Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Life in Cold Comfort Farm

The road into our village in winter.

One of my favourite books is Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons and having recently moved to the countryside I can certainly see where her inspiration came from! There is a tumbledown farmyard along our lane and as I pass it every morning I sometimes expect Adam Lambsbreath to come around the corner with Feckless or Aimless in tow.

Our village is owned by Oxford University which acquired it in the 1940s after the death of the landowner who lived in the 'big house'. This means that there has been no building or housing development for around 100 years - I think the village hall was one of the last buildings that was built in the 1920s. As I walk to the shop (little more than a front room in a cottage) or to the pub, I feel as though I am being transported back in time. It is completely feudal as we all pay rent to the university as none of the houses are ever sold.

There are only around 50 households in the village but, despite the small population, there is a thriving community and lots of village parties and events. Moving to a village after living in London for almost a decade was a daunting prospect but we have struck lucky in that we are only 3 miles from Oxford and the village community is made up of a strong and friendly bunch of people.

When I read articles about the decline of rural communities, I look around at ours and think how lucky we are that we didn't move somewhere that is home to commuters and second homeowners. Having said that, I can see how easily things would change for us if the shop ever disappeared as it really is the hub - all information is gathered via the shop. And believe me when I say that nothing is sacred. Everyone really does know everything!

There are some things that I am still struggling to get used to but life in the country is actually never quiet! If it isn't the wildlife, it's people knocking on your door for a chat. And the other day I opened our front door to find an array of fresh vegetables and salad leaves that a neighbour had grown in their garden. It's moments like that when I wonder if I have landed in the middle of a Miss Marple novel!

And yes, there are definitely moments when I have been in the midst of Cold Comfort Farm - a whole different breed of eccentricity resides in the country. So imagine my delight when I discovered that Vintage Classics are publishing a batch of novels by Stella Gibbons. I am really looking forward to getting my hands on Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm and also Conference at Cold Comfort Farm. The others that look really interesting are Starlight and Westwood - I 'may as well' bung those into the order as well. Oh dear, well at least I have that free veg to eat!