I have a theory.
It is a 100% factoid that in the middle of nowhere people are more willing to talk to each other. Whether it is conversing with someone in a shop or in the street, people just want to have a natter. I used to think that this was because after an extended period of time living in the countryside one becomes…nicer.
Living in the city gives people viper like reflexes against knife wielding assailants, drug-crazed serial killers and kiddie-fiddling flashers on Vespas and this hardens everyone to anyone unknown and a little bit to people you do actually know…after all, you’ve read the statistics and watched Crimewatch (but never tell anyone of this guilty pleasure…) so you know that most murders are committed against people known to the attacker.
So you don’t talk to anyone unless it is to ask directions…and even then you worry that the person you ask will direct you to a dark alley where you’ll get abducted into a sex-ring or human trafficked to Albania to appear in violent snuff films. You also never ask the time because people look at you and process: they have no watch? no phone? – ‘FREAK! RUN AWAY! HELP! …what did I read in Metro? Oh yeah…FIRE! FIRE!’
So, my theory is this: people in the country don’t talk to people because they have been softened by the gentle ebb and flow of country life, or the idyllic surroundings rounding off the hard edges of the modern world or because they’re just, simply, nice people.
No. They talk to people because they don’t see many people very often and so don’t want to miss the chance.
So when I ask directions – which I have to, frequently* – people end up chatting for ages because they have been starved of human contact. You end up having the most inane conversations with people that you start to, slowly, edge away from. I’ve seen Children of the Corn. I’m no fool.
But the scary thing about it is that I am becoming one of them! I now start up conversations with random people, like it’s completely normal…but I work from home so I practically invite the postie in to critiqué my latest bit of 3D: do you think I should free rig this? Or should I go classic and control curve my way out of trouble?
What is the end result of all this? Well, the countryside is like Gossip Girl but greener and with more Land Rovers. Everyone talks to everyone, so everyone knows everyone: and it’s, like, instant.
Is it a good thing? To be part of community, chattering away, knowing everything?
I think it is.
* There are no road signs and no one has house numbers, it’s all: Lillipad Cottage and The Rectory. You get directions like this: go down the B231 and then turn right at the big, red barn down a single track for about 14/16ths of a mile and fjord the river at the bottom and then up the gully, through the caves, and at the end of the track go over the style and we’re just there. If you end up in a deep ravine with no mobile reception, you’ve gone to far.