There I was having lunch in Queen’s Park enjoying an asian noodle salad with prawns purchased from Sainsburys, and blissfully minding my own business.
I chose to eat this aforementioned meal perched on a low front wall in front of a block of apartments called ‘St James Residence’. The fact that it was a ‘Residence’ should’ve have given me some warning. But no.
As I munched away happily I thought to myself, isn’t it great you can just sit where you want in London, no one really cares. Just then out of the corner of my eye I saw a middle aged english man appear and go off down the walkway behind me. I felt a slight frisson in the air.
Black clouds gathered overhead and soon it began to rain. I gathered up my belongings and stood under a tree in one of the residence’s carparks. From behind the tree the man appeared.
“This is private property” he intimated sternly, with a face like thunder. For a second I just stared at him not knowing how to react. I was literally one step from the public footpath. “I’ll only be here for a minute”, I said. He seemed to shake with some kind of anger, the source of which was only known to him. “This is private property!” he cried. His intolerant red face started to twist in consternation.
Lord! I never knew that standing under a tree could cause someone such distress, he was acting like I was vandalising his house. Huffily I gathered my belongings again and stood under a tree further off. I gathered this was not private property as he watched me for a minute and then shuffled off, collecting a stray plastic bag as went.
My inner devil was tempted to deposit the remains of my Sainsburys plastic lunch container in the ‘private’ hedge but I decided it would be stooping to his level.
I just imagined what it would be like to live in the residence with him as a neighbour, and decided the relief I felt of never having to was more than enough emotional compensation. At least I know now without a doubt in which country the concept of ‘Private Property’ originated.