Magazine article The Spectator

Love Thy Neighbourhood

Magazine article The Spectator

Love Thy Neighbourhood

Article excerpt

Last Sunday, while taking Buster for his late-night walk, I was stopped by a neighbour -- name unknown -- with what, on the face of it, seemed a friendly question. Why, she asked, did I not complain about the giant earth-moving machine which is regularly parked outside my house? The juggernaut, which was there at the time when she spoke to me, always reminds me of 'Rock Drill', Epstein's contribution to the violence of Vorticism which had to be emasculated to make it less intimidating before it was allowed in the Tate Gallery. Not that the earthmoving machine is a work of art. But, then, a lot of people I know would say the same about 'Rock Drill'.

It was a cold night and I suspected that a discussion of Vorticism held little charm for my concerned neighbour. So, putting aside all thought of a happy hour spent in the examination of aesthetic values, I thanked her for her interest in my visual welfare and hurried home, thinking -- though I was far too polite to say -- that I had no intention of following her advice.

The earth-moving machine is left outside my house by a man from the other end of the village. During the day he uses it to dig holes in the countryside on behalf of a quarrying company. Taking it home in the evening, and (for all I know) using it for weekend family excursions to the coast, is a perk of the job. There are several company cars parked in the village. The earthmoving machine has as much right to space as any of them. It just happens to be twice as big and even more ugly than the most objectionable 4x4s which litter our streets.

I was back home -- and feeling a warm glow of gratitude for the lady's concern -- before I realised that she had not the slightest interest in the blighted view from my dining-room window. The earth-moving machine at rest -- parked, though it so often is, just beyond the one stretch of my front garden wall which is low enough to give me a clear view of its blue and cream bodywork -- was really of no interest to her. She objected to the way in which it spends its working day. So, in common with most of the village, do I. The quarrying has become so extensive that we are in danger of losing half of our hill. But there are better ways of getting back at the quarrying company than inconveniencing one of its employees. …

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