I had settled in nicely. I got on well with my neighbours and Rowan loved the long grass. She was out day and night. Then one day, I caught an old man taking photos of Michael’s van, which he had left with me while he was at work. I asked the man why he was taking photos. He tried to avoid my questions before finally blurting something about not being allowed to be where I was. I explained that the neighbours were happy with me and that my presence had deterred fly-tipping and other activities. He said that he didn’t care about the neighbours, claiming to be one himself. He said that he knew the landowners and would be contacting them. A bloke who was walking his dog also confronted the man and demanded that he delete the photos of his van. I mentioned the man to the neighbours. They didn’t know who I was talking about. I often chatted to some of the workforce, too. They were great, reassuring me that I was not in the way. On the contrary, workmen and neighbours alike saw me as 24hrs security!
I was also told that the Trading Standards Authority were trying to get hold of me. I had no idea why, so I contacted them. I was then told that I was required to travel to Aylesbury for an interview under caution. I told them that that was simply not going to happen. After some conversation, I was able to ascertain that I was implicated in a fraud concerning alleged roofing work at an address in Aylesbury! I haven’t been anywhere near that area for many years, certainly not since I was a lorry driver. Eventually, I agreed to complete a questionnaire, under caution. The questions concerned the large amounts of money that had gone through my bank account and a number of names that meant nothing to me. It was then that the penny dropped. It was obviously something to do with the Pikies who had intimidated me into cashing money for them.* The questionnaire was full of repetitive questions, just put differently. It was clearly designed to trip the guilty. I returned the completed document and received another shortly thereafter. Again, containing trick questions repeated several times. I also sent them the link to my blog post.* As yet, I have heard nothing more.
One day, there had been a smash and grab of a handbag from a charity shop in the village. I was flabbergasted. Who would steal from a charity shop!? I don’t know what price tag was on it, but it wouldn’t be much. The cost of the damage to the shop window is far in access of the worth of anything in the shop.
One of my neighbours, Veronica, who had offered to help with water and wood came by one day to invite me to Christmas dinner. “A bit early.”, I said, thanking her. Veronica is brilliant and proved to be a real source of support.
I found and bought a coach. (I will tell you about that in another post.) As soon as I got it home, I suspected that it would cause an issue. To start with, on the contrary. I had visitors wanting to look at it and one of the neighbours said that they may have a fuel tank that might fit. (More about that in due course.) It wasn’t a week before I received a notice to remove myself. I contacted the local Gypsy liaison officer who told me to stay put, assuring me that nothing would happen for a bit. At the same time, I had received a message offering me a barn on a farm. I arranged to view the barn for the next day. However, first thing that next day, there was a knock at the door. Two men wearing security clothes said that they were here to enforce my removal.
There were a number of issues. My ability to move was hampered by the truck not working. Since I had arrived, it had sat while I dealt with the mechanical problems. (I shall go into more details in another post.) Also, from a legal standpoint, the security personnel were not accompanied by bailiffs or police. They were clearly winging it. The problem they had was that the police would not help as the situation didn’t fall within the parameters of Section 61. I had already heard stories about the development company who had issued the notice, one East Sussex Energy Infrastructure and Development Limited, who are owned by a company called Sea Change, a company that has changed its name in the past. Basically, building work had slowed due to lack of finance. It appears that they are skint. The evidence of that was to play out that day.
I was threatened with removal of my vehicles by a recovery firm. Realising the situation, I encouraged the security man, named Grant according to his I.D., to arrange the recovery vehicles. Four large lorries would be needed. One for the caravan, one that needed a HIAB to lift the truck, one to remove Michael’s home and a very large lorry to move the coach. Grant said that he would arrange them and said I would have my vehicles dropped wherever it was safe. I said, “I doubt it. It would cost around £1,000 to call out the only operator for miles around who has the equipment to move the coach, alone.”
“We can do that.” He said.
“Off you go, then.” I said, “Do you want the name of the recovery firm?” I gave him the name of the company anyway.
