Wednesday, 6 June 2007


Well at home we piss off the neighbours for miles around by shouting in the kiddies playground, arguing in the street, rolling about in the gutter, screaming at passing dogs and hissing at everyone's cat. Now we're in Kent, we have to find a neighbour and piss them off by screaming outside their bedroom window, setting traps for them and stuffing a unicorn down their drainpipe.

It all starts when Shark, Squirrel and Tiger decide to play together outside the van while I contemplate whether going home early would be a signal of failure, or whether I can get through the ordeal of single mothering in a prison caravan with a blocked cess pit and a trampolining magpie if I just drink heavily to midnight and start off each morning at 4 am with a dash of single malt.

Then I'm aware that everyone seems to be quiet outside. This is trouble. Sure enough, they're digging up the grass with their spades. They do this at home and it is very irritating. They dig a hole in the lawn which becomes a bear trap when it's covered in grass; I come along, misplace my foot in it, twist my ankle and fall over. Now they're doing it here outside the neighbour's van.

'Do not dig up the grass!' I hiss. Squirrel ignores me as another piece of turf, levered up with her spade, goes flying over her shoulder. 'Do not dig up the grass!' I shout. I'm running around, trying to put the turf back into the soily holes; Tiger, Shark and Squirrel squeal that this is the blue tit's nest and here's the baby eagle, and there, now I've done it, I've just covered up the owl nest which just goes to show what a horrid mother I am. Now the little rolled up balls of toilet paper in each soily hole make sense. They're eggs. Of course, I should have seen that. But digging up the turf outside the neighbour's van probably contravenes some sort of rule so I say they can't play eggs-in-nests until they get to the beach, so play something else.

And they do. It's called put your cuddly toy unicorn into your flip flop and throw it up in the air. Your unicorn likes this. The flip flop is his microlite and this is his first flying lesson. This is hilarious until the unicorn lands with a thud on the roof of the neighbouring caravan, rolls down the gentle curve, and gets wedged with his microlite in the guttering.

The first I know of this is when I hear 'Mummy! Mummy! Furryhorn is on the roof!'

Since I cannot reach the pesky thing discreetly, I have to get out the wobbly stool from under the dining table in the van and climb on that. By waving a ruler at the guttering I can just about flip and squeeze the unicorn and microlite along to the end of the van where I hope to bounce him over. He's having none of it and wedges himself in the drainpipe. Now if I push him down any further it's going to look deliberate, taking advantage of the neighbour's day trip to Dover Castle to creep out and shove things down their drainpipe. So it's out with the coathangers, the confiscated spades, makeshift hooks sellotaped to 30cm rulers and hope no-one notices.

The rescue mission takes fifteen minutes. When he finally bounces out, I confiscate him along with the spades and force everyone in the car to go off and explore the Romney Marshes Wildlife Centre. If I don't, Squirrel might well decide the whole site needs a spot of redecoration and head off to the neighbour's van with the crayons.

The only positive thing I can say about the assaults on the neighbour's territory is that it is a fine example of cooperative teamwork because there is very little screaming all morning. We save the screaming for when we get back from the Wildlife Centre and the neighbours are staring glumly from their little kitchen window at the patched soil, probably wondering what else we've been up to.

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