December 22nd: Small Town Boy
For me, the run up to Christmas feels impossibly long and drawn out. Why is it then that the closer I get to December 25th the faster the time goes? I spent all morning and all day yesterday washing, ironing, shopping, delivering, collecting, tidying, sorting, arranging, decorating and generally being a domestic God in order that the house looks perfects for a few days. Even that time period might be optimistic given Mrs Moo is now less than 100 miles away and moving rapidly towards Broadstairs. Not a single gift has been wrapped so I have my work cut out over the next two days.
I am not a city boy, but increasingly I realise I do not belong in the country either. I am a small town boy through and through. I like to live somewhere where I know enough people but can maintain some degree of anonymity; in a place where almost everything I might need, on a basic level at least, is accessible on foot. Where I live nothing is much further away that ten minute’s stroll away. Within that radius are all my favourite shops, two supermarkets, a garden centre, a cinema, the train station, two post-offices, three beaches, multiple restaurants and tens of pubs. Even when I had a car and visited only at weekends I didn’t use the car unless I absolutely had to.
The nicest part of my weekend is shopping on a Saturday morning. The experience is so quaint that it’s almost Dickensian. I go from shop to shop – the butcher, the baker, the greengrocer, the ironmonger, the haberdasher – stopping for a little chat in each. It means a lot to me that these specialists, many of them established for decades, still exist. I am ardent supporter of shopping locally, preferring the personal service and expertly edited choice on offer from people who have a vested interest in their business. Even our tiny branch of Tesco is run more like a local shop than a multinational chain. Winter is a hard time for shops in a seaside town, so I try to do as much of my Christmas shopping locally as I can.
I am fortunate that The Watch House is tucked away in an unassuming little back street used mainly by the local taxi firm, tourists heading to the beach from the carpark and visitors to a neighbouring gym. The local drunkards seem to have forgotten about it, which is a blessing, as they are the only people capable of disturbing my sleep. Even they are drowned out by the sound of the wind in the trees outside my bedroom window.
In just two hours I will bid farewell to my own company for twelve days. My guests are speeding on their way from Cornwall and will soon fill the house with noise, laughter and festive clutter. We will make the most of the town – its walks, its hostelries, its friendly atmosphere – until 2019 is firmly upon us. Until then I feel no need to venture far beyond that 10 minute radius; my small town sanctuary, my little Broadstairs bubble. TFG.