23 years of hell!

I couldn't even pee in peace...

Published by: Jean Jollands
Published on: 1 November 2012

Sitting on the loo, my mind drifted a million miles away. But just as I reached for some toilet paper, a cascade of water came flying through the bathroom window, soaking me from head to toe!
‘Flaming heck!' I spluttered. I scampered to the window
just in time to spot a hosepipe being whipped away.
‘Should've guessed...'I muttered. My neighbour Gordon Clarke's kids were behind this, the little beggars.
‘They're at it again!' I snapped to my dad Graham, a few days later. ‘I can't even pee in peace! With bare floorboards and electrical cables, they could have started a fire.'
‘I'm sorry, love,' he sighed. But this wasn't his fault. Nope, we were just unfortunate enough to live next door to the worst nightmare neighbours you could imagine. I'd lived with Dad in our terraced house in Black Dog Walk, Crawley, for eight years. He'd moved there four years before that, when he and Mum split up. Clarke and his brood then moved next door and had terrorised the street ever since.
We'd tried to ignore them, but just a few months after my loo soaking, I was watching TV one evening when I heard a commotion outside.
Peering through the curtain, I saw a few of Clarke's five kids goading one of our other neighbours Barbara, 77.
‘Silly cow!' one of the lads screamed at her. Furious, I marched outside. ‘Why don't you leave her alone?' I fumed.
With that, he simply bent over, dropped his pants and pulled his bum cheeks apart at me!
Well, at least I get to talk to the intelligent end! I thought.
But life on Black Dog Walk was no laughing matter. That night, despite the summer heat, I shut all the bedroom windows to stop the stench of dog poo wafting over from Clarke's garden. He had up to 12 dogs at a time there.
Laying there fuming, I thought back to the time Clarke had featured in a TV documentary called Neighbours From Hell.
He'd boasted that he loved making all our lives a misery!
His wife Jay had even bragged about the time they painted the front of their house a shocking pink. Oh, and the time they got themselves a goat... Shuddering now, I remembered the morning I woke up and spotted the goat in their back yard. Clarke smirked gleefully when he saw my horror.
‘Fanny, Fanny,' he called out to the goat. ‘Want something else to munch on?'
‘He's only called that goat Fanny to embarrass us!' I raged to Dad.
Having said that, I was grateful they hadn't carried out their threat to buy some cockerels. It was bad enough having a Fanny to deal with, without a cock too! They'd have to do a lot more than that to rile us.
As the years passed, there was no let up. Dad came back one evening, his face ashen. ‘You're not going to believe this,' he spluttered, slumping down on the sofa. ‘Clarke found out that one of the neighbours has a terminal brain tumour and started singing Another One Bites The Dust!'
‘He's heartless,' I winced. Soon, just leaving the house to go to work or tend the garden was like a military manoeuvre to avoid bumping into him.
‘Coast clear?' I said to Dad one morning as I peered around the curtain to check for signs
of the enemy. ‘Check,' Dad nodded. That was my cue. Looking nervously around me, I scuttled out the back to the garden. Too late. ‘When are you going to tidy up that garden of yours? It's a tip!' Clarke sneered over the gate.
‘It's overgrown because every time we go out there, your lot hurl abuse at us!'I hissed back. A nervous wreck, unable to sleep, I avoided inviting my mates round. Who could blame me? I'd never forgotten the time my brother Paul had brought his then-girlfriend Jill round.
‘I wouldn't go in there, love!' Clarke had sneered as she walked up our path. ‘The old man's in there giving his daughter one!'
Numerous calls to the police and environmental health didn't stop Clarke's vile behaviour. There were countless court cases and constant filling in of forms only to end up with an ASBO against Clarke that didn't work. In those next 10 years, he was jailed for harassment, then for breaking a restraining order and breaching an ASBO - but nothing worked.
The kids chucked water bombs at residents and Clarke called neighbours paedophiles if they merely glanced at a child. He even shot an air rifle at a journalist. ‘There's just no escaping him,' I sighed to my neighbour Sheila, outside her house. Just then, Clarke appeared and started taking pictures of us!
Who did he think he was,the ruddy paparazzi? I thought.
Me and my neighbours were so wary of being snapped by him, we started phoning each other up rather than risk talking in the street.
A year after Clarke was given his last restraining order, I gave up work due to depression.
But it all came to a head one afternoon in August 2010. I was reading a book in my bedroom when a waft of smoke drifted through my bedroom window.
It was so thick and choking, my throat gagged.‘It's not bonfire night!'
I muttered, furious. I looked out to see Clarke building a huge bonfire and feeding the flames with plastic sheeting!
‘It's... it's like he's trying to smoke us out!' Dad coughed, as we ran round closing windows.
That fire raged for seven hours and there was another one the next day. The smoke was so acrid, it even clung to the curtains, duvet, everything. ‘It's like there's a veil of smoke across the whole street,' one of my neighbours croaked. The next day, I heard Clarke bragging to one of his kids in the garden: ‘We're going to build an even bigger fire!'
‘Please do something,' I begged the police, sending them pictures I'd snapped of the raging bonfire.
It took two long years but, in August this year, Gordon Clarke, 52, finally appeared at Horsham Magistrates Court, charged with harassing me, Dad and our neighbour John Ferraira.
I asked for a screen to be put up when I gave my evidence because I didn't want to see his smirking face. ‘There was a blanket of smoke going across people's gardens,' I told the jury. Clarke denied burning any plastic but he was found guilty. Yet, he was only handed a one-year community order, 150 hours community service, and had to pay £300 in court costs. I've endured 23 hellish years of it,
but I don't want to move out and leave Dad, 76, all alone.
We can't sell the house because by law, we have to declare the truth about next door's shenanigans. Love thy
neighbour? No chance!
Lara Sanger, 35, Crawley, West Sussex