“Delightful!” I mutter drily, perusing the local rag. Just as house prices have plummeted, burglaries have risen exponentially thanks in part – the article alleges – to a greater emphasis by police on vice. Momentarily a nostalgic vision of Soho circa 1959 flashes through my mind; a bottle blonde with jaunty beret à lastanding in a doorway, Cliff & the Shads twanging in a coffee bar but sadly 21st century Streatham doesn’t possess nearly as much blowsy charm (although happily it does now boast a Caffe Nero). At least the soaring price of scrap metal means I no longer wake to find vandalised cars with half-eaten takeaways on their parcel shelves abandoned in what few Red Route-exempt parking bays we have at our disposal. Big whoop!
I duly email this comforting news to my sister who lives 100 miles away in a quiet Northants town, subject heading: “Welcome to my world”. She responds that her teenaged son often wishes their town were as lively! Lively?? Quoting from their local weekly paper, the most serious incident concerns a paper towel dispenser having been set alight in the carpark of the newly opened Waitrose, “… some blackening to brickwork occurred.” In between urging me to relocate to the wilds, she’s now taken to seeking out the most pedestrian non-articles in order to wind him (and me) up. Give me “Kitten rescued from tree” or “Vicar pronounces W.I. cake stall best since 1953” any day of the week.
Whilst the urge to up sticks and move somewhere less lively is an almost constant preoccupation, I console myself – or is it kid? I never can decide – with some of the perks living in London affords the singleton. During a recent short-lived spell of employment in Foots Cray, where I seldom left the office before 7pm, I could traverse the thirteen miles home via bus and two trains safe in the knowledge that Sainsbury’s would still be open, a comforting beacon on the Balham skyline beckoning the hungry straggler. Similarly, no matter how flaky my last minute arrangements, I know I’ll be able to get to where I need to be and crucially, that I’ll also be able to get home. It was only when I house-sat for sis that I came to realise how dire rural public transport can be. What good’s a bus that stops running at 6pm if you want to visit friends for the evening?
So whilst deadheading roses, knitting cardies in 3-ply and solving mysteries in some village idyll might seem alluring to the careworn city slicker whose daily commute involves cattle truck conditions, discarded chicken bones and lamb chop armpits, to borrow a line from Peggy Lee’s ‘Is That All There Is’, “oh, no, I’m not ready for that final disappointment.” Well, not quite – but I’m getting there. And there had better have a Waitrose.