Nancy of Life In The Second Half recently published an excellent post on the gated community
she calls home for the time being. She calls it the most sterile environment she has ever lived in.
Personally, I have no experience of a gated community. They exist in the UK too, are often born out of a fear of crime and usually very expensive places to live. You would therefore think that they are meant solely 'for people like us', you would think that the residents have a lot in common and would band together in a real community.
Not so, according to Nancy. Far from it, in fact. It seems that the word 'community' is a misnomer here.
Here at Valley's End there is not a 'Keep Out' gate anywhere, the only gates we have are front gates, picket gates, garden gates, gates to keep stock in, and gates for decorative purposes only.
All roads and lanes lead to open country all around, secretive footpaths invite rambling without let or hindrance. If you meet someone unknown, you greet them, and if they give you half a chance, you involve them in a conversation about the weather, where they come from, what they are doing in the area, where they are staying if they are on holiday; most importantly, how they like it here.
So far I have met only with friendliness and courtesy from visitors. Nobody has yet said: "it would be paradise if it weren't for the nosy locals".
According to the Valley Diary, which is produced entirely by people in our community, there are currently 27 local societies, as well as Church groups, school related groups, good neighbour groups, groups providing emergency transport. We have a village hall and a Museum. We also have our own surgery and dispensary, a hardware shop, 2 butchers, a small supermarket, a shop selling flowers and a few groceries, a newsagent's and a hairdresser's. All that for about 700 inhabitants and a further 200 people living in the outlying hamlets and on farms.
All societies flourish; admittedly, it is mainly incomers who do the work, provide the meals on wheels, run the elderly to hospitals or sit with them and pick up prescriptions. Much is run by committee, on the whole, people mean well and are kind, even if some might try to boss others around. Much is achieved by a small number of volunteers and large amounts of money are collected almost weekly through the many fundraising events held by the societies.
In a small community like ours good neighbourliness is all, without it, many people would find daily life difficult. You pop in to see if Mrs. Smith is alright, minding your own business is not an option. Of course, that can cause problems, Mrs. Smith sometimes resents the interfering busybody who checks on her, but at other times she is very grateful.
Having moved here from the big city, I find this community a little claustrophobic at times; we don't have any of Nancy's gates, but there is the danger of living in a different kind of enclosure, that of small
horizons and closed minds; rural communities in the UK tend to look inwards.
But closed minds and small horizons are to be found in big cities too and if being part of this community means that everybody and his wife knows that I crashed into the gateposts of Mrs. Brown's wide open gate and pulls my leg over it, so be it. At least Mrs. Brown isn't reporting me and the matter is settled as it should be: in a neighbourly fashion.