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






(Noun: white card; permission to act freely).


The Stantons, on the advice of a very expensive, top QC's, decided not to appeal - it would be throwing money away - he told them,
"The crucial part of the whole judgement, giving Jones the right to reduce the height of the hedge, has been upheld by the Court of Appeal: the Recorder says Jones's maintenance has not gone beyond that which is reasonable and appropriate - based on irrefutable evidence: however it will be interesting to see what he makes of the no carte blanche".
Of course I never saw a copy so have just made the words up for you -and did not need to spend my Christmas Hols wading through the whole case or charge an enormous fee and, on top of that, pay one and a half thousand pounds for last trial transcript. I have never read that transcript and have never possessed it - you would have to go to PT Stanton to find out who has one.

Now I will tell you what was dominating my mind as I looked out of my living room windows on that New Years Day 1996.
"Those trees will be reduced". The only accurate height the Recorder mentioned throughout his two judgements was 6 feet 6 inches or 2 metres; he was quoting the Bournville Village Trust Guidelines booklet; it was also in the outline planning permission.
That was obviously in the collective Stanton mind that it was my ultimate goal for the line of ten conifers. I discovered an insulated wire in the centre of the hedge at that height; one could assume it was the basis of an electronic alarm system; the positioning was such that could only have been inserted as early as 1991.
The final judgement gives me discretion at determining the height without prescribing it. What height would I like? Not more than twelve feet - with a ladder I can keep it at that myself until my physical capability necessitates a jobbing gardener or a new neighbour does it for us both. We want privacy and light; in the back of my mind, although never admitting it - I would compromise at fourteen feet. I was willing to pay half the cost although Stanton had paid nothing since he took a couple of feet off the top, nine years ago.
How to go about it? Only one way to start - I would ask Paul Terry Stanton directly first in writing, then by telephone and, if necessary after an eye-ball to eye-ball. No procrastination time would be given. The old man was eighty-seven - he procrastinated for eleven years - approaching him would be waste of time; might as well get the trees cut straight away without anymore fuss - the risk was - his son would go absolutely barmy and carry out his threat to kill me. Then we found out, Stanton senior had fallen in love again and was shortly to re-marry. We did not know that he had conveyed his property to his sons before the trial; this fact was not communicated to the Recorder. In fact we thought the rivalry of a step mom would send the sons loopy. If the exertions of the wedding were to kill the old man his new bride would inherit all. We extrapolated our vivid imagination far beyond the reasonable - but when had the Stantons been reasonable? It took years to find what a load of baloney we idly chatted about - Bernard's will had taken care of all eventualities -we had seen Abe Lincoln's outside the house a number of times - he was probably better at drafting wills.

I typed a brief, simple letter and sent it by post, even though it would be three minutes walk up the road to pop it through Paul Terry's letter box - I did not wish to encourage any letter box popping return visits. I said that Bournville Garden Centre had offered to cut the hedge for free, in return for displaying their advertisement boards. Giving access to the "tree surgeons" on his side as well as me on my side, they would do a really good job. We would ask them to cut to twelve feet out of alternative days at the end of January.

Then I wrote to Ray Burford to terminate my agreement with him to represent me - except for the legal work in recovering our costs - in fact that was why I employed him exactly four years ago because then I was convinced we had won the preliminary judgement. We did win but never thought they would be so dumb as to appeal. Ray offered a generous global figure that would have saved a lot of money, if mutually agreed. True to type, in hole digging tradition, this was not accepted by the Stantons and total costs zoomed as both County and Appeal Court proceedings were submitted to a firm of expensive, specialist taxation lawyers.
I followed up my formal letter of instruction with a telephone conversation with Ray to emphasise my point that the dispute with the Stanton's was a pure relationship issue now that must be resolved on a head to head basis and lawyers are not the best people to help - in any case it would be quite a time before our costs were paid and I could not afford to dish out any more to Ray - he was now asking for more up front money for the taxation lawyers - and oh! We would get everything back in the final settlement - that was a joke for a start. Our cost of living was not covered by our income and we were in debt.

