Friday, 2 March 2012


My neighbour from hell is obsessed. He, (and now his wife,) whose 12 acres border mine, is frantic that I should not plant trees. Their house is roughly 25 metres from our mutual boundary fence. They claim that my hazel, almond and fruit trees will damage their house. They claim that my windbreak of coppicing bushes and shrubs will damage their house, and prevent it being sold. Daily I endure abuse, am spied on, cannot walk down my drive without being stalked, yet when I complain they say they must protect their property and they are not doing anything wrong. Attempts to get a mediator in failed. They don't need one! A solicitor's letter warning them of the inevitable consequences of their actions is ignored and laughed at. They drag the local Council officials into their campaign of harassment and I have to waste more time reminding the Council that they have a large file about my neighbour and they should read it before threatening me. I am writing this with my neighbour's binoculars trained on me as I sit on my verandah about one kilometre away from his house and land. He is dangerously obsessed.

And as I wonder how high a fence I can build along that boundary to block out my neighbour I have to chuckle. One of the poets I studied for my O levels was Robert Frost. I can still quote 'Mending Wall' - 'Good fences make good neighbours' He will not go behind his father's saying and he likes to have thought of it so well.' Exactly!

Agents and Publishers' editors are obsessed too. With marketability and money. But I wonder if they really know what readers want. I have included a few mentions of book titles and quotes from poetry in my latest novel. There are school room scenes and the schoolmaster is an important character so I have not foisted these quotes and titles in isolation. However the expert advice I have received from agents and publishers' editors is to remove these as modern readers won't know what they are and don't like quotations. The readers and writers I work with, to test my writing by reading and critiquing, snort in indignation. They like quotes and titles. 'Tells me more about the character.' most of them have said. A quick check round the library, talking to the readers there, came up with the same answer. One person said they had found some interesting poems to read that way.

So who is right? Does an obsession with earning lots of money by getting a 'popular' marketable novel make these experts right? Or do the wide range of ebooks being downloaded by the new techy readers say something quite different. Something about reasonable prices allowing readers to try different types of books? Something about the fact that people cannot all be boxed into the same square?