Family Life

So, where do the children play?

What do you do when your neighbours plant trees right where the kids play football?

11am this morning: We leave the house in a whirl of excitement — laced with trepidation. We’ll come to that.

5pm this evening: We return to find the green space opposite our house annexed by three neighbouring families. Each from a different country. Each represented by a different sapling tree planted right down the centre of this communal space. Where the kids in our estate play football.

We go inside to put on a coffee and watch the real-life drama unfold through the latted screen of our kitchen window. 

Okay, let’s forget that linear narrative thing and do it like one of those Netflix original series. Use the past, recent and distant, to make sense of the present. If you’re scratching your head as the final credits roll that’s good; there’ll be a second series.

Like in those Scandi noirs my wife and I love: a forensically challenging murder, moodily framed and lit, followed by a swooping two-minute aerial shot of a rippling pine forest that dissolves into the rippling hairs in the murderer’s left nostril.

Our brooding polisinspektör is called in. He/She’s got a past.

Dressed in dark sloppy jumper and anorak, he or she is brusque and bristly but very clever, and needs an occasional blast of thumping synths and bass music playing to help them solve the case. Oh, and there’s always a superior officer who doubts them, or is the bad guy all along.



Late December 2017. O leaves his old football team. Not the most harmonious of partings with either the club team or the League representative team he captained. Moves to a new team in a bigger league.

Sometime in March 2018: O is called up to the new league’s representative team. Makes his debut, they win, and are drawn to play his old representative team next.

They lodge an objection, so O is not allowed to play against them. They beat O’s old team anyway but O will miss out on a possible Irish championship medal. He’s gutted but we help him deal with his disappointment.

This morning 11.01am: Myself, wife A, and O are off on O’s latest footballing mission. He has been called up for his third session with the Football Association of Ireland’s development squad, which will ultimately lead to selection for the Ireland Under-15 team in two years’ time for the chosen few.

The group has been whittled down to 60. Players from all over the country, converge on a footballing complex in Clonshaugh (pronounced Clon-shock) on Dublin’s north side.

The previous session O sat there at the beginning as three players from his old team arrived and promptly blanked him. Parents of said kids were uneasy with Dad and Mom too. Who didn’t want to make an awkward situation any more awkward for O and just sucked it up.

Only one of O’s old team-mates has survived the cut, so today O is only ignored by the one boy. Our boy is coiled but cool, like a boxer waiting for his bout to begun.

Teams/training groups are called out and off he goes. Out we go to watch. Only one parent to feel tense around for me. My wife speaks with him. I just can’t and walk off to watch the football.

Sick of being right about people. Sick of being wrong about people. It’s their fault. It’s my fault. It’s the boys’ fault. It’s the coaches’ fault. All of the above. None of the above. The adults are far worse than the kids.

We go home.

Summer 2016. The green space opposite our house in our estate is where O has played football since he was a nipper. It’s uneven and narrow but the kids love it. We can see O from the house and we know he’s safe.

The green space is in front of three town houses, with no front gardens and just a path between them and it. Three houses sporadically rented out and occupied.

Then, a family buys the house nearest us and moves in. Dad resents the football. Chases the kids off the space. Including O. I’m out there remonstrating. A tetchy few weeks.

I talk with our new neighbour about alternative places to play football for the kids. We go to a field near the park, a couple of hundred metres away, we hire a tractor get the grass cut, clear hundreds of stones.

The kids hate it and never play there.

For weeks I am constantly looking out the window, tense. O and the boys are getting bigger and I come to see our neighbour, from eastern Europe, has a point. The ball does hit his door occasionally, and the flowers they have planted are in danger. O cannot play there anymore. Nobody plays football there.

February 2018. Younger kids have started playing football on the green space again. Including the son of our neighbour. But he’s not really into it, and rarely plays. His Mom tells us she is okay with the kids playing football there now because they have nowhere else to play.

March 2018. New neighbours have moved into the second of the three houses. From another eastern European country. An Irish woman and her kids now live in the last house. The football pitch is as busy as ever.

This evening 5pm. No-one on the green space, and then we notice three sapling trees have been planted right down the middle of it. One opposite each house. Down the centre of the football pitch! Like national flags. Hope there’ll be soft Borders … and no Checkpoint Charlie.

Could be a cue for Oliver’s Army

A gang of kids come along with a football. Kids being kids, they are soon slaloming in and out of the trees, and playing their football.

