A heron flew over Dale Cottage where the last of the pink fuchsias were poking out from holes in the blanket of fallen leaves and a woodpecker was assaulting the peanut feeder. On the driveway, the man in the blue Vauxhall Zafira with the ladders on the roof was listening to some contemporary pop music at high volume. He rocked back and forth enthusiastically in the driver’s seat, mouthing the words with a screwed-up, cum face.
In the best kept village that smells of 2-stroke chainsaw oil, where the houses are never, ever 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 80s hits on their heavy duty 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—whose contractors have tattoo sleeves, full-face beards, and 90s hits on their heavy duty radios: A Design For Life.
At the big house in the woods, one of the modern, 90s builders was hoovering the pattern imprinted concrete driveway while another was spreading a smelly solvent sealer onto it with a yard brush.
At the house with the big view, the woman in a bathrobe was 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, still unreconstructed builder, was 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 explained, “It was really nicely cooked. Really nice. Lovely."