Them’s the rules!

My brother recently reminded me about an irate neighbour, who lived next door to our cousins, who were of similar ages to us. Apart from the legend of his bed-ridden wife, whose existence was never corroborated as my cousins moved away before ever seeing her, Mr. Cartwright sticks in memory only for his berating every misdemeanour with a rule – and finishing off by bellowing “Them’s the rules!”

A career in the forces meant that my father lived by rules. My brother and I have always been honest, upstanding and law-abiding citizens, save for having taped music off the radio, copied the odd VCR and similar misdemeanours conducted for personal enjoyment. Our sister rebels against authority, but is also on the right side of the law.

Living in a desirable corner of Vienna seems to be very much about living by the rules, although there is one notable exception: the building trade. Having seen industrial corner-cutting in the construction scene – from the use of building’s equivalent of on-street prostitution with casual labour on building sites that is so casual it is here today, gone tomorrow, through to illegal extensions of buildings, and subsequent illegal occupancy of them, the evidence is more than circumstantial.

Fortunately, the Cottageviertel is a bastion of lawfulness in this regard. Renovations are required to be sensitive to the surroundings. Windows must be suitably mullioned and wooden-framed. Gates and fences must be kept in a good state of repair, and not just to avoid the ignominy of a blue-rinse granny tutting, while her yappy little dog completes an act of excretion. However, this being the Cottageviertel she bags and bins accordingly. Cars are not washed in parking spaces by Gemeindebauten – further up in Sievering they do that kind of thing all too frequently. Cars don’t idle at the kerb, although as part of our problem with on-street parking we do find non-locals blocking garages. They are towed with alacrity.

At our residents meeting, the son of one elderly inmate, who has had the property signed over to him, asked why there was no Hausordnung in the stairwell. He got the withering response that if everyone behaves without one, then why bother to have one. Since the building is not mixed between tenents and owners (we are all the latter) we also don’t have a Hausverwaltung. We have a former Hausverwalter who takes care of it all, but at no charge. Our meetings are short and to the point. Minutes are kept but are blissfully concise, and closed with a remark about valuing the continuing harmony of the residents and our respect for one another. Them’s the rules!

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