The Nice Neighbours (or Don't throw your junk in my back yard part 2)


 I ache. All over.  I've got muscles in my shoulders I never knew I had, and they are making me FEEL them this morning.  Reason is, because we finally cleared our backyard of junk yesterday.  A miniskip parked on the road, a wheelbarrow, some heavy-duty gloves, my husband and me.  Romantic, huh.
Our backyard has been a huge tip full of building scraps since before we moved in. When we were building this house it turned out they had to demolish a lot more of it than we had originally hoped - and instead of paying thousands to cart away a whole house worth of 100-year old timber, we held on to lots of it.  Mainly it was because we couldn't bear to throw away such beautiful, huge old beams and logs - because old wood has a character and depth that you can never get with new timber, not even if you do the "artificial distress and weather" technique to make it look old (ugh.). Salvaged timber yards don't exist in Latvia.  Except in our back yard.
Well, we've finally been clearing the yard bit by bit - stacking still-useable logs in one part, getting rid of firewood and old windows and pallets and sand and rotten stuff.  Giving away whatever we could to needy neighbours looking for firewood, or friends building houses in the country.  Yesterday, we finished the lion's share - amazing - and now we actually have 3/4 of a yard for our kids to run around in!  This has been the whole issue, ever since we started looking for a house to buy in Riga.  Although we lived for years on the 5th floor of an inner-city apartment, we couldn't shake the Aussie prerequisite of having a back yard for kids to hang out in - it just felt wrong for them not have a tree to climb, a sandpit out the back, a place to chuck a ball and run barefoot.  We bought the house 4 years ago, and have only managed to secure that elusive backyard yesterday.
We couldn't have done all this without the help of our inebriated neighbours, of course.  The ones I described briefly in this post.  Jem's brother was visiting this summer and we had a miniskip then, too, and Jem and Joel worked tirelessly for a day carting big rotten logs to the skip.  The minute the gate to our yard was open, some neighbours took the opportunity of wandering in to the yard.  Parking themselves on a convenient pile of timber, and watching the proceedings.  Main thing was to offer to help, and then not do anything but sit and tell us what we were doing wrong.  Give advice and criticism with slurred breath reeking of vodka.  "Its better than watching TV, watching you kangaroos work!" one of our delighted neighbours chortled.
The whole time we have lived here, I have been hyper-aware of our neighbours - mostly pensioners, many of them alcoholics.  We share a back yard in so much that our yard is a part of their once-huge, once- communal courtyard - we fenced our bit - and anything we do outdoors is under the scrutiny of everyone who lives in the houses around and can watch the proceedings through their windows.  We are total aliens to them - foreigners, who are renovating an old house that they tell me is terrible. Why would we want to live there if we could have a nice new house in the 'burbs?  In their eyes we have too much money and NO sense at ALL.  Sometimes the older folk stop to talk to me, like Betty, who was christened as Alvine Elizabete (but everyone calls her Betty).  She misses her husband, who died last year.  She still doesn't know how to make ends meet with her minimal pension, and fondly remembers the time after the war, when everything in the shops was so affordable: "But what can you do, you have to live, until you die" is her daily wisdom.  Then there's Ludmila, who only speaks Russian, and comes outside on pension days, full of moonshine and bitterness, floral housecoat and slippers on, mascara smudging, and rages at the world, yells at the sky, until someone leans out of their window and tells her to shut it.  Imants is good-hearted, but hopeless, and when he is not too pissed he tells me about service in the Soviet army, and about the sly easy down the road, that sells him 1 litre of illegal moonshine for 80 santims ($1.60 AUS), and about the operation he needs on his arm.
Some days it's hard to not get offended at these people.  Other days it's hard not to feel desperately sorry for them.  There have been sharp words spoken when they have 'crossed the line'.  I have the odd day where I wonder what the hell we were THINKING when we bought this house.  But the general rule of thumb for guaranteeing a happy existence in this yard, is that WE ARE THE NICE NEIGHBOURS.  Whenever I feel like yelling, or complaining that someone has thrown their rubbish over the fence into our yard again, or telling someone to go and slur and stumble somewhere else, I remember that I'm the nice neighbour.  And I smile, and wave, and ignore the criticism and say good morning! And for now, it seems to be the only way to make it work...


The back yard last week after re-stacking wood... almost there... just a couple of leaves to rake and about 50 windows to get rid of...  (feature pic above of the yard in April this year)


The back of the house - view taken standing on the place where all the piles of crap used to be...  planning to grass it in spring


 Wait!  Could that be a climbable apple tree?  Who knew it was there, 
it used to be covered up in piles of timber.


Still quite a bit of Soviet dodgy "charm" though, we are yet to knock down the old wood shed, that's a job for the new year when we get somewhere else to store our garden stuff.


Two of the "nice" neighbours.  The one on the right has his jumper on back-to-front.  But he's still nice.




The back of the yard.  Cherry trees and a perfect corner for a chicken coop.  
Or at least that's what I think. Go Cats!

2 Responses so far.

  1. Loving the backyard reclaiming progress. More than enough room for the chooks...... Your neighbours sound like they are good at keeping it real, i like to think you are living in the West End of Riga. melx

  2. Mamma M says:

    Wow! Good job! Can't wait to see it with grass. :)

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