This blog is taking a temporary break from suburban Maryland and returning to its rural Lincolnshire roots. We are staying in a village where you can walk to three pubs within five minutes, and buy sausage and bacon from the butcher’s at 7.30am on the stroll home from picking up a newspaper. My cell phone is (thankfully) getting no signal, so I’m enjoying the retro thrill of using an old red phone box that smells of olde Englande’s most ancient piss and fag ends. The church rings its weary bells, there are ducks on the village stream, the pallid children attend a picturesque antique school house, and I have no doubt that in the afternoons a number of polite and elderly ladies regularly enjoy a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
It’s not quite perfect, though. I have yet to hear the genteel click of leather on willow, and I have not spotted any old maids cycling home through the mist. The former is likely drowned out by the moronic drivers who speed through the village’s narrow streets, travelling far in excess of the 30 miles per hour limit, while the last of the latter were probably run over and maimed several years ago. PC Mark Lassmans doesn’t mention the speeding in his column in the village’s admirably open quarterly magazine, but he does threaten to ticket parents who are blocking in residents on All Saints Lane when they pick up their children from the village infant school. He condemns their parking habits as being “beyond belief”. And he reminds readers of the curfew.
Yes, due to a spate of vandalism, there is a curfew on youths hanging out at the village’s two playing fields. Come dark, reportedly, they have been favoured lurking spots for under-age drinkers to by-pass Britain’s alcohol laws. Intoxication then leads to a desire to remodel the village football team’s modest main stand. PC Lassmans and PC Smith found 13 boozing youths there on the cold night of February 7, but although they took down everybody’s details, no one admitted to having ripped five steps and several chairs out of the structure. Without witnesses, there was no prosecution, and the best our law enforcement officers could do was force the youths to pour their drinks into the snow (a shameful waste, I'm almost inspired to write to the magazine).
These young folk are perhaps lacking in spiritual guidance, so the Reverend Jenny Rowley comes to the rescue in her own column, illustrated with a picture of her reassuringly jolly smile. When faced with an impossible situation (such as the All Saints church and its “ever-present financial challenge”, hint hint), then all we need to do is find strength in Jesus “and trust in his power”. Then we will find that we are “walking on water”.
Although this morning all the villagers I saw were still using the bridge to cross the village stream, I’m sure that a little bit of belief in the power of Jesus will allow PC Lassmans to come up with enough evidence to prosecute the football stand vandals, or villagers to stand in the middle of the road to face the boy racers head on, and have those cars just bounce off harmlessly to one side, their axles broken and their drivers reformed. Meanwhile, more practical villagers sitting on the Parish Council are working on a skate park to occupy the cider-swilling youths; controls on the owners of pooping dogs (a major international concern to this blog); and initiatives to plant new trees, to keep the place tidy ahead of this year’s Best Kept Village Competition, and to relocate the speed signs so that brain-shy motorists have less of an excuse for acting like they have somewhere important to go.
No one wants an English village without at least one church and a smiling vicar, but it’s not just the parking outside the infant school that’s proving beyond belief. The phone box, the pub and the butcher seem to be much more useful to the residents. “The God of the impossible calls us all to love and to trust him,” the Reverend Rowley burbles. I imagine her lurking behind the football stand and draining the dregs of the discarded lager cans before she goes to home to write her column late on a Friday night. Jesus, give me Extra Strength! she hollers to the belfry, for I love an impossible God! Oh, and as any fool staggering home from the White Hart knows, that red telephone box doubles up as the village time machine too.