Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Just after nine o'clock last night there was a loud knock on the front door.
"You'd better get out," said a voice, "your neighbour's hedge is on fire!"
It took me a moment to realise that my neighbour didn't have a hedge. It was our hedge that was on fire!

It's the third time in about seven years that we've had a hedge fire. The first one nearly burnt the house down. And although this one was quite a distance from the house, the initial sense of panic was just the same. It didn't take long for the passerby who'd alerted me to the blaze to find the garden hose, but it seemed like an eternity before I managed to turn the water on (the gate to the courtyard where the tap was located was locked and so I had to go inside and get the keys and then go inside again to figure out which key was the right one as it was too dark to see outside).

The fire brigade arrived pretty quickly and we were reduced to the status of onlookers as they took over the firefighting duties. We joined, and were comforted by, the small crowd of neighbours who had gathered on the corner outside our house. If there's a silver lining to this particular cloud it's that we got to meet for the first time some neighbours who live in a nearby rental property and were reacquainted with quite a few others. And although this particular disaster wasn't exactly on the same scale as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Hurricane Katrina, or the other tragedies covered in Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster (which is still on my Amazon wishlist), last night I was reminded of the main finding of that book, which is that in disasters we are nearly all better people than we are in our everyday lives.


Anonymous said...

Crikey, rough neighbourhood you live in.


btw finished that book you lent me I'll have to get it back to you at some stage

Anonymous said...

Take it easy dude.