Whenever one turns a corner in England, it looks different from how one expected, and that’s how it is with the old district around Shepherd’s Market, just behind Piccadilly. One can best recognize that it belongs there by the fact that it doesn’t fit in at all. And there is an already half-demolished house, with something black on top of it, like a roof tarpaulin. The whole thing makes a sad impression, and there are curtains behind some of the windows, so it is occupied. Still occupied downstairs and already demolished upstairs? What is that all about? It’s about a stubborn-headed man.
In this house lives a Colonel who has always lived here, and one day they said to him, „Colonel, you have to move out now, the house has been sold, and is going to be demolished.” But the Colonel took his tenancy agreement out of the drawer and said, “Here!” (and I’m sure that he made that hand movement which people make when they have something in black and white. They stretch out their hand as though it were the paper…) „Here!“ he said, „This is my tenancy agreement, and I have a right to live here!” „Well, yes,“ they said, in English, of course. „That is all well and good, but look here, we want to demolish the house, we have worked it all out so carefully, now don’t be difficult… What do you want with the old house?“ „I want to carry on living in it,” said the Colonel. They offered him compensation. He stayed put. Then they gave him a right good talking to. He stayed put. And then they started to demolish the house.
They only demolished the parts which he didn’t occupy, the roof and the left-hand half of the house, with an empty apartment, but they could not touch his apartment, so the house now looks like an old unwanted ruin, in the middle of London. But he stuck to his guns, and still lives there, and now we’ll see.
Now he sees. The most unfortunate thing about it is that they can’t demolish his cellar, because the apartment would then hang in thin air , and even if it did, he still wouldn’t move out. England expects that every man do his duty. Well, he’s doing it, and won’t move out. And this is an absolutely true story. Nobody could make up stories as good as those which actually happen in this country.
And now I know why so many English castles are haunted: the old owners don’t want to leave, not their apartments, not the halls, they just stay. A hardy folk. Tough as roast beef. But at this point your reporter must cover his head, because otherwise he’ll start talking about English cooking, and that is the only good tale in England which doesn’t deserve telling.
The Colonol’s not bothered. And if I pass by here again in five hundred years, the Colonel will surely still be sitting there on his backside and on his tenancy agreement, which probably runs for ninety-nine years and then another ninety-nine, eating roast beef and still living in the little black house on Shepherd Market.