Suffolk's Village People
PUBLISHED: 12:03 06 July 2010 | UPDATED: 17:30 20 February 2013
No, not the 70s group who made moustaches and letter-gesticulating dancing popular, or even the good folk of Dibley. We are talking about the typical types you may find in your local inn or village shop. Recognise anyone? By Peter Sampson
No, not the group from the seventies who made moustaches and letter-gesticulating dancing popular, or even the good folk of Dibley. We are talking about the typical country types you may find in your local inn or village shop. Recognise anyone? Characters dreamt up by Peter Sampson
Roger and Angela Indigo
They moved to the village a couple of years ago, having passed the last few years moving from Coventry to Solihull to Godalming and some other place they can barely remember.
Every Sunday, Roger and Angela Indigo go for pre-lunch drinks at the village pub, where they call the landlord Andy. They take their two dogs with them, Rhodesian Ridgebacks called Simba and Shumba which theyve just acquired to remind them of their three week safari in the Masai Mara last year.
Roger now wears chukka boots and knows unsavoury things about rhinos, which he will tell you if you ask him. Or even if you dont.
The dogs lie quietly while Roger and Angela swap backchat and banter with Rosie behind the bar. Visiting tourists are impressed by their knowledge of house prices in the village and of the disgraceful iniquities of the bureaucrats in Brussels. Rosie and the locals are used to it.
Roger, who is something in insurance, has two pink gins and Angela two gin-and-Dubonnets before they and the dogs walk back home for Sunday lunch in the old rectory they bought during the slump.
Theyve calculated they could sell it now and make a profit of something like 50K. Roger and Angela keep a sharp eye on house prices.
In a year or two, theyll move on and Suffolk will be just another place.
Sometimes, in the early hours, Angela lies awake and wonders whether shes happy.
People in the village frequently wonder how on earth Rosemary can stay so plumply buxom when she's constantly, restlessly energetic, forever dashing from one meeting to another, knocking on doors, writing minutes and agendas and reports, talking earnestly to people in corners of the village hall (Sorry. Must dash. Late already. Ill see what I can do.) and generally organising things. Shes a great organiser.
Without her, the village would quickly relapse into the somnolence and torpor it enjoyed for centuries before she came to live on her own at Glebe Cottage.
Shes been Secretary of the Parish Council for years and fought the County Council ferociously and successfully to have speed restriction warning signs painted on the roads into the village.
Each Easter, she organises the villages Simnel Cake Competition (Proceeds to the Church Roof Fund) and the annual Flower Festival in July (Proceeds to St.Botolphs Hospice).
And then theres the WI and the Local History Society and the Gardening Club, each of which relies on her to do the boring bits.
Then theres the annual village outing for a day at Newmarket Races and, throughout the year, all the tedious business of fixing up weekly flower arranging classes in the village hall and attracting visiting speakers to give illustrated talks on bee-keeping and acupuncture and cake decorating and American airbases in wartime Suffolk.
Do people like her? The people shes helped think the world of her. Others rather take her for granted and sniff at her enthusiasm.
But, without her, the village would become no more than a dormitory for the nearby town. Almost single-handed, she keeps a Suffolk village alive.
He has one of those faces you know youve seen before but cant quite put a name to, not until you realise he's the actor who was the, um, the, the barrister, thats it, the barrister in that television play about, what was it, oh yes, about a man who lived in a windmill and there was something about drugs.
Then you remember youve seen him on telly lots of times, in heavy dramas and hospital soaps and the occasional film. Hes usually a doctor or a lawyer, something like that, because he has a distinguished look about him and a grave, authoritative voice. Hes never quite the star or the leading man but seems quite happy as a reliable second-rank character. Hes an avid bird-watcher who haunts Minsmere, except when hes filming in Northumberland or touring the Midlands in an Alan Ayckbourn play.
As the village celebrity, hes often asked to open the village fete or a church jumble sale.
Hes smaller than you expected and a bit older, even a little scruffy.
He and his wife moved into the old School House some years ago. Its not a holiday cottage for them, a place to play at country living, but their real home and the result of a conscious choice to avoid the self-regarding enclaves of media people scattered along the Suffolk coast. Now hes an accepted part of village life.
Billy is old, somewhere in his late eighties. He lives in a two-up, two-down cottage, which is one of the oldest houses in the village, but what he would really like to do is to move into the almshouses in the nearby town, where he could be sure of some care and some company. On either side of his cottage, there are new bungalows with car-ports and neat gardens.
As a boy straight from school, he started working with pigs on a farm just outside the village but after many years went to work as a gardener in the grounds of the hospital a few miles away.
Now, he goes for slow, solitary walks around the village and its surrounding fields.
Although he doesnt mix with people very much, he somehow gets to know everything that happens in the village whos dying, who hanged himself because of gambling debts, whos fiddling the benefits system, who threw a chair through the front window after a row with the wife, whos got a brain tumour.
Conversation with him tends to be about his knee operations and how the GP can do nothing about his dimming eyesight.
He doesnt think much of newcomers to the village, accusing them of wanting to change everything to suit themselves. As for house prices, hes never got over the news that a house in the village was sold for 550,000. Its the governments fault, he says, and all politicians are the same. And young people nowadays have got too much money and no discipline. They should bring back National Service.
The Suffolk that Billy Damson knew as a young man has gone and hes been left, grumbling, on the edge of things.
Marjories one of an endangered species and she knows it. Shes reminded of it every day when, late in the evening, she cashes up the days takings in the village shop that shes been running for many years.
She opens the shutters at 7.30 each morning and locks the doors about 12 hours later. Much of the time shes the only person in the place, though the morning rush hour does bring in a modest trickle of people dropping in for their daily paper and a packet of Bensons. Mid-morning brings in some of the older village residents looking for a pint of milk and a chat about the weather, while the after-school trade is with young mothers looking for something to give the children for their supper. The evening keeps her fairly busy in the small off-licence section.
When the Post Office decided to close the branch post office she used to run behind the newspaper rack, life became much more difficult. The income had helped her to put a bit of jam on the family bread and, without that, its a hard way to earn a living.
Shes tried all sorts of things to improve her business. Her husband delivers fresh vegetable boxes to the villagers. She has videos and DVDs for hire and theres a sudden flurry of activity in greetings cards when Easter or Mothers Day comes round. A lot of her sales stem from peoples wish to buy stuff locally produced in Suffolk potatoes, leeks, ice-cream, strawberries in season which the supermarkets cant always be bothered with.
But its not easy and her future is precarious. If Marjorie has to shut up shop for good, something that once helped to keep the village together will have gone.