Norman Small

Norman Small lives in flat seven on the top floor and is constantly aggrieved that his flat faces the wrong way. He spends many hours making plans of how the building should have been constructed and of how the council can fix the problem. The simplest solution is to pick the whole building up and turn it around, but Norman knows this is unlikely to happen while the Greens are sharing leadership of the council with the Liberal Democrats.

Surprisingly, after five days his only encounter with his new neighbours is through the knocks and bumps hammering out of the joining wall. The noisiness of the three new children makes him smile as he imagines how much it must annoy the single mother living down below. He doesn’t her name but imagines everyone in Elton Bank must know her son is called Adam, as it is often the first word he hears shouted in the morning.

Norman knows none of the new family’s names and therefore cannot use them when he shouts from his window.

The family are eating on the grassy bank that rises from the back of Elton Bank to the railway line. The setting sun is low in the sky and smudges their shadows into the bushes and trees that fail to screen Norman’s view of passing trains.

Norman notices the boy climbing back over the fence to rejoin the picnic. Although Norman hasn’t seen the boy’s actions, he knows from personal experience what has happened. Without hesitation he pulls open his window and shouts.

“Oy, you can’t do that here in this country.”

The father of the boy stands squinting up and says something. Norman thinks he hears the word apology but is not certain. He watches as the man walks down to the back door of Elton Bank, which has been propped open with a wheelie bin. Suddenly he realises the man must be coming up to confront him.

Norman runs to his front door and opens it. He hears the repaired lift moving and considers using the stairs to make a quick trip to the shops.

The lift is still in motion when the heavy fire door to the stairwell swings open and reveals the full height of his new neighbour. Norman steps back into his small hallway and is astonished to notice his hand beckoning the man to join him.

“I’ve some ice-pops in the freezer for when my kids visit. Do you think your young ‘uns would like one?”

The man won’t consider the ice-pops until he has most humbly apologised. Norman laughs and says that no harm has been done.

By the time Norman has explained ice-pops and extolled the virtue of urine as a fertiliser, he has also accompanied the man down the stairs and out through the back door.

Norman is the first resident of Elton Bank to learn all five names, and the first to share hospitality on the sunny bank that has irritated him every since he first looked out of his flat window ten years ago.