Saturday, 12 February 2011

On a Journey to Tick the Boxes...

The twins are sitting an English module for GCSE next week on creative writing. One of the topics is 'Don't get me started on...' which is an invitation to a rant. One of my self-imposed blogging rules is never to rant. I suspect that most of my rants may be entirely peculiar to me and therefore not something that anyone else would interested in. My family get my rants (and have a fair few of their own) but this is not the place. 

However one of my micro-rants, if one was allowed such a thing, is the way that language seems to get hi-jacked by reality television. All through the autumn, X Factor and Strictly contestants harped on about their 'journey'. Do they even know they are using a metaphor? And, frankly, if they use that expression, I would like them to be on a journey  - home! So having admitted to my taste for low-brow television, I must admit to my guilty pleasure of watching Escape to the Country where the most frequently-used expression is 'tick the boxes'. 

What makes this programme the perfect accompaniment to doing the ironing is the strange ideas that people have about life in the country. It would appear that their chintzy ideas are based largely on regular doses of programmes like Heartbeat, The Archers (well, as an addict I can't argue with that) and possibly Lark Rise to Candleford (or as my son used to call it, the Post Office). This week we were treated to Aled Jones taking a couple of ladies round houses in North Yorkshire. First, Aled, dear boy thinks he's Peter Pan (all the charm of a twelve year old when his development may have been arrested, height-wise anyway), decided to conduct the entire programme with what he thought was a Yorkshire accent. Because obviously we all refer to women as 'lasses' and so on...! Then one of the ladies said she wanted to be involved with the village hall - in what capacity, letting it, hiring it, cleaning it - who knows? And so it goes on, people with rose-tinted glasses who think the countryside is all about views, cosy kitchens and growing your own veg. 

I've lived in the country nearly all my life as has my husband. Village life is something special and something we've learnt over time to appreciate. We live some way out of a village, down the most anti-socially pothole-ridden track, so we don't get many casual callers and, indeed, we like to batten down the hatches now and again and be on our own. But the four square corners of our village community are probably, in no particular order, the school, the pub, the cricket and the church. Involvement in one or more means that you get to know most people of a sociable nature and generally become a part of the community. And the community here really is something special. 

Occasionally people move to the village on roughly the same basis as the hapless punters on Escape to the Country. They fall for the house, like the idea of the village shop, love the views, fresh air etc and then... are quite surprised, and occasionally affronted, when people knock on their doors offering teenagers to babysit, invite them to church events, talk to them without introduction in the pub and so on.

If you think you're escaping to the country for a quiet life, think again. The countryside is not just about box-ticking or being on a journey (personal or otherwise), it's about knowing and looking out for your neighbours, doing your bit and joining in and as a quieter option - forget it!

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