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Where have all our village characters gone?

PUBLISHED: 10:22 25 March 2018

Why don't villages seem to have as many characters as they used to, asks Keith Skipper. We bet this 'ol' Norfolk boy' from the EDP files for July 1963 would have had a few tales to tell...

Why don't villages seem to have as many characters as they used to, asks Keith Skipper. We bet this 'ol' Norfolk boy' from the EDP files for July 1963 would have had a few tales to tell...

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Keith Skipperts wonders where all our village characters have gone.

If we don’t get country characters like we used to, perhaps we ought to point the finger at local cooling rather than global warming. It’s much harder these days to make a highly individual mark on the Norfolk canvas unless behaviour lurches towards the utterly bizarre.

While the media in general and television in particular constantly glorify daft antics and suggest blatant exhibitionism is normal and healthy, it seems reasonable to peer into yesterday’s hedgerows for a few sprigs of genuine rustic foliage.

Such are the pace of life and rate of change that traditional virtues like dry humour, local pride and mild xenophobia (other brews are available) can be missed altogether. Subtle lines of communication that once drew native and newcomer closer while still confusing the casual visitor … “Never yew mind where I live, dew yew come an’ see me” … have been choked up by lottery hard-luck stories and arguments over Received Pronunciation.

Mobile phones have replaced mardling. Nonconformists are thin on the ground. The very idea of village worthies holding court on the memorial seat beneath the spreading chestnut tree outside the old forge draws guffaws of mocking laughter. Top Gear soundalikes are drowning out echoes of the past.

Rolling acres of fertile farmland used to reverberate with rough and ready humour when workers had to provide their own entertainment. Now a lone ploughman clambers into his air-conditioned tractor cab, checks the computer and turns the CD over for Vivaldi in season.

When I was a lad (go on, snort with derision), it seemed every village was an ideal stage for real characters, some endearing themselves to more orthodox members of a small society by dint of eccentric mannerisms or dress. It was expected of them, especially in the pub.

Hands up good folk in ever-growing communities like Brundall, Hethersett, Mattishall, Mulbarton, Rackheath and Scarning and tell me how you miss real village characters.


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