Neighbour from the middle of the three houses comes out and he’s gesticulating and finger pointing. He’s obviously telling them to clear off to the green area way down the estate with the grass that hasn’t been cut in two years, with the weedy, stunted pine trees in the middle of it.

The kids are not so easily cowed now, but our neighbour is not for turning. There’s more pointing and arms folding and arguing and teasing and God knows what. We’re looking through the window with the sound turned down.

Our neighbour is across the road talking to the watching parents of some of the kids. He’s a gregarious chap and he’s shaking hands, as well as obviously making his case for keeping the kids off the pitch.

This won’t end well.

We can see why our neighbours want to keep the space clear. And we can see the kids like playing football there.

We reckon our middle neighbour has done a solo run and planted the trees himself. We think it’s high-handed and it just doesn’t sit well. But we don’t want another Cold War with our eastern neighbours, so we won’t get involved. Suck it up. Again.

The man from the the first house on the green comes out, and he and neighbour two are obviously in cahoots, admiring their new baby trees and gesticulating together to the kids and pointing.

We move into the sitting room and are watching telly, but looking out the window. Our two neighbours are talking intently, pointing towards our house now and towards the far green space. They stay outside to police the green space. It’s getting dark and they are still there. We close the blinds.

The tree opposite neighbour one, nearest us, is an apple tree. The one in front of house two is a pear tree, it looks like. And across from the third house is a cherry tree.

A little later, the Irish owner of the third house goes by our house, and I go outside to discretely enquire, or so I think, what she thinks of the new avenue?

I am pointing to the saplings in the middle of the green.

“Well the one outside my house is a cherry tree, I put it there,” she shyly admits.

Ooops! All three are in on it. We talk of the lack of places for the kids to play football, and I tell her I believe the grass in the far off space maybe should have been cut before all this was done.

As we speak, the kids are opposite the green space kicking a ball on the road. A lot of cars drive in and out of our busy estate, at all times of the day, and often at all sorts of speeds. This is not good.

What do you think? You must have experienced awkward situations with your neighbours? Kids playing football outside your house? Nowhere else to play, you know, but you hate them being there. What do we do?

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38 comments on “So, where do the children play?

  1. With estates here being so close if you have an awkward moment with one it can be difficult. But, at the end of the day, we all have to live together in this world. We should make an effort to be more green, planting more tree’s etc.

    I think that the councils should be doing this, as well as making safe places for our kids to play. Then, there would be less awkward moments with people doing things in places they shouldn’t.

    Of course, that is just my opinion and everyone has a different one. We live on an estate with no green opposite, nearest is the park 10 minutes walk away. So, I would be unsure how I would have felt. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, thanks for commenting. It is an awkward one. The thing is our council left control of the estate to the builder, who ignored it. Ten years later we are still waiting for the council to come back in. Has long been mooted but nothing concrete yet…


  2. Oh gosh, that’s a tricky old one. I’m sure the kids must be disappointed but then as you say they don’t seem to allow silly things like trees to get them down. We are fortunate to live in the countryside so do’t have neighbors on our doorstep. The only sticky business we’ve had with our neighbors was when our dog brought home a dead chicken. I apologized to my neighbor and offered to replace the chicken. It turned out (via the kids chatting to the other neighbors kids) that it wasn’t our dog that did the deed but our neighbor on the other side – who refused to own up. They have preexisting disagreements and I’m not prepared to get in the middle of them! I hope you manage to resolve this peacefully!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Liberty … yep neighbourhood stuff can be an absolute minefield … live and let seethe! We can see both sides of the scenario and are just uneasy about it all. Not directly involved anymore cause our boy doesn’t play there anymore

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a problem everywhere. I don’t have an answer, I wish I did. But I have done the same as you. Seethe inwardly whilst being polite. You’ve all got to live together afterwards and it’s important to stay on good terms if you can

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know you’re right … we can’t all live in Trumpton or Balamory, but it can be hard sometimes not to seethe. Thanks for commenting


  4. Oh dear, not ideal! We don’t have any green spaces nearby so if my 9yr old isn’t training or playing a match he just plays football in my kitchen 🙂 #notidealeither #bigpinklink

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is inner city life, this is being part of society…unfortunately not being a part of both doesn’t tend to be a matter of choice! I feel for you. #bigpinklink

