Next Of Kin

Entry by: Seaside Scribbler

18th September 2015
They are trying to close down our farm. But water is thicker than blood - that's our saying - and they have absolutely no idea what they're taking on. We're an army. An army of Lyanders. And they do not have a clue what they have just unleashed. Come, I'll tell you a story about the little people winning. For once.


I have 73 brothers and sisters. I can almost see your face, wrinkled up, as you read this and do not believe it. Let me explain. I grew up in an orphanage. But don't think of Annie or Oliver Twist, imagine an orphanage on a farm, where every single child is loved, where we all share the same mother.

Her name was Joy. She was a woman of means - we never discovered how she'd made her money. She'd never married nor had lovers, as far as we could tell. She lived in a huge old farmhouse with land all around, high up in the hills behind the town of Huntingbury. It was where she'd been born, and where her mother had been born. It was a twenty minute walk through the woods to the shops, or a five minute drive. Everyone in Huntingbury knew her. She's always looked the same age: around 60, hair a platinum blonde that she'd never dyed, eyes full of kindness but a steely determination. Her second name was Lyander and she'd no idea where it came from. Her own parents had been kind and loving, from what we could tell from the pictures in the hall of the main house and she'd been loved. The whole house seemed to excude love - like a house lit up warm at night when it's cold outside, and you're tramping home looking forward to getting inside - it gave off a glow. The moment you got in the door you could feel it.

Joy Lyander began by fostering children. The very first one she took on was Hilly, a wild and unpredicatable child who'd been mostly neglected as she was growing up. Hilly is now 34, and is my eldest sibling and Joy's right hand woman. Hilly has never left. In fact none of us has ever left. We work the land for food, we're off the grid in terms of electricity (except when the wind doesn't blow), then, reluctantly, Joy flicks the switch to rejoin us to the world of power. Some of us have jobs, others stay at home, looking after each other and making things to sell in our shop. People have called our farm a commune, a hippy camp, a madhouse. Mostly the townsfolk like us though, and we're always welcomed in town.

Things get confusing if there is a prescription on order. We all share the same name; every one of us has changed our name to Lyander at some time in our lives so there are 75 Lyanders around. It was hellishly confusing at school. At one time 35 of us were at the local school. Some had moved up to secondary, some were yet to start.

Fostering turned into adopting and word got around that Joy was a miracle worker. The papers did a story on her, calling her the old woman wh lived in a shoe. They came and took pictures of us all at the farm. The youngest lived in the main house in various bedrooms of various sizes with beds crammed in all over. There were two converted barns and a couple of yurts, tents were used in the summer and Hilly was presently overseeing the build of a new wing to the house. Or, trying to.

This was when the trouble started. Hilly applied for planniong permission and it was refused. When she dug deeper, to find out why, she discovered plans to build a bypass, right through Joy's land. It was a horrendous discovery. Some of us had suffered bad abuse before we found Joy. She was a counsellor and therapist too as well as a mother figure and a great cook, to us, lost and messed up kids. She'd take us on along with our histories of neglect and abuse and horror. And she sorted us out. That was why none of us ever wanted to leave; it was the first place we'd been able to feel at home. The first place we felt safe. The first place, in many cases, where we'd been loved. So when we found out about the road, it felt like the world was ending.


As I said at the beginning though, they have absolutely no idea who they're up against. We begin by taking stock of our land. We find that there are seven endangered species: a type of obscure fungi that only grows in two places in the UK; a kind of moth; a breed of duck that uses the farm as a resting place on its migration; a rare blue orchid and some other flowers. Those alone will save us from the developers, but we need experts and reports and most of all, publicity.

I'm good at drawing so I lead the campiagn to put posters up on our land and around the town, telling everyone what's going on. There's a mixed reaction as I talk to people: most feel the road is a necessary evil and would help the town by taking some of the heavy traffic away, but they agree that the route through our land is not the best. We soon discover though, that it is the cheapest.

As the weeks pass, tension mounts and we see men with surveying equipment standing just outside our boundaries.

Joy, shotgun in hand ('Just for shooting grouse, boys, don't worry') wanders to the boundary fence and asks them if they'd like a coffee. I watch from where I'm hanging decorated sheets along the fence saying, 'Hands off Lyander Land!' They soon scarper off. I hope they don't get what they wanted: proof that this is the only direction the road can take.

