I like to give people the benefit of the doubt when I meet them. I’m a little shy myself, and often worry I come across as brash on first meeting so do make the effort to remember that the same might be true of other people. When, however, you’re fetching in your washing in the twilight hours, you come across a woman with a Rhodesian Ridgeback that’s about to pee in your veggie patch, you do not expect the following:

“Excuse me, could you please take you dog out of my garden.”
“I know the landlord,” said the rather stout woman, advancing on me.
“That’s fine, but we’re renting this land and I’m not happy with your dog here.”
“I nursed Mr -‘s dying mother.” No, I’m not kidding – she actually said this as if it were somehow related to me asking her dog to leave.
“That’s fine, but as I said, we’re renting this land and I’m not happy that your dog is weeing on my vegetables.”
“But I nursed his dying mother.”
I took a deep breath and decided to try and rationalise why she couldn’t be here, “That’s fine, but the landlord has leased this property to us and by allowing you to be here, he’s essentially breeching his contract. You can’t rent out property and then let it be used by other people too. That would be like me renting a house to you but letting my friends stay over in your living room. Mr – is supposed to be coming by tomorrow so I’ll ask him about it then.”
“He was here today.”
“Well, he didn’t come round here. I’ll ask him about access rights tomorrow but for now, I’d like you to take your dog and leave.” I wished the dog had nothing to do with it all. I really like dogs, and hope to have one of my own at some point, but I really don’t like dog pee on my vegetables. Husband appeared at this juncture and asked me if I was alright. The woman then asked my name, which I told her, and asked S-‘s. He replied politely and then asked for hers. Instead of responding she simply turned her back and stormed off. I’m not sure if she thought she was being intimidating or not, but she was certainly very rude.

Aside from the obvious unpleasantness of having to confront someone who won’t engage in a conversation and simply states that she nursed your landlord’s dying mother, I find it very difficult to believe that said landlord would allow dogs to be walked here – specifically dogs of that size. As I say, I like dogs, but the couple who lived in our cottage before we did were denied permission to keep a Jack Russel because of fears it would spook the horses from the stud in the next field over. Surely if a little terrier would cause such a problem then a whopping great lion hunter of a hound would be worse?

It wasn’t until we got inside that S- told me he’d come across her before under similar circumstances. We think she periodically shows up with the dog, gets asked to leave, and then waits a while before checking whether there are new tenants here who will make a fuss. And I don’t know whether she did nurse Mr -‘s dying mother or not, but surely if she had been promised access to the garden as a gesture of thanks, there would have been a clause in our contract to stipulate this. Reading through it this morning, I can find no such thing.

In any case, it’s a painful reminder that this little place – this little slice of paradise – isn’t ours. All things must pass – even the good – and I feel that perhaps our time here is drawing to a close. I’d like somewhere to call my own, where I have the right to kick out whoever I feel like without needing to worry about whether or not I’ve offended someone with the power to make me homeless. We shall see what comes this summer. Change is afoot.

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