The Times September 2010 - 1

The Times September 2010 - 2

Chris Mullin Daily Mail Article

Boris Johnson interview 1998

The Jones Family



Contacts & Links

Hedgeman - The Book

The Berlin Wall

Into the Roaring Nineties

1991 Stanton Turns Really Nasty

Annus Horribilis

The End Of The Annus But Not The Horribilis

The Judgement

The Hand Of Peace


The Big One

No Carte Blanche

Come On Stanton Pay Up

April Fool

Niniteen Ninety Seven

A Little Help From The Lord








There were trying difficulties to be overcome within the Stanton family; the old man was eighty-seven and doddery; for the last seven years there had been an affectionate, caring relationship with his eldest son, Paul Terry. The death of Freda, wife and mother was a fearful blow; it was sudden, unexpected, and excruciatingly painful and had that element of violence. Far more accidents occur in the home than anywhere else and the majority involve the elderly; she was vulnerable. That she was 'stressed up' is indisputable; she was the willing, wilful, feminine third part of the revenge, retaliation, resentment, spite triumvirate that maintained a spy tower at the end of their garden overlooking our boundary; that aggressive threesome commissioned an intrusive photographic survey by a so called expert -the surviving twosome refused to pay him because he was inadequate to fulfil their command. Of course, she was quivering and shaking at an age when friendships are made and enemies soothed. For nine years she and her old man waged an aggressive battle; stolen our light and amenity and, lit their disgraceful smoky fires. We all drop things in kitchens; rarely full, heavy bottles; rarely on a foot: unusually this caused a fatal blood clot. Somebody had to take the blame. Father and son hated me to the depths of their souls (although they didn't believe in such things); they hated me before the trees were planted and smoky fires lit; they hated me when our house was built upon the sacred playground of childhood. Now, after seven, adrenaline soaked, exhausting but exciting years, daddy had tired, got bored of losing and not only withdrawn from the triumvirate (although one was already dead) but also the contest in the most exceptional, unacceptable way; he sought solace in a relationship with another woman for his last few years. Paul Terry was bereft; he made it clear on behalf of the sons, this new woman would not inherit his birthright; the old man made over the property to his sons: a sensible arrangement, yes, but this should have been told to the Recorder; we were yet to be told this but, the battle for costs recovery had to be waged with the old man's name because it started in his name; now Paul Terry, the magnificent stag took over - he was once a bull - no matter still a vegetarian; PTS raised his noble head, snorted, pawed the ground then lowered his antlers.
Four years ago my affidavit included a photograph of a line of Leylandii saplings stretching the whole width of the boundary. They had to compete with the adjacent green mountain a couple of yards away; that now diminished there was equal competition for moisture, nutrient, light and air; they were no longer struggling little devils but virile, young, strong robust, free, eager vile ugly bullies thrusting their evil growing tips into vast trees of the forest. One news report stated PTS was intending to grow these monsters into the stratosphere.
"These do not form a hedge along the boundary so they do not fall within the Bournville Trust covenant"
This threat formed the sharpest, most prominent point of his antlers and as he pawed the ground he shrieked
"I am not paying a penny piece of that man's costs".
That antler point got broken off; it arose from the Court of Appeal taxation court which was in London. Payment of my costs was guaranteed by his solicitors; the action was allowed to proceed in the eventuality that if it failed and there was insufficient funds to pay, the defendant would be unfairly disadvantaged. Ray, my solicitor, now only employed by me to administer the tricky cost recovery quickly compiled his bill and made an offer; the Stanton camp refused preferring taxation, obstruction and delay rather than saving money. It was at this point I had to pay one and a half £K to Nick. I liked this highly intelligent guy who specialised in constructing bills of costs for taxation judges. We spent a day and a half together as well as two sessions in the county court. The first thing he wanted from me was the file from my previous solicitor - it was fours years old but it represented the first wedge of legal expenses.
