Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Community.

The primary reason why I love where I live is that I feel a sense of belonging. Whilst it would disturb some people that a five minute walk to buy a newspaper can take an hour due to the necessity to chat to everyone you meet on route I like that. I like being asked how my parents are, or hearing people express their astonishment at how tall my lads are. Yes, there have been occasions when I knew my private concerns were being talked about as though they were public business but I accept that as coming with the territory of community.

I have lived in this village for 16 years but my connections with it go back to 1983 when my mum and dad took over one of the two village pubs. It is a very pretty village and since I have been here house prices have risen until I understand that this is one of the most expensive villages in the county to buy in. What feels like another life time ago I had a mortgage on a house here but nasty things happened and I now rent from the local landowner, who owns much of the property round here. At first I thought when things got better I would be able to buy again locally but I have long since accepted that that is never going to happen. Obviously I am not the only person who can not afford to buy a place in this village. The young people are forced out to cheaper accommodation in the local towns. Most of the council housing is now privately owned so that option that was once available has gone. New faces move in.

Now I know that there are still in existence the attitude that you will be an 'in-comer' unless you Can prove your family links going back six generations but I don't think like that. Friendly neighbours are welcome here as far as I am concerned. What I don't like is those that move in and then contribute nothing to the local economy or community.

Taking the local school first as I really believe that without a village school a village to all extents and purposes dies. Mr Duff has asked me with reference to my previous post how I know it is an excellent school. Apparently he can not accept that my three children having attended it and me being a governor for 9 years is sufficient to give me the knowledge to state it is an excellent school. Neither is the report from OFSTED which calls us an outstanding school good enough for him so knowing I am wasting my time praising it I will however say that the children all exceed their academic potential at our school. Behaviour is excellent. There is a caring ethos. The curriculum is broad and challenging, for example all pupils learn Spanish and those over 8 do French as well. The school plays are tremendous and include parts for every child from 4-11- they did a production of Macbeth the last year my daughter was there. We contribute to the village - for example by an annual litter pick and an annual candle lit carol singing procession. We won the prize for the best primary school library in the county last academic year. We have awards for sport, have won prizes for our art and poetry and offer after school clubs to cover a wide range of interests. We are used by the County Council as an example of what small schools can achieve. And so on and so on but all this is achieved for a school with 3 classes and currently 67 pupils. We NEED every child in the village to attend the school but of course they do not and without fail it is those who move in to the village from places like London who send their kids to the private schools. I can not accept that any private school can do a better job of educating primary age children than we do.

Then this is the question of the local pubs - hub of the local community no longer. My parents pub was like the bar in Cheers - everyone knew your name. They were there for 15 years. Anyone could walk into the pub then and know they would get a warm and genuine welcome. They would be looked after. Chips or sandwiches would be handed round at no extra charge. Money was raised in the pub for various local good causes. Now however the various landlords who have come and gone - five sets now in 7 years - have been only interested in serving food. Beer drinkers were made unwelcome and got out of the habit of using the pub. Raffles which raised money for local charities were halted. It was the same story at the other village pub. On the rare occasions I go in them now I have the weird experience of knowing no one either side of the bar. The village can not support two pubs which rely solely on food so the various passing landlords move on. Don't they have any understanding that actually it makes good business sense to look after the locals? Apparently not. Some of those newer residents incidentally have never been spotted in the village pubs or in any of the village shops.

We have a very active social side of village life here. Events include a Country Fair, a village quiz league, shrove tuesday events, firework displays, mums and tots, youth club, wine tasting, a village weekend of fund raising events, an annual plastic duck race (don't ask!) and much much more. Again, some of the newer residents are never seen at any of these. Their contribution to the life of the place where they live is a big fat zero.

I honestly think I wouldn't have especially cared what these newer residents did were it not for something that happened last year. There was a proposal to build some housing association properties here to give some local people the opportunity to remain in the village. There was a public planning meeting and it was very well attended indeed. It was in fact well attended by people I had never set eyes on before. They turned out to be in professions like the law and surveying. They were very articulate. And they were very very opposed to anything that would alter the nature of the village in which they live but to which they contribute nothing. The proposal faced with such opposition from these articulate professional people was thrown out. They finally did their 'bit' for the village - and guess what? When they did their bit I hated them for it.

