Monday, 18 March 2013

Village News

Tramp and I stopped at the village shop today, as we sloshed home from our waterlogged walk through the pouring rain. The latest edition of the Church News was out and I wanted to buy a copy… not, I should explain, because I wanted to be informed of forthcoming church services, but because I needed a plumber.

The Church News is a locally printed magazine produced by Church organisers. Like the shared vicar, it covers our village and two others in the area. It has to be said, though, that the editorial section has shrunk over the years – and even then, while it contains news of a variety of local events, increasingly few are to do with the Church. With every edition, it seems more and more pages are devoted to small, paid-for, ads., which largely offer the services of local businesses run from people’s rural homes.

There are ads. for the personal services that are available in most communities of course – hairdressers and beauticians, hypnotherapists, chiropractors and ear candling experts. And there are teachers to educate us in all manner of musical instruments, languages, and computing, in between our exercise classes and golf lessons.

With so much building renovation go on in the villages (if you can get planning approval), we’ve plenty of work for the home-based architects and builders who advertise, along with the  carpenters and joiners, painters and decorators, electricians and plumbers. Then we can use the interior designers and those with a flare for home furnishings to run us up some curtains. Of course we need the caterers and cake bakers and decorators for the party at the end of it all.

You really know you are in the country, though, when you see so many ads. for horse livery and the two (yes, two!) nearby forges; and tree surgeons – alongside logs for sale; and landscapers, gardeners, and fencers.

And so, while local Church activities diminish and congregations dwindle, the Church’s monthly magazine has been a commercial success.
More recently, though a media rival has been gaining ground on the Church News … For, our village now has a local facebook page. And so modern technology is drawing rural people together in a way that the printed, monthly magazine can never hope to... and perhaps in a way that the Church itself no longer can.

Anyone and everyone, with access to the world wide internet, can advertise their very local services or upcoming village charity events and fundraisers – instantaneously. No-one has to worry about publication dates or print runs.

More than this, communication is two-way - so much so, the administrator has admonished us for ‘chatting’ and taking up people's valuable in-box space. But if we wake up in a panic over overdue library books, we can ask our neighbours en masse when the mobile library will next visit. The local police liaison officer can tell us about recent ride-on mower thefts, or filching from oil tanks, and ask for posts on anyone suspicious lurking around back gardens.

          Increasingly though, of late, – and herein may lie its demise – the facebook page has been taken over by ‘sales and wants’ type ads. So much so, they are crowding out the events notices and police information. Again, the administrator is not happy about this trend and has threatened to create a separate advertising page.
It is through the sales and wants posts, though, that we get the most rounded understanding of the lives and concerns of people in our village. We know when a neighbour is turning out their wardrobe, advertising designer clothes they can no longer fit into, or crippling shoes they can no longer persevere with in the name of fashion. We learn when they’ve given up learning the cello or the harp, and when they’ve abandonned the struggle with Greek grammar or Spanish vocabulary. We realise how fast their children are growing, too, as we see successive posts devoted to toys they have lost interest in, or when they need a bigger bike; and clothes they have grown out of. And as the family life proves demanding on resources and energy, we know when people can no-longer enjoy the pursuits of their previous, footloose and fancy-free existance – with windsurfers, wetsuits ('hardly worn'), skis and boats all appearing for sale as they clear out their garage.

Animals make a strong showing, of course - there's more room for them in the country. There are countless posts for homes needed for motherless lambs, or for horses, and pets – especially guinea pigs and rabbits that have bred unexpectedly, along with all the paraphernalia that goes with them: hutches and runs, saddles and bridles, food, straw and hay. In this priviledged area of the country, more exotic creatures also drum up all manner of associated trade – donkeys, deer, emus and llamas, miniature goats and potbelly pigs. We know when any have sadly died, too, as half-eaten bags of food are offered for sale.

But if the facebook page is anything to go by, I would say the local industry showing the most rapid growth, is that surrounding the most common domestic pet – the dog. And so, we no longer have to contemplate finding a boarding kennels for when we go away to escape the winter weather… we can have someone live-in and dog-sit, so that the dog's life suffers minimum disruption. Or we can organise a holiday fot the dog at someone else’s house, where they are treated as one of the family, and enjoy probably more luxury than they have at home.

And on days like today, I can’t say I wasn’t tempted to employ a local dog walker, to slurp through the mud and rain with Tramp – while I contemplated buying some Jimmie Choo’s to totter about in, perhaps, instead of wellingtons. Or maybe I should try walking him in that wetsuit ('hardly worn').


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