My name is Martha and I have recently had a swimming pool built behind my house. It’s a roaring success with the kids and all their school friends. They spend hours performing screaming cannonball bombs and playing endless games of ‘Marco Polo’. The bellowed demand ‘Watch this Mum!’ rings out across the suburb.
All heart warming and life affirming stuff except, I’m not their mother. And it’s not my swimming pool. And it’s not actually in my backyard. But, thanks to the local council, and what’s known as a “complying development”, it is situated much closer to my home than the home of its owners. Yes, my Irish neighbours are living the dream having created their very own resort facilities just a few metres from my living space, thus ensuring I suffer all the disadvantages but none of the ‘benefits’.
I only mention their nationality for one, sad reason- once charming and musical, the lilt of an Irish brogue now falls on my eardrums like fingernails dragged down a black board. And I only use inverted commas because I’m unsure if a home swimming pool bestows any benefits at all.
The principle disadvantage of a home pool, for which I was naively unprepared, is collateral noise. The whirring of pumps and the Niagra-esque cascading of the water feature; the constant slamming of the glass pool gate; lunch orders and frequent admonishments shouted to and from the house- “BRAYDEN! Leave your sister alone!” ”SHE STARTED IT!!” (Ouch, the brogue!) Intimate, but never sotto voce, mobile phone conversations conducted poolside- I now have a thorough and graphic understanding of endometriosis.
I am not an unreasonable woman- perhaps the parents were simply unaware of the noise level being generated. I have called on the neighbours to draw their attention to my dilemma and request their consideration of nearby residents- once. I was talked over and informed in a patronising fashion that screaming is just the way little girls express themselves. No doubt true, if nothing more articulate or socially acceptable is asked of them. If it takes a village to raise a child then this villager would like to have a little more input. Even a dog can be trained not to bark.
I have friends in Melbourne who had the reverse problem- a neighbour, whose habit of spending weekends in his backyard with a transistor listening to the races at high volume routinely ruined their pool enjoyment. It’s a tempting strategy but I’m not about to inflict punishment on my other, more considerate neighbours. And it’s a bit too passive/aggressive for my money- like the dead possum, the deciduous tree or the ‘barker’s egg’ options.
As I have already mentioned, I’m a reasonable woman. I understand this is simply a family enjoying the privilege of a home pool. All I’m looking for is the recognition of the responsibility that comes with privilege. I’d like to hear the occasional “Hey kids, keep it down. There are other people living nearby who might like to enjoy their homes in peace and quiet.”
The boundaries separating properties in suburbia can be physically and legally strong, but sonically and socially, they are disappointingly porous. They rely on good will and manners to make them truly effective.
Do you think Marco Polo should be outlawed in Australia?