In the 1980s, I worked in a factory and earned an OK wage. At 17, I earned enough to live on. Adding to my wage, my boyfriend worked at one of the many local coal mines and after a while, we decided to move from Derbyshire, just over the border into Nottinghamshire. Just far enough away from our families to be independent, but not far enough for it to be a difficulty to visit.
We bought a lovely house in November of 1985 in which we raised our two children. Both have flown the nest, but we still live here.
The textile industry was not as prosperous as it had been and went into decline. Gone are the factories that supplied Marks & Spencer’s, such as Meritina. Samuel Eden, the sock manufacturer is now a retail park and at least two Pretty Polly sites are now residential housing.
Over the years, I’ve not taken much notice of politics, but times change and sometimes circumstances steer you in unusual directions.
I wrote a story and I was exceptionally proud of myself. The story was published on the internet and it was a really big deal for me. My first accomplishment for writing.
My husband was so proud of me too and he decided to buy me a car to show how proud he was. We went out and bought a beautiful Toyota Supra. The registration plate was L752 PRC (yes, that’s an important fact).
My husband already had his own car, a new Ford Focus YH52 OHD (I think).
My Supra was dogged by issues with the tyres. I had a flat tyre on a busy stretch of the A38 in Derby, another flat tyre (same tyre) on my way home and a couple of nails, screws and cable clip fixes (Picture).
I had a suspicion that someone was deliberately damaging my tyres, but no real evidence.
A man (I’ll call him Jack) lived across the road with his wife. Their neighbours were an older lady, her husband and the husband’s oldest friend. They had served in the forces together, I believe and the friend had always lived with them.
The husband of that older lady died. It was a deeply sad time, of course, but their neighbour, Jack decided he didn’t approve of her ‘living with’ someone other than her husband. The pair made that lady’s life hell. Where they had once been at least neighbourly, they turned into vile and vicious ‘nightmare neighbours’. They refused to speak to her, they demanded she pay to get a new fence between their properties – and that they should have the ‘best side’ of the fence facing their property and so many other brow-beating episodes. The lodger died and at last they deigned to speak to her.
I have no doubt she was scared of both her neighbours, the man and his wife.
That man admitted that he wasn’t comfortable with women having a say in day to day life. He used to work as a manager in India and no one dared speak out of turn. I have no doubt about that at all.
Jack told one of his neighbours that he didn’t approve of how I ran my house. He’d been seen looking in through my windows and didn’t like the mess – both children were pre-schoolers and I was running a business while they were asleep.
It also turned out that he didn’t like the fact that I owned a lovely ‘new’ sports car. He’d misread the registration plate and thought it was the same year as the Focus ’02 plate. He thought the L752 PRC was LT52 PRC and did not approve!
Years of sly, sneaky tricks began, not only the tyres.
One year, we had a new roof on the house. The attic had to be cleared and we took the opportunity to clear it out completely. The stuff we wanted to keep was sorted and stored wherever we could put it. The junk was put on the front of the house, waiting for my husband’s shift rotation to come around to Nights when he had time and energy to take it to the Council skips (corporation dump).
I was out at work and my husband was in bed, asleep after the first night shift.
At around midday, there was a knock on the door and, bleary-eyed, he answered it.
The Environmental Health Agency representative seemed apologetic as he explained that ‘someone’ had complained about the health hazard on the front yard.
“No problem,” Trev (Hubby)said. “I had to get up to clear it away, anyway.”
The next day, a letter was hand-delivered from the Agency, thanking us for clearing the mess as promised.
Later in the summer, our little girl, Dani had new bedroom furniture. As before, the room was cleared and the old furniture was put on the front of the house in preparation for Trev’s shift rotation to Night shift.
You wouldn’t credit it, 10am someone knocked on the door. Same conversation, same ‘someone’ had reported the ‘health hazard’. The EHO (Environmental Health Officer) apologised and said the bedroom furniture posed no hazard, but as a member of the council had requested a visit, they were obliged to come by and have a chat.
One of our neighbours, Fred, a member of the local (district) council called by as Trev was clearing the bedroom furniture. He spoke to is both and told us how Jack had demanded he do something about the ‘disgrace’ on the front of our house.
Fred told Jack in no uncertain terms, that if Jack wanted something done about it, he was to go across the road and say something himself, rather than have others do his ‘dirty-work’ for him. And so, a mystery was solved. Jack had then gone to one of his pals and got him to contact the EHO to ‘sort us out’.
Leading on to Christmas that same year, Trev and I bought a new bed and mattress. You’ve guessed it, the old bed (a divan, with under-bed drawers) and mattress was put on the front of the house. I have to admit, it was through devilment on my part.
This time, it was my turn to be woken up. I was working nights and once the kids were off to school, I went back to bed for a few more hours’ sleep.
The EHO that called this time was a manager. He expressed concern because it looked like something was a bit ‘dodgy’. I agreed. I told him about the problems we had with Jack, the neighbour and he sympathised. The problem was the mattress was a hazard because it could attract rats in search of bedding, so the mattress had to go.
“I’ll make sure something is done about it,” I said.
Something was done. The mattress was taken away, but the bed frame itself was arranged and decorated for Christmas. I put a large light-up Santa on top and strung lights along it to look like Santa’s sleigh.
People still mention it now. The bed ‘sleigh’ is long-gone, and so is Jack, the bullying neighbour from hell, but the memory of me standing my ground still gives people a smile.
One other outcome of that year is the fact that I decided our local council was being used in ways that should never happen. Therefore, I’d shake things up from the inside if ever I got the chance.
Only a few years after that incident, I met a local politician and we had a long chat.
I ran for election and was elected as County Councillor for Sutton Central in 2009.