fences. I was pedalling along minding my own business yesterday when I had to jam the brakes on hard in order to avoid a collision with a car. The car suddenly appeared, nose first, out of a driveway which was hidden behind an unfriendly fence.
I am sure you know the sort of fence I mean. This one was brush and at least twice my height.
I am not tall (5ft and half an inch if you must know) but that still made the fence high.
Now I tend to move carefully, very carefully past openings in fences. You never know what might be coming out. There are unfriendly cars, friendlier small children, frantic mothers and frail elderly people among others. I treat all of them as potential objects for collision. I have no desire to do any of them harm, not even the cars. It is much more likely of course that the car will do harm to me.
If I had been anything other than cautious about such things I may not be here now. I doubt the driver was even aware of my presence. The car left in too much of a hurry for that.
It left me a little shaken and thinking about fences. Fences seem to have grown in recent years. I understand the wisdom of a high, noise reducing fence if you live on a busy road but do you really need that sort of fence on a quiet suburban street?
There are hedges which are now metres high. There are brush fences almost as high as the hedges. There are "colourbond" fences which invite graffiti. All of them are impossible to see past. There are other, slightly lower fences, which are still impossible to see past because of gardens deliberately designed to block any view from the street - and probably to the street as well.
There are fences around here which resemble the security of Fort Knox or the Perth Mint. Visitors need to ring a bell at the gate in order to gain access to the front door of an ordinary suburban house. Meter readers are asked to make appointments to gain access to these suburban mansions of importance. There are alarm systems and warnings on the gate about fierce dogs.
Our house has a knee high brick fence. Most people could swing a leg over the gate. Next door's dog visits on rare occasions. The neighbourhood cats prefer our yards to theirs. (We are home most of the day and they can garden with my father.) We discourage canvassers with a polite message at the door but welcome friends. We know everyone who lives in our short street and they all know us and one another. There are no impenetrable fences.
I wonder about the houses with high, impenetrable fences. Perhaps they have been burgled multiple times or perhaps they really are guarding great riches. I rather doubt it. I suspect the people who live in them are part of the great suburban loneliness.
Fences keep people out and they keep people in.