Monday, October 17, 2011

Village Life

I was born and lived my early years in an English country village. I was happy, despite the sibling difficulties that children are subjected to. There is a lot to be said for rural village life, which usually comes with appreciation of nature and fresh, home-produced food. But, by gosh, there are limitations to country village life.
These limitations are to do with class, snobbery, power, money, sociability and religion.
There is a strong element of “them” and “us” in country village life (I got into real trouble as a child by fishing for newts with village boys).
To fit in, you almost have to entertain and be entertained.
It soon becomes apparent on starting out in a village that there will be people with whom you “gel” and those with whom you don’t. But it is best to get on with every one if you can manage it, as gossip takes a major part in village life and you certainly don’t want enemies.
To be accepted takes time, and is best when not rushed. It was considered, when I was a boy, that it took 25 years to be properly accepted. So juggling with the social side of country living does take time. Be that as it may, for pleasure and ease of life you must fit in.
Weekenders, however they may try, are seldom a real part of village life. Their village is a weekend village. And everyone, except possibly themselves, knows it.
But they do provide impetus to village life, and often contribute to it in monetary terms.
If you are lucky, there is another kind of village life. It is town village life.
Before WW2 we had moved to London.
During that war there was little time for socialising. It was a time for survival. And it was a time that I knew only when on leave from my flying activities in the RAF, when entertainment meant night clubs, where one's bottle of spirits was marked and kept until your next visit (if you ever returned).
Since the war I have lived in London on several occasions.
The first was with young. And it was with them (like having dogs) that you meet up with people with whom you would not have done otherwise. So, living nearby to school and other parents makes you part of a town village and leads to friendships.
Or you may be very lucky and find yourself living in a town community where friendships are strong, and there is a residents association, and church.
Those who go to church have even stronger bonds in a village community, meeting each other on most Sundays with a meeting of minds.
But this religious bond in town, nowadays, is not nearly as strong as it was when I was a boy in the country, when everyone of standing – and some without – went to church, almost regardless of their beliefs.
The great advantage of village life in town is that you can be friendly and acknowledge every acquaintance in the street – friend or otherwise – and don’t have to entertain them, as you would almost have to have done in the country.
In my present town community there is an established form of getting together socially. It is 6 o’clock drinks. We offer, or are offered, wine and a “bite” or two (I now favour a cheese pancake, served hot and cut into small pieces). Start time is usually 6 or sometimes 6.30, and by 7.30, or 8 at the latest, we part for our evening meal. It is a time for talk in general, a little gossip perhaps, and an exchange of information concerning matters of neighbourhood interest. An hour or two is just enough – just the right time.
Yes, it’s the town village life for me – any day.