Flee to central London from Midsomer Island

By Charlotte Hofton

Tuesday, April 29, 2014



WHO would not wish to move from the grime and violence of the city to the sweet balm of a country village? Who would not exchange all that aggression and traffic noise for the gentle pace of rural life and the twittering of birds?

Why be mugged on the pavement when you could be tripping along a mossy footpath with a basket of fresh-laid eggs?

That, at any rate, is the traditional thinking on the town-country divide. Pure nonsense, I’m afraid, and surely time for this absurd notion to be put to rest.

So what better place to give the lie to our preconceptions than Godshill, where ding-dongs and strife are once again to the fore?

Before examining the goings-on in Godshill, however, let us look at the supposed charms of village life in general. Both fact and fiction demonstrate the horrors of living among the hedgerows.

Most famously on the fictional front, there is Midsomer, an area which contains quite lot of picturesque villages, not one of them unaffected regularly by mass murder and cut-throat scheming.

If the reality of village life does not throw up quite as many murders as Midsomer, that is not for want of homicidal thoughts. Anyone who has attended a parish council meeting will testify to the bitterness and rancour that rages over any proposal to erect so much as a fencing post.

Then there are church bells. The poet Housman described them as "a happy noise to hear", but he must have been having a funny five minutes. Church bells are the cause of monumental unhappiness, with objections and rows about midnight chimes and lengthy practice sessions routinely marked by fury and discord.

Village fete committees? Hornets’ nests of disagreement. Rural vicars? Targets for extreme wrath if they dare challenge the churchwardens, move a pew, or sack the rubbish organist and the tuneless crones in the choir.

Prize for the largest marrow? Don’t even go there. Just send for Inspector Barnaby and keep well away from the allotments.

While there is not a village on the Island that is immune from all this aggro, Godshill has been a consistent leader in the acrimony stakes in past years and now looks set to enhance its reputation as seething cauldron of conflict.

Back in 2002, there was a tremendous dispute when a straw kangaroo was erected on the thatched roof of a tea room. This coincided with an altercation about dustbin collections, a subject almost as provocative as church bells.

And then there has been Ian Debrett, all prancing flamboyance and for years getting right up the noses of Godshill Parish Council with his fancy fountains and pagodas and planning applications for the Willow Tree Tea Gardens, which he owns with his wife, Sue.

He’s just lodged a new application and the parish council has already renewed its objections.

So that’s a nice little row bubbling away, not to mention the spat over the latest proposals for two craft markets in the village.

Parish councillors are not happy. The craft market organisers are standing up for their rights. There’s been a letter in the CP, brimful of displeasure.

Why bother to watch Midsomer when you’ve got the perfect scenario in Godshill? Tearooms, craft stalls, and the marrow season is almost upon us.

So far there hasn’t been a body but it’s probably only a matter of time.

When I telephoned Ian Debrett, he was making pavlovas. Well, that’s what he said.

He also said, darkly, that you couldn’t put up a single brick in Godshill without the parish council objecting .

I’m sure the pavlovas will be lovely but if they turned up in Midsomer, Inspector Barnaby would be out in a trice, examining the poisoned corpse of a parish councillor.

Meanwhile, if you prefer a less exciting life, why not move to central London?

The gremlin twitching curtains in a village

As if Godshill were not sufficient proof of the dark nature of village events, recent minutes of Freshwater Parish Council were questioned by a member of the public, Terry Noyce.

He noted: "I think the reference to people living in a depraved area should probably have been a deprived area."

As you say, Terry, probably. But who knows what goes on behind the net curtains at Freshwater? The spirit of Tennyson may live on and one has always been suspicious of the poet’s motives for luring Maud into the garden.

"I am here at the gate alone." I bet you are, Alfred.

Still, let us give Freshwater the benefit of the doubt and assume it was a typo. This is still cause for concern. It is well known there is a salacious little gremlin which lurks under the sub-editors’ desk at the County Press and changes bouncing babies into bouncing boobies when nobody is looking.

This typo in Freshwater may indicate that our gremlin has procreated and its offspring are infiltrating the whole Island.

Parish councils should be especially vigilant. There’s no knowing the damage wrought upon duckponds when the gremlin inevitably replaces that initial 'd’ with an 'f’. Depraved, indeed.

• Read Charlotte Hofton's latest column in today's Isle of Wight County Press, Friday, May 2.

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