My memories of living in England are of living in London. This week I hired a car and drove down to Christchurch, Dorset. It is a nice change to be somewhere slower, kinder and happier. It does help that the sun is shining – so much so that I have resorted to wearing my Dubai clothes. One of two things will happen. Either the weather will change, or I will run out of clothes. I’m betting on the weather!
Christchurch and its neighbouring counties, is the England we see on calendars. Rolling meadows, little villages, and buildings that have stood for millenia. No-one on an ordinary wage can afford to buy here now. Before long the older people will be gone and with them the history of these villages and the concept of community. I would like to think that someone with a private jet and a Rolls Royce would put their names forward for the volunteer positions of warden and archivist for the historical church, but I can’t see it.
Unfortunately, Brockenhurst is one of these high-priced villages. Set on the edge of the New Forest it is a place some of you will know as the village that was once home to the NZ 1st General Hospital in WW1 and has held an annual Anzac service since 1921. It is full of both old and new housing and there are always several wild ponies roaming the streets. In this part of the world, ponies have priority over cars and any part of your garden that dangles over a fence. I heard yesterday that if you are a Commoner, there are certain times of the year when you can also allow your cows, your mules and your pigs to roam free. The idea is that these other animals eat the acorns, which are known to poison the ponies.
It may be best to steer clear of Brockenhurst in autumn!
I was pleased to visit St Nicholas’ church again where until now I have never been the only person standing in front of the 93 NZ soldier’s graves. It was a warm evening and the birds were full of noise. It was a peaceful interlude in a very busy day. I had learned that the men who lie here had been given as much of “home” as it was possible to give them in a foreign country. They were deeply regarded by their comrades and cared for by doctors and nurses who did everything they could to help them survive. And in this wonderful, peaceful place, they are remembered.