“I’m really glad your paper decided to run this,” said Mr Harrison. “I’m just a normal person against the establishment, so it’s important that my story gets told.”
Told on page seven under the half-page Specsavers advert, thought Tim, if it’s a slow news day. The paper wouldn’t be sending their newest reporter if they thought it was important. “So tell me what happened.”
“Like I said, I’m a normal bloke. Retired last year. Got some time on my hands so I thought I’d add a bit of space to my house. No big deal. But the amount of fuss about it, you’d think I was building Buckingham Palace on my driveway.”
Tim nodded encouragement.
“I got a letter from the council saying I needed planning permission. Load of red tape. I was building on top of what’s already here. I wasn’t increasing the footprint. I was a builder before I retired, so I know about these things.”
“You’ve dealt with planning permission before, then?” asked Tim.
“Well, not exactly. The management dealt with the paperwork, I just did the building. But it stands to reason, doesn’t it?”
Tim was careful not to look as if he agreed or disagreed. “So they stopped you?”
“The tried.” Mr Harrison tapped his nose. “Those tossers next door complained about the noise. Well, you can’t build much without power tools, can you? I like to get started early and weekends don’t mean a lot when you’re retired. What I do at half past seven on a Sunday morning’s my own business if it’s on my own property, isn’t it?”
“So they tried to stop you?”
“Tried is the word, my boy. But we worked it out.”
“No more work on a Sunday morning?” asked Tim.
Mr Harrison snorted. “Nah, I started work at six o’clock. Soon as it got light. I showed them, I did.”
“Right.” Tim was having to make an effort to keep his tone neutral. “Did anyone else complain?”
“Oh yeah. No one wants to leave a normal bloke alone anymore. They’re tossers on the other side as well. Soon as I’d got the walls up, they were moaning that I was blocking the light to their garden. Like they own the sunlight! ‘Course the council took their side and brought up the planning permission again. See what I mean about red tape? This whole country’s drowning in it.”
“Hm.” It was the only thing Tim could trust himself to say that would sound non-committal.
“So the council are taking me to court if I don’t pull it down, and now I’ve got an ASBO that says I’m not even allowed to do that before ten in the morning. They’re all a bunch of little Hitlers and these tossers,” he waved his arms, indicating his neighbours on both sides, “they’re Quislings, which is even worse. An Englishman’s home is his castle, am I right?”
“I’m sure,” said Tim.
Mr Harrison frowned, telling Tim his answer hadn’t met the required level of enthusiasm.
“I’ll be in court next week and I’ll expect to see you in the gallery,” said Mr Harrison. “I’ll tell the whole Stasi lot of them where to shove it. I’m just a normal person against the establishment. You tell your readers what I tell them. Are you with me?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” This time, Tim meant it. If Mr Harrison got himself removed from the courtroom, Tim might get his first page four.