more! The afternoon investigation ensued as he led me to the drain at the back of his house which I knew to be the wrong drain.

‘No, it’s the one under the car on your drive I need’

‘No son, it’s the one there’

So I go into an explanation and he comes back with ‘look, I’m not letting you into that drain…ever!’

This is when things get out of hand and I’ve had enough, but yet keep things cordial ‘What are you talking about’ I said becoming agitated; what exactly are you trying to hide? Why won’t you let me take a look down there? Are you afraid of something?! Perhaps it is you all along who has the dodgy drains, huh, let me in your drain you horrible shit!’

Things were not resolved, pretty much got nowhere, blocked at the pivotal moment and I gained the reputation of being that aggressive man with the rods at number ten.  Lately I had to clean the drains again, which was odd because the next door neighbour has moved to a care home leaving the house empty for some time. For some reason when cleaning them today I found bundles of red tape coming from her house’s pipe. A peculiar thing I can’t figure out at all. But I still remember her with fondness ‘Because of you Derek I had to get in that drain and fell in and chipped my tooth!’ She would say from time to time.

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I haven’t cut the tree down yet and am still contemplating any kind of response, because in the end you never know how these sorts of things go beyond making any sense. My other next door neighbour keeps painting my fence and getting paint all over the drive way. I dare not go out at these times and start hiding in the living room. The people on my street and within the entire village have got the energy for some strange behaviour and I along with everyone else really am safer if I don’t get involved.


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