“Beyond the Wild Wood comes the Wide World,” said the Rat. “And that’s something that doesn’t matter, either to you or me. I’ve never been there, and I’m never going, nor you either, if you’ve got any sense at all. Don’t ever refer to it again, please.”
– Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows
I am a Mole, by inclination; and prefer the company of just a few very close friends and family members – and myself – to that of the general throng. I am, I suppose, socially, quite timid by nature (and probably somewhat eccentric, in other people’s eyes…): expressing myself better with written, than spoken language; and often keeping my thoughts to myself (or at least rehearsing, before uttering them…).
Grahame’s words – and the way of life he paints – seem all too apposite, currently. I don’t want the “Wide World” coming “Beyond the Wild Wood”, thank you. I chose to live in Tysoe, partly (mostly?) because of the lure of its isolation. I choose to stay here because of its isolation; its utterly wonderful, large moat of countryside; its intrinsic, unique sense of community and identity. (Those words again.)
I don’t know if it really is “the most rural village in Warwickshire”, as has been claimed – it certainly feels it, sometimes (thank goodness). What I do know is that I don’t want to be walking down Oxhill Road, with a future small grandchild in hand, explaining what the field that then holds 80 houses was; what it meant. (However, I presume all grandparents have many such sad epiphanies.)
But Mole stood still a moment, held in thought. As one wakened suddenly from a beautiful dream, who struggles to recall it, but can recapture nothing but a dim sense of the beauty in it, the beauty! Till that, too, fades away in its turn, and the dreamer bitterly accepts the hard, cold waking and all its penalties.
I apologize if this sounds pessimistic (“For my life, I confess to you, feels to me today somewhat narrow and circumscribed…”): but the new speed limit signs on Oxhill Road, and especially their positioning, represent to me (and others I have talked to) stakes in the ground; territory being claimed and marked out; nails in a coffin… – and it’s hard not to jump to such conclusions. I have a feeling that, suddenly, the village (made animate) feels fatalistic and hopeless.
All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.
Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, Those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way.
But this is still Tysoe. My Tysoe. And nothing can take that away. All we can do is fight; and, when the battle is won or lost – when the war is over – know that we did our very best to protect what is ours – even if we, and the village, lie scared and scarred, bruised and bewildered. (And never have I come across such an intelligent, invested group of weary foot-soldiers – “This happy breed of men” – as those currently trying to hold the ground for future, current, and past, generations. We find ourselves fortunate in so many ways.)
“Well, very long ago, on the spot where the Wild Wood waves now, before ever it had planted itself and grown up to what it now is, there was a city – a city of people, you know. Here, where we are standing, they lived, and walked, and talked, and slept, and carried on their business. Here they stabled their horses and feasted, from here they rode out to fight or drove out to trade. They were a powerful people, and rich, and great builders. They built to last, for they thought their city would last for ever.”
In the scheme of things, we are but little tadpoles in a roaring ocean – of both space and time (and bureaucracy…). (To quote the original Bard again: “Small show’rs last long, but sudden storms are short…”.) The field, though, has not changed in hundreds and hundreds of years; and our ancestors would have seen what we see now. Surely “This blessed plot” is therefore worth the fight?