Friday, July 14, 2006


One of the aspects of life most remarked upon by visitors is the quiet. "It's so quiet," they say. "You can't hear traffic. It's so silent." And they're right and they're wrong. It is so much more quiet than the big city where you develop a threshold of sound, above which the noise volume has to reach before it becomes noticeable. The difference here is that there is no constant hubbub or buzz or hum.

But it's not quiet. There are the furious eruptions of bird chatter. "Who are you accusing of Robin - (Geddit? Sorry) - Come over here and squawk that!"There's occasional but surprisingly little barking. The striking of horse shoe on road. The wind. Cars. People. And - no escape from it - the phone.

Until the other day - when it stopped ringing.

It took a while to notice. It wasn't till I saw the burned out car a few doors down that the story began to emerge. What's that? The charred carcass of a motor vehicle in our pastoral idyll? How can this be?

Well - the important thing about village life is knowing who's who. Or more particularly who's whose cousin. And who's engaged in which trans-generational family feud. I still haven't got my head round this yet. But Family A, has been sorely annoying Family B lately. Hence the nocturnal visit with petrol bomb and destroyed motor.

Strewth. That never happened where we lived in the city. The odd armed robbery at the corner, but no burned out cars. Some house arson, and a few murders. But no cars set on fire nearly outside our door! OK - calm down. And how come nobody saw or heard anything. I didn't even hear the fire engine.

Which puts this perception of silence in a new light. Maybe it's not so quiet here after all. We've just become deafened by the city. Or perhaps urban sounds fail to register as noteworthy to me and my visitors. Perhaps it's only the sounds of nature that strike me as odd - while siren, tyre screech and fuel explosion are filtered out as the normal backdrop of city life.

By that reasoning I'll know I've settled in when I no longer hear the birds, but jump at every car backfiring.

The non-ringing phone is more easily explained. The ex-car was parked by the telephone post, which went up in smoke at the same time, cutting the phone lines. We have a new post now, and the joys of cold call phone sales once again. The car's been removed, leaving a rectangle of black ash to remind us.

To remind us that... That village life is great but keep your wits about you. That St Mary Meade amply supplied Mrs Marple with murder. That I'd better swot up on who are the Hatfields and who the McCoys.

Friday, July 07, 2006

No need to hide

All this talk of hiding away sounds a bit negative, if not positively agoraphobic. As one of those pasty islanders I can use all the sun I can get to graduate from pale blue to white skin, never mind anything healthy looking. And at the moment sun is something of which we have plenty. But occasionally a bit of peace is welcome too - and we've bought house in which to find it. But getting inside it - there's the thing.

Having waited to let horses by, passed slowly through a football match, and pulled over to let a tractor through with newly packed bales, we reach the end of the road and our house. But between car door and house door, we're intercepted by the woman next door. Somehow we're tracking through her house, into her kitchen, drinking her tea and playing in her garden.

She's lovely. We finally leave bearing milk and provisions. So... that was a good start. Can it all be this good? We'll see. More on neighbours, views and fires in the night to come.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I've just emerged blinking from Gotham, from beneath the grit and grime and gloom, into a blindingly green land of fields and hedges and forests. And there's also the village. It looks pretty. It looks friendly. It also looks small. Which means that - unlike the lovely big bustling labyrinthine metropolis - there's nowhere to hide. I'll let you know how things go.