Unexpected continuityAug 30th, 2012 | By Ian Poulton | Category: Cross Channel
The houses have all changed now, of course. Perhaps they are no longer even separate houses, perhaps they are all part of a single dwelling; the high stone wall that has appeared prevents inquisitive minds from knowing the answer.
Mrs Fisher used to live there, but in which of the houses, it is hard to remember. The only clear memory is passing the window of the house that adjoined the road. It was a summer’s evening and the theme tune of Roald Dahl’s ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ floated into the night air.
It seemed a tune that matched the mood of the time, that captured a sense of a village in which strange and unexpected things might happen. Mostly it case that there were people who knew people, a lady in the village was a relative of a national broadcasting personality; perhaps his aunt? Who knew?
A lecturer from a local college was said to have moved house after a pentagram, a five-pointed star, was painted on his door, but this seemed an unlikely story. Villagers had for years heard stories about hippies and all the weird stuff that went with them and no-one believed a word of it; the hippy stuff seemed mostly about men getting what they wanted. Another man was caught growing cannabis and was fined for his efforts; it was a small infringement of the law compared to the hundreds of gallons of scrumpy cider that were made and sold each year without a single penny of duty ever being paid.
The unexpected came often in the stories of those who seemed outwardly plain and conventional, those who were in their twenties in the 1940s were still only in their fifties in the 1970s. There were ordinary people who had seen and done extraordinary things, a quiet pensioner would talk of being in Normandy in June 1944; and softly spoken silver haired man on the village green would tell of his days as a housemaster in a public school; years later in another country he would be remembered with affection.
Perhaps the unexpected manifested itself most in the years that would follow that summer evening. While life unfolded unexpected changes, there would be times when a year would pass between visits to the village, the cost of travel and the limited time off making more frequent trips impossible. On each return, there might be some incremental change in the place, but these were scarcely noticeable if one had been there throughout the year.
Perhaps the unexpected is not the change, but the continuity. Houses, farms, roads that would match their 1970s selves. If the strains of the opening sequences of ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ had been audible in the night air, it would have come as no surprise.