Warning: contains grumbling, whinging, moaning and not a lot else.
2 years ago we moved into our flat. It’s quite small and has a damp problem but it came with a large communal garden that the children could play in. At the time our options were extremely limited and we were grateful to find somewhere to live. The children love playing in the garden – they build snowmen in the winter and have picnics in the summer. They’re always with an adult as the garden has an exit onto the road and they’re rarely out there for more than 20 minutes or so as we know that not everyone likes the sound of children playing (although the flats are less than 20m from a primary school!). This is the garden:
A few weeks ago one of our elderly neighbours approached me and told me that he and two others own the garden and the children were not allowed in it. I queried this with the landlady who confirmed that she had no claim on any part of the garden and we had been misinformed by the letting agent. We had previously been friendly with the neighbour in question so were rather bemused as to why, after 2 years, he suddenly objected to the children occasionally playing in the garden. As he had been unusually unpleasant when we spoke I wrote him a letter asking (politely of course) why he had changed his mind and pleading with him to permit the children access. He didn’t respond. So yesterday I wrote him another letter, suggesting that as neither of the other owners had objected we would allow the children into the garden but keep them away from his part.
This morning he and another neighbour, again someone we had been friendly with, came to the door. They were very firm that the children were not to be permitted in the garden any more. When I asked why this was suddenly an issue the elderly neighbour complained that he had seen DH lying on the grass reading stories to DD, and the other neighbour said that she hadn’t been aware we used the garden until now. So now I have a very distraught 4 year old and a confused 18 month old, who no longer have a garden to play in.
There is a small patch of front garden attached to our flat and the neighbours suggested the children play out there. There’s no comparison really though – as you can see from the photos the garden at the back is large and spacious, while the patch attached to our flat at the front is small and next to the road. Cars often park on the pavement and frequently end up parked partly on the grass of the garden. This is it:
I would love to move as a result of this, and find somewhere that does have a garden. But at the moment we’re on housing benefit – I’m not fit to work and DH is still hunting desperately for a job. There are no other rental properties in the village that our housing benefit will cover; there are in the adjacent town but then we would be out of the catchment for the fantastic primary school DD is due to start at in September. In addition to this we’re locked into our rental agreement until November so wouldn’t be able to move until then at the earliest.
I am so furious. I’m angry at the letting agent for leading us to believe that we had a right to use the garden. I’m angry at the neighbours for allowing the children to play in the garden for over 2 years and then suddenly ruling it off-limits. I’m angry that I’ve let my children down, that I couldn’t argue eloquently enough to persuade the neighbours to change their minds. I’m angry that we’re trapped here now, unable to move unless we win the lottery (which is unlikely as we don’t have the money to buy tickets!). I feel shut in, confined and crushed.
I know it’s a small problem in the scheme of things. There’s a playing field a few minutes walk away that we can take the children to, although of course they can’t have paddling pools and water fights there. Playing somewhere so public fires up my anxiety but the children do still have access to outdoor space so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
But I’m still angry.