But at least they sing! I’ve discovered a weird, antique phenomenon here in the sticks – a creature that is virtually extinct in more thickly-peopled areas, although much talked of nevertheless – a sort of urban myth if you like.
This myth is called ‘our community’. Where I come from, ‘our community’ is discussed with annoying regularity, especially by people in government and people hanging off it, and sometimes, also, by people who ride bikes with cane baskets on the front and grow vegetables on their nature strips. But in a city, this creature ‘the community’ doesn’t really exist, in my experience. What you have, if you’re lucky, is neighbours. Maybe a friendly street. That’s it – unless you’re all united in righteous fury about a halfway house being established up the road or something.
But out here, ‘the community’ really exists – and it holds singalongs. In the local church, with the ladies preparing Anzacs, scones and home-made party pies in the annexe, and the village schoolkids trooping in to perform wobbly dance numbers, and the local talent singing covers of Neil Diamond songs and sometimes their own compositions, guitars at the ready and concertinas unfurled. Someone read a funny story (it WAS funny, if curiously formal). Someone dressed up as a town crier and MC’ed. There was a choir, and little tables.
It reminded me – if that’s the right word for something you never even experienced in the first place – of some scene in Jane Austen where the hostess calls on Amelia to play the pianoforte, and then Edward accompanies her in his excellent amateur bass baritone. Some people sang a little out of tune. Some people’s guitar skills were a tad rusty. But who cares – they gave it a go! Would I be any better? (No, I wouldn’t) Would I have the guts to get up there and recite to the scone-crunching masses? (Maybe. Next time. If they’re lucky.)
Afterwards, ladies with large upper arms drank tea with flannel-clad farmers, hippies tamed by long domesticity sat down with their wheelie-walker-enabled friends, and relatively young parvenus to the area like me made a few new acquaintances (mainly by butting in to conversations with a plate full of someone else’s biscuits and no shame). The elderly lady I came with pointed out the local landmarks (‘there’s Henry Hickory. You can’t turn around without bumping into a Hickory down here’, ‘…and that’s Margaret. She’s chief of the Fire Brigade – you’ll want to get to know HER.’ And so on.
So it turns out, the Community is NOT a legend born of nameless urban yearnings. It exists. It gossips. It cares. It’s here. I think I like it (at least till they all get their pitchforks out). On the way home, however, it bit me – a big stone in the sump and that was the end of my fancy pants city car (they won’t even pay $100 for parts, down here).