Ray had virtually done the London, Court of Appeal account but it needed the expert touch of Nick who knew the minds of taxation judges - he thought them unpredictable and dealt with his end product as an art rather that a science - copies went to the Tax Master and Stanton camp. I met up with Ray, taking the necessary expensive early train. It was then very surprising that the Stantons were not present or represented at all. I was refused my expenses for the day although Ray's were allowed. Costs were itemised for his attendance on Counsel at Lincoln's Inn. Ian and I also had an expensive day out; in addition we had an abortive day out for a long session with our barrister - his clerk made a booking error for which his chambers paid - but not our expenses. It was this sort of thing that accumulated into a large sum for which we were never compensated. Ray argued well but the judge was ruthless - the Stanton decision to keep away was wise, no day off work; no solicitor to pay. We finished the business in the morning and I went home - the amount allowed was £10 1/2K and the judge signed. When Stanton gave notice of appeal I was told it would be £33K - if we had lost it would have wiped us out. Ray asked for immediate payment. There was a question of the professional guarantee that would put extra pressure on PTS; he didn't like paying anything at all at any time. We took out a 'statutory order' for bankruptcy that on its expiry would lead to court. It was a simple one based only on the Court of Appeal costs and it had to go to the old man who was feeble by this time. I had a letter from his 'insolvency advisor' saying that all his assets had gone but on his behalf he offered £6 K in settlement of all legal costs. I immediately went to our Community Resources Centre and faxed it to Ray. I had scarcely arrived home when Ray rang to say that he had phoned and pointed out the criminal offence of the property conveyance that should have been disclosed to the Recorder. Unusually events accelerated, the statutory times expired and I duly met Ray in the County Court Buildings outside yet another court door. As I was about to go in, Abe handed me the cheque made out to me personally from his client account. Ray immediately said,
"That's mine". I gave him a cheque for the same amount, made out to his firm because it was substantially out of pocket - and so were we.
Ray would not settle up with John Wetherall, our tree expert; unbeknown to me he had been using delaying techniques for some time. John disliked Ray intensely; a couple of years later Ray used these against me. A couple of years earlier the thought of two key people in my team not hitting it off would have been the object of terrible disquiet. I was deeply grateful to John, worked with him and found him absolutely loyal and true - he was an integral part of our defence at a time when we were not professionally represented. It was his talented witness and highly skilled professional performance that turned the tide - it was Abe, who said in that telephone call to me,
"Of course, we did not appoint our tree man; you did and you got the right one". Then John did something disastrous, shocking me to the core and turning Maureen from love to hate. John was ashamed of himself, made it clear and, I forgive him; I would like to believe he was always my friend. At 9 o'clock one evening, long after Maureen had gone to bed, our door bell rang; it was John. I showed immediate welcome and invited him in wondering why to God he was there, one and a half hours driving time from home. He had just visited Paul Terry Stanton and offered to sell him the debt of the remainder of his fee - owed by Ray's firm. I had never heard of that sort of thing but it sounded like treachery. Maureen came downstairs in her dressing gown and a repeat explanation was given, much to her fury; she did not sleep that night and her anger has never subsided. Paul Terry would pay our expert £2K immediately (or so he said) - whatever figure John would state was subjective - he could prescribe the number of hours - his fee per hour was astronomical - he had spent many hours at our house - overnight on one occasion. I asked if he would take a £1k cheque and forget about it. He had not sent me his final accounts - John accepted absolutely that these matters were left to my lawyer and that I personally would never take part in refusing to pay him.
When it came to taxing the county court tax master was even more severe than his appeal court counterpart; very reasonable claims were not admitted - of course the client could pay his professionals what he liked but the law only allowed the reasonable. I had got the £1K exactly right and in the end Stanton paid. John then found out that PTS had refused to pay the remainder of his own tree expert's bill of nine hundred pounds on the grounds that he was no good. PTS correctly gauged he would not take him to court.
For me it was now 'cum-uppance' time for the lawyers in my life. Once upon a time there was the 'Solicitor's Complaints Bureau'; In 1989 Stanton referred his first solicitor when she lost her file on me - he sacked her and that is how Abe got the job; the SCB became an object of public fun and a complete waste of time; the then Tory Lord Chancellor dismissed all the complaints; dissolved it and instituted the 'Office for the Supervision of Solicitors': with cynical heart, I had a crack at the OSS and posted the two sins of old Abe.
