Magazine article The Spectator

Speed Limit

Magazine article The Spectator

Speed Limit

Article excerpt

Personally, unlike some, I've nothing against the holidaymakers who flock to this part of the world as soon as the primroses are out. They liven up the place. In winter, the geriatric ghettoes dotted along the coast hereabouts are too unnaturally quiet. Owing to the infirmities of age, artificial joints, strong winds, blindness, deafness, incontinence and fear, the indigenous inhabitants that do venture out of doors tend to creep from A to B slowly and tentatively, keeping to the shadows, pausing often to renew their strength. In winter it's like living in Madame Tussaud's after normal business hours.

There's no gossip about sexual infidelity or reproduction in our village because no one is young enough to be indulging in any of it. Village gossip is about who is ill, who is dying, who has recently died, or how lovely the funeral was. A fortnight ago, we lost three in one night. 'I hear Mrs Whale went in the night,' I said, as I paid for my morning paper in the shop. 'And poor old Mr Cox. And Miss Dance,' said the shopkeeper with relish. They do say, however, that on the coast people hanging by a thread tend to pass away at the turn of a spring tide. So that particular night, it seems, it was a backlog being cleared.

No, I like the grockles. They have pep, vigour. They leap off the cliff top that our house stands on, clinging to gaily coloured hang-gliders. In the blue yonder, they can be seen skimming the waves on powerboats and waterskis. In the village they go about horribly sunburned, many of them with next to nothing on, and get horribly drunk in the pub on farm cider. Going further afield, they fill the snobby little restaurants of the nearest town, utterly oblivious to the fact that they are snobby little restaurants, gratefully packing away everything that is put in front of them.

My one complaint about them is that their energy extends to buying everything there is to buy from local shops before we torpid indigenous folk can get off the mark. By ten o'clock the supermarket's greengrocery shelves are stripped so bare you wonder whether that department is actually closed for repairs and you missed the sign. You can't get a newspaper or a loaf of bread or a pint of milk after midday.

No newspapers or food in the shops I can live with, however. …

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