Monday, April 17, 2006

Tupperware on wheels...

For a lot of people, Hurlmere is the Lake District. They join the queues of traffic heading for the hills; then, when they reach the pay & display car-park in Hurlmere, their courage fails them, and they settle instead for whatever the town has to offer.

Yes, there are many visitors to Hurlmere who prove remarkably resistant to the siren voices of the countryside. They like the idea that Hurlmere is in the countryside - that’s why they come - but all that greenery is just something to drive through on the way there and on the way home. They feel more comfortable viewing the countryside through the windscreen of what we used to call a family saloon. If they are assailed by any nasty smells, they can just wind the windows up to create a safe, hermetically-sealed environment: Tupperware on wheels.

They find the countryside unnerving. Landscapes that beckon seasoned walkers can hold a multitude of terrors for townies, who feel more comfortable with unresponsive concrete beneath their feet. They prefer the regimented rows of streets and houses in an A-Z street atlas to the sinuous curves of the contour lines on an Ordnance Survey map (which, in any case, they can neither read nor fold). The thought of going without such aspects of city life as lottery tickets and southern fried chicken, even for half a day, seems to fill them with a nameless dread. Worst of all, they are convinced they will get hopelessly lost.

So here they are, on Easter Monday, buttoned up against a blustery wind - mooching around the shops and tea-rooms, wondering if it’s too early to have a drink. Let’s hope they don’t make the mistake of walking into the Grievous Bodily Arms, where Neville regards all visitors as vermin. It pains him that he’s not allowed to shoot them during what is a depressingly long close season.

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