Firstly, his neglect, despite telephone reminders, faxes and letters to ensure the amended judgement of Recorder Woltan was included in the file put before the Appeal Judges. It is amazing that all the relevant material was left to appealing legal team (with the check of opponents of course) and not sent on by the county court judge's clerk.
Secondly, his failure to inform the Recorder of the conveyance of the old man's property - did Abe's firm convey it? I tried to find out but the OSS said that was confidential. In the legal world there is a built in delay and procrastination factor: the excuses are chosen from a list - the legal case worker is ill; on leave; left or retired: if they have been on holiday abroad they have come back with a nasty virus that can last quite a time: if you ring up, they are out of the office, in court or in conference - if they are forced to reply in writing the standard phrase is 'in due course'.
They informed me that a complaint against one's opponent's solicitor or indeed any solicitor other than the one you had hired would not be accepted; it was a matter of client confidentiality - if they had broken the law then I must take them to court or inform the police. We had gone through enough litigation and there was still too much to do. On the WM Radio, Phone-in programme there were daily complaints against solicitors. Host Ed Doolan gave the telephone number of a solicitors prepared to sue fellow solicitors; I rang one pompous ass that dismissed my desire for justice; he couldn't care a fig about the honour still less morality of his professional colleagues - he told me to forget about it and should really charge me £230 for his time - but he would let me off.
OK, so what about my early solicitors and curry breathed ex- barrister - I had hired them and paid them a month's pension for a session in court when they sold me down the river; I had a hell of a game pulling myself out of their mistakes, after sacking them. Well the solicitor's own professional body didn't want to know about that one either. I phoned the OSS and engaged the attention of a senior case worker for an hour. I called his organisation and his profession bad names and in the end said my words should not be attributed to him personally. He replied.
"I appreciate that more than you can possible know - you have gone through so much; I am so sorry that there is nothing I can do to bring you the justice you feel you deserve".
Then my attention was concentrated on the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council. It concerned both barristers; my first barrister for inferior service and incompetence and my opponent's barrister for among a number of things, hinting I was a 'Peeping Tom'. I must admit there was a much greater concern by barristers for the professional conduct of its members than the solicitors were for theirs. I wrote a lot and the secretary wrote back a lot, we also had plenty of conversation - then charges were made and both lads had to answer them - now they were in the dock and it took them hours and hours to construct their defence. The committee also spent hours on it and in the end exonerated both but imposed a severe reprimand for the words used by the Stanton barrister-
"Words are important".
I got an apology; it was not that important. Ray got the message from the legal circles that the stricture upset the barrister greatly. Good; his face would have gone redder than usual. More importantly he would have struggled for hours defending himself against the charges I had laid. Yes, he wriggled out of those but he had been humiliated for representing a couple of hoodlums - he claimed (that was upheld) he had no option of refusal to act for them; then his sneering, cynical use of power when he drafted the injunction to sign before the judge, keeping me away from part of my garden for five years. I pledged then to get my revenge and serve it cold. Yes, I saw him deeply distressed and disappointed when he lost the trial just before Christmas; what a cheek to utter his infernal insolence; to accuse me of being a "Peeping Tom". Ha, ha, ha. The other three got away. What annoys me most is that the Law Society, through its Office for the Supervision of Solicitors did not pose a case for Abe Lincoln to defend. That makes me sad for his none 'come-uppance' - this included what he had done to Maureen. As to my first barrister - well, he would have to spend lots of his £300 an hour time defending himself - if he had spent time and belief in my cause, we might have fought the whole case through together and he could be famous. My first solicitor? Ray offered to sue him after saying,
"I expected that load of rubbish from the Law Society". There was no way of me going through another couple of years through the courts so I put both legal teams through the wringer again by referring them en-bloc to the Legal Services Ombudsman - who is by definition of the parliamentary act to be a non-lawyer. She upheld the decisions of the Bar Council and the Law Society.
