Sophie-May knocked on the door and took a step back to examine the house that was going to be torn down. A feisty commotion had been audible before knocking and now there was more excitement inside.
The road she stood on was long and half residential, half commercial. The houses were modest terraces and the shops were largely newsagents and takeaways. Controversially, plans to build a new supermarket had been put in motion and several properties would have to be demolished to make way. The shop owners had begrudgingly agreed to take the compensation money and close down on request. There was only one home in the way.
Sophie-May stood on the driveway and fiddled with the zip of her coat. No one came to the door. She started to panic that maybe she had come to the wrong house. She told herself to calm down. They had said it was right in the middle of the street, and there she was. Sophie knocked again. This time a tall, slender man dressed up in his Sunday best opened the door.
“Yes?” he asked, raising one black eyebrow.
“Oh hi, I’m Sophie-May, I’ve come from the universitynewspaper, I think I spoke to your wife…Sorry if she’s not your wife, I shouldn’t just assume… Well I spoke to her on the phone and she said to pop by anytime to talk to you about the supermarket plans? I can always come back another time?” she gushed, bushing. The introduction softened him, the eyebrow went back to its usual position and he smiled.
“Well, you’d better come in then. I’m not sure she’ll be too keen, love; she’s so house proud and she’s only had time to tidy the living room twice today”. He winked and she grinned,starting to relax. As she entered, she noticed picture after picture of smiling children, babies on knees and teenagers in school uniforms holding up certificates. All of them had been taken in that very room.
Stepping in to the living room was like stepping back to the early eighties. The sofas were floral, the walls were salmon pink and Come on Eileen was playing in the background. Sophie-May headed towards an armchair but had to jump out of the way of boy running in circlesscreaming and giggling, being chased by a bigger boy brandishing a plastic light sabre calling out “I’m going to catch you!” along with various other threats. Mrs Thompson was in the living room, ironing. With her tight perm and large glasses, she only added to Sophie-May’s feeling she had gone back thirty years.
“Excuse the little ‘uns. It’s madness in here. There’s an older one somewhere. You might be able to speak with him if you can catch him before his date. I’ve a daughter as well; she’s asleep upstairs, though God only knows how with this racket. I could do with a rest myself but I just can’t at the moment, knowing we could be turfed out of here any minute. What am I supposed to do?I just don’t know. This is our house.” Mrs Thompson dropped onto the sofa, sighing.
After Sophie-May had been with the family for around forty minutes, taking notes and being plied with tea and a variety of biscuits there was a knock at the door.
“That’ll be him from the council”, Mrs Thompson called to her husband from the kitchen. “Bring in those biscuits, would you love? If he thinks he can demolish my house and half a tin of my biscuits, he’s wrong.” Mr Thompson answered the door.
“Right. I didn’t vote for you and I never will. You can show me any planning permission papers you want and I’ll show you my arse. We’re not leaving and you can’t make us”. He made to close the door in the face of the small man with a laminated name badge pinned to his pinstriped blazer.
“I really do need to speak to you, Mr Thompson. I’m here to inform you that the council has received your objection to the planned construction of a supermarket which will compromise your property. Unfortunately, it has been reviewed but has no legal standing. The building work will be going ahead. We have a start date for six months from tomorrow. We will be writing to you with more details but I wanted to come here today to tell you that I’m on your side. I’m only the messenger; please don‘t shoot me!” The attempt at humour was wasted on Mr Thompson, who glared back.
“My side, my eye. Get off my property while it’s still mine.” Mr Thompson closed the door.
After the interview, Sophie-May went back to the university. The idea that affected her the most was that it may have been chaotic but it was their home. She had gone with the idea of perhaps starting a petition against the plans but now it was too late. She would call for a full boycott but knew it wouldn’t do much. The students who read her story would soon forget about it. The house would be torn down, the shop built and the family made homeless and there was nothing she could do. Perhaps reporting wasn’t for her.
Madness - Our House