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This article is taken from PN Review 269, Volume 49 Number 3, January - February 2023.

On Findingness Horatio Morpurgo
Our world is fashioned solely for ostentation;
men only puff themselves up with wind,
and leap here and there, like balls.
Montaigne


Half-way down a side street of terraced cottages, the estate agent turned at an opening in a tall hedge. Following him through, I stepped up from the pavement onto a sill of off-blue stone packed with illegible, fossilised scribblings. Two further steps of the same brought us level with the front garden. A cracked concrete path served the front doors of two essentially identical cottages. With no other visible boundary between their gardens, they felt like a single shared space.

Seated on a bench in the ‘other’ half of this garden was an old man with a hand-held radio set tuned to aviation band. It crackled with a pilot’s voice and the air traffic controller’s clipped responses. Wholly absorbed in these communications, the eavesdropper ignored a newspaper which lay open on the bench next to him. He glanced only absently in our direction. The estate agent’s cheery wave went otherwise unacknowledged as the man continued listening, staring into space.

Might this, I wondered, explain the asking price? I’d suspected the thundering of a busy road nearby or a nightclub directly opposite. Could it really be down to this fenceless arrangement and a possibly eccentric neighbour? I in any case liked something about both it and him, and with immediate effect. I felt ready for fenceless arrangements and an eccentric neighbour. There was, of course, still the inside to see but more than one rat would have had ...


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