Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Show Time

One of the developing themes of my Lake District series of novels concerns the loss of community life in English society and the disappearing traditions of rural and village society. Much as I applaud progress (the dramatic regeneration of Liverpool is a wonderful example), I’m a lover of tradition and a firm believer that progress should not mean the abandonment of long-cherished values, or the splintering of communities. On the contrary, it does seem to me that many of the tensions in the modern world might be eased if only we could develop more of a sense of community – making communities real, rather than just paying lip service to them in the way that some politicians do.

These reflections are prompted by a visit yesterday afternoon to the Cheshire Show. It’s at least ten years since I last attended this event, which is one of the major county shows in England. I’ve been too busy (or felt that I was too busy, not quite the same thing) to go in the intervening years, but this year I was invited to support colleagues from our office in Knutsford, only a mile or so from the Tabley Showground where the Show has taken place more or less every year for, I believe, well over a century and a half.

I was glad I made the effort. Not only was it good to have the chance to talk with colleagues away from the office environment, and to meet a few clients, it was enjoyable to soak up the atmosphere of a very impressive event. Even the rain kept away. And the trip encouraged me to hope against hope that, although it may be changing, life in the countryside is not changing out of all recognition in the way I sometimes fear.

Needless to say, my thoughts turned to crime during the course of the afternoon (sorry, it’s in the DNA.) I don’t know if any crime novel has ever been set against the backdrop of a county show – it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a Golden Age story, or perhaps a ‘Midsomer Murder’ of that kind, since it is almost as hard to come up with brand new settings as brand new plots – but it would make a very atmospheric locale, with all the animals, the crowds of people, the exhibition stands and so on. ‘Corporate hospitality’ is, inevitably, part and parcel of the Show, and my mind’s already toying with one or two ideas about murder in a marquee….

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