Friday, 8 February 2013

Rural Village life


I have mentioned before that I live in a beautiful little village just 30 miles outside London. It's so picturesque that people come from miles around to admire the scenery, picnic, enjoy a pub lunch or use it as a base to walk up into Ashridge Forest.
Toms Hill - geograph.org.uk - 339714
Toms Hill  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I'm lucky that I live in the least picturesque bit of the village so people don't stand in my front garden and take photographs. Or stand and loudly discuss my garden, paint choices or brickwork. There's really not much to admire about a 1950s council house.

I have a friend who lived in a beautiful Tudor cottage right in the middle of the village, overlooking the duckpond and stocks. I envied her beautiful home until one morning when we go together in her kitchen with our newborn babies. She made tea, I started to breastfeed. And then we heard voices, firstly admiring comments about my friends leaded windows. Then the voices got louder. And before we knew it we realised that two elderly ladies and a gent had walked into her garden and now had their noses pressed against the kitchen window! My friend and I waved and smiled at them but even this, and the sight of my leaking breasts didn't seem to deter them. My friend moved somewhere less public!

The great thing about my village is that it has quite a few places or organisations where you can make friends. It means you end up after quite a short time here generally getting to know lots of people. I have friends from pre-school, friends from church, friends from film club, school and from the many one-off social  and fundraising events which happen here.

The not so great thing about living here is it's such a close knit community that everyone knows everything about everybody.

DH's family has been here since the 15th century. His brother and sister live in the same road as us. We are related to lots of families living around us. I always joke I could not have an affair because the whole street would know and report back!

Sometimes it feels like you are living in a huge game of Chinese whispers. Playgrounds are brutal places at the best of times and in a small village the phrase "be there, or be talked about" has never been so true.

But on the whole this is an amazing place to live and I have met some amazing people. One of my neighbours is an eccentric academic with a wild and beautiful taste in home decor and a penchant for OTT movie star glamour which she carries off very well.

Another villager owns a variety of world war 2 army vehicles which he takes to historical vehicle rallies- and is married to a lovely German lady who takes his hobby in good spirits.

We have lots of hunters because of our proximity to the forest. I found this a bit disturbing when I first moved here from the huge conurbation that is the West Midlands. Talk of guns in the pub would not be good in Dudley as it would normally go hand in hand with plans for an armed siege or a robbery!

I remember the first year after I moved here, 21 years ago, parking my car in the garage we rented from the council, in a long row of other garages just up the road from my house. The garage door next to mine was open and as I closed my door I glanced in and was shocked to realise as I peered through the rapidly darkening gloom of evening that the walls of the garage were lined with varying sizes of dead wildlife hanging on hooks!

Nowadays I would think, "Ooh yum, venison" but fresh from the city I was just concerned I might run into the armed psycho who like to stalk Bambi. I hurried home to tell DH who quite rightly just laughed at me.

I have hear our street referred to as Sesame Street because of all the odd people that live in it  (including me?) and actually coming from an area where I only knew our immediate neighbours, I love it.

I know that when my children are walking up to the shop that at almost every step there will be people who know them, ready to ring me or go out from their homes and help if there is a problem. 
When my DH travelled away with his hot air ballooning work I never worried too much as if I had a problem I knew someone would be there to help. You can always borrow a cup of sugar. My neighbour cleared a wasp nest for me, another rescued me and my car when our paid-for automobile rescue service wouldn't.

When my DH was in hospital after his heart attack I realised I had run out of heating oil. In tears I rang a neighbour asking to borrow a portable heater as we had no income and no means to buy heating oil while DH was ill. I came home hours later from visiting DH in the John Radcliffe to find neighbours had sorted and paid for an oil delivery, cleaned and serviced the boiler and there was a ready to reheat home cooked meal waiting for me.

And that's why despite the gossip, the fact there's not a chip shop for miles and that we have no pavements so walking to school can be a bit hair-raising,  I would be very reluctant to move from my ugly overcrowded home in Sesame Street.







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