During the kerfuffle over the use of the communal garden, everybody went off on so many tangents that by the time it all died down, the original issue (is it appropriate for us to be using the garden during the lockdown?) remained unresolved.
A day or two later, blow us down if the gates weren’t chained closed. Someone posted a message on the Whatsapp group: “Does anybody have information as to why the garden gates have been padlocked?” with a photo:
Amanda Jones (or “Mrs Amanda Jones”, as she is known on Whatsapp), who is a director of the residents’ association and liaises with the building management company on our behalf, sent off an email to the management company asking about the locked gate. She then posted a screenshot of her email and the response, which was: “It was chained in error. It will be removed in the morning.”
Having thus established that access to the garden was still permitted, one of the neighbours decided to stir things up by saying: “So did we agree that it is OK to stay a bit in the communal garden, as long as we don’t gather and we keep social distance?”
Mrs Amanda Jones, in her capacity as self-appointed chief adjudicator of all matters pandemic-related, replied: “The garden is technically a communal area to get from a to b. Under the new guidelines you can go through the garden …. but unfortunately you can’t ‘stop’ anywhere. Hope that clarifies.”
(“She loves the word ‘unfortunately’,” my mother commented to me in withering tones. She reserves a special scorn for the breed of person who works in public-facing roles and who delights in being able to say “I’m sorry, I can’t help you”. Mrs Amanda Jones is one of this breed.)
My mother then decided to do some stirring of her own by replying to the neighbour who had asked the question: “You could go from A to B – and just do so very slowly.”
Mrs Amanda Jones didn’t reply, but she was not sitting idle. She was preparing our punishment by reporting us to her friend at the building management company. The next day she posted a screenshot of the email she had received from the friend:
“Good morning Amanda,
With regards to the communal garden, I will be asking our caretaker to install the padlock and chain again as I have received complaints of residents not abiding to the Government Guidelines in respect of social distancing.”
She captioned it: “Update. Unfortunately due to residents not following the government guidelines it will be locked next week.”
One resident offered a timid challenge: “When going out with my dogs I have not seen anyone not abiding the rules in our communal garden?”
“Just passing on what I was sent today,” replied Mrs Amanda Jones. “It is very unfortunate,” [“She just loves that word!” – my mother] “I got it the chain removed straight away. But as I have experienced not all residents are following the Government Guidelines.”
“How is Mrs Amanda Jones managing to monitor people coming in and out of the garden?” my mother spluttered. “She can’t even see the garden from her flat – she has to go out onto the street to see it. And we’re only supposed to go out once a day, briefly. So is she breaching the lockdown guidelines to go out onto the street to sit all day and count people going in and out of the garden?”
She then spent the next half-hour in a state of highly focused agitation as she drafted a reply with just the right balance of reprimand, sarcasm and plausible deniability.
“I need the clapping-hands emoji!” she burst out, after half an hour of silence. “I can’t find the clapping-hands emoji!”
“It’s right after the faces,” I told her.
“I can’t find it!” she flustered. Then, just as I was going to show here where it was, she declared: “There! It’s gone!”
This was her message: “It’s commendable that, despite being allowed out only once a day, our directors have managed to be watchful enough of the communal garden to conclude that it should be locked – and to recommend this to the management company. Let’s give credit where credit is due.🙌”
Mrs Amanda Jones’s reply was instantaneous and furious: “That is NOT what has happened!”
Next thing, my mother had been removed from the group.
And then, because the sins of the fathers are destined to be visited also upon the sons, I was removed too.
My mother immediately contacted one of the neighbours who is also admin, asking him to re-add us. He replied he was going to but that one of the other admin, Jake, who has a colourful history of bust-ups with Mrs Amanda Jones, had already re-added us – and, for good measure, had also removed Mrs Amanda Jones’s admin privileges.
“It’s ridiculous,” he added. “Doesn’t she have work to do?”
This neighbour is the gentlest, most laid-back guy you can imagine and hates it when people argue, so he interrupted the bickering by posting an advert for the local covid-19 support line. (“If you’re struggling with loneliness, mental health, getting food or medical supplies, etc., email the address below.”)
Later he sent my mother and me a screenshot of a conversation he had just had with Mrs Amanda Jones:
“Thank you for lightening the mood,” she said (in reference, I think, to his post on the covid-19 support line). “Jake has removed me from the admin team… can you pls add me back. Thanks”
“Hey Amanda,” he replied. “Sorry, I won’t be able to do that as I don’t want to get involved in this ongoing dispute. Jake, Lara and her mother are friends of ours. I am concerned that you seem to remove people from the group whenever they appear to have a different opinion to you. Please ask someone else to make you an admin.”
To date she has note yet had her admin privileges restored.