My neighbour’s apple tree is lush and verdantly full of new-season apples.
As long as I’ve lived here he seems not to have picked a single one. The apples fall and brown and languish for the birds, who come in flocks to peck the long-sweetened soft flesh.
My neighbour doesn’t eat the apples. In fact he seems not to notice the tree at all, because from time to time he descends his back stairs to rip up stale slices of bread and fritter his lawn with what I can only imagine are offerings for the apple-fat birds.
The birds ignore the bread.
In the next house along, which I can see from my laundry room, lives a single lady of indeterminate age with a tawny cat and a ceramic pink flamingo at her back steps. Her lilac-painted wooden bungalow sports dark purple window and door frames, and for some time her regular sheet-washing schedule indicated to me that she was a woman of tidy virtue.
Both neighbours’ houses- Bird Feeder Man and Sheet Washing Lady- face the street.
On a walk a while ago it took me a moment to reconcile Bird Feeder Man’s beautiful front garden with the ramshackle rear and forlorn apple tree I view from my house. A quaint plaster-cast fountain sits between a neatly trimmed winding path and a border of vibrant, foaming, coloured flowers.
Meanwhile, next door, Sheet Washing Lady’s front yard was overgrown with weeds and disturbingly unkempt. Even her purple colour palette paintwork was chipped and peeling, in complete contrast to the neat trims at the back.
Disturbing contradictions, I thought to myself. At first I felt a little unsettled by such topsy-turvy visual information. All my observant conclusions turned on their head. How can I rely on my own wayward assumptions when just beyond the picture is, well… another picture?
Until I realised, proverbially, that this little suburban tale simply proves one of the truest truisms I know.
Never judge a book by its cover, nor indeed- a lawn by its apple tree.