the village newcomer
SINCE moving to the village from London three years ago, Fiona has made volunteering a profession. "Course I dont mind lending a hand," she shrieks. "Delighted."
"If you dont get involved you dont know whats going on," she tells Marcus, her husband, as she rushes off to a Neighbourhood Watch meeting. Run the tombola at the fete? "Absolutely." Deliver the newsletter? "Absolutely." Help at the school sports day? "Absolutely." Never say No is Fionas motto.
But she still doesnt feel quite accepted. "You arent unless your grandparents were born in the village," she says, a little bitterly. Fionas grandparents were born in Islington. Or was it Isleworth?
Fionas convinced she isnt a townie anymore – she hasnt complained about the smell once. OK, she may have "mentioned" to Mr Fisher that his potato picker left a little mud on the road – but she had only just cleaned the Discovery, after all.
Reporting the local farmers dog as a stray didnt help. "I was only trying to help," she sobs, wiping the tears from her eyes. "I thought it was worrying sheep." She had read about sheep worrying.
"There are no sheep for 50 miles," the farmer snapped. "This is cow country. That dog was just waiting for me."
But Fiona wasnt listening: she couldnt take her eyes off his trousers. They were covered, absolutely plastered, in – and she shivers at the thought of it – poo.
Fiona thinks the problem stems from her objecting to that planning application. Everyone else seemed to think that Henry should be allowed to convert his sheds into offices, but they didnt have to live next door to it, did they. "Marcus and I didnt move here to live next to an industrial estate," she said.
Henrys wife accused Fiona of meddling when she popped round collecting for the Red Cross. "Its our livelihood thats at stake," she said. "Dont stick your nose where its not wanted."
Fiona was so upset she went to stay in London for a few days with some chums. "I just need some time to get my head together – its so claustrophobic in that pokey village," she said. "Fi-Fi, you poor thing," her chums replied.
But after three days in London she had a rather different view of the village. "Its a darling little place," she said. "Such sweet people. A better environment to bring kids up in. And the air, you should smell the air, you can breathe there."
When Fiona got back, she made a concerted effort to fit in. She had time on her hands, after all, what with Marcus away at a conference in the States.
She agreed to help with the church flowers, offered to join the parish council and ranted in the post office about how the government was neglecting rural services.
"Blairs got no idea about the reality," she said. "I have to make a 50-mile round trip to buy a decent bottle of wine."
She even joined a farmer-protest outside a supermarket. "Were from cow country," she shrieked enthusiastically to a passer-by. Trouble was, her heart just wasnt in it – the supermarket concerned did do such lovely sushi.