My Dad always said to me … if the gap between what you think you can do and the gap between what you actually can do is a small one, that’s good. Most of your goals you will achieve. But, when the gap between what you think you can do and what you can actually do is so unrealistic that any goal is impossible to attain, well then you are in trouble. These will then merely be wild dreams, impossible goals. I tend to stray on the wild dream side …
But not Reiner. Reiner was a drifter – multitalented, he lacked any desire to set or achieve goals. Yet he was highly intelligent, could turn his hand to anything, and was intensely creative. We had heard of him through a friend in the village. He had moved into our area about a year ago, rented a small run down stone house on the edge of the village and was available for odd jobs.
One morning we saw him in the piazza and had a chat: ‘Speak English?’ we said. ‘Any language you wish!’ he replied. ‘Oh – Goeiemore?’ I said, trying a bit of Afrikaans. ‘Goeiemore,’ he said, ‘Hoe gaan dit? Ek praat ook Flams – dis meer maklik vir jou as Hollands!’ He grinned. (Good morning. How are you doing? I speak Flemish as well – it’s easier for you than Dutch!) Originally from Holland he had wandered around Europe trying his hand at everything. Now, he agreed to come and erect our fence. It would run along the new border below the swimming pool.
Soon bales of wiring and stout poles arrived, and Reiner set to work. ‘We’ll need to dig deep down into the earth he said, probably about a half a metre – that way the porcupine won’t get into your garden. If they do they’ll eat any bulb you have. He set his measuring line with two sticks and a length of string, and got to work. By evening time he had got a fair way.
‘I wonder how much he will get done today?’ I asked Liam as we drunk an early morning coffee on the terrace, ‘He seems quite committed.’ ‘Not sure, we’ll see.’ Liam replied. ‘Rumour has it that he has a drug habit and tends to disappear from time to time.’
Just then we heard Marciano’s motorbike coming down the track. The work on their section was going well, already bits of furniture were being moved in, and the old boy, old Enzio, arrived daily to work his field. ‘Come and have coffee!’ I called to Marciano. He opened the gate and stood in front of us. ‘Thank you,’ he said, ‘I need to talk to you about where Reiner is digging for the fence. You see, old Enzio and I measured it carefully from our side, and we feel that you have got the measurement wrong. You are putting your fence on our land.’
‘Impossible’ we said. ‘We are working from the measurements that Leo Agostini the geometra drew up. Our boundary takes a step down from the stone wall at the carpark, and then aims for the circular track that links through to your house. So that is what we took. ‘No.’ said Marciano firmly ‘That is not correct. There is an indentation there – your land starts within the stone wall. Come with me and will show you’
Standing at the wall, to us his measurements were way out. But Marciano remained firm. ‘Also’ he said ‘do you know that I have a right to walk over your land at any time that I wish? I can open your gate and walk right through.’
‘Please do,’ I said, ‘If we are here it will be nice to see you, and if we are not here, well you can keep an eye on the place. I’d like that very much.’ Marciano looked at me uncertainly. ‘Mmm,’ I thought, ‘He’s just testing the water.’ With that we turned and off Marciano went, across the dirt road and down to old Enzio working his land.
Before Reiner arrived, Marciano was back. ‘My father-in-law old Enzio says, “Put the fence where you have started digging.”’ And so we did.
A couple of weeks later, when the fence was up, and our neighbours had moved in, Liam gave Leo Agostini a ring. ‘I’d like to sort out this business of the boundary fence.’ Liam said ‘Would you come down and check it all out?’
Later that day Leo Agostini arrived. He was, as usual, beautifully dressed – in tailored dark trousers, an impeccably ironed white open-necked cotton shirt and black patent leather shoes. He and Liam wandered around our dusty patch, looking at the fence and chatting amiably. Eventually they turned towards his car. ‘I have looked carefully,’ he said, ‘and I am puzzled.’ ‘Why?’ asked Liam, ‘As you see, I have your plans in my hand, and your boundary line is clear.’
Leo Agostini glanced at the plans in Liam’s hand. ‘Oh,’ he said ‘Maybe in error I worked off an old plan I have in my office.’ With that he climbed into his shiny new car and drove off.
At the end of the month a bill arrived in the post. ‘For services and advice, including an onsite consultation.’ The amount was enormous. ‘No way am I paying this!’ exploded Liam. ‘An enormous bill for coming to tell me that he worked off the wrong plan? No word of apology? I may be ‘stranieri’ – a foreigner – but this is taking it way, way too far. No way – no pay!’
But like the proverbial boomerang the bill just kept coming back.
And so the fence stayed, and we paid.
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