On becoming Victor Meldrew

At the weekend some friends kindly invited me to join their team in the pub quiz at the Plough, our favourite among the excellent pubs in the village. One of the questions was 'which situation comedy drew the largest audience of 2000 when its final episode was shown?' Friends was considered - but surely 2000 was too long ago. Cheers too - but that finished well before. I muttered something about 'couldn't it be a British sitcom?' but this was generally ignored. It turned out to be One Foot in the Grave.

For those not familiar with the show, it featured Victor Meldrew, an everyman character for whom everything goes wrong, and the whole world is constantly presenting reasons to be a grumpy old man and moan.

All of this is just introduction to why I believe I took a step into Victor Meldrew country yesterday.

The field in question (neither house shown is ours).

Alongside our garden is a large field, which for many years has been a hay meadow. Lots of local people walk their dogs around it (you can see the tracks made by their walks in the picture above); the children played in it when they were little. Most recently we sledged down it. I was coming home around the field when I noticed something odd. There was a signpost in front of our neighbour's entrance into the field. But you couldn't read the sign. It was right up against the gate, facing the gate. 'Strange,' I thought. Until I got to our own entrance. There was a sign there too.

It turned out to be from a firm of solicitors, informing us that the field was to be used soon for livestock, and we had to stop using our entrance. This was sad - but not the end of the world. It is, after all, not a public field. However, what kicked the Victor Meldrew gene into action was the phrasing of part of the notice. It informed me that fencing would be erected shortly 'across the entrance you have made onto the land.'

This might seem totally innocuous. But that entrance was already there (and already old) when we moved into this house nearly 13 years ago. I did not make the entrance, and for some reason, the solicitor's snotty wording really got up my nose. Victor would probably have phoned to complain, but I thought solicitors would prefer something in writing, so I dashed off a fax, telling them off for their presumption. I haven't heard back yet. I don't know if I will.

On reflection, I'm glad I was restrained enough not to accuse them of libel - after all, they are solicitors. I don't know if it is libel to accuse someone of something they didn't do on a public notice. But I am glad I indulged that Meldrew moment. It might not have achieved anything, but it felt good.


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