A heron flies over Dale Cottage and the last of its pink fuchsias. On the driveway, the man in the blue Vauxhall Zafira with the ladders on the roof is listening to Sigala at high volume. He rocks back and forth enthusiastically in the driver’s seat, mouthing the words, ecstatic.
In the ‘Best Kept Village’ that smellsof two-stroke chainsaw oil, the houses are never finished. The builders have moved on a generation. Out have gone those firms, traditionally named after their proprietor, whose contractors have broad Yorkshire accents, gold earrings and eighties hits on their site radios: ‘Don’t You Want Me, Baby?’ And in have come the firms named after a single word synonym for ‘house’: Home, Abode, Dwelling, Base etc. whose contractors have tattoo sleeves, full-face beards, and nineties hits on their site radios: ‘A Design For Life’.
At the big house in the woods, one of the modern, nineties builders is hoovering the pattern imprinted concrete driveway while another spreads a smelly solvent sealer onto it with a yard brush.
At the house with the big view, the woman in the bathrobe is talking to her neighbour, the man in the lumberjack shirt who has retired to make chainsaw carvings of owls to sell at country art fairs. Her as yet unreconstructed builder, is up a ladder carrying out some never-ending repairs while listening to a histrionic heavy rock guitar solo from about 1986: ‘Livin’
on a Prayer’. “I had the pheasant and Richard had the grouse”, the woman explains, “It was really nicely cooked. Really nice. Lovely”.