A few years ago, while I was planning my move to the edge of a West Sussex village my big sister out did me once again and took herself off to the far north of Scotland, (No sibling rivalry there then!)
In the quiet community where she lives the common greeting is,
‘Any news, any scandal, any gossip, and if not, let’s make some up!’ would be more appropriate.
I was staying with her last week and had the misfortune to need to visit the local doctor on pension day. The post office is just across the road from the health centre and I passed by just as the village worthies were gathering for their morning chat. I could feel all eyes on my back as I crossed over and I swear I could hear them whispering.
‘That’s Em’s sister from down south, she’s going to the doctor…’
One old farmer, waiting for his wife, quickly rolled down his car window to be ready to greet me with a cheery, ‘How are yea?‘ as I passed. Before I’d even got beyond the waiting room door my sister’s neighbour, a kindly and inquisitive old soul and ex nurse, had phoned to enquire what was wrong and could she be of assistance. In a two minute conversation she’d managed to wheedle out all essential details and within a few more minutes I imagine most of the over sixties had been updated on the state of my health. I swear even the sheep in the neighbouring field eyed me with interest.
I don’t think I could cope with that level of speculation on a regular basis but my sister takes it in her stride and gives as good as she gets. I now know quite a lot more than I needed to about several of her friends and acquaintances. Though not one to gossip myself, if this blog was a bit more secure I might even be tempted to pass on a few particularly interesting snippets. It’s not only the porridge that gets stirred up there you know. Some other time perhaps.
I’m not saying my own village isn’t capable of spreading a rumour or three. If you want to know who’s bought the empty shop and the juicy details of why the previous tenants left in such a hurry, then a visit to the hairdressers is needed. It’s only a small village but is blessed with three hairdressers and it would be unwise to upset any of them. I even heard that they’ve actually banned a woman I know for ‘bad behaviour’ but my half hour appointment wasn’t quite long enough to find out the exact nature of the behaviour. I need a perm and colour to get to the bottom of that one. It’s even rumoured that the village restaurant failed because my hairdresser’s mum had an indifferent meal there on her anniversary, but not being one to gossip myself I don’t think I should pass that on.
I travelled home yesterday and my sister phoned this evening to say she’s had several of friends pop in to see her. One brought a cabbage she had spare, another wanted a recipe, all wanted to know how I was. I shudder to think how my medical mishap has been pondered over and embroidered, but at least I know that my sister, who’s getting on a bit and not in the best of health herself, will be watched over by a community that looks after its own and its incomers. She’s a long way from me and I can’t get to see her much so I take comfort in that.