The Bluebell Abbey Guide to Being British: Village Life
Posted on July 22 2018
Step outside London, or the nation’s handful of other large cities, and you soon discover that Britain is not, in fact, a country, but a collection of tiny villages scattered like islands in a sea of perfect green.
Blessed with charming names like Scratchy Bottom (Dorset), Upton Snodsbury (Worcestershire), Steeple Bumstead (Essex), and Wetwang (Yorkshire), life in these villages has changed surprisingly little over the centuries – a quiet village shop and a tiny local school, leafy lanes and friendly people, a place where the greatest risk is being recruited by Morris Dancers and spending the rest of your life shaking your jangly legs at perfect strangers.
In rural Britain, life moves at a more relaxed and refined pace than elsewhere in the land, with hours spent polishing a car, mowing the lawn, or trimming a hedge into the shape of a chicken, and entire days lost waiting patiently for a tractor to finally turn off. However, the primary hobby amongst those who live there is gossip, with news spreading faster than Usain Bolt on discovering an open bar.
Each year the centre of the local social calendar is inevitably the village fete – a distinctly British occasion that takes all the drama and excitement of the circus and abandons it in favour of wobbly trestle tables filled with homemade jam, and a tombola featuring an eclectic mix of prizes, all of which have been loitering in villager’s houses for years - primarily bubble bath, aging shortbread and exceptionally cheap wine. If you’re particularly lucky there might even be a dog show, or an award for best vegetable, or perhaps a performance by the local brass band, which might lack talent, but more than makes up for it with a willingness to turn up for rehearsals.
The heart and soul of every hamlet, however, is the village pub. Known simply as ‘the local,’ these last bastions of British culture have a décor based exclusively on brass horseshoes and vintage prints of country life, staffed by a bartender who doesn’t just know your name, but where you live, what you do for a living, and who secretly still holds a grudge against you from that time you tried to order a strawberry and lime flavoured Rekordelig. As their traditional greeting is always ‘the usual?’ its best to choose your first drink wisely, as you will subsequently be tied into it for the rest of time.
Behind the idyllic appearance and immaculately tended gardens there are still dangers - primarily feral packs of teenagers drinking Strongbow in the park as they secretly count the days until they can escape the green hell that surrounds them - only to spend the rest of their life plotting to buy a nice slice of the British countryside in which to retire, from where their own children will no doubt plot their escape over a refreshing Strongbow.
Despite this, it’s impossible not to fall in love with British village life; with its steeled churches and quiet streets, and the way a bus comes through twice a day - but never on Sundays, safe in the knowledge that life there will never change.
Hopefully at least.
Love all things British? Head to the Bluebell Abbey shop for our huge collection of locally made products and classic novels.