For a while now, I have been writing for your lovely LoveaHappyEnding Lifestyle Magazine about people who put life into village life, and before that on other themes, largely to do with enjoying life to the full in retirement. It is great fun to seek out these special people who help to bring a community together in oh, so many ways.
The series began with the amazing manager of the Deepcut Village Centre; then the landlord of a special village pub in Tilford; followed by the allotment chief in my local Frimley Green where I used to have an allotment. In June 2015 I introduced you to some very special fundraising going on in Pirbright through a couple of ladies who really do get things moving in their apparently quiet village; then back to Frimley Green to find out how a bakery attracts the locals – as if this needs explaining – and my friendly local library with its range of book-related activities. A visit to Kent followed to see how a local thespian saved a village hall, then a different angle to see just how Jane Austen manages to still live on in Chawton; and lastly in September this year I shared with you the salutary tale of how a local consortium of villagers in Rockbourne, Hampshire, saved their local pub.
My books had all been reviewed in SURREY LIFE Book Corner and, about a year ago it occurred to me that this theme would be very fitting also for this magazine; so I contacted the editor and also checked out with our own editor, Linn B Halton, that this would be all right with her. SURREY LIFE editor, Caroline Harrap, said she liked the idea but nothing definite was agreed. Then suddenly she asked me to send in 400-500 words and I had nothing to send her!!
I swiftly found the village of Brockham website – as I had just had a good review of Secrets in Appley Green – my 1960s village novel, that used a photo of the village green in Brockham and it was taken in the 1960s. Please see link at the end to see this. How brilliant of the reviewer, Luke Marlowe, to find this picture – it looks very like Appley Green! I contacted an extremely helpful person on the Parish Council only to discover the wealth of life going on in the village. I decided on one person who heads up the Emergency Response Team, dealing with flood alerts and preventative measures that gets the whole village involved. Something different! Fantastic! I was off. I met him, interviewed him in the community-run shop and café in nearby Strood Green, which actually became the subject of the July column, and within hours the column was emailed to the editor. Phew!
It was then a learning curve – keeping it concise, adding sub-headings, providing photos. My first SURREY LIFE hero provided me with a ton of wonderful dramatic photos to illustrate the floods – submerged cars, fast flowing river that had burst its banks and so on. But sadly, although they captured their moments so well, none of them were of sufficiently high resolution for print. But as you can see, I can show some of them here!
This first column went in the April issue and since then I have covered a Rock Choir leader in Chobham; an organiser of carnivals (and the rest) in Frimley Green; the manager of the aforementioned village shop in Strood Green; a philanthropic businessman with an MBE in Cranleigh; a stalwart of the WI in South Godstone; Headmaster of Milford’s secondary school that is unusually large for a village, as in my fictional Appley Green where the school is so good that it attracts pupils from a wider catchment area! The last one, in November issue (as I write this), seems to be a favourite – of lovely Tracey Honeysett – I mention her name as it so befits the Treacle’s Tea Shop she owns and manages in the village of Chiddingfold. The December issue, out now in Surrey shops, involves a visit to meet some amazing ladies in the little village of Elstead.
It amazes me how much is really going on in what often looks like a dead quiet English village. And what a wonderful, inspiring bunch of village people! I am now working on Feb 2017 issue.
All of these can be found for free in the Surrey Life archive under the heading Notes from a Small Village.
And I’ll see you again here on LoveaHappyEnding next year! You can pull up all my #LLm village articles by going into MENU and double-clicking on ‘Village Life’.
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