Then a solicitor friend sent me a copy of the Birmingham Law Society Gazette containing an astonishing advert; it was placed by the Barrister's Chambers whose honorary president was Recorder Woltan; it was unlikely he knew of the content or conspired in its construction; its purpose was to draw attention to the excellence of its members and attract custom; it did it by outlining the facts of Stanton v Jones, one of which was that I had cut the hedge down to seven feet - something that their honorary president when acting in his capacity of judge had rejected - this sort of spin contaminated its message and added to its lack of taste. It said nothing of the grief and stress involved by my family, the physical assault on me' the grotesque omission of any law which precluded the imposition of hedge nuisance and exuded the morality of the infinite extension of litigation instead of compromise and conciliation - a precept extolled by the honorary president in his judgement and accepted by Lord Woolf in his Report "Access to Justice". In other words 'crude lolly'; the exploitation of clients or more significantly, the poorer one, flung into court with the only option - an outrageous settlement. I put together a point by point objection and took the Leader of Chambers to the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Council. It was refused but of course took up many expensive man-hours of time. I sent a copy to the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors and referred the Editor of the Gazette for lack of professional conduct in publishing the advert. It was unlikely there was any procedure for dealing with it, however as I sent another copy to the editor via Birmingham Law Society. I waited a few days before ringing and had surprisingly little difficulty in getting through to via a firm of solicitors, to someone who actually admitted to being the appropriate person to talk to. I have stated before that solicitors employ secretaries capable of putting off by excuses such as 'on leave, in conference, in court etc.' He was highly irritated and annoyed and when his phone was interrupted (no mobiles then) he politely said,
"Excuse me for a moment Mr Jones". I answered,
"Not at all", thinking this was a wheeze; he was genuine and obviously tried to press the off button that would temporally disengage the line to me - he shouted to his interrupter,
"Will you gerroff this line, I've got bloody Michael Jones on it".
He actually listened to me but he was professionally skilled in talking but getting nowhere.
I was getting very busy talking every day to people who had nasty neighbour experiences; the check out lady at the Co-op grocery was one of them; she had followed our saga with fascination. It wasn't at a busy time and customers diverted themselves to other empty outlets. She had trouble with solicitors and had told her present one that she knew me; he had said,
"He is completely mad, isn't he"?
The Bournville Village Trust, in conjunction with Classic FM organised a Gardener's Forum at George Cadbury Hall - it was packed; top gardeners formed the panel - we were asked to send our questions in advance. I asked,
"Should there be a law to control nuisance hedges"? I thought that my question would never be called but it was towards the end; there was a murmur of recognition when I was called upon to ask it. There was no straight answer - they were gardeners not lawyers or politicians and perhaps they had never suffered hedge nuisance - perhaps lawyers and politicians would be bad at garden questions and would have given more relevant answers. However the most interesting was,
"When growing a massive hedge consideration should be given to the person living the other side of it".
The Housing Grants Construction and Regeneration Bill was on its way through the House of Lords. It occurred to me that an amendment might be slipped in and went to see Denis Howell. His paraphernalia of peerage was on proud display and he talked me through it - Baron Howell of Aston Manor - it wouldn't have gone down very well as a 'labour lad from Lozells of fifty years ago; here he was enjoying showing it off to me - a once left-wing firebrand. He was no longer a young hard working junior minister, constituency MP, member of Aston Villa board and so many sporting executives. He had suffered family tragedy and had serious heart trouble. What happened to my idea, I know not - I thought my hedge campaign would be boosted when the press got hold of it - I enjoyed his gallery of Labour Leaders - Keir Hardy, Ramsay MacDonald, George Lansbury, Clement Atlee, Hugh Gaitskell (ah you were a Gaitskellite) Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan, Michael Foot, Neil Kinnock, John Smith and Tony Blair - I could have talked all day. We did talk about gardening Denis was keen on his garden.
