Tenants under siege


July 23,
2010

One of the perks of working on Tyntesfield Estate was the cottage that
originally came with the job. In the days of Lord Wraxall, living on the estate
was a joy and a privilege When the National Trust took over all, that
changed.

 

To begin with, it seemed there was a slow and methodical cleansing of the
properties. Tenants were lied to, basic repairs never got done, rents would rise
steeply and more and more restrictions put up on them. Slowly but surly they all
left. This included a sitting tenant that had retired after working on the
estate and a family that had generations living there before them.

 

But this is my story and this is what happened to me as a tenant, while
working for the Trust.

 

Initially, we had the planned visits by a Trust specialist to look around my
cottage to record what was what. This included bat surveys, building surveys
etc… As long as I was given notice I didn’t mind, but after a while, impromptu
visitors turned up which the Trust had neglected to inform me about. Waking up
to find a stranger looking at me through my windows didn’t suit me, so I
insisted I was told when to expect visitors. This was only common courtesy after
all.

 

As time went on, more and more visitors would take to wandering around my
garden. They would be surveying this and that without telling me. Eventually, I
got to the point where I demanded written notification of visits.

 

Your attitude will make it very difficult I was told. Bugger my attitude, no
notice, no visitors. Way past common courtesy, I wanted some notification as was
my tenant’s rights.

 

Did this make a blind bit of difference? No. Time after time, even on my days
off, we would have a knock at the door asking to check for this and that. Don’t
worry your office knows, said one chap, well I didn’t so bugger off. Attitude
was on the rise again I fear.

 

We put up with the little inconveniences, such as coming home in the dark to
find someone had glossed the front door, left no signs and I had removed the run
marks with a sleeve.

 

After living for years in a house with rising damp and leaking roof the Trust
brought in the professionals.

 

To say there was a lack of health and safety with some professionals was an
understatement. I sent a picture to the National Trust health and safety officer
showing a lad stood on my chimney, without scaffolding, wrestling a long flue
liner into the flue and asked her if she could better that for an idiot? She
couldn’t (could you Gail?)

 

By now my work place was becoming more and more challenging. Workshops
falling down, having to put up with idiots, it started to take its toll on my
health.

 

One day I came home to find another contractor walking around my garden.
Enough was enough. I complained to the Trust surveyor that instructed him to
invite himself in.

 

The reply I received was it may be an inconvenience but these things happen.
My reply was – as I have small children living with me. I need to know who is
who and when they will be coming. I can’t have random strangers walking in an
out of my garden when it suited them, looking in through my windows, leaving
gates open allowing fast toddlers to get out and run into the path of the never
ending stream of cars coming in and out of the car park. I’m sure there are many
parents out there whose lives and children’s lives have been affected by random
strangers coming in and out of their houses and hotel rooms who would agree this
was a potential safety issue.
From that point on it got worse. I came home
one lunch break to find a surprise scaffold had been put up with a platform at
first floor window height. The window that had been left open that morning which
would have required a cherry picking burglar to access now was an open
invitation to anyone at all, even with arthritic joints and a hip replacement.
Very previously the Trust had brought in contractors to make the ground floor
windows secure with extra locks, so to find a ready made access for burglars was
a joke. Once again I complained and received another donkey serenade.

 

The work on the roof started and we ducked and dived going in and out of the
house as lumps of mortar and tile came crashing down. So to get away from the
mayhem I took a day’s holiday and took off to the beach with my very small
grandchildren.

 

On returning in the evening carrying the tired children to the house, I came
upon a scaffold right across the only entrance to the house. The contractors had
completely blocked the only door way. Having made sure all my windows were
securely shut on the top floor I couldn’t even break into my own home.

 

The time was 1800hrs and the light was fading fast as I phoned the property
manager.
To say I was a little livid was an understatement. I demanded she
get the monkeys that put it up to come back and remove it.

 

Property manager: It’s too late they would have finished work.
Me: How the
hell am I supposed to get in my house?
Property manager: Don’t shout at me, I
will call the surveyor (Who lived 50 miles away!)

