Village life. Whether you’re a burnt out urban dweller desperate to trade your Jimmy Choos’s for a pair of mud splattered Hunter wellies, or, like me, a born and bred country bumpkin with the badge to prove it, here are some of the realities of the often hilarious, but more frequently, downright ludicrous goings on in a village near you! You’ve seen Hot Fuzz, you’ve seen the Vicar of Dibley but have you got what it takes to navigate the perilous bridle path that is ‘Village Life’?
Now, I’m not going to name my village here for fear of retribution but, I guarantee that being a village resident requires a strong constitution and a stiff upper lip. This is no place to show your sensitive side. Any sign of weakness and you’ll be whipped into shape by Mrs Chumley, the Post Mistress: “we’ll have none of that nonsense here”, is her favourite retort. A stoic resident is a celebrated resident. And don’t even think about scattering the village salt supply on that icy patch that you’ve slipped over on for the 4th time this week. That particular duty belongs to Brian, the only problem is, Brian’s memory isn’t what it used to be. Still, there’s only been one serious accident this year…
Every village has its ancient traditions and mine is no exception. On those long awaited days of celebration, where the gingham table cloths have been freshly laundered, the cupcakes are piled high and the bunting has been hung, I have learnt to expect the unexpected. The ‘well-rehearsed’ may-pole dancing inevitably ends in tears. There’s always one isn’t there? Last year it was little Giles Rowbottom. Starstruck and completely distracted by the presence of his Aunt Alice, was whipped in to a frenzy by the frenetic clapping. He overtook his partner at high speed, and collided head on with Evie Jones. The entire community of village children were left intertwined and sobbing around a Maypole that now possessed an uncanny resemblance to the leaning tower of Pisa.
Another not-so-normal ‘tradition’ that has come about, is the Annual Sponsored Teddy Bear Parachute Marathon. Every year, on a Saturday in June at 10am sharp, the children of the village accompanied by their favourite teddy bear and their eager parents form an orderly queue outside the church. They are greeted at the Church Door by The Reverend Bishop, sporting a manic grin and a bag of hanky parachutes. After ascending the Church tower one by one the precious teddies are flung frantically by the Reverend, destination unknown. What ensues is dependent on the weather conditions but bedlam is usually the order of the day. A mêlée of squealing children chasing after their furry friends, extricating them from tree branches, and scaling the Church wall to access the neighbouring Vicarage garden. Health and Safety never appears to be an issue, despite several trips to A&E and a couple of cold compresses. After a hot cup of tea and a generous application of Savlon, the exhausted, battle scarred children are issued with a gilded certificate to commemorate the heroic actions of their Teddy Bears.
The role of the Church within the village is primarily – the most notable, but would be nothing without the cherished Reverend Bishop. Despite this, he is often responsible for various mishaps and misdemeanors. Only last Tuesday whilst navigating the narrow, sodden pavement with my dog, Hamish Mcduff, I looked up to see the Reverend’s bright red Fiat Punto careering towards me at high speed. The reverend was wearing his usual grin and the grey wispy hair, that normally covered his bald patch, was flowing freely behind him. Seconds later, both the dog and I were soaked to the skin. We’d been ‘drive-by splashed’ by our local vicar, who, oblivious of his latest crime sped off to goodness knows where.
Hamish Mcduff has been responsible for a few village incidents himself. On one occasion, whilst making our daily trek across the village green, he spotted Helmut – the pub cat. That was it. He was gone. After fifteen minutes of frantic searching I was breathless, red faced and having horrific visions of peeling him off the road. At this point, I came across Mrs Hulme in her wheelchair. It became apparent that a military operation was under way. She’d been stationed at her post (the bridge over the brook) by Joan the cat-sitter who had issued instructions to her and numerous others to apprehend a large grey shaggy dog on site. To the huge relief of all involved, he was detained by Audrey Sharp from the wine society who had found him in the supermarket, with a branch attached to his tail, wreaking havoc as every corner he turned he cleared another shelf. He appeared to be looking for me.
This did nothing to help the dog community, who have recently came under fire from ‘The Chalk Lady’. An anonymous villager who has taken to prowling the village by night armed to the teeth with white chalk, which she uses to draw large circles around piles of doggy excrement, in the hope of shaming the owners of these furry offenders. She announced her war on dogdom with a type-written poem which appeared overnight stapled to various trees and lamposts around the village. In it, she attempted to guilt -trip the wrong-doers and their delinquent pooches into utilizing the poo bags that were positioned at key points of the village. What she hadn’t banked on, was the dog walkers response poem, which quite frankly I can’t repeat here.
It’s true, at times, it can all be just a bit overbearing. And I shall happily be the first to acknowledge this. There will be times where you just want to lock yourself away and never face the wrath of the village nutters again. When poor old and feeble Mrs Thompson rapps on your door, demanding that you move your bins instantly or – and I quote, there will be ” A row like dickens”. You smile sweetly, suppressing your rage and enquire about how her hydrangeas are coming along. As tempted as you are in allowing your rage to surface, of course – you can’t, because you’re attending a parish council meeting with her next Tuesday at 11 sharp.
In contrast to this however, is the aforementioned ‘drive by splashing’ that I received at the hands of the reverend bishop quite comparable to the same treatment from a double decker bus in the big city? I thought not. Is battling your way through the selfish crowds on the tube quite the same as that half hour at the end of the day, when the tiny village supermarket reduces the fresh produce to ridiculous prices and you are reduced to elbowing your way through your fellow wax-jacketed, manure scented neighbours, to grab an elusive bargain? It’s true, in the city, you won’t have to lean precariously out of the window to get a phone signal and your trips to the supermarket will undoubtedly be quicker. But do you have a comedy Vicar at your disposal? Would anyone recognize your dog if you were to lose him? And you’re more likely to have someone rap on your door and inform you that there’s a dead body in your wheelie bin, than threaten you with ‘a row like Dickens.’
So, would I trade my, not-so-peaceful, village life for the big city? Miss out on all the chaos and hilarity? The questionable and borderline behaviour of the locals. Would I bollocky.