On the 11th of May we went to the Scilly Isles - on a much needed holiday. We were direly short of leisurely, relaxed and intelligent conversation and deliberately took the train to Penzance; the five and a half hour journey did the trick, nicely. The Isles were covered with the pink, non-hardy, herb Robert or cranesbill, so called because, typical of the geranium genus, the seed head resembles that of a crane; so does the pelargonium, mistakenly called geranium to which it is not related. The flowers of this beautiful shrubby plant - Geranium Maderence indicate its origin in Madeira, although it is also called Canerience. It has established itself in absolutely frost free parts of Devon such as the RHS garden 'Rosemore' where it is called 'the flower of the month for June', but here in the Scillies in the week before mid-May it was growing wildly rampant but the seed heads had not as yet formed. I bought a packet of thirty-nine seeds from the Abbey Gardens shop in Tresco; all of them germinated, the first in a day or two, the last in a couple of months. It was my hope to grow them in hanging baskets and let those thousand of gorgeous flowers cascade down the front of the house, in the following summer. The plants did not like root restriction and although I molly-coddled them through the winter, they resented going out in the early summer - or even kept in the greenhouse and produced precious little bloom. I gave twenty potted plants away without report of success. I was glad to relinquish hope and let the last one go in three years. There are more than thee hundred named species in the genus and are promiscuous breeders; many are hardy in my garden and I love the scent of a crushed leaf.
We were out walking in St Marys and took a short cut through the cemetery; Maureen was ahead as I was looking at the graves; one was fairly fresh and marked with a wooden cross bearing the words -
The Right Honourable Sir Harold Wilson PC. KB. OBE. CH. 11th March 1916 - 24th May 1995. The grave received a suitably inscribed headstone shortly afterwards. No one was very moved by his death a year ago as he had been in dementia for years and recognised no one. The Queen, John Major, Margaret Thatcher, James Callaghan, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown attended his memorial service in Westminster Abbey but the time for sadness had long since passed. Now, briefly on my own I could spare a little tear as I looked for a flower; there was a three month old remains of a bunch at the foot of the grave but just below that there was a bunch of tiny daises; I detached one, dropped it on the grave and let the tear slide down my face. Maureen was seated, contentedly waiting whilst the birds, so tame perched close to her feet.
There was a promenade garden walk and a line of dead Leylandii - at one time there must have been seven years of growth but on just one stormy night, exceptional combinations of gale and massive wave had killed them: it was the salt. I have had scores, possibly hundreds of requests and advice about killing these trees or even of their owners. Concerning the latter one fellow sent a letter giving his CV, highlighting his service in the British Nuclear Police. This organisation had no connection with the Military or Civilian Police; it is highly plausible to have connections with the Secret Service and 'understandings' about unfortunate accidents on behalf of the 'nuclear, military, industrial complex'. During the cold war nuclear power station security was ruthlessly efficient and anecdotal stories abounded about fatal happening to anti-nuclear campaigners. I once met a teacher who knew a guy who would carry out a 'contract' on a head teacher for a thousand pounds; when I mentioned this to an apparently docile teacher he replied,
"It would be worth two or three hundred quid each to get rid of a tyrant - make life a lot easier". I spoke on the phone to dodgy contractors who would cut the trees down and get the hell out of it. One of them, more considerate than the rest said,
"I always counsel the owners first before cutting them".
"How long do you spend on that"?
"Oh, two or three minutes at least - then we're away - they won't find us - we do this in the States for four months in the summer".
We had lots of visitors one of whom was Max Ayriss from Nuneaton - he was boss of his own company and brought me stacks of stationery. Denis Harris devoted a lot of time and research planning to visiting members of parliament at their constituency surgeries; it was an invaluable service and he enjoyed it, making a day out of the occasion. He was never once refused on the grounds that the MP was not his own. Betty Boothroyd was particularly helpful to him. She was popular and as she was not contested by the Tories or Lib Dems had a massive majority because their voters supported the Speaker. She had read all about Leylandii, indeed it couldn't be missed - it was part of the Language and an object of fun in cartoons and radio comedies. Betty wrote to the appropriate Minister and got the typical letter of support, agreement, good will and no promise of doing anything at all in the immediate future. I was writing all the time and getting letters by the sackful but this actual visiting was unique. I told victims all over the land,
