Editor’s comment: September 2020
PUBLISHED: 09:46 20 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:06 20 August 2020
What price do you put on your principles?
So here’s the dilemma. You live in a desirable Cotswold property worth around £500,000 (close to the average price in these parts). Aided by a small inheritance or a modest lottery win, you decide that you can now afford that bigger house with more land on the edge of the village, so you put your house on the market.
A queue of prospective buyers arrives at your door almost immediately, mostly would-be escapees from towns and cities emboldened by the new-found ease of working from home. You end up with two offers over the asking price, one from a local family who are moving up the property ladder, and a bigger one from a pair of London-based bankers who want a weekend retreat. Which one do you accept?
The first set of buyers will keep the lights on and their door open seven days a week. They will send their children to the village school, spend money in the village shop, refuel at the nearby garage, employ local tradesmen (or women) and eat and drink in the local pub. They will be a welcome transfusion of life for an often ailing patient, albeit one built of Cotswold stone.
The second pair are different gravy. They will load up their 4x4 at Waitrose in Islington before joining the Friday night traffic jam that is the A40 around Oxford. When they get here, they might well do a bit of recreational shopping, but they’ll head for Daylesford rather than the village shop. They will certainly spend money on eating out, but it will be at 131 in Cheltenham rather than the village pub. And then, after a weekend contributing bugger all to the local economy, they’ll shut up shop and join the Sunday evening traffic jam around Oxford on their way back to that London.
Oh, did I mention that the weekenders had offered more for your house? Twenty thousand pounds more, to be exact.
Welcome to the moral maze. We all know what we should do. We all know what we would like to do. So what price do you put on your principles? It’s a tough call.
As well as hundreds of townies pitching up with carrier bags of cash after disposing of their one-bedroom flats in the capital, the Cotswolds is also awash with stay-at-home tourists denied their annual European holidays by the fears of quarantine (not that anyone pays attention to it anyway) and sudden travel bans. This is good news and bad news. The good news is that the money they bring with them is helping to keep our pubs, restaurants, hotels, shops and tourist attractions afloat. The bad news is that too many of them are ignorant of our strange country ways and treat the place as a personal playground.
Gates are left open or blocked by parked cars, fields of crops are trampled underfoot, litter is casually discarded and, worst of all, dogs are allowed to run riot among livestock. I don’t have figures for casualties during and after the lambing season, but from personal experience I know of one family who lost two pet geese and four ducklings to a marauding dog. The children were, understandably, devastated.
So come and enjoy the Cotswolds by all means, but please pay at least passing attention to the country code. You wouldn’t like it if we ran down your suburban street kicking over your bins.
The influx of tourists (and some places are absolutely swamped) is very welcome and does provide some interesting insights into the Englishman Not Abroad. We’re used to coachloads of Japanese travellers stripping the shelves bare at the Highgrove shop and standing in your front garden peering through the window of your cottage, but they are unfailingly polite as they do so. The English can be rather more abrupt, and hold Olympic medals in complaining, particularly about the cost of things.
Hence the scene last week outside a very posh ‘farm shop’ beginning with the letter D, as the broad twang of an unmistakable Birmingham accent echoed around the car park: “A hundred pounds for a bloody tablecloth? What’s wrong with that oilcloth one we got as a wedding present?”