Mr John Bull and family have grown disillusioned with their neighbourhood over the forty years in which they lived there. It wasn’t too bad at first although their French neighbours kept stealing from their vegetable patch in the middle of the night and the service charges of living on their private gated estate were steep, but these things seemed acceptable considering he had felt forced to leave their previous home in Empire Crescent following the break-up of his marriage.
The problems started when a Spanish family moved in and stole all the fish from his fish pond and laid claim to a corner of his rockery. The Spaniards were poor and couldn’t afford to maintain their house and so the Estate Committee upped the service charge to ensure their property was maintained and did not reduce the value of the other houses.
Then a Greek family moved in, or rather squatted in a tent on the grass verge opposite Mr Bull’s house and started begging for basic provisions and bringing in distant relatives as the Cypriot family. They were later joined by a whole host of other new incomers with names the Bulls couldn’t understand and which started camping on his lawn, demanding small jobs for cash and indulging in some shady activities after dark.
John Bull’s family started having arguments about moving elsewhere, perhaps somewhere further to the West by the sea, even an island, but the costs were reckoned too high and risky, and better the Devil you know always won the day.
The Estate Committee were by now in despair and the service charges were climbing alarmingly and private security guards were having to be employed at the residents’ cost, especially of John Bull and those of his near neighbour, the bossy but wealthy Fritz Alemannia. The latter now decided that everyone on the estate needed to pool their bank accounts to make sure everyone paid their way. John Bull objected violently and so was cut a special deal not to participate while all the others went in together.
And so things went on for a few years and everything seemed to tick along until an audit of the Estate Committee’s finances revealed that the Greek, Italian and Spanish families had siphoned off all the money and left the Committee with huge debts for which the others, especially Herr Alemannia, were personally liable.
Mr Bull and his family breathed a sigh of relief at not being on the hook, but then found they were indirectly as the Committee kept putting up the service charges to reduce the black hole. Also, ever more distant relations of the other poorer families kept turning up to live with their cousins and beg a living from the others. Even worse, large numbers of other impoverished people with even stranger names and less employment prospects were gathering at the estate’s gates and trying to get in over the high surrounding fence despite the exorbitantly expensive barbed wire fence and private guards the Committee engaged.
By now, burglaries on the estate were rife, litter everywhere and itinerant beggars hassling him every time he went out his front door. John Bull decided to leave, cutting his losses, and to move to the far West by the sea, to the land of his happy childhood. But there was a terrible row in his family: his eldest and very teenage son Scot was having an affair with one of Fritz’s daughters and refused to leave, while his son Paddy had a paddy and said he might move in with his cousin Mick instead. Only his son Taffy wanted to move with him, but as the other two were dependent on him financially they had no choice, but there were lots of tantrums and door banging. However, in the end John Bull’s decision prevailed.
Herr Alemannia was distraught and raging when told of the Bull’s departure plans, knowing he was the richest on the estate left and, with a couple of others, was liable for the lion’s share of the running costs of the estate without the income of John Bull any more. He threated to burn down John’s house and tow away his car, while the French neighbour bribed all the homeless squatters to camp on John’s front lawn and bang on his door from morn to night.
But it was no good, John was made of sterner stuff and despite Scot and Paddy’s moaning, they packed up and moved to the sea lands of the setting sun. Looking in his rear-view mirror just before the estate slipped from view for the last time he saw a bright orange glow in the sky above it and capering dark figures silhouetted against the huge flames below.
“Got out in the nick of time,” he muttered to himself under his breath.