Sunday, 7 August 2011
The Other Countryside.
Gitane's comments on this blog are always good value and are frequently far more entertaining than the original post. Once again the old geezer has got me thinking, this time about the class make up of our rural towns and villages. Gitane clearly knows Chipping Norton far better than I do, not difficult given that I have never been near the place, but his comments remind us that in every rural community there are interesting undercurrents and that things are usualy far more complicated than they appear at first glance. When we lived in Devon during the early seventies the term "estate" had several very different meanings. There was "The Estate" that owned many of the old building in the village (including our cottage)as well as the Big House and the surrounding couple of thousand acres of farms. There was also the "council estate" where although many people had connections to, and identified with, "The Estate" others worked in the nearest town and had no interest in the traditional structure of rank and land ownership. Finally there was the "housing estate" of middle class home owners who for different reasons tended to be wary of the proles and have a strong antipathy toward the toffs in the Big House. Well known to both toffs and proles, but hardly on nodding terms with any of the middle class, we and others like us, existed in a happy state of stoned limbo.
The nearest bit of real countryside to where we live now is the Surrey Hills, an area that includes the Greensand Hills, part of the North Downs, the town of Dorking and numerous villages. It's here in this beautiful landscape that we tend to go for days out walking and in many respects it lives up to most peoples preconceptions about Surrey as a place populated almost entirely by Chelsea players and hedge fund managers. However, you don't have to scratch the surface much to find a very different reality and even in the poshest bits there is evidence of "real people" living alongside the world of pony clubs and private schools. Plotlands, very unposh hamlets and isolated holding that look like Cold Comfort Farm are all there for the finding. We recently came across a village pub with a notice in the window advertising for a "Amusement Restriction Officer-would suite local person-no sense of humour required". As we suspected the notice was not unconected with the one alongside it advertising a "Ska and Reggae Nite".
So come on Gitane. Tell us more about the other Chipping Norton. The dodgy breakers yards, dodgy boozers, lurcher breeders, lonely goths and the families that nobody messes with.