I waited a day for Paul Terry to digest the contents of my letter then rang him up at his office. He ranted with absolutely rage; it reminded me of the time he knocked me down; this time he had to confine himself to purely verbal assault. The Stantons never uttered obscenities; not even light weight swear-words; such would have cut down the length of his diatribe; a couple of well placed, really naughty words express hate, contempt, and frustration far quicker and more effectively than rude, ignorant, emotive, uncivil meanderings. PTS is not an English language guru - I would have loved listened to eloquence. He had the opportunity to be unrestricted but was so limited in vocabulary in pouring out years of Stanton family rumour and scuttlebutt, extrapolated to ludicrous extremes frustrated him. I found it fascinating but wondered why such an unusual but basically educated family such as this had not deeply explored, psychologically, their intense feelings of hate, directly focused on me - it is true the local neighbourhood had despised the newcomers on their sacred territory. Pity some wise friend or family member not asked them to dig deep into these pathological and pathetic motives? They dug deep enough into legal holes and would not finish that exercise for quite awhile yet: now a new wife and step mother was introduced. So, I listened carefully so as not to interrupt - except to answer or pose a question if he seemed like flagging.
He went directly to me murdering his mother; it was this that affected him most - obviously he had a load of guilt on his shoulders that he had desperately been trying to shift on to me for years. Did he think his father had betrayed her? Who knows? Then followed a fact I did not know - when the Environmental Health Department cracked down on his father's addiction to garden fires it had deeply hurt both parents. Actually it was the roughest quirk of fate - that day, the old man had shifted his fire much nearer his own house; this time it was only a pokey, little fire giving a thin plume of smoke that drifted south over next door gardens, then upwards where it was dispersed - he didn't want to burn anything particular it was a gesture to assert his weekly independence of any protestations I might give. The Health Officer was on patrol because of a really nasty smoky fire lit yesterday by the Williams, neighbours on our South side boundary - I had complained about that. I made a brief attempt to explain this to PTS but he shut me up, I quickly realised it was futile - he was never going to believe me so I paid attention because he was getting interesting. I had burgled his father's house four times - it was no surprise that the house had been done - we had had a spate of burglaries in the last six years. Then I had raped his mother - in fact no woman was safe from me in this neighbourhood. He told me about my teaching career - his sister-in-law was a local teacher and her colleagues had never heard of me - except of course in the last couple of years - no, he went on,
"You have drifted from school to school all your teaching life - not one would give you a permanent job".
Then he came to a climax of rage about our appeal against the district judge's order to disclose the whole of my correspondence with the Bournville Village Trust. The appeal was to be heard by Recorder Woltan before the trial proper began. My barrister secured agreement with the Recorder and his opponent that the trial proceed as it was always possible to get back to the disclosure issue if it was necessary - a lot of magic here - we got to know that there was bad blood about the conduct of my prosecution - everybody could see the Stanton camp body language and faces when the trial suddenly finished. I told PTS if he wanted the correspondence he could have it - I would swap it for a copy (and pay the copying costs) of the trial transcript for which he had paid a load of money. I only wanted it for interest and my archives. Then he referred to his other worry he had to get off his chest - I was a complete coward in refusing to go into the witness box, insisting I had avoided and never intended answering for my actions. I told him straight -
'The trial was finished after ten minutes when your own witness admitted that the evidence he gave to bring me to court was a load of balderdash - we only made the decision a minute before I was due to go on the stand -, the Recorder said he had no view at all for the reasons I did not testify - he wanted to finish the trial and not put up with all this rubbish you have just been telling me - in a long cross examination by your Counsel'.
PTS had been going on for an hour and a quarter - Maureen was desperate and anxious and wanted the phone. So I firmly insisted,
"Let's get to grips with my letter to you and my reason for ringing you - do you agree to have the trees cut at the end of January". He went livid again and started threatening I said,
"Sorry I have to ring off now but will get in touch again"; I replaced the receiver and got down to typing up all points but without ever being 'in denial'.

We were surprised to hear from the 'Esther' show - they were doing 'follow ups' and we were invited for a further recording. I indicated that everyone would know about the appeal and the trial, so vast had been the coverage; the 'first cut' of the hedge would be a massive media event - I would give them an exclusive; I intended that the media would follow it up. They were interested but I would have to tell them quickly as they had a schedule of future programmes.

I spent considerable time on producing the 'minutes' of the PTS conversation thinking that if (when) the trees were cut he would take us to court again and I would answer any 'carte blanch' accusation. As satisfied as it was possible to be, I posted it with a letter asking for the 'cut' at the end of February and followed it up, a couple of days later with a phone call.