At first, he claimed that they had that all set up and ready to go. As the day progressed, he started referring to Mick Gould, the man who I had suggested. Of course, by that time, it was obvious that they hadn’t anything set up. I’m guessing that they might have contacted Mick Gould, as the idea of employing him was clearly being avoided at all costs.
Michael had returned home from work the previous evening and was asleep in his van. Grant insisted that I wake him. I explained that doing so would be illegal as he was on his statutory break. (It is illegal to disturb a lorry driver when he is on his daily break. I remember an occasion when I was a lorry driver; when a motorway service station parking attendant was threatened with arrest by a constable for knocking on my cab door while the curtains were closed.) In the end, Michael appeared in the early afternoon. Unfortunately, with all that was going on, he had to cancel going to work that evening, which in turn cost him a day’s pay.
One of the Gypsy liaison officers spoke with Grant and got nowhere. Sea Change was also contacted. They refused to discuss the matter. I tried calling them to negotiate. They again refused. Veronica wrote an e-mail to the company. All attempts of communication failed, except for a brief conversation with Veronica who had pleaded with them, explaining that my presence was welcome and deterred criminal activity, including to their property. They weren’t interested and lied about clearing rubbish, rubbish that I had removed.
I told Grant that I would move, but he would have to be patient. I was not going to be bullied. I sent a message to the man offering the barn, explaining that I was unable to make our appointment, then got on with tinkering with the truck. Grant approached me now and then to gee me up. At one point he actively tried to get me into an argument, no doubt to give him an excuse to get violent with me. I cottoned on to what he was doing immediately and told him so. He became heated about the injector pump and how to remove it, a job that I told him that I had done many times. I said that he had no idea what he was talking about and that I was not going to allow him to drag me into an argument about it. Eventually, he resigned himself to the fact that his hands were tied, that he would have to be patient and that he was certainly not going to goad me into a situation where he felt at liberty to get aggressive. It helped that Veronica came down to help me, too. She also brought eggs and cat food.
When Michael was up and about, we had a cup of tea and a bifter while we formulated a plan to get everything moved. We enlisted the help of Froggy. As he was working, that necessitated Grant having to wait until Froggy could arrive. Grant complained that he wanted to get home. I told him, “Tough. It’s what you signed up for. It’s part of the job. You’ll just have to be patient.” Conversation had revealed that he was being paid by the hour. I pointed out that the longer it took, the more he would earn.
We had four hours to kill. Michael tacked down his van, we prepared the truck for moving and I tacked down my home. We cleared up and loaded some wood, etc. into the coach. A few brews later, I attempted to start the coach. Amazingly, it fired up first time. “Ooh, that’s good.” I said to Michael, “I wasn’t expecting that.”
Froggy got caught up in traffic. Grant reappeared, complaining. I told him to be patient (again) and assured him that Froggy would arrive soon. When Froggy did arrive, I fired up the coach again and Michael led the way in his car to a spot that he knew that would do temporarily. Once the coach was parked safely, we returned for my caravan. Froggy had parked his van across the front, blocking access to the tow hitch. He moved his van to the spot where Michael was parked while Michael and I hitched up my caravan. This time, I followed in the car and Rowan rode with Michael. We left the car with the coach. On returning, the security blokes were talking to Froggy. Grant’s colleague had sat in his car all day, apparently watching films on his mobile. It was the first time I had seen him since being woken up that morning. Later, Froggy said that they had wandered over to talk to him about why he was there, particularly as he had done nothing since arriving. He told them that he was there for security reasons. “Why?” Grant asked, “He could’ve asked us.” Froggy politely explained that he was there to keep an eye on them! (The notice had subtly threatened to damage my property.)
After a short conflab, we fitted suitable towing strops between Michael’s van and the truck and the truck to Froggy’s van. With a last “There you go, patience and stress free wins the day.” to Grant, we left, Michael towing and Froggy acting as brakes. (You may remember that that is the mechanical problem with the truck. No brakes. Of course, the injector pump has also since packed up. So, I can’t start the thing, either.)
*see entry Dodgy deals and weather chaos