If you live in a large town or city in the UK, it is unlikely that you would ever be aware of the unseen benefits of living in a Norfolk village, or for that matter, villages all over this country. There are downsides, that I have often mentioned in this blog. Public Transport could be much improved, and there is a scarcity of local shops, and places of entertainment and leisure, that do not involve having to drive to them. Call an ambulance, and you may well have to wait a considerable time for it to turn up; and you are not likely to see a police officer walking the beat locally.
However, the benefits far outweigh these disadvantages. Ask yourself, are you happy to leave your car unlocked where you live? If you went out and realised that you had forgotten to lock the door, would you return home in a panic, expecting to find all your possessions gone, or intruders in your home? When you are out walking around your neighbourhood, do you feel comfortable when you see a group of young men walking towards you? If you ever concern yourself about issues like these, then you really need to think about moving to Beetley, or somewhere just like it.
You would like to order some reasonably expensive item from a company like Amazon. You are unsure if you will be in to receive it, and there is nowhere that it can be left securely. So you get it delivered to where you work, and carry it home. Or it is sent to a relative who is available, and you have to collect it. Here, the solution is simple. You return home to find the item propped up against your front door, in full view. It has been unmolested, undisturbed, and might have been there all day. Nobody would even think about stealing it. Someone might even move it inside your back gate for you, under cover, if it started to rain.
It is very icy out. As a former city dweller, you are afraid to drive into town in those conditions, so you set off walking, hoping that rare bus will turn up. Someone you have never met will stop and offer you a lift in their car, as they are used to driving in bad conditions. Forgotten to close a window when you left home? A helpful person will push it closed from outside, to give the relative appearance of security. If you have parked your car in the drive, and left a door ajar, somebody will ring the bell, to let you know, and to save your battery running down, or rain getting in. Go away for a two-week holiday, forgetting to lock a door, or secure windows, and you can return home, safe in the knowledge that you house will be as you left it
This all takes a lot of getting used to, after sixty years in central London. But there’s more.
Tell someone that your dog is unwell, and you will return to find treats or biscuits for him, hanging off your letterbox in a carrier bag. There might even be a get well card enclosed. If your car needs to go in for repair, or service and MOT, somebody will offer to pick you up from the garage, and drop you back again later. Got a parcel to send, or an air-mail letter to post? If a neighbour is going to the post office, they will happily take your mail for you, and sort out the cost later. If an elderly person can no longer drive, or has become unwell, others will come to their aid, even if they hardly know them. They will take them to the shops, or take a list, and get the shopping for them. If dustbin day is looming, they will make sure that the correct bin is wheeled out for them, without even being asked.
Perhaps you are a dog owner, and sometimes you are unable to take the dog for a walk, as you have to attend an appointment, or travel a long distance. No need to worry. One of the local dog owners will take your furry friend out for you, accompanying their own dog. You can even trust them with a key to your house, and if need be, they will not only feed the dog for you, but pop back later to make sure that it is OK, and leave some lights on, for when you come home late. The same goes for feeding your cat, if you have one, or even tropical fish, chickens, or caged birds. Far from being nervous if you see a group of teenagers hanging around, you can actually ask for their help. Maybe you need to shift some wood, look for a lost pet, or assist an elderly person who has fallen. Not only will they help, they will do so willingly, and with enthusiasm.
Walk past any stranger, and they will greet you with a cheerful ‘hello’, or at the very least, a nod of recognition. Ask for directions, and they will walk part of the way with you; or if they are in a car, will offer to take you there. Mention a restaurant, tradesman, or even a garden centre, and they will steer you to the one with the most reliable reputation, and best service. If someone nearby is having a party, or family celebration, they will put notes through doors, apologising in advance for any noise or disruption. If they plan to burn leaves, they will look over the fence first, to see if you have washing hanging on the line.
This all sounds like a figment of my imagination, impossible in the 21st century, I know. But it is everyday life here, a community as it should be. Safe, secure, compassionate and helpful, living in peace, and wishing the same for everyone else. I recommend it, unreservedly.