Welcome, brother!

FRED, next door, has put his house on the market.

We’ve grown used to Fred and Marjorie over the years. We share a comfortable peace.

I will probably have to kill their cat one day, when I actually catch it scratching up my veggies, but they don’t have to know it was me.

But if they’re moving it won’t be a problem any more, I hear you say.

But I didn’t say they were moving. I said they’d put their house on the market.

There ought to be rules about selling your house. They should pass a law that says you have to get your neighbour’s approval.

I mean, we could end up with anyone! There are people out there who believe they have been abducted by aliens; people who think they can make the world a better place by hugging things. There are line dancers!

That’s all right. Even line dancers have rights. And people can believe anything they like. But when Fred and I have a chat over the back fence it usually begins with: “G’day mate.”

I am not starting my conversations with: “Wow, like, peace, man.” And if I had a neighbour who invited me line dancing I’d have to kill him, never mind his cat.

But it won’t happen. Fred and Marjorie have had their house on the market before and they haven’t sold it yet.

Yesterday was open day. Naturally, as a good neighbour, it was my duty to introduce myself to prospective buyers.

There are three essential props to carry when you meet the prospective buyers of the property next to yours.

The first is a Bible. It’s an irony that most people, when filling out forms, still describe themselves as Church of England, or Christian, but when they actually meet one (of think they have) they flee.

Especially if you also call: “Welcome brother!” to their departing backs.

If, on the other hand, their eyes light up and they kiss you, it’s time to bring the termite poison into full view.

Even people who place all their trust in the Almighty are terrified of termites.

When they say: “Oh, you have termites, do you?” the answer is: “No, mate. They might be destroying Fred’s place but they’re not having mine.”

The third option is rarely necessary, but it only takes a moment to remove my shirt.

Stripped to the waist I am not a pretty sight.

Covered in tattoos from neck to wrist (drawn on with a ballpoint pen, but they don’t know that) I must look awful.

I stand in their path and growl, while they can hear my wife pouring her entire store of jam jars back and forth between cardboard boxes. The endless rattle of jam jars is not unlike the rattle of last night’s beer bottles.

The final touch is the bolt cutters. I like to snarl: “So the bastard is getting out, eh?” In response to their nervous nods I add, “Just as well, or I’d have ‘ad the toes off his other foot.”

I feel a bit sorry for Fred and Marjorie, but we’ve got to consider our own welfare. I mean, good neighbours are hard to find. I said so to Fred last night, over a beer.

He groaned and said he knew what I meant.