In the village

I remember seeing this prompt and wondering whether to make this piece a follow up to Cloud Dancing (I was rather taken with the character of Layla in that one and I’m pretty sure she’s going to come back at some point). But in the end I went for something a bit more non-fictiony. Thinking about it, I suppose this is, once again, a comment on the stupidity of Brexit.


It’s barely a hamlet; three large roundhouses and a collection of smaller buildings of various types – granaries, a shelter for the pigs and another for the goats although they keep eating it and it makes a lot of extra work. But a sickly goat is an unhappy goat, and unhappy goats give little milk. So they rebuild it every time, and the goats look at them sideways with their strange eyes and both parties know who’s going to win.

It smells of woodsmoke and tanning leather and baked pottery and animal and human dung and food. And sometimes something sharper, like mead or beer.

There are sounds of contentment and minor squabbles and effort from both the human and animal inhabitants, and beyond them the birds and the wind in the trees. It’s not a bad place to live, on the whole.

***

It’s a smallish village, 20 houses around a green and a collection of larger buildings of various types – barns, the church, the inn, the manor house. The lord’s not a bad sort, really – he keeps the peace with an even hand and make sure everyone’s alright, organising things so that widows and orphans find food and shelter and self-respect, and if possible another man to take them on. Because the women work hard and look after the children, but it takes a man to run a holding so he can pay his tithe to his lord.

It smells of woodsmoke and horses and human and animal manure, and on Sundays the incense from the church and every day of good bread baking and the iron being shaped in the smithy.

There are sounds of contentment and minor squabbles and effort from both the human and animal inhabitants, and the tolling of the bell, and beyond that the birds and the wind in the trees. It’s not a bad place to live, on the whole.

***

It’s a big village, almost a small town. Around the old village centre with the church and the green and the pub there are red brick houses from the 18th and 19th centuries, solid characterful dwellings with moss-grown walls and pretty gardens. And beyond them there are the newer houses; poor, cramped things on winding cul-de-sacs infested by cars and with red block paving and trampolines instead of gardens.

Nobody really works in the village any more – there used to be a school, but that shut down years ago and the post office went the same way last September. The church is inhabited by a glass designer from Cambridge who sells his work direct to galleries in London, and nobody from the village has been inside since he moved in five years ago.

It smells of car exhaust and fabric softener and fertiliser.

All you can hear, all day and for much of the night, is cars. They creep along the narrow country roads like turtles, rounded and shiny and completely unsuited to their environment. Most of the trees have long since been cut down to make space for intensive farming, and the birds went with them. It’s like hell on Earth, on the whole.

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