StumbleGate – or a village without a heart? Comment

I write to you today, as your chief correspondent for this fine local website. But more than this I write to you as a fellow villager. And maybe more than that – I may write to you today as a neighbour. Indeed as a friend.

Maybe some of you will point out with no little factual accuracy that I was born outside this village, did not live here when I was younger and even now currently live outside the village. And you may also point out that my forebears were born and raised a long way from this village. Indeed in another part of the country which may indeed have never have heard of the village and if they had they would in all likelihood have believed that the people in such a village were stuck up, aloof and generally unfriendly. However - and I make no apologies for making this point –  I am someone who recently started working in the village (when I am not working from home – which can be a convenient option) and I am someone who had my interview for this job in the village. I am sure this qualifies me as a ‘villager’ even in the eye of the most staunchly one-eyed villagers of whom we know there are many.

And so to my point.

I started writing for this website some four days ago. I was recruited to breath some life into what is essentially a tedious and trivial piece of local media – to get people to get excited about living in the village all over again.

Coincidentally, my first days in the job coincided with the biggest story to hit this website since its inception in 2009. And it was my duty to report this story – honestly and truthfully and with no holds-barred.

We all know the story.

Some four days ago a local person (or possibly someone visiting the village from somewhere else – but anyway someone who was local at the time) was seen to stumble and nearly fall at the far end of the High Street.

The reaction from the village was overwhelming – as you would expect from such a tight knit community. People tutted and rolled their eyes in conversations across the village – in the shops, the schools, the cafes, the alternative therapy treatment rooms and beauticians’ stdios. There was much concern for the poor unknown stumbler and many was the time when I walked by villagers and overheard mutterings and mumblings about the stumble.

Within days the community had offered help to the person who had nearly fallen over – the Guides collected blankets for the him or her. The Scouts offered to raise money with a car wash and the local knitting circle even offered to knit woollen knee pads for every child in the village.

The local Amateur Dramatics company “The Village Players” offered to stage a reconstruction so that we could try to identify the stumbler and the village Watecolour Club produced this stunning painting to provide a chilling pictorial depiction of the event – to help us all understand what may have happened.


And ex councillor Marcus Phelchurch offered to donate a sign to the village to commemorate the event and provide a warning to villagers who walk in the village.

This was the village at its best. One community – the so-called “Big Community” coming together to help someone who may or may not have been hurt.

You may recall yesterday that I wrote that the village was catching its breath after such a monumental week and we did not produce any news yesterday as a mark of respect for the victim. And to shift some late advertising space – which was a fortuitous side effect of our senstive decision.

I returned to the office today, expected the wave of goodwill to wash ashore once again in the village – after this respectful break.

But I was shocked. And disappointed. And is it too much to say “just a little bit heart broken?” In the response that I found.

It appears the village was already forgetting the incident and the near tragedy that occurred on our own very streets. Instead of ‘falling over’ conversations had switched to other subjects – drinking, local sporting events, gossip of a lascivious nature, shopping, alternative therapies and beauty treatments. Gardening. All that kind of thing that people talk about in villages – that kept me away from one for so long.

The optimist in me may say that this response is the right one. It’s the instinct of the survivor. the instinct that saw us through two World Wars. The kind of pluck depicted in 1950s comedy films. The story of the man who gets up off the floor, brushes the dust from his cricket sweater, picks up his tennis racket and plays on to beat Terry Thomas.

This thought makes me proud - proud to say that I live near this village and work here 3 days a week.

But I have a sneaking suspicion that there is more to it than that. That the shutters have been closed, the curtains partly closed on this ‘new kids’ views on this village. Perhaps people don;t want to see their own image reflected. Perhaps my writing, described by Mr Petersham the website owner in my hastily arranged first week appraisal is ‘sensationalist to the point of being laughably ridiculous’ but isn’t that what they said about Robert Redford when he exposed Watergate.

I am just saying to The Village – “I am watching you” in the same way as Mr Petersham is watching me after my probationary period was extended this very morning.

Good day to you all.



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