The man in the glass bubble;Opinion

6th August 1999 at 01:00
NOW, I don't wish to appear paranoid - but he's there every morning when I get up, and it gets me so wound up that I can really only write about it because it's the holidays at the moment. What really gets me is it all seems so deliberate, as if he knows exactly what he's doing.

To explain: there is a house over the hedge at the bottom of our garden, with a conservatory at the back. Inside this "garden room" is the usual array of cushions on wicker furniture, and it has panoramic views out to the Pentlands, and their spectacular sunsets.

Now don't get me wrong, I wish them all the luck in the world with their neoclassical lean-to, and if they want to spend entire evenings there, it doesn't bother me one bit. From our ground floor we can't even see them. The problem is in the mornings, when the unshaven and fairly disreputable-looking McPartlin rolls back the blind on the Velux window in our attic conversion, and blinks balefully at the newly arrived day.

Those who howl about teachers working for half the day for half the year seldom refer to the fact that it is one of the few remaining jobs where there is absolutely no possibility of flexitime. The result is that teachers' households are not happy places in the light of dawn. So, as I launch myself into a frenzy of shaving, ironing, diary checking and son-motivating, the last thing I need to see is my neighbour in the conservatory.

Every morning, without fail, I see him, lounging back in a reclining chair, unhurriedly wrapped in one of those huge fluffy, hooded dressing gowns that I've never been bold enough to liberate from a luxury hotel. Often he is flicking through the paper, sometimes he is calmly eating his breakfast. I can't see what he's eating but I have a distinct impression of croissants, a cafetiere of good coffee and possibly some fresh fruit.

Reason, and my wife, tells me that, quite possibly, he is blissfully unaware of my existence. But it doesn't feel like that - not when I am computing how much time I will need to launch myself through the Gogar roundabout and cover the 12 miles to school to arrive at a reasonable hour.

It doesn't seem to matter what time I open the blind - he is always there, no doubt contemplating a calm shower, or long soak in the bath. When I opined that he stayed up all night to make sure I didn't miss him, my wife looked at me a little oddly. As is my wont, I had a little rant: "What can he possibly do? Nice house, conservatory, and doesn't have to go to work early. It's so unfair!"

As usual, she had the answer. She reckons he is a conservatory salesman. Enjoy the remainder of your long lies.

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