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This Land is Your Land

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It's a lovely day. You stand at the back door with a fresh cup of strong coffee and slowly gaze over your garden. You love living here. Your house used to belong to your grandparents and holds many happy memories. The garden is quite substantial and is full of random brightly coloured plastic toys that your kids adore. But your favourite part is the particularly pretty apple tree you yourself planted with your grandad when you were five. You still remember doing it and love to bore your kids with the story.

 

A movement to your left catches your eye. It's your neighbour, all eighty-eight years of him, having one last look over his own garden before he moves on. His wife died a few months back and he's moving into one of the pensioner's homes at the other end of the village. 'Death Row' it's known as locally in the most macabre of humour.

 

You wave and descend down the back steps to greet him one last time. He remembers you being born and always takes delight in reminding you, which he does for one last time. You wish him well and promise to visit, more out of politeness than anything else. He wonders how you'll get on with the new neighbours. You do, too.

 

It's time for work. You kiss your family goodbye and off you go.

 

 

When you pull into your drive after the journey home from work, it's all-go next door. As you step out the car, you notice a woman struggling with a heavy box that's almost spilling over with personal belongings. You offer to help, which she gladly accepts. You notice she looks weary and is happy for the break. Introductions and pleasantries are exchanged. Her husband appears at the door, taking the box from you. He places it down amongst the multitude of others and warmly shakes your hand. Inwardly, you fizz with excitement. The couple are about your age, and judging by the racket coming from the garden, have children of similar age. You wish them well and ask if they need any more help. They politely decline and off you skip, away into your house to tell your family about your new friends.

 

The next day is Saturday. It is bright and sunny. Not quite out of Spring yet, but warm enough to tease you, as if Summer has spotted you across the bar and is flirting seductively with you. The whole family is outside. The new neighbours spill out of their back door and glance around, unfamiliar with their new surroundings. You greet them, sitting up from your weeding. Both sets of kids clock each other and tentatively creep toward the old fence that divides you. They stare and share awkward smiles but dart back to the comfort of their parents. It's an ice-breaker. Two sets of parents laugh then exchange introductions.

 

As the conversation flows, you drop in that your house has been owned by the family for decades. But this is bettered by the neighbours. A long time ago, back when their wasn't much of a village to speak of, his family owned land here. In fact, it's the very land everyone is standing on now. You make a light-hearted joke about how much time has passed since then and mumble pleasant excuses about getting on with the weeding. You jab your trowel into the flower bed while the kids still exchange coy glances.

 

The following weeks become increasingly odd. First of all, you noticed the new neighbours at the old rickety fence, looking into your garden and gesturing wildly with their hands, furiously animated in the morning sun. The next day is even more bizarre. Your neighbours are involved in deep debate with three men in hard hats and hi-viz vests. They must be getting an extension. So soon? But you swear they keep looking towards your house.

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