He talked, accused and railed for another hour but gave up without ever knowing whether or not I was pleading guilty to any Stanton mythology however, he did surprisingly qualify the 'rape of his mother' - it was 'with my eyes' and suddenly realised what he was on about - certainly what his barrister wanted to hammer me about and never had the chance - the binocular incident. Well, his barrister called me a 'peeping tom'; this had now escalated to 'rape'. His Counsel was going to retract this as I was going to refer the matter to the Disciplinary Committee of the Bar Counsel.
PTS was still upset about being fined £150 for his conviction for 'actual bodily harm' - he had never hit me (and he really believed this) - I was guilty of perjury. That caused me to giggle - his tree witness had tried to screw me for £33,000 and then ended up admitting he was talking codswallop - of course I wish I had know then that his father had conveyed his property before the end of the trial. When PTS came round to punch my head he said I had invited him round to talk. This was something to agree about and I was so enthusiastic to talk about it - I had not let him finish; I didn't know he was just about to get really rude and personal. Obviously, the man was barely coping with the indignity of his criminal record and had submerged it by denying he had ever hit me - a lot more of this to come in the course of the next few years - I accused him but he would not admit to a trace of violence in his upbringing. However, I charged on whilst he was on the defensive and concentrated on getting his agreement for getting the trees cut at the end of February. It became obvious that he was keeping the hedge nuisance to punish me - I said we would talk again and put the receiver down and after a few days rest, typed up the 'minutes'.
It was pretty certain, let's be perfectly honest - he was never going to agree, was he? But there were now four A4 sides for court if it ever came to that - and it was interesting stuff for the 'Esther' researchers.
It was very interesting meeting the characters in the flesh we had seen as regular viewers of the show. There was Danny Israel - I had missed him on his Esther appearance but was with him on the platform for the Granada 'Up Front' show - again the similarity; no improvement in his neighbour relationships. There was the woman who had punished her cheating husband by handing his bottles of rare wines around the local village and cutting off the sleeves off all his sleek suits. Then there was the woman who married the Maasai warrior - that marriage had by now been dissolved and he had gone back home; and then there was me; not any improvement in any of the relationships. As we sat together on the platform we were re-introduced with clips from our previous shows; plenty of updating news for me but no change in tree height: after their nasty experience on the previous show it would be expected that the Stantons would turn down their invitation. I stuck my neck out to say the trees would be cut to twelve feet on April 1st and announced my campaign to change the law.

I gave long interviews to the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek - they both sent me the copy before publication for my verification; both were accurate. Email was another five years away for me. It was phone and post although I would have a good fax machine in eighteen months. Garden News was also accurate and very supportive - it had reported both trials. Gardeners do not like Leylandii because they drain all the moisture and nutrient and take all the light. The editor forwarded forty-five letters of support; the senders remained the bedrock of my campaign. A similar number had found their way by successfully imploring the Royal Mail to find me. One letter was addressed to the 'retired teacher who cut down the trees'. There must have been scores that didn't get through. The media asked permission to give callers my telephone number and address. Life began to get busy.
Ray Burford had his first PC and had 'The Times' news floppy-disc with a whole past year's news free with his subscription; when he typed my name he got a huge photograph of me; he was hugely pleased when his firm was mentioned in the Law Reports in the account of Stanton v Jones. I readily passed on the name when asked about my lawyers, reasoning that Ray by now had accumulated valuable experience about hedge nuisance - our case had opened a Pandora's Box of disputes. For residents on the Bournville Trust Estate the judgement cleared up any misunderstanding - a wall, fence or hedge on or along the boundary is maintainable by both residents on either side of it - well you would have thought it, wouldn't you? Not on your life. The Williams my neighbour on my South side cared even less than the Stantons about us - probably hated us more - they were more wary of us because we had won and realised we were not the softies they thought we were and could bully and exploit. However David Williams died of cancer and we were sorry about that. Six BVT residents got in touch and eventually joined the campaign. Some didn't because they were afraid of their neighbour. Normal, emotionally mature residents got on with their neighbours, respected them, appreciated the law being defined, but shrank from ever getting in the pickle we had plunged ourselves in. Writing this, ten years on, we know of tens of numbers who have resentments about overhanging and encroaching hedges, trees and bushes. However the Stanton v Jones judgement didn't affect ninety-eight per cent of the population - for them only new law was appropriate; so let me introduce Lord Denis Howell.

