One morning, in Waitrose, I had one of those conversations that makes you think. Not that I spend a great deal of time in Waitrose, you understand, it is far too rich for my blood. In mitigation, however, I would say it is virtually on my doorstep and I needed something quickly. I am definitely more of a Tesco and Morrison girl really. However, my conversation with the lovely checkout lady made me think.

We were discussing the Marlborough Mop, a fair which stretches over two weekends a year, takes up all of the main street and whose currently 809 year existence is enshrined in the Town Charter of 1204.

She was saying that as a local Marlborough girl, born and bred, she is very fond of the Mop. She enjoyed it growing up and her grandchildren now enjoy it, although she bemoaned the fact that it would no doubt cost her a small fortune to keep them happy whilst visiting it. However, there are, she murmured darkly, over my soya milk, those who want to stop the Mop, who speak out against it each year and wish to see it banished as a tradition and they are all mostly ‘newcomers’ to the town. She was adamant they should not prevail!

I am sure that newcomers are not the only people who moan about the disruption to the town when the Mop arrives. It does means, after all, the closure of the central parking area of Marlborough over two weekends and doubtless many wish it would go away simply so they can avoid any upheaval to their lives and businesses. Making a living in this economic climate is not easy at the best of times for any of us.

I suppose my brief conversation with the checkout lady raised questions in my mind. Why do people move to an area, a small country town or a village and then try to change it? Invariably, in some way, they seem to want to recreate the very place they have just left. Why?

I have witnessed this phenomenon before having lived in two different places in Cornwall which I fell in love with initially for their quirky haphazardness and the spirited rebelliousness and friendliness of the locals. Cornwall really is another country.

The first was Looe. This is a quaint and ancient part of South Eastern Cornwall made up of East and West Looe or the sunny side and the money side, as those who are Looe born and bred put it. It has a working harbour and a fish market much beloved of a certain Mr Stein. It moves very much at its own pace which is summed up in a phrase much used by Cornishmen….. ‘dreckly’.

This word is open to wide interpretation and can, and does in my experience, mean almost anything. What it definitely doesn’t mean is that whatever you want done will be done straight away. It means ‘it will get done eventually, now take the weight of your feet, sit down here and tell me your story.’ It reflects the laid back, hospitable, almost horizontal nature of those folk who live by the sea.

I can understand it getting irksome when, having moved in from up country where you are used to having things done before you have even thought of them, you find yourself tackling ‘dreckly’ head on. You should know in advance that you’re never going to win because this is the way it has always been. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you will find your shoulders dropping, the tensions ebbing away, and you becoming as laid back and generous as the lovely place you have made your home.

It is, when all’s said and done, a totally different pace of life, unwilling to be rushed and governed by the tides and surely this is what you loved about the place so much it bounced you out of your comfortable, well-catered for, everything available 24/7 urban life. Now, if you understand the connection you’ll be fine. If you don’t and all you want to do is change this, stop that and remove whatever, you will be doomed to failure. There were a few in my time in Looe who came, full of bravado, cooking up plans for making Looe a hip and happening place, all to no avail. They upset people along the way and were eventually thwarted. Looe is as Looe was and I, for one, hope it will remain so.

My second encounter with this phenomenon is a prime example of adapting to the tide of life in a coastal village. This stems from my time as a resident of Kingsand Cawsand in Cornwall’s forgotten corner, the Rame Peninsula.

Cornwall, Kingsand in particular, is my spiritual home and the place My Other Half (MOH) and I constantly long to return to. This is my fantasy euro-millions lottery winners destination. I am just a temporary exile in Wiltshire and know that we will find our way back to Kingsand one day.

MOH and I found it easy to fit in in Kingsand. It was truly what we had always wanted and a magical place. The natives were lovely and we made excellent friends. We loved the pubs, the wild gig club dances, the beach and the woodland round about. We loved the isolated, ever so slightly lawless nature of the place. We loved watching holiday makers arrive whey-faced, stressed and beleaguered, towing children, dogs and kayaks, bemoaning the lack of a ‘proper’ supermarket. A few days later we would see them wandering, transformed amongst the listed buildings and narrow lanes of Kingsand Cawsand, having ‘learned the ways’ of the excellent local shop and, unable to get a decent mobile signal, almost totally and therapeutically cut off from the cares and worries of their other lives. They felt and responded to the magic.

However, there were a few souls who came to the village, drawn initially by its unspoiled streets and timeless nature, who felt unable to embrace it or live with it as it was and immediately sought to change it.

The characterful cottages they purchased had beautiful, uneven wooden floors, which had felt the passing of generation upon generations of feet, original sash windows and shutters, all the things people ordinarily seek out. But it was not for them. They decided to straighten the wobbly floors, strip out the old floorboards, change the windows and shutters, add large extensions where possible, thereby creating square, modern boxes which could have been found almost anywhere.

I know…I know… people have a perfect right to do what they want with the homes they own but they caused such distress, mess and chaos to those around them. Those locals who call Kingsand Cawsand their permanent homes pulled in their horns and made their disapproval known in the subtle ways of the Cornish. Ultimately, people dislike change. It is understandable in such a beautiful place. It chips away at the magic you see and, if you truly love a place, you really don’t want that.

Traditions, be they the local Mop Fair or the ethos of a particular place are extremely important. They are vital to the people who already live there and need to be understood and embraced by those who move into an area.

We have all read, I’m sure, the newspaper stories of people moving from town to country and immediately calling for the Church bells, local cockerel and/or sheep to be silenced.

I was recently astonished to read somewhere about a chap who moved into a village and quite soon after complained about a local farmer’s cockerel. The farmer was told that his cockerel crowed too loudly, thus exceeding some ridiculous environmental noise law or other, and he was taken to court. The farmer had an Order made against him under the terms of which his cockerel was to be put down. The appalled people of the village came down heavily in favour of the cockerel. The gentleman concerned was firmly ‘sent to Coventry’ by the village inhabitants, and eventually, ignored and defeated, sold up and left, hopefully a wiser man. Thankfully the cockerel was spared to crow another day.

I suppose people need to tread softly rather than rushing in like a bull in a china shop. Then, maybe, change can come about organically whilst traditions continue to flourish and the special magic of a place prevails to everyone’s mutual satisfaction.

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