Arriving at Tapley Manor we crunched up the sweeping driveway and around the back of the stately home. The grand building had white stone pillars, red bricks, dozens of windows, carved stone and ornate black gates. Hector locked up the car in the garage. “To keep it from the bailiffs.” He explained.
We stopped in first at a converted barn that was being prepared for an event, then visited one of the residents, Pooh, who had brightly coloured material hanging everywhere, in the room and on herself.
Hector’s kitchen showed the disarray common of communal living and every wall was covered with photos, posters, newspaper headlines or letters. Most related to Hector and his friends but a third of one long wall was devoted to a beloved dog, Brian the bull terrier. Dinner was steamed greens and duck eggs from the garden, on toast – delicious! Hector is vigorously against supermarkets and the industrialisation of agriculture. He once undertook a campaign against a new Tesco in the area, with a sixteen year old. The two of them ran door to door and delivered flyers to forteen thousand homes and succeeded in fighting it off! Other activities involved lying in the road or hanging a banner and scampering (yes, despite being then in his forties, scampering is the right word) down in time to avoid multiple police cars.
Hector told me of the time he interrupted a speech of Tony Blair at a Labour conference to confront him about the Iraq war.
“I got in with a little help from the angels,” he said, “because the interpol records were in amuddle at the time. Rather than admit there was a problem, they let me in!” He beamed and hit his knee with delight. “You just have to go in with confidence.” And Hector certainly can radiate that, but to sum up his manner more accurately, the word you need is, charming.
“I had help again at the G8 with Gordon Brown. I booked late, claiming to be press and when I arrived they said ‘oh yes we spoke to you on the phone’ and I was the only one they didn’t check the papers of!” Shouting that the G8 were a criminal group interested in exploiting poorer countries he received cheers of support as he was dragged away. “The policeman told me ‘I should arrest you, but I agree with everything you just said’ and he let me go! Quite a number of times I’ve had the support of local police, but when you target a corporation, it’s another game entirely.
“I learned that you can do what you like to governments but when you challenge a corporation you’re really at risk. It’s the corporations that rule the world.”