"Get in touch with your MP".
"But my MP is useless".
"But this is all we have got - parliament is where we make law".
In the majority of cases the victim had never been in touch with their MP before. I was quite surprised at the sympathy and level of support completely cross party - and they had less than a year to wait before they had a new MP. What struck me was the absolute ignorance of mature, well read, sometimes academics had not a clue as to why policies could only be changed by new laws - the parliamentary process was the only way. One day I had an anonymous letter from someone claiming to be a Royal Gardener supporting my stand, he loathed Leylandii and enclosed his cure for their eradication' - a handful of commercial salt in a can of water - apply in the dead of night'
It was the RHS Chelsea show and Dominic Kennedy, 'The Times Court Correspondent reported from the Royal Marquee - he told me months later that Leylandii and Stanton v Jones dominated the conversation. Good! Snobbery in gardening is as odious as in any other; obviously prejudices led by Royalty have hope of being sustained. Leylandii was rejected and unacceptable and if its doughty fighter was me, I was as pleased to accept any accolade on offer and we were to get it in spades. Whether Roddy Llewellyn was present in that Royal Tent (bet he was) or not, he was without doubt the Royal Gardener, owner and designer of an island garden; thirteen years the junior of Princess Margaret he became her beau on the collapse of her marriage. He had written an article in the 'Mail On Sunday' supporting the courage of Maureen and me in our stand against the Leylandii scourge - that was read by an eight million circulation - what is more he told us about this before yet another Esther programme.
ITV had been screening the popular, prime time, massive audience rated - 'The Cookson Report'. BBC attempted to match it with the 'Ransome Report'; it was encouraging that Leylandii nuisance and the strong public demand for legal control had captured the public imagination; the presenter decided that, with two other very emotive issues screened to catch the sensitive and emotional ears of the campaigning public it would do the trick; it was too complex for one programme and not researched enough to discover traps; the possibility of legal action led to its withdrawal from future repeats and endless, lucrative screenings on the commercial channels. In view of the debacle in the first Esther programme the Stantons declined further exposure but the researchers were interested in a new case.
Brenda and John Law had bought a brand new bungalow in a Hereford meadow from Land Owner Foley - his family stretches back to the court of Charles II and Nell Gwyn - the local graves, place names exude saga of each generation. The programme personnel should have concentrated on Leylandii and the modern Foley and interviewed him. I knew little of the amazing audacity of this man at the time and my mind was stuffed full of the bullying techniques of a hundred or more victims; when any journalist rang me I could put them on to a local story.
Brenda and John had not attached importance to a line of tiny Lleylandii saplings six feet from the walls when they were led into a legal trap by signing a conveyance that the property could only be sold back to Foley. For six years it was idyllic (so was the Stanton menace to us) the next four years first evoked apprehension the good natured tolerance, then apprehension, then fear, then anger as finally the sturdy forest trees subsumed the bungalow, Foley offered to buy at a fraction of the value. We were told later that he had tried this technique successfully before and succeeded because the husband died and the wife had dementia. We were at the front of the studio audience hours before our feature came up. Maureen and I were sitting together and Roddy Llewelyn was sitting next to her. He introduced himself, expressed his pleasure at meeting us and asked if we had read his article about us in the 'Mail on Sunday'. Now, Maureen has never read any article or news item or seen the recording of any of my or our broadcasts; we have never read the MoS; he was surprised that we had not. I hadn't a clue to his royal connection or eminence in the upmarket, gardening world of the wealthy. We were friends immediately but he got on particularly well with Maureen doing crosswords, in the long wait ahead. The production team was having difficulties. On one of the sets they had, for indoors, an enormous Leylandii, horizontally across the stage and at the start of our act it was dramatically hauled by ropes and pullies into a vertical position. We only got about fifteen minutes and as it was broadcast only once seemed a lot of slog, travelling and waiting about. We had our expenses paid and were put up in a hotel for the night. In terms of publicity for changing the law it was worth thousands of pounds - beyond the scope of my begging from the wealthiest of my contacts - and as for us, Ray Burford continued to ask me for money.
