‘This situation is Rorke’s Drift,’ said the builder boyfriend, after our proposed renovations were objected to at the parish council’s notorious planning meeting.
‘When you’re faced with 4,000 warriors armed with spears you may as well go down fighting,’ he declared, as we sat in the cottage ruminating on the news from our architect, who had just come back from the meeting.
The BB is apt to get even more dramatic than me when we have a fight on our hands, but I actually think he is not far wrong in his use of metaphor. Certainly, I’ve no hard evidence thus far to deploy in arguing against him comparing the parish council of our Surrey village to the Zulus.
According to the architect, the planning meeting tasked with judging our renovation plans descended into farce after an objection was raised to the height of our rear extension. When our architect pointed out that our neighbour, a parish councillor, has an extension twice as high, the meeting was hastily adjourned.
Possibly, it will be adjourned for two weeks, as they say, or possibly it will be adjourned for two years. Who knows?
It actually doesn’t matter as much as I thought it would, because just when it seemed it couldn’t get any worse, suddenly, from out of nowhere, a few things started to go our way.
Firstly, I got a nice email from the clerk of the parish council inviting me to show him the problem with the worn-out bridleway signs in the woods. He came tomeet me armed with brand new blue way markers.
As we walked the bridleways together, him nailing up the fresh markers as we went, he agreed that the ‘No Horse-riding’ signs on the roads didn’t make much sense, and he promised to raise the issue at the next meeting he could get it on the agenda.
He said that he suspected the signs had been nailed up many years ago, perhaps after a resident complained about horses for some spurious reason. It’s possible, I suppose. But my money would still be on the residents of this village being perfectly happy to see horses, while the parish council is having a field day banning them just to show that it can.
You have to consider that this council is so keen to exercise control that it has fenced off the fencing. The sturdy new posts and bars that line the green to prevent ‘incursions’ on to the grass — apparently some travellers once came here and the council has never got over it — have a second line of posts in front of them to stop people going near the fence line. So unless you start walking on the green at one of the official 4ft openings where they invite you to do so, it is very difficult to work out how to enjoy the green at all.
But back to the good news. We made another friend. A couple living a few doors down invited us for a curry. We had a riotous evening, picked up all the local gossip, and realised that pretty much everyone else in the village is just as fed up with the parish council as we are.
‘Can I be frank? They’re a-holes, dear,’ said the lady, as we drank coffee on her sofa after dinner.
A few days later, she turned up on my doorstep with home-made blackberry jam and chutney. ‘Don’t take any notice of that lot, you’ll be fine.’ Clutching the jars, I felt tears welling in my eyes.
‘Are you really happy to be my friend?’ I said. ‘You don’t mind that I make trouble by opposing the council? They will probably warn you off me.’ ‘I couldn’t give a toss, dear,’ she said. ‘Shall we go for Thai food next weekend?’
Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, a letter arrived in the post telling me that my council tax appeal had been allowed. My little house is being taken out of Band F and put in Band E. This reduces my bill by more than £50 a month.
The decision is being backdated to 1993, so everyone who has lived in the house — and possibly all the neighbours in similar houses to mine — can now argue that they’re in the wrong band too, and get a whopping refund potentially. I couldn’t be happier for them.
It’s nice that the village is getting something from the hair-brained nutcasewho writes the column moaning about everything.
I hope they can see that there’s a bit of method in my madness. I don’t just rant for fun. I do sort of have a point. I know I make a hell of a nuisance of myself while I’m at it, but every now and then,while cack-handedly crashing through various catastrophes, I do stumble upon the odd solution.