I have mentioned Denis in an earlier chapter when he became the successful Minister of Drought and it rained. In our young days he proposed to Maureen, telling her I was dangerous; his future wife was not yet grown up - he left Handsworth Grammar School in 1939 when I just started; at twenty-two, he stood for the Council and lost; not his fault, despite the massive, overwhelming Labour swing, Tory votes in those far off Handsworth days were weighed not counted. I went with him and the Handsworth parliamentary candidate to watch Warwickshire. He married Brenda, the daughter of Steve Wilson, the local ward Labour Party secretary. He missed the League of Youth as he was twenty-one, the upper age limit at the wars end as youth politics began - going straight into main stream Labour. He took the traditional, very right wing, official establishment stance but bravely, untypically and defiantly as Council Labour Group secretary defied the 'city fathers' and finance diehards who put him there and backed free passes for OAPs. He lived for sport of every description and served it competently and more than any other of his generation and possibly century; a football league referee; excellent sports minister and constituency MP. He spoke un-reconstructed Brummie scorning the elocution lessons of his politically ambitious contemporaries who attended the old 'senior schools. We looked at politics in a different way - I was implacably against the Government for supporting the Korean War - or any war, or the H-bomb - against the eleven-plus and its logical extension of comprehensive education - he became a governor of our old school and abhorred the very idea. He adored my mother who was chairman of his constituency labour party when he first became MP -she returned the affection. I found out from his auto-biography, 'Made in Birmingham' - that he was quite unaware the significant part she played in his career. Mother was his constituency delegate at the 1958 Labour Party conference at Scarborough; I was Birmingham Borough Party delegate. Each evening we were with some city Aldermen and were told stories of scam, sleaze and corruption - Denis was the straightest of guys -but he knew a lot.
Ted Castle, husband of Barbara was the standard bearer of the left at Denis's selection conference; mother as chairman sent her apology and the final vote tied, needing the casting vote of the chairman. Mother had a conflict of loyalty; any one with local nouse knew the result would be close but no one knew it would be that close. The ballot is supposed to be secret; nevertheless the experts worked it all out; had she gone, taken the chair and voted for Ted he would have got it and no casting vote would be needed. Only people who have experienced this political jazz know all about this. The secretary of the Borough Labour Party was a tyrant and fixer - probably all this had been worked out - Denis narrowly lost his seat at the 1959 election but quickly picked up safe Small Heath - no one knows if he could have saved his first seat - he was a national figure there is prejudice against young, local lads like Denis - Ted would have slotted in a treat in Harold Wilson's first administration before he became terminally ill. Anyway my mother had wisely taken the pressure off herself, lived another fifteen years, dying of old age, in harness for the party, suffering angina and arthritis but faction free and loved by all.
Twenty-five years after all this the most brilliant secretary, Molly and Tony her second party agent husband came to stay for a few days and as they had already featured so largely in our lives my biography would be incomplete without a write up. Our Tony was the best and most experienced election agent, had just run Tony Blair's first campaign in a hopeless constituency and lost the deposit. TB was not recognisable then. A significant party figure, our Tony, a top paid officer responsible for security party security and Molly made a formidable pair. Denis, now an opposition front bench spokesperson for Sport, invited us all to dinner; he was his natural, affable self and none of us had changed in a quarter century- he was still a Villa fan, a director in fact.
Now please wind the clock forward ten years; tragically, the Howells lost a son in a tragic car accident and Denis had serious heart disease.
The day after my trial, Denis was upbeat when he rang me up to congratulate, (he was now a peer of the realm 'Baron Howell of Aston Manor'). He confidently offered,
"There is a gap in the law; I will introduce a bill into the House of Lords to fill it".
Denis was a self publicist par excellence and, with years of practice, he played the media quite ruthlessly. As a simple, uncomplicated man he quite wrongly diagnosed a simple problem ' if your neighbour grew his hedge too high - legislate a height - make him cut it to that height - if he refused fine him a hundred pounds a day until he did - as simple as that to which the reporter would query,
"As simple as that"?
"As simple as that"!
