Harold Higgins found it rather inconvenient
to watch television in the potting shed at the end of his garden.
He thought this to be outweighed, however, by the saving from not
buying a TV licence.
It had long been taken for granted that all
land in England was owned by someone, be it an individual or an
organisation or the Crown. The linking of the computer systems at
the Land Registry to those of the Ordnance Survey had, however,
ended that assumption. The inaccuracy of maps on which land
ownership had been defined since the Norman Conquest meant that
some areas were not owned by anyone.
At first, the government assumed these
could simply be taken by the Crown, but it soon become apparent
that this would be, technically, an invasion, and NATO would have
been obliged to defend what became known as Territories.
They therefore remained outside the jurisdiction of Great Britain.
The loan of GPS equipment had allowed Harold to identify a spot
in his potting shed, about a metre square, which fell into this
category and was just large enough to accommodate his television,
video player, his collection of hardcore pornography and a couple
of marijuana plants.
Many Territories that lay on open ground
had been fenced and were now guarded by the army. More
problematic were those inside existing structures. The frozen
food isle at a supermarket in Watford was a case in point. It had
been very bad for custom to have non-stop 24 hour raves taking
place between the fish and poultry sections, and some innocent
customers had been injured as a result of a gangland shoot-out
adjacent to the desserts.
Many spouses also became uneasy about
visiting a furniture warehouse in Crewe. Admittedly the Territory
in the divan section was only two meters square, but it had been
large enough for Mrs Brown to shoot her husband and for Mrs
Robertson to do likewise in a separate incident almost as soon as
the first body had been removed.
All the Territories posed a serious threat
to law and order but none more so than Essex. It became apparent
that in the past thousand years of British history, no one had
ever taken Essex seriously and consequently the entire county was
a Territory. The discovery of gold at Chipping Ongar had vastly
compounded the problem as prospectors arrived from all over the
UK to stake their claims. New dirt roadways were formed by the
relentless passage of horses and wagons and hastily built wooden
frontier towns sprang up.
Dead Mans Gultch, near Chelmsford,
became notorious for drinking, prostitution and general
lawlessness. Black and Sons, Funeral Directors since 1885, gained
much new business as itinerant gunfighters came and went. Piano
players simply stopped applying for the job in the saloon.
Generally the view of the population has
been positive. Apart for the problems in Essex, wherever that is,
law-free locations in homes have increased property prices as
private stills and abattoirs abound. Im amazed how well
opium poppies grow in pots...