I fear I may be suffering from small village-itis. (SV)Symptoms are a keen interest in the activities of one's neighbours - often to an unhealthy degree, a heightened awareness of anything even slightly out of the ordinary, and the ability of listen to more than one conversation at a time. Admittedly, I am self diagnosed, and have no confirmation from a qualified expert, but all the signs are there, and I can't help being worried.
Yesterday I was in the village shop, keen to collect my weekly veg box (brimming with veg from a local farm, all lovely and fresh out of the ground and covered in proper earth and everything). While I was waiting for the very elderly Mrs Heard to complete her purchases and finish discussing the relative benefits of gravy granules versus gravy powder, with the endlessly patient Roy, who was serving that day, I chatted with Arnie, from up the road. He was interested in my plan for the large green cabbage sitting plumply on top of my veg box.
'Let's see, I mused. 'I'll probably stir fry some of it tonight, in olive oil, with a few pumpkin seeds and a bit of Tamari.' Arnie frowned. 'Soy sauce,' I added helpfully. His expression cleared and he launched into a joyful reminiscence of his mother's bacon and cabbage, embellished with a rather lovely description of the pinnie she always wore when cooking. I rather enjoyed this mini trip down memory lane, but while it was going on, Anne, from round the corner popped in, closely followed by Lynette, from the other side of the square. They were talking earnestly about a planning contravention by a well known local resident. Fascinating stuff which made one of my ears lean well towards them, so that I wouldn't miss a syllable. In the meantime, Arnie and I had completed his journey into the past, and Arnie had nipped in front of me and asked for a quarter pound of boiled sweets. While they were being weighed up, I got the gist of the planning scandal -and also earwigged a couple of kids chattering just outside the open door of the shop.
'He had a right go at me,' said one. 'Silly old goat,' said the other. 'It's only a stupid car, after all. And you could hardly see the dent.' I had a pretty fair idea who they were talking about, and when I finally got served, Roy was able to confirm it.
So you can see that at that point I was already displaying classic symptoms of SV. But then, this morning, i behaved in a way that really has left me in no doubt at all that I have a full blown case. Every Monday to Friday, as my running mate and I pound our way back into the village square, several miles of countryside under our belts (OK, 3-4), we see one of the local chaps getting into his car and departing for work. 'Morning girls,' he cries, and gives us a cheery wave. 'Morning!' we reply, cheerily waving.
Anyway, this morning, no sign. Nothing. His car was still parked outside his house, and his curtains still drawn.
Mindful of the fact that he lives alone and is not in the first flush of youth, I found this strange.
'I expect it's his day off,' said Bob. 'But supposing he's lying unconscious,' I worried. Eventually, half an hour later, I could bear it no longer. I strode across to his house, and knocked loudly on the door. No answer. Panic rose within me. Clearly I would have to kick the door in - or rather Bob would have to. I knocked again - nay, pounded on the door, in a last attempt to evoke some sign of life, before I raised the alarm. There was a scuffle behind the door, and a bleary eyed person clad in a bathrobe opened the door. He blinked at me. 'Are you alright?' I asked anxiously. He stared at me. 'You woke me up,' he said sadly. 'It's my day off.'