7 comments:

crisiswhatcrisis said...

Spooky almost mirror image of my village. We have a Friends of the Village organisation which is completely populated by the local BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything), whether incomer or old money. They are all on the Parish Council now, too, so we amuse ourselves by sending letters about every pot hole and overgrown footpath. Our affordable housing scheme was voted out too.
Our school has to move due to being upsized by 2 year groups, and they are now taking the opportunity to say we don't need a school in the village at all. What kind of community do they want to be living in in 15 years? Fucking great extended retirement home, full of dribbling fucktards banging on about how the village isn't the same any more, anyone?

Bastards.

The Moy said...

I will never forget the road trip I took with my parents many years ago through England. The villages were fascinating. We seriously considered staying an extra day in one because the church bulletin of local activities that had been slid beneath our door at the local inn listed a "Piano Smashing" at the church.

Of course, small town life everywhere has its problems as well as its merits. That sense of community can include hostility towards outsiders and everybody knowing everybody else's business. There's an entire genre of horror fiction from Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" to Richard Matheson's "The Children of Noah" that deals with the downside of charming little towns. I reread them every time I start getting homesick for my old hometown.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I envy your village life because I was born in a village near Hull and spent the first eighteen years of my life there. In many ways it was an idyllic childhood. Here in Sheffield we have lived in the same neighbourhood for seventeen years and you know what - it really feels like a village now - a sense of belonging, of knowing people around you - but I still miss the haystacks and the fields and the hedgerows and pike in the canal and the annual Gala.
By the way Colonel Plum-Duff is wanted in Thailand for illicit activities with minors. Furthermore, he talks poppycock and twaddle. Up the State System! Down with those who seek to perpetuate inequity and the snobbish selfishness that has been like a sea anchor dragging along on the seabed of our great nation's development for so many years!

Arthur Clewley said...

all this talk of schooldays reminds me of when YP and I were at Eton together and he was known as Puddingski for his leftwing views. He hasn't mellowed one bit. He's the only person in sheffield with a silver Rosa Luxemburg on the bonnet of his rolls royce

I think many residents of small villages would echo some of your points there JJ. cetainly Propping up the bars of village pubs around these parts you'll here similar gripes

David Duff said...

'CWC' writes offers the following rather vivid description: "full of dribbling fucktards banging on about how the village isn't the same any more". I trust that was not a reference to our charming hostess!

And by the way, 'JJ', I may have to sentence you to several detention periods in the 'remedial reading' classes at your apparently excellent school because, of course, I never expressed *any* views on the standard of your school, I merely treated the ridiculous OFSTED 'bumf' with the contempt it deserves and enquired, politely, what exactly was the basis of your claim that the school was excellent. (Sorry, Miss, I only asked ...!)

'YP', after much straining, produced this dollop of what passes for wit in Yorkshire and libel anywhere else: "By the way Colonel Plum-Duff is wanted in Thailand for illicit activities with minors." God help us, the man's a teacher, too! He goes on to complain that people have the effrontery to exercise their *liberties* are "a sea anchor dragging along on the seabed of our great nation's development". Apparently, but not surprisingly, he being a modern state school teacher, he has forgotten the fact that state education began with the Education Act of 1870, a time when we ran an empire 'upon which the sun never set', and that this very same state education has 'growed and growed like Topsy' ever since so that today, 136 years later, we are a dead-beat, second-rate, third-world nation whose 'youf' and 'youfettes' are a bunch of drunken, drugged, illiterate, innumerate yobs renowned only for their rank ignorance and ill-discipline. I do not blame the schools *entirely* but they do deserve a hefty share of the blame. But despite the evidence, our 'Yorkie Pudding' wants more of the same. (Tells you everything you need to know about Yorkshire, as well as modern teachers!)

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Oh dear Plum-Duff you might blow a gasket if you carry on like this! Like your mother used to say -"You're a very, very silly boy David!"

J.J said...

Crisis, rural life 206 style I guess.

The Moy - Piano Smashing sounds great! I shall have to track that one down. Yes, small communities can be serioulsy weird!

As city's go YP, I love Sheffield. Always found it a very friendly place.

Arthur I love the image of you and YP sporting the rather bizarre Etonian uniform.

David, I know Crisis is far too much of a gentleman to make such a reference.

YP - I worry about him too....