Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Greetings from Lower Blogworthy

Greetings from the little village of Lower Blogworthy. It's a pretty little place; a small, narrow street with picture perfect thatched cottages on either side, their gardens filled with fragrant flowers. At one end of the street stands the Dun Cow Inn - it's an old traditional English pub selling proper beer; none of your nasty fizzy stuff. The landlord's name is George, a good solid English name. He is a ruddy-faced host, resplendent in waistcoat and side whiskers, and probably wouldn't look out of place in a Dickens book. The pub's furniture is a bit of a mish-mash, with odd chairs and tables picked up from here and there over the years, but these, the roaring log fire and the chatter of a few old locals playing dominoes or crib just add to the atmosphere. To be able to approach the bar and ask George for 'the usual' indicates your acceptance into village life.

Just across the way from the pub is the village store, run by old Mrs. Morris. Dear old Marjorie Morris, the village's oldest inhabitant, has been doling out papers, sweets, foodstuffs and all manner of good advice to Blogworthians for what seems like forever. She knows everyone and everyone knows her. This is the true centre of the village; people stop for a chinwag, for a moan about something or other, and generally make time to set the world to rights. Everyone has great respect for Marjorie; so much so that they wouldn't dream of addressing her by her first name. It would be like addressing the Queen as Lizzie Windsor. And even the cheekiest village kid wouldn't think of stealing so much as a boiled sweet from the shop; it would be like stealing from your granny.

At the other end of the street, up a well-worn track, stands the old village church of Saint Something-or-Other; I forget quite who. They say some parts of it are eleventh and twelfth century, and certainly it's been fortunate enough to escape the 'improvements' to some of the other nearby parish churches during Victorian times. Golden moss grows on its ancient tiled roof, pigeons coo from the belfry and, in the churchyard, generations of Lower Blogworthy's folk lie at rest, their labours (some easy, some grindingly hard) at an end. The vicar (who seems almost as ancient as the fabric of his building) preaches to an ever-dwindling congregation. But the little old ladies who make up the bulk of the congregation are for ever busying themselves with one project or another, be it jam or wine making for the village fete, fetching bits of shopping for the infirm, and generally looking out for each other. You wouldn't be in the least bit surprised to find Miss Marple's bike propped up outside around the time for evensong

Just across a babbling brook stands the village of Upper Blogworthy. Now, this little village used to be as tight-knit a community as its Lower twin. Regrettably things have changed over the last few years. The old Manor House (home to generation of squires) is now an expensive holistic healing centre, with Jags and Porsche Cayennes on the gravel drive, its stables turned over to office space. Many of the pretty little cottages are now second homes for city dwellers in IT or some such, shut up and empty for weeks on end. They bought into the country expecting the kind of lifestyle they'd read about in the Guardian (endless dinner parties, Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall selling venison pasties at the nearby farmers' market, an endless supply of reliable cleaning ladies at a ridiculously low wage), but actually ended up isolated, and complaining about the noise of chickens from the nearby farm and the pealing of church bells on a Sunday. And the village shop is up for sale. The population is now so small that the shopkeeper can no longer sell enough to keep the business going.

So, what am I wittering on about? Do Upper and Lower Blogworthy exist? Of course not, but they do bear a startling resemblance to what's happening in the English countryside. There are still many hundreds of picture-perfect villages, complete with shops, pubs and thriving community halls, but sadly there are an equal number where the pubs and shops have closed for ever and the population has dwindled in the face of second home purchase. Of course, you can't always blame the incomers - for every weekender in a cottage there's a local who sold it to them in the first place. But aside from all that, I have a request to make of you: get out into the English countryside. It has its own special beauty at this time of year, especially as the Christmas lights are fished out of their boxes and hung up, and George the landlord stokes up the fire at the Dun Cow. Have a pint of best in the snug. Enquire after old Mrs. Morris' health as she weighs up your quarter of sweets. And pop into St. Someone-or-Other to admire the brasses and the medieval stained glass. It's got to be done. And a message to those of my blogging chums who are far away - I hope that, whether you are in Canada, Australia, the US or anywhere else, my pen picture of Lower Blogworthy makes you feel just that little bit closer to home.


Comedy Goddess said...

I feel so soothed by your charming description, perhaps untrue in some ways, but to some of us here in the States, England is still the home of our hearts.

Just between you and me, I was afraid that Sarah Palin would say Glad to meet ya Liz, if that introduction should ever come to pass. Egads.

And yes, I have risen above the left behind karma. Tomorrow is our Thanksgiving and all past wrong doings are forgiven. I am well and happy.

chris hale said...

Comedy Goddess - I may not be the first to do so, but nonetheless may I wish you and your family a happy and peaceful Thanksgiving. And thank you for your kind words regarding Lower Blogworthy.

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

Thank you for the wonderfully reminiscent look into Lower Blogworthy, I lived in Porth Llanblog for a few years and I remember it fondly. It was the real deal, but the fix of the city called me back to London.

I've now accepted that it's the bright lights for me, with country visits enough to scratch the itch.

chris hale said...

Bright lights, Rob? What, with these low energy bulbs the Government insist on us all using? I can just about see to count my loose change!