Where Would You Prefer to Live…..Town or Country?

Posted on May 29, 2012

I have just had a weekend (and a skived off Monday) that has been really diverse in nature, featuring a a cricket club quiz night (Broughton) a game of cricket (Overton) a village fete (Broughton) and a walk from Waterloo to Tower Bridge and back along the Thames path on the north and south bank. The quiz was won handsomely (without cheating) beating two tables of toffs in the process, proving my own theory that members of the educational elite may be able to take a hot crumpet up the bottom, they may have the capabilities of reading a doctors prescription and they may know what a derivative is, but the simple fact is this…..they can’t store useless information like a commoner. As soon as the question “Which footballers with rhyming names sang Diamond Lights in 1987?” came up, I knew the first prize of a bag of sweets was within our grasp. A rousing victory for the state educated proletarians……..bring on the revolution!

Hoddle and Waddle: Diamond Lights

The cricket match was played in blazing sunshine and blue skies, overlooked by the village church in Overton, Hampshire, a truly quintessential scene as leather hit willow, or in my case, leather smashing in to knuckles as I mistimed a catch from a batsmen rather good at cricket who pounced on my ineptitude by going on to smash a blistering century in the blink of an eye. My other contribution to this match was a stoic seven (not out) in a fifty run, last wicket partnership, one  in which my batting partner scored forty-three. On the plus side, my innings did feature my first intentional four of the season a well guided edge past the slips down to the boundary rope. On Sunday I was able to make further use of one of my favorite words (quintessential) by going to the Broughton school Fete that was awash with home made cakes, bunting, hot dogs, fizzy beer and hot early summer sunshine. All that was missing was a Spitfire fly past and a brass band playing the Dambusters theme, all very British…….patriotic, but not nationalistic…..not quite anyway.

Fun and games at the Broughton Village fete on Sunday

So what spurred me on to visit London yesterday? Well, actually, it was a phone-in programme on Radio 5 last week that really gave a London a hard time, saying it was dirty, unfriendly, violent and uninspiring. All of these things went against the grain of what I had ever experienced in our capital, it has always been, in my opinion, a vibrant multi-cultural city with bustling bars, restaurants and beautiful parks. I have always wanted the money to buy a flat in Covent Garden or St James Park , but I still remain a few million short of my target, this is when knowing what a derivative does comes is handy, as unfortunately, you don’t get a West End flat for knowing that Hoddle and Waddle sang “Diamond Lights.”  London was hot yesterday, nauseatingly so, there was no freshness in the air, just an oppressive smell that was full of petrol fumes. It sapped the energy out of me, making me increasingly irritable by the time I reached Tower Bridge where I stopped along with the masses from the City offices for a sandwich in what looked like a recently constructed green riverside area. How lucky these people were I thought, where else would you want to be eating your lunch other than on the banks of the river Thames?

Opera Singers celebrating the Jubilee by the Thames yesterday

Then I remembered that last week I drove fifteen minutes from my house down to Chilbolton Common where I had my ham and cucumber sandwich on the banks of the River Test where I sat in the fresh air watching the Grayling and Brown Trout leaping after the Mayfly that danced across the river as the Swallows caught flies in the blue skies above me, good God it was a lovely place to sit. The only thing likely to rise out of  River Thames this far up was a condom or a hearty turd, it is not a particularly pretty river and once you have stared at the impressive sight that is London Bridge more than a few times, it must all get a bit tedious. I walked back along the South Bank, stopping at Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square on my way to St James Park where I dozed for a while to recharge my wilting batteries. I then meandered up to Buckingham Palace where the Union Jack flags were in full force and the brass band was playing…….you’ve guessed it, the Dambusters theme that had been so badly missed at the Broughton Fete.

There was one thing that stuck with me yesterday however, and that was the feeling that wherever I went in London it was like a Police State, whether it was the gates to Downing Street or the road to Buckingham Palace, all I could hear above the brass band was the sound of sirens and helicopters, all I could see were padded policemen armed with machine guns. I felt like Winston Smith in the George Orwell novel 1984. So this is freedom? They must be joking. This was the first time I have been to London and not liked it, the false triumphalism and sense of nostalgia towards a bygone imperial era depressed my soul and made me question to myself what was patriotism and what was nationalism (A thought inspired by a brief meeting with an old friend earlier). There is certainly a fine dividing line between the two and in London yesterday, something didn’t feel right about the whole thing. I can’t help but get paranoid that the elite are sensing that the Proletarians are stirring in their masses and that something needs to be done to control their urges…….the Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics are a good start…..if that doesn’t work, perhaps a good old war will follow.

I love the bunting, I love the cakes, I love the sound of brass bands and unfunny local  Alan Partridge type “characters” on the microphones at village Fete’s, I even love Morris dancers and I certainly love the sound of willow on leather at a village cricket match, I love that more than anything. So despite what some people may think, I am patriot, I love Hampshire more than anywhere else in the world, nothing could take me away from the rolling hills and trout streams of our green (and yellow) pleasant land. I just think that there is and has been, for the last six hundred years or so, a tiny elite that want it all for themselves, all the land, the best education and jobs, all the wealth and all the rules. No matter that tens of thousands of people live below the poverty line, no matter that workers are paying taxes for the elite who put their money in offshore tax havens, no matter that the average man in the street is getting financially getting crushed in to oblivion. After all “We are all in this together.”

I am a patriot, but I will never feel comfortable at the sight of a destitute pensioner gormlessly waving a Union jack at a Rolls Royce meandering down Buckingham Palace Road on its way to a banquet that could feed a third world nation.

For the record, give me the countryside any day.


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