Bronwyn the Seamstress' Carmelite Monastery is beginning to look less like a Victorian Military Barracks and more like one of those secretive places where sinister happenings and God knows what goes on. When I think back I worked one day a week in a garden near such a place, and while enthusiastically engaged in my responsibilities to my brand new employer, who was pretty good at keeping an eye on my progress and diligence by peering at me through net curtains with binoculars, I decided I'd Just go ahead ask, "What exactly goes on next door?" Her reply, "It's very hush-hush." Back then of course when old people used the expression 'hush-hush' they meant secret wartime type stuff, and as a rule after a brief glance at the bushes they'd tell you everything they knew in gory and minute detail. Not Mrs. Binoculars, and I sensed a deep suspicion in her, so I nodded wisely, pursed a lip and tried not to look like a ne'er do well hell bent on the destruction of Western Civilization. The following week, when Mrs. Binoculars brought out the midmorning cup of tea, which wasn't easy for her because she had a bad leg which required her to use a walking stick, she asked "Why do you want to know what's going on next door?"
I thanked her for the tea, probably shrugged in a straw chewing kind of way,
might have said something about edging or Wisteria roots and all the while I
knew from the expression on her face she expected something better than Potemkin
answers from an hourly paid employee who'd arrived ten minutes late for his
second day of work. Not certain what response I finally came up with but it
produced from her a rather long explanation for why it was the world would be a
much better place if people minded their own business. As she spoke I gained the
possibly fanciful understanding that the next door property had nothing to do
with "It's very hush-hush" and had a great deal more to do with some long drown
out Hatfield and McCoy type thing. The "hush-hush" part was a peculiar and
convoluted mantra my employer used in an attempt to maintain some sense of order
and decency in her world whenever anyone brought up the subject of her neighbor.
Several midmorning cups of tea later, I was beginning to suspect that my
fanciful understanding of my employer's relationship with the neighbor was
planted in firm ground. I thanked her for the tea. "Their getting a divorce!"
She replied. Briefly I wondered whether my employer had hit the liquor bottle.
By the November of that year, all the leaves raked, the midmorning cup of tea
included two phrases. "It's why we never had an au pair" and "We'll not need you again until