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Enda. I’m guessing that the title for this piece may have been inspired by Cat Stevens? His was a global view, but although he asked the question he had no answer. It’s a really difficult one, isn’t it? And if your council is like ours they’ll be pleading budget cuts and other priorities. Providing safe outdoor spaces for children to play in has to be a priority, though – it’s so much better than letting them vegetate in front of screens and phones.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right on the money re the feline (groovy) personage! Yes Clive not enough thought put into proper planning and even more important, perhaps, implementation of obligations on behalf of the builders which they routinely flout in our country. And I know there is no easy or obvious answer to Cat’s question. Well obvious maybe but easy no!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s the implementation that is important. If the planners have done their job it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of councils to do what they should – particularly in respect of keeping businesses like builders to their commitments. It would be good if they at least made a pretence of trying!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. this is always a difficult one. As a child we moved into a cut de sac, opposite the 5 houses was a stretch of grass where the neighbours kids played football, it belonged equally to all 5 houses so my mum just dug borders to put flowers in to stop them playing football. % years none of the neighbours spoke to her lol

    Liked by 1 person

  8. An all to familiar tale, well without the tree planting! We have similar on our green. I’’ve nothing against other residents asking the boys to take it easy if the ball is going into their gardens or banging off cars or windows. Sadly there is nothing else for them to do. The closest alternative space is too far for a 9 year old to go to unattended.

    Good luck over the summer. Hope it’s not too frosty!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Irresistible force v immovable object! Both have right … but have they got rights on their sides? Glad we’re not impacted directly!


  10. I actually campaigned for several years to get the play equipment in the local park upgraded #mudpiefriday@_karendennis

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Neighbourhood politics are such a tricky thing. We don’t really get to choose who our neighbours are and we have to learn to get along together. It just becomes difficult when little cliques form on a street or when your opinions on something are in the minority. We’re very lucky that most of our neigbours are considerate and like-minded people, and the others are happy to keep themselves to themselves. #dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

    • We’re generally live and let live, Tim. It’s just things like this make you rein yourself in a bit! A niggle, not a major incident. We just hope the blooming trees are healthy and are suited to our salty, windy seaside conditions!


  12. emptynestmummy

    Too much to go out, dressed in a balaclava, late at night and cut them down? And then deny all knowledge of it? Or inject something into their roots in the dead of night and then blame the poor quality soil? ….only suitable for football really. #ThatFridayLinky

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hee, hee … don’t tempt me!!! Another thing is I wonder have they checked whether they will grow well there … we live beside the sea and there’s a lot of wind and salt in the air!!


  13. This is a tricky one. We would never have been allowed to play outside someone else’s house if their garden was in danger of being hit. We had a bit that was over grown to play on or our own garden. The length of the grass never bothered us as long as we were playing. Could you yourself help the kids cut the grass and get rid of any nettles? Make it a community project for the kids perhaps?
    Thank you for joining #BigPinkLink

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kirsty … I’m doing that this weekend … our local council has refused to do the upkeep of green spaces in our estate (it’s a VERY long story) so we are buying a petrol mower tomorrow to tackle it Thanks for your interesting comment


  14. Musings of a tired mummy...zzz...

    So tricky. I think children need somewhere to have fun in safety. There are kids down my parents’ road who frequently play chicken in the road and I would be horrified if my children ever did it. On the other hand I can appreciate that the children must be quite noisy when playing: I know mine are! Neighbours are so tricky! Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really is a tricky one. We are not directly involved but feel for the kids while also aware it might not be fun to be more in the firing line like our neighbours. Just a pity there are not adequate spaces for the bigger kids to play in. Bad planning intimately and the kids lose out. Thanks for your comment


  15. diynige

    Sadly this is so common thankfully we have many places around us for kids to play Thank you for linking to #Thatfridaylinky please come back next week

    Liked by 1 person

  16. It’s a tricky one, isn’t it? When you all live in such close proximity! We have a big green opposite us too – we are on a new estate I’m not sure what it’s future is! Thank you for sharing this with #TriumphantTales, I hope you can join me again on Tuesday 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Alice Letters to my Daughter

    Lots of comments saying that’s just life, you have to compromise, but I don’t see your neighbours compromising – they’re just forcing their will by planting trees in a shared space that you never agreed to. Who says they’re right? Why don’t the kids play football before 7pm on set days and leave it be on the other days? So what if a ball hits his door? Did it hurt anyone? No – but a child is having fun and getting exercise and setting themselves up for a healthy future. Sorry, rant over! #BlogCrush

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah … it is a solution that allows one side victory but we have to live here so once wevare not directly affected we say nothing. But it doesn’t make forva good neighbourhood vibe!!! Thanks for commenting


  18. The community conundrum… back again from #blogcrush xo

    Liked by 1 person

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