Then the crunch comes and we recieve an eviction order.

Joy picks it up off the mat. Some of us are in there having breakfast.

She reads it, then turns to us, frowning. We hardly ever see her frown. 'It says they want us to leave. That the land has been requisitioned by the council. We've got a week. They will pay me above the market rate, they hate to go to this measure but feel we've left them no choice blah blah blah.'

She holds up a hand against the ensuing uproar. 'It can't be legal. I've filed reports about all the endangered species. I've spoken to a lawyer. It cannot be legal. The man who's behind this road, that business moghul turned MP - he's behind it. Thinks it's a vote winner when the next referendum comes. Right. The stakes just got upped.' She looks at me. 'Heather, take the truck and get enough supplies to last a siege. Take a couple of the others and buy as much as can fit in the van. The rest of you, do all the usual jobs. I need to think.'

We clear the kitchen with its extendable table and wash the dishes. Joy retreats to her room, notepad in hand. I get the truck ready.

Later, when I've returned, it's to find Joy with most of my siblings in the ballroom. It's really a barn next to the farmhouse but we've had so many parties in there that the name stuck. She's standing in the middle of the room and my siblings are sitting around in a circle. We're like some mad Brady bunch. I can see skin of every colour, hair of every shade, people fo all ages. Most of us are between 20 and 40 and we've no idea how old Joy is. Today she looks as young as she ever has and her age has always been a secret.

When everyone's arrived, she raises a hand. 'I've got a plan,' she says. 'I spoke to the lawyer again this morning and he confirmed that that idiot MP moghul man whose name I will not utter is actually in the right. The species we discovered can all be moved, and some of them will not be affected.' There's a groan as this news sinks in. 'Don't panic, I said I've a plan. Have we ever given in?' Theres a chorus of 'NO!' and I feel an energy in the room, a picking up of heartrates, a togetherness. It's the feeling I've had in churhces, at concerts and at school assemblies. Never as much as in my own house, though.

Joy laughs. 'Feel that spirit,' she says, like a bohemian preacher. 'That spirit is what's in you. Feel it, around the room.'

I can, and I look around at all my siblings. We join hands and hug each other.

'That's it. That's what I'm talking about. Now, listen carefully to my plan...'


A week later, we are still at the farmhouse. There are newspaper vans and television vans outside. There are councillors and men in diggers, right on the boundary. I stand behind Joy, a wall of siblings. On our faces is the same shared look: stubborness.

Joy strides out. In her hand is a piece of paper.

All eyes - and several mikes - are on her as she speaks. 'Ladies and gentlemen. And politicians,' she says. There's a muffled laugh as she squares her shoulders. She begins with a brief history of her orphanage. Most of us know the story. She describes - but doesn't name - some of the children she saved and their back story. There are several wet eyes in the audience.

'And now,' she says, 'I'm going to tell you why you cannot - and will NOT - make us leave this land. I've done my research here. It says very clearly that if there is an endangered species on this land, it is protected. Now you think,' I see her give a pointed look at the moghul-turned-MP, ' that you have solved this, discovered that of the seven endangered species on here that they are all moveable. Well, there is one you have not looked at. Us Lyanders.' There's a collective gasp from the audeince.

'All of these people here are one special family. There are 75 people with the name Lyander, right here. I was the last person to bear that name. That makes me endangered. So I took myself down to the council offices and I registered myself as an endangered species. Then I added every one of the people you see here behind me. They may not have my genes, but they share my name. Which, by bylaw 654, mens they, too are endangered. You can go and look it up. They ahve all, over the last few decades, become my next of kin. When I die, taking my name with me, I leave everyone here to continue my life for me. Go and check it out. We're endangered. We're building a new community of Lyanders. And there is nothing at all that you can do to make us move.'

So that's what happened. In a nutshell, Joy made herself endangered, made us all her next of kin, and saved the farm. There was indeed, nothing that could be done by Them, those bad guys.

And us? Well, we're carrying on her good name. She's getting older, now. Finally her big life is catching up with her. But Hilly and another 10 of us are expecting babies. We're building, a new house on the land just for now, but several more are planned.

I think the moral of the story is it doesn't matter who you consider your kin to be. You can share blood, or share a name. As long as you stick together, you can do anything.

By Heather Lyander, Sept 2015, Lyander Land.