Just about three years ago, our car broke down in Stratford-upon-Avon, on our way to somewhere completely different. Whilst our car was being repaired, we wandered into town, and spotted a picture of the house we now live in, in the window of an estate agent.
I’m not entirely sure what drew us to it – in fact, I was particularly reluctant, initially, to be drawn at all! – but, eventually (having agreed that we were going to move back to Wiltshire, from north London), we compiled a list of properties to look at, local to Stratford. This was the only one we fell in love with.
Objectively, there is little that is ostensibly remarkable about the house. Admittedly, for a building of its age, it has character – but the garden is smaller than we would have liked; and it doesn’t have a garage! One thing it does have going for it, though, is that it is in Tysoe.
Having lived in a small village, before, I knew how important the post office and shop would be; how fundamental it is that there is a pub, a village hall, a doctors’ surgery; how you soon get to know your neighbours – and trust them. What I hadn’t expected was the amazingly strong – possibly unique – strength and sense of identity and community the “three hamlets… of Over, Church and Temple Tysoe” jointly possess: something that continues to become more apparent (and amaze) with each passing day.
The current campaign to fight the development of eighty houses on Oxhill Road – of which I have suddenly found myself a crucial part – typifies this; and I must admit to being overwhelmed by the sense of purpose, unity and duty that drives those motivated to “do something about it”. It seems I am not the only one who finds this place so very special.
At the opening night of Richard II, at the RSC, recently, it struck me that John of Gaunt’s final “this sceptred isle” speech – a dying man’s prophesy; an old man’s rant – could be about our village: “This earth of majesty… This other Eden, demi-paradise… This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone… This blessed plot, this earth, this realm…”. This Tysoe.
And, just as the fight “Against the envy of less happier lands” gathered pace: as the deadline loomed for objections to be submitted against the planning proposal for those eighty houses, I realized (nay, was devoured by) the enormity of the task; and, Lear-like, headed out into the dark, the pelting rain, and howling winds, to try and gain some perspective.
But, in that “night’s storm I such a fellow saw”, hunched up, like me, against the “foul weather”; but, despite the air of foreboding, he uttered a friendly and welcoming “hello”. Just one word – and yet containing so much of what is special about this place.
For various reasons, I spend as much time as I can walking (badly, encumbered by a stick; and sometimes my camera) – whether it be by Shakespeare’s Avon; or through his supposed poaching ground of Charlecote. But, whatever the undoubted attractions of those places, I prefer just to wander around the local byways – maybe up to the windmill; or to Upton House; or across the fields to Oxhill. But I am at my most content, just sitting in the churchyard, knowing this is my village – and that this is where I will stay. To paraphrase Touchstone: “When I am at home, I am in a better place.”