Sunday, 21 September 2008

The right side of the hedge

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Below is a quaint cottage in Downton, a village on the Hampshire/Wiltshire border. I loved the very steep pitch to the roof.

This was the title of a book my husband bought for me today at our local car boot sale, where we were selling some of our ephemera. He knows me well, for the book, by Chris Chapman, is exactly what I would choose for myself. It is subtitled "Country Life Today" and is full of wonderfully atmospheric black and white photographs taken in the 1970s, although they could easily have been taken in the two previous decades. It appeals to me because the photos are about country living - then and now - they are timeless. The title comes from the most wonderful quotation from 88 year old no-nonsense Ernie Worth: "Well Mr Someone, these people come down here and take us all to be fools. They come down here to forget what they created elsewhere and do exactly the same. They can keep their money and their fancy ways. I believe I'm living on the right side of the hedge. and no one can tell me different."

Wise words. I may be an incomer myself (though now we've lived here nearly 21 years we were described as "nearly locals" by a neighbour recently!) but I hate to see town folk buy up an old cottage or farmhouse and then proceed to "modernize" it and make it look like it belongs in the stockbroker belt . . . We did the opposite with our old farmhouse, and returned it to as it was before the entirely cosmetic 1970s modernisation, when they blocked in the inglenook and fireplaces, and covered the beams with tongue-and-groove, leaving the rest of the house to suffer the predations of wet rot, a leaking roof, and derelict rooms which were home to bat, rat and death watch beetle.

I think that moving to the countryside, being it downsizing, fulfilling a dream - or for those with the moolah, "just because you can" - means about fitting in with the local community, walking to the beat of the same drum. Not moving somewhere new and making waves - living exactly as you did in the town, and complaining bitterly about the lack of this or that, and talking disparagingly about the "locals". So often you read of people buying a house in the country to "put their own stamp on it", which nearly always spells disaster for the house in question, with every vestige of its architectural integrity wiped out. Old farmhouses and cottages were made to be cluttered, homely places - not bare and minimalist. I have a PhD in Clutter, so I should know!

Anyway, enough moaning. The New Forest crab apples and wildings I picked are calling loudly now - time for wine-making and jelly making . . .

Later today it's back to the Rural Life Museum at Breamore.

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