A Great Place to Land

Haslingfield Church.JPG

Hobbling on heels towards the village hall to the fortieth birthday of a friend, I find myself pondering the diversity of people in what seems to be a classic English village. Maybe it's too Caucasian, too middle class, just a sprinkling of ethnicity but not enough for my liking: I'm still a city girl at heart.

This village does not win 'pretty' prizes. The internet is rubbish but the new builds do have solar panels: so that's good. The houses are mid 20th century with a rare thatch and it is green right up to its edges with piquant poppies in the summer and squashed fruit on the pavements. Blackberries will soon be ripe for the picking if you know where to find them. Despite its ordinariness it occasionally sends out the aroma of freshly baked breads from the old bakehouse and you certainly can't see anyone's washing hanging out front. Look at those lovely hanging baskets

As I walk, the church bells warm up with chimes that sound like ‘I love you, I hate you. I hate that I love you.’ After dusk, that church will be beautifully uplit sending a beam of light into the clouds, courtesy of energetic middle class fundraising.

At the party there are a smattering of teachers, engineers, IT specialists, nurses. One car sales executive, two pilots, three vicars. The last time I was surrounded by vicars, nuns and altar servers, it was a teen fancy dress party, with cheap stubby beers and everyone crammed in the kitchen. But these keepers of the faith are the real deal. I feel as though I should be on my best behaviour, but only for a brief moment.

The children of the birthday girl are growing up fast, alongside our own. They are dancing with artists, watching their teacher singing in a band. ‘Look at what you could achieve if you practice your piano skills children’.

We're all just ordinary folk, aren't we? There's a mum there who looks like Emily Blunt, and fancy having a Kelly Clarkson look-a-like for a teacher! No celebrities here - unless you consider those BBC journo types. Or our friends in the band. All these professional people, on the telly, populating our schools, hospitals, universities and airports.

Our children are oblivious to the human richness around them. Taking it all for granted as children do. The world is their oyster and they don't even know it yet.  Being helped at the buffet by a local pilot. Asked about their football by a classmate's academic mother. Dancing alongside a fond teacher.

But what are the children interested in? Staying up late with their friends. Sausage rolls and crisps for dinner.

Is this a quiet village? The school playground at lunchtime might indicate not. Or the Saturday night chatter on the way back from the pub. Or maybe even the excitement at the clunch pit on a rare sledge filled snowy dusk. A darkly quiet few moments emerge, as a long line of solemn mourners in black disperse after a send off at the ancient graveyard. Minutes later: the excited scooter-filled pavements of the school run, streaming in all directions, like new life blood filtering through the paths and lanes, shattering a brief moment of quiet reflection on the reality of our mortality.

All life forms are here, academics, professionals, artists and administrators. Rule makers and law breakers. Travelling through life’s phases from preschool to Village Society, School Lane to Elders Yard.

As I leave the party, I reflect upon the good fortune of finding a village that I had never heard of and could easily have overlooked. Friendly but not cliquey, happy but not smug, well, not too smug. A local event, packed full of friends. No babysitter, taxi or night bus needed. Sensibly aged children who have had some good old fashioned fun.

This is as good as it gets as I sway my way home, barefoot, those heels swinging by my side.

What a great place to land.

- Caroline Beeby, Haslingfield