An aspiring tabloidist must have a well developed half brain - the species usually hails from the right wing and are good at headlines or phone in radio shows and always have the quick and easy solutions; they demand yes or no answers directly to the question they pose and accuse the hapless politician, mainly from the left of evasion or lying the implication being they are the only honest guys - but being that sort they patronisingly concede that a horny handed son of toil from the back streets can have an answer or two - now they hand a humble Brummie with a grand title. Of course Denis was still a politician of sorts but no longer an official, party spokesperson and they could identify with as a despiser of politicians, evil evader of questions - they would a present him as a direct 'man of the people'. So Denis enjoyed a spate of publicity as he had left office. He brought pressure on me as his mail box filled; he forwarded his mail on to me and added to the stash of enthusiastic supporters for law change - he no longer had an office and secretary, but he still loved issuing instructions; raise £3,000 from supporters and deposit it with a certain prestigious London law firm who would draft the necessary parliamentary bill. Typical of his species he was no organiser, never would be - he had never run his own campaigns. Every good party agent wants to run the campaign without interference and a good candidate defers goes where he is told and does what he is told. A well run campaign is recognised by how soon the inevitable row to establish who is the boss, takes place. On the conclusion of the election the successful candidate runs his office; if he has real ambition should appoint the best secretary to rule. Of course the gender balance is different nowadays but far from equal. On promotion to office the civil servants take over.
As it happened I had been offered four figure money sums if I could get high trees removed but it was never understood how long term that would be and they would never be tested into putting those sums into an account now. I was always grateful when only return postage was included, particularly with books or sheets of stamps. In no way would I become a fund raiser and would never ask for any substantial donation to be channelled into another yet another law firm - I was owed thousands. It didn't surprise me that Denis didn't have a clue. In the first place it had to be decided what was to go in to the parliamentary bill; most importantly, I hadn't a clue but one thing I was absolutely certain - what Denis espoused would work, was utter rubbish - he claimed to be a gardener and reporters and camera men came round to take shots of his garden - they were not gardeners either but one or two pretty flowers served to make a story - they kept away from some rampant boundary growth that never came into the category of nuisance. I was not free of further advice and for years it was -
"Make all hedges six feet six". Mostly it was aggressive put; then proposer became desperate that I had not the intelligence to see what they thought was the fairest law; they could not conceive they the civil servant lawyers and planners would take seconds to pronounce would never get on to the statute book.
Denis had never approached law making from this fundamental basis but he enjoyed being a Lord - it was only necessary to take a seat on the red benches to claim the allowance for that day and that wasn't a great deal of money. The perks were the heavily subsidised gourmet's meals with flunkies and first class travel from home. There is no party division - everybody loves everybody else and you wine and dine together. Denis kept me in touch of his chats with government ministers; they had all read and followed my case and appearances in the media and without exception applauded the Stanton v Jones judgement - even if one or two were land owners. Of course it would be far better if the Tory government would introduce the bill and the best way forward was the formal letter to the appropriate minister, who knew all about it over lunch from his fellow peer. It took time and the minister was tutored by his officials and the official government reply put in writing for public consumption. Of course the next stage was the parliamentary Q and A - then it became political. But he was stark and staring edict "it was impossible to frame legislation to deal with nuisance hedges - the matter must be dealt with by the courts".
Denis and his buddies talked about something else at lunch.
As far as I was concerned I was dealing with the matter through the courts - the Tory government was in dire trouble - up to its neck in mire and sleaze and just about to stagger into its desperate last year of office. A political campaign was necessary and to think of pushing the issue into prominence is the party political maelstrom was laughable - in any case it was cross party. I had a fervent Tory party activist in Sutton Coldfield who loved her MP Norman Fowler who had pledged her his support when Health Minister nine years ago; he had even put out tentative feelers for appropriate government action on nuisance hedges - this was at a time when Stanton was building his notorious scaffold spy tower, only now brought into public prominence.

