Pool Cues at the Ready
Lezard, Nicholas, New Statesman (1996)
An invitation to the countryside from C--, who is actually an ex from my university days but has become a good friend again, even though she reads the Daily Mail. (I suppose it cuts both ways. Someone recently described me as "a jolly nice chap, even though he writes for the Guardian". Just as well he didn't know about this gig; it might have tipped him over the edge.) She lives in the village of K--, acknowledged by Betjeman - or was it Pevsner? - to be one of England's prettiest, and indeed it is gorgeous. It is also, if you believe this kind of thing, said to be one of England's most haunted, and was the scene of one particularly spooky event in the 1950s, when three naval cadets on leave there underwent what was later described as a "time slip" they suddenly seemed to step back 600 years into the past, finding themselves in the village as it would have been around the time of the Black Death. Later interviews with an initially sceptical historian corroborated their story.
Certainly, K--can have a disorienting effect on the effete urban visitor. Although C--'s company is always a delight, I have to think twice before accepting her invitations. For country life is not like city life. Actually, it's a bit like The Archers but during those periods when the programme's scriptwriters have a collective rush of blood to the head and decide that now is the time to pick up the pace a bit, get some new listeners in and, with a bit of luck, make the news. I've been sworn to secrecy about some of the shenanigans over there, but life was never dull.
Among the friends I have made are Heroin N--(who has, I am glad to have gathered, since kicked the habit, but the nickname endures) and T--the Burglar (whose burgling days, I am glad to have gathered, are long since over, but the nickname endures). They might not be the most conventionally respectable of the village residents, but are far and away the most amusing. (The conventionally respectable residents are largely of comparatively little interest, with the possible exception of one or two, but let's not drag them into this hall of infamy.)
However, "amusing" can also mean "trouble". …