 

After a long time she phoned back and said she had left a message for him.
So, after reminding her that the surveyor always switches his phone off, what is
her next course of action?

 

Property manager: I can’t see what else I can do you will have to wait till
the morning,
Me: So you expect me to stand here all night with two babies
while you do nothing but go home?

 

It was at this point my attitude was questioned again. My reply to this, well
I can’t really write what I said, but it was to do with casting aspersions on
sex and ancestors.

 

After managing to acquire a scaffold spanner, some moving of tubing and two
screaming thirsty babies, we got in.

 

The following day the roofers retuned and I was ready to greet them. Don’t
look at us they said. Continuing they told me – we were held up and went home
before the scaffolders came and that’s where I’m going again because the
scaffold should have been around the other side of the house. We can’t do any
work until they move it around the other side of the building where it should
have been put.

 

Life living at Tyntesfield got worse. Tenants with large dogs moved into a
house on the estate. The first encounter I had with these dogs was when they
took to snarling and barking at the visitors at the reception. I informed the
property manager who said Oh dear, dogs are you sure, Yes said I, a big nasty
one from Home Farm.

 

The dog soon took to coming into my garden and waiting for me in the dark.
Time after time I was startled by a huge rabid Cujo barking at me. This went on
and on and on. My complaints to the manager was answered with – I have sent them
a letter, but they don’t seem to take any notice. My voice was raised, not for
the first time with – are you or are you not the property manager? Yes? Then
bloody act like one and sort this problem out. The return braying of, attitude,
aggressive, etc etc etc droned on and on like a bad Eurovision song entry from
Eastern Europe, even as I slammed the door behind me.

 

The problem of impromptu visitors by day and mad dogs at night never ceased,
so once again to the manager office I went.

 

I complained about two surveyors turning up out of the blue but she was not
really listening with gaze fixed to the computer.

 

Property manager: They attacked you?
Me: No
Property Manager: Were they
barking again?
Me: No they were speaking polish
Property manager: The dogs
talk polish?
Me: No the surveyors do
Property manager: What
surveyors
Me: Your surveyors
Property manager: Our surveyor speaks
Polish?
Me: Yes, especially the ones from Poland

 

Who said the art of conversation was dead.

 

By now I dreaded going home, paranoid that the dog was waiting around every
corner. Just when my guard was finally down and attacked again off to the office
I would go,

 

Has it bitten you yet she would ask. No not yet I would tell her. Then its
doing no real harm, apart from scaring you. It was then I pointed out we have
hundreds of sheep in the field near by ready to give birth. Are they annoying
you as well she asked? No but the dogs might annoy them don’t you think?

 

One night at about 10 pm I used my cottage’s outside toilet and that’s when
the dog struck me and finally pushed me over the top. As it stood there barking
at me and I heard one of my grandchildren wake up crying at the racket, I
grabbed the wood axe and chased it like a mad man with the sounds of a banshee.
For the first time it was the dog that looked terrified as it took flight with
me in hot pursuit swinging the axe for all I was worth. I crashed through the
garden, over the fence, through the woods. It was my turn to be the scary one
now, what would make the situation even more ideal would be for a couple of
surveyors to turn up with or without a group of scaffolders.

 

Fortunately for the dog it got away, but this was the turning point. The next
day I informed the manager if it tried to attack me in my garden again I will
shoot it. Though not serious, totally, I had to make a point. At this she said –
You can’t it’s not your dog. Yes I can said I and I will return its goolies to
the owner through their letter box. I made a mental note to leave other parts on
the manager’s desk. Now those who know me know I am an animal lover and wouldn’t
hurt a fly but between a barking property manager and rabid dog I had finally
lost the plot.

 

The owner’s of the dogs were amazing people. On day one they dismantled the
great crested newt and their habitats in their garden (illegal). To be doubly
sure they were wiped out they strimmed the area flat, even after being told to
keep well away from such a sensitive area.

 

The additional stress of the dogs went on for six more months. Even after
they had gone I would still wake in the night as the distant echo of barking
faded from my nightmares.

 

By now, Tyntesfield had defiantly lost its magic for me.