And so we went….to Rutland. Never heard of Rutland? Good. We’d like to keep it that way. We escaped the building dust for a week by driving 2 hours or so north of London to England’s smallest county. It’s totally land-locked and was temporarily swallowed up by Leicestershire. But the Rutlanders fought it and won. The glorious sunshine we had this week confirmed that we had made a very good decision. The Rutland countryside is that beautiful, English, green rolling hills in summertime, further enhanced by sparse population – which means you feel you have this lovely place to yourself. All this and the World Cup too…(phew! we’re through to the next round).
Rutland’s most notable feature is one of the largest artificial reservoirs in Europe which is slap bang in the middle of it. Rutland Water provides…. water… of course, but also a watery playground for birds, fish and humans – who windsurf in it and cycle around it, as we did. While husband was wind-surfing, however, I did one of my other favourite things – trawling the antique shops of Uppingham for things I don’t really need. Once I’d found them, I decided to catch the bus back to Rutland Water, however, Hazel had just missed the 20 past from Uppingham to Oakham and the electronic sign said we’d have to wait another 20 minutes…such is the nature of public transport in rural England. 70/80-something(?) Hazel was an ex-dolls-eye telephonist who used to plug in calls for posh ladies at the Simpsons of Piccadilly department store in London. An ordinary girl from Leicester, in the 60s she’d lived in some of the most up-market parts of London including Kensington and Primrose Hill, where she shared a room with 2 other girls, both civil servants, in a large house run by a lovely land-lady who collected the rent every week and provided them with breakfast and an evening meal. She said it was one of the best times of her life and she made such good friends. It did occur to me that, what with the shortage and expense of accommodation in London, shouldn’t we be doing this now?…if the rooms are big enough. My guess is that we all simply have too much stuff…you’d just never fit 3 girls, even in a big room in a large Victorian, Primrose Hill house, with all their stuff.
Living very close together has it’s drawbacks…but actually there is something special about living cheek by jowl…even husband and I have found that sitting knee to knee in our temporary kitchen is kind of nice and cosy and conducive to long chats…but only until we have to move 2 or 3 things in order to clear a space to make a sandwich or get to the fridge!
In London, most people are living very close together. It means you have to do your best to be pretty considerate…and I think most people are. But maybe it’s no coincidence that the origin of the word villain is the same as for the word village or villager…those uncouth, criminally-inclined, un-mannered types from the lower orders, living in clusters of dwellings, and who know each other’s business (sometimes whether they want to or not!), make too much noise, kick footballs over the fence, check your house if the alarm goes off, look after the cat when you’re away, sponsor the re-planting of street trees, baby-sit each other’s children, provide dinner when you can’t cook, put up stoically with each other’s building work…and don’t necessarily have much choice, (or even deliberately choose), but to live close together.