We decided to go to Yorkshire for a few days - by car - without booking up; it was the cheapest and best of all our holidays. We aimed for Harrogate, parked the car outside the tourist centre and were directed to a lovely B&B, guest house with a room and all facilities en suite. It was the main holiday period and we waited to record the broadcast of the 'Ransome Report' - then we just buzzed off without telling anyone - Ian, Christopher and Andrew were away, and so were the neighbours.
Come the evening we found a lovely pub and Maureen tolerantly endured me drinking a couple of pints of Theakston's best bitter with a tuna salad and baked potatoes. Next morning we had a very substantial Yorkshire breakfast and a great welcome from our hostess before setting out to the RHS gardens at Harlow Carr, to fulfil an ambition. Without returning to base to clean up and get ready, we knew the type of place to go for our evening meal, then tired, early to bed, read the paper, Maureen to do the crossword, listen to the news. Our landlady was waiting; her husband had recorded the Esther programme and she had played that day -
"I've been telling everyone, that man had breakfast in my house this very day".
After only a few days, it was water the hanging baskets, go through fifty letters, then start on the answering machine and hear the devastating, tragic news that wiped away our happiness and relaxation of the last few days.
Mary, the widow of my brother had unexpectedly died. She was seventy-nine, a year older and had outlived Roger by seven years. They were married for forty-nine years and met because my sister Connie brought her home after her first day at work. She was a local Handsworth girl, had lost her father a few years previously, a Methodist, twenty, a mere slip of a girl and I was nine; we used to fight violently for the next ten years and she would win and I would be in pain. She would insist that Roger included me when they went to the pictures which was great when it was an 'A' requiring an accompanying adult. If Roger thought I was an intruder he did not show it - he was the kindest and gentlest of men, deeply religious and saintly in his last years. This might have brought some strain on the marriage as Mary was fun loving, completely extrovert, energetic and a forward planner. She put on weight in her later years and was trying to cut down because of varicose veins. We visited her in hospital. She supported us strongly in our desperate plight against the Stantons and, of course had been in court nine months previously. I have mentioned her in an early part of my biography and will write about her and all members of the extended family in a subsequent book.
My main motivation was getting old man Stanton to pay up and getting an operable piece of law to control nuisance hedges: you do this either by amending existing law, making a new law or in our case encouraging Bournville Village Trust to enforce their covenants. The new line of Leylandii stretched sixty yards along the whole width of the boundary and ten feet away from it; along half the stretch parallel to the existing hedge there was scarcely room for the Stantons to get by. There was a horticultural problem here; the old hedge was deprived of light, moisture and nutrient from its southern aspect; it could not compete with its new vigorous rivals. In three years we would have real problems.
There was overlap in the appeal and county court costs - the hearings were fifteen months apart and unusually they were in that order as my readers following my narrative will understand - by now two years from the judgement had elapsed - an allocatur (this was a legal term never before experienced - it meant an order to pay in three weeks) had been issued and Ray sent it to Abe and nothing happened so Ray took out a bankruptcy writ and served it on old man Stanton personally, with the results I have previously outlined. A court hearing was obtained for 11th November at 11 o'clock - we were just a little later as two minutes silence was observed for the whole building but the Taxation judge had given some study to the papers. Nick my taxation lawyer was representing me. I liked him very much and promised that he would figure in 'Stanton v Jones' - the film - I forget who he nominated as actor to take his part; he was unfamiliar to me; I nominated Robert Coltrane for my part. Nick's expenses were chargeable to the total costs but Ray's were refused. Stanton, the younger did his own objections but Abe was in attendance - he announced he was working for another firm (and of course would earn his fee). Every single item was argued and of course it took up the whole time; the court adjourned for two months until the New Year. PTS had set out to delay and had won this one. But just you wait till the New Year, mate.