So I sent Paul Terry Stanton an account of our second conversation or more accurately his second whingeing and, again finished with the request for mutual agreement on cutting the hedge to twelve feet, at the end of February: after a day or two, I gave him another ring. He was highly personal and at his sneering nastiest, talked about his perception of our private domestic circumstances; tyrannical husband, other women etc; mutilator of trees despite Maureen's urgent pleas for restraint. Then Ian got his blast - this was an old one - threatening and terrifying his mother's grandchildren - I did point out they were eighteen upwards ours were seven when he was up on his tower but that was a long time ago. Then it was Martin our policeman son, he had left home in protest at what I had done to his father's trees. I pointed out that he was the only one who wanted the trees cut right down at the very beginning years and years ago; I was the soft one in the family and always wanted a reasonable twelve feet would he agree to that now?
I wrote to the Bournville Village Trust asking them to mediate between us, sit at a table and face the Stanton family. I sent a copy to Paul Terry with the record of our last conversation. I had used up six sides of A4 reporting my conversations and would be able to say that they recorded four hours of conversation - this would be presented to the Recorder that I had done my best to obtain agreement. I have written many times before the Trust would speak with anyone and write unlimited letters but would not embark on any action likely to open a legal can of worms. BVT was delighted to mediate; the stuff which George Cadbury would have approved. Of course many years ago I had tried to get them to persuade the Stantons. They called upon a trained, skilled mediator who composed a letter to both of us. We would be in different rooms; the negotiator would go to each party in turn and all conversation would be in absolute confidence. I rang Stanton to get confirmation of my last notes and to state that I had only one aim 'to secure agreement about the reduction in height to twelve feet on 1st April'. I was amazed, 'gob-smacked' as they say, to be told that he was prepared to break the deadlock; he was euphoric, stating he was going to surprise everyone; he was not as rigid as people might think. I had posed my dismay at the effect our dispute had on both extended families and thought he was responding at last: but as our meeting with a third party had been arranged and it seemed a good time to end the conversation.
I awaited mediation day conscious that I might have to make a fundamental decision or be the one holding up agreement. I was led to an empty room and under the strict rules of a prompt start was told and was disappointed that only Paul Terry turned up. However, I stated my sole aim and awaited, very bored, looking out of the window, wondering how two free rooms were available in a very busy building; and it was very quiet on this day. Eventually the middle man arrived sadly but unsurprisingly without bringing the agreement I had asked for; however he asked for my patience because there was a chance of progress. I sniffed game playing and wanted eye-ball to eye-ball contact and asked if he would conduct the proceedings with us in the same room because this distance work was like having translations - very time consuming. He agreed with me, went away and again left me in total boredom; he eventually returned with the procedural matter agreed and led me through a corridor to a room with a table at which sat Paul Terry; he had an open A4 ledger with coloured page markers and a substantial pile of papers. He greeted me with his cynical sneer that put me at ease. I have never seen a Stanton smile but if he had done so then he would have shaken me. He immediately took charge of proceedings ignorantly discourteous to our host - his highly indexed ledger was his confidence tool. He elaborated at length that any maintenance works would not in anyway be an admission of ownership and the trees would remain in Stanton territory and ownership- well I knew all about the legals and judgements better than anyone else but just answered,
"OK by me". He then went on and on with futile points, grasping the indexing tabs, peeling the pages and writing notes referring to papers in the file; after every ritual I answered in the same way. Then I interposed, looking at our mediator,
"There is a point I would like to confirm with Mr Stanton"
"Certainly, Mr Jones".
"The first time I cut the beech part of the hedge, you father said the pieces belonged to him and he wanted them back - I carefully pushed them over on to his side - later on he had obviously changed his mind because they were thrown back over and I had to take them to the tip. There will be a lot of debris this time and I wonder what you have in mind for their disposal?
I have written about his transparent, white pallor before but a distinct change was noted as an electric element switched on transforms from dullness to red heat - this happened from his chin upwards, reaching through the roots of his hair. He would have looked healthily well except for the horrible distortion of his features. Now what followed must have been picked up and copied from Chief Inspector Drefus when confronted by Clueso in the 'Pink Panther' for I have watched the repeats with fascination - there is a sharp in-take of breath followed by a winney of absolute disbelief sublimated by a mad giggle and then by a shrill roar of rage and indignation,
"That is my father's property I will take you to court for theft - his voice cracked as the top of the note was reached- then he relapsed into a mad giggle - I want those branches to make a smoky fire to make you choke and suffer for days". I was eager to follow the sequence - cutting; debris; disposal and offered,
"The contractors have a shredding machine - the material can be returned to the hedge to make a mulch - this is environmentally sound and you will not distress the residents particularly the old with respiratory problems; it is not necessary to answer now, however I am leaving at twelve o'clock - it is now five to and I am asking you for the last time - will you agree to the trees being cut to twelve feet"?
One can only guess the thoughts of our mediator; George Cadbury, the founder was smiling from above; this was what the Quaker Trustees were waiting for - rule by the spirit - it really worked.
We both said,
"Yes?" as an interrogatory.
The big finger was on the twelve and as I stood, exhaled with relief and said,
"Thank goodness for that, thank you, thank you so much", then turning towards the mediator, and thank you for all you have done". Then making three paces towards the door was suddenly halted by -
"If you will pay all your court costs". I turned, faced him and called out -
"You are an absolute and complete asshole".