Driving down to Broadstone is like travelling back in time to the 1950s. There are no black people on the streets here, while Asians are to be found only in the newsagents’ and restaurants. Muslims? Burkas? Don’t make me laugh.
I think most of the residents like it this way. The whole area has been staunchly conservative for decades: stopping for petrol at Rownhams services on the way down I made a scathing remark to some people in a queue about Dominic Cummings, and was surprised to find them springing to his defence (“He does a very useful job actually” etc.). So I have to make some big mental adjustments when I’m here and keep some of my more insurrectionary thoughts to myself.
So why do I want to live here? Mostly because of the house and the garden, but also because my neighbours here are terrific, the same age as me, and sharing many of the same tastes. Music, movies, food, gardening etc. When I arrived neighbour Pete happened to be wearing a Bob Dylan T-shirt, which made me feel at home straight away. We have formed a little Yorkshire enclave, and they assure me that there are other decent (not necessarily Yorkshire) people around who I’ll discover when I’m permanently here. They tell me that the local restaurant, which is literally a stone’s throw from my front door, has recently changed hands because the previous owners were busted for having a cannabis factory upstairs, so I guess not everyone’s True Blue.
The garden here, which I love, has completely gone to hell in the ten weeks that I’ve been away (the photo above shows it before the lockdown). The grass is now knee-high, the hedges are massively overgrown and there are weeds everywhere, some sprouting vigorously through the tarmac on the drive. Pumped-up superweeds. A few of the newer plants have died through lack of watering, though most of the others have survived and are ready to bloom. I missed the brief flowering season of the weigela while I was gone, but the hydrangea looks nearly ready to roll. It will take a lot of work putting everything to rights. I like gardening but this is rather daunting, so I’m thinking of borrowing the gardener that Pete and Celia have in once a week. They say I can. And if you’re thinking that I’m lucky with my neighbours, believe me I know it — and I haven’t yet told you about my London neighbours who during the lockdown have been absolutely … I’ll save them for another time.
Despite these challenges it’s good to be back here in Broadstone, reunited with my lovely big iMac after weeks of pissing about with the nasty little laptop I bought to use when travelling — I’m really just camping out when I’m in London these days — and with my La-Z-Boy which though rather scruffy now is the most comfortable chair I’ve ever known. Zzzzz.