On the estate where pretend owls outnumber the human population by two to one, there have been some new editions: a tiny little motorbike-and-sidecar with solar powered head-lamps, a concrete kitten, a miniature pretend-stone elephant—curled up asleep, lots of new meerkats and Buddhas and an entire garden stocked exclusively with faded plastic flora and fauna.
The underlying murmur of people in tight shorts commenting on the warm weather to one another all day long is occasionally punctuated with the noise of power tools and the yelping of small dogs.
Over by the abandoned Renault Camper, a man in his 70s is showing his new Teddy bear to the woman with pictures of wolves all over her T-shirt.
Further up the valley, outside the High School, the road sweeping man is picking up Maoam wrappers with an extendable litter-picker, soft-toy trophy-lynchings swinging from the handle of his cart.
The fine weather has brought out the clover, the daisies, the bird’s foot trefoil, the mother-die, buttercups, foxgloves, honeysuckle, and the old woman with her specs on a chain who shuffles past a pile of dried dog shit in her open-toed sandals.
Out in the sticks, a hen pheasant flaps out from under the five bar gate at the bottom of the field with the old bath tub in it and a Porsche 4x4 blows past with its windows open, trailing aftershave.
Outside the village hall there are pots of marigolds around an old church pew with chintz cushions. There’s ivy, there are climbing roses, yew hedges, willow and birch. There are gravel paths with moss edging, potted geraniums and snap-dragons. There are spaniels and Labradors, and pairs of upside-down gardening shoes covered in lawn clippings. There is best bitter, and Radio 4, and Botox, and swallows and martens in the outhouses. Happy golfers wave me past the tee. The stolen top-stones have already been replaced.
It starts to rain summer rain, fat drops that leave big Dalmatian spots on the millstone flags. At the big house with the yellow lichen gables, the old man with the comb-over and frayed grey flannels is frustrated, “I’ve just come out to do a bit in the garden and bugger me if it hasn’t started raining.”
At the modernist house that is being extended using mainly large sheets of chipboard, the builders are discussing an episode of Top Gear in voices that carry.
“Wasn’t it funny when that caravan tried to overtake on the inside—on that bumpy bit?”
“You think we have a good laugh at work, imagine being them!”
A woman walks past with a big Siberian husky, then a jogger who is going barely fast enough to overtake her—he’s wiping the rain from his glasses with the hem of his Scotland football shirt.
The old woman at the farm asks whether I’ve got a mac in my van. I say I have and she gives me a double thumbs up and a big grin, “Well, go and put it on, I can see the blobs all over your shirt.”
Back in town the woman with the long-haired dachshunds is talking to the man taking photographs from the viewing point in the park.
“It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?
“Yes,” says the man“We don’t appreciate it enough, living round here, do we?”