Dianne's post at schmidleyscribblins showed me a world of experiences, trials and tribulations with criminal elements, vandals and hooligans, even rapists and murderers, which is a million miles removed from the world here at Valley's End, described by the poet A.E. Housman as "the quietest under the sun".
The last murder in the valley, or the last murder which was recognised as such, happened a long time ago. It was a crime of passion, of course; the ditch digger found that his wife was getting more than sausages from the butcher's boy, when the latter visited their cottage on his rounds; he promptly killed them both, his wife and the butcher's boy and the derelict cottage was still called 'murder cottage' when we moved here. It's since been turned into a very desirable residence, although the new owners were surprised when they found out by what name the locals know their preposterous manor.
There's been a case of arson too; a forester found himself unloved and unwanted by his employers and decided that: "if I can't have the forest, nobody can," and set fire to it. Another crime of passion.
Passion is what the locals go in for in a big way. Everybody is related to everybody else, one way or another, whether their conception was blessed by a vicar or minister or not. On whichever side of the blanket the act took place doesn't seem to matter, or who was married to whom at the time. The funny thing is that the participants in the game of musical chairs/beds/sofas/hedgerows all stay living in a very small geographical area, and, as far as an outsider like me can tell, remain on relatively good terms with members of former liaisons. They simply swap houses and/or partners.
The drinkers outside the pub are totally law-abiding. Cigarette smoking is no longer allowed in enclosed spaces, which means that they have to do their drinking and smoking outside. Even the landlord joins them.
We get our kicks from watching the traffic. I stopped to chat to Linda, our resident Californian, as she was standing on a kitchen chair outside her front door, watering her hanging baskets. The school bus decanted its pupils at the same time as a small bus, two cars and a truck wanted to negotiate the village square, which is very narrow, not a square at all but more a bendy oblong shape. It took them about five minutes to disentangle themselves.
It was very exciting to watch.
Linda also told me about a crime committed by a horse upon Linda's lurcher, Ghostie. Ghostie suffered grievous bodily harm when Daisy, George's horse, stepped back on to Ghostie's foot, seriously mangling it in the process. Ghostie is getting over the injury and the leather slipper the vet put on her foot looks very fetching.
And then there is the old stone saddle-backed bridge, which was built in the 14th century and is a frequent crime scene. It is constructed of five small arches with angled pedestrian recesses on either side, and no more than 2.5 m wide at its narrowest point. Large lorries are the vandals here, forever ramming the stone walls and criminally damaging them.
trying to ease their vehicles on to and off the bridge round a sharp turning towards a tiny hamlet called Newcastle, because their satnavs have sent them here instead of to the North of England, brings the locals together in a happy band; a round of applause follows the driver who manages to negotiate the bridge without dislodging stones; woe betide the unfortunate driver whose vehicle makes sufficient contact with the stonework to damage it; rarely will his number plate remain unrecorded.
I don't doubt that, human nature being what it is, there are other crimes being committed even here at Valley's End; occasionally there is a spate of thefts from garden sheds, when such high end articles as gardening tools are stolen by organised gangs from the housing estates of nearby Midland towns. The police find it hard to catch the robbers; although we have a policeman or woman who come out to us and hold advice surgeries on specific days of the month in the community room, miscreants insist on doing their foul deeds outside police visiting hours.
Traffic offences are not considered offences at all; it is understood that we drive how we like and park where we like and if it is necessary that you have a chat with the driver of an oncoming vehicle, both of you simply stop your cars, wind down your windows and talk. Occasionally, one of you might leave his vehicle to get nearer to the driver of the other car. We don't like to shout at each other, it's considered rather bad manners round here.