12 Mar 2017

35. The Village

The writer warned:
Anything you say or do may be
recorded and used in a story.

There is on the Island a village – it shall be unnamed but herein known as the Village – the inhabitants of which have the ugliest of reputations. Such notoriety is always doubly unjust for it invariably hides uncomfortable truths about ourselves. No, the Villagers are not irresponsible, ungovernable and irreverent, they just disdain any authority imposed on them from without; they are not untruthful and undependable but creative and independent; and they are not lazy, they simply place work on the scale of everyday priorities in the place it deserves: right at the bottom. They may be envious, that most essentially human of all feelings and arguably the one that has most contributed to our species’ evolution, but so are you and I.  And so on.

Now it so happens that the Lord, as busy as usual at being ubiquitous, got late word of the Villagers and their unfortunate reputation and decided He would have to get rid of them. This was rather tricky in an age of transparency and accountability such as ours, so He called in the Devil for help. The first scourge to hit the Villagers came from the Devil: a forest fire of huge dimensions that threatened to consume the whole Village but eventually only had the inhabitants coughing and sneezing. It was now the turn of the Lord. He had heard they were always complaining about the scarcity of rain the Village received so He sent a deluge. The gullies burst with muddy water that swept away cars and buildings but miraculously spared the Village church. But the Villagers took even that in their stride. Meanwhile the Devil had heard that they had long demanded a town council for themselves and he and the Lord decided that if the Villagers had one, their competitive spirit would be their downfall. It took the Devil quite some time to negotiate this with the politicians and administrators of the realm but he was the more suited of the two to do so and eventually a deal was reached and the Villagers got their municipality

At first it looked as if the Lord and the Devil had been right but the villagers, far from coming to blows, finally came to their senses and did the right thing. They called in a team of civil servants – one for every 100 Villagers on the greatly inflated roll – and from then on ignored the pen-pushers and the institution they had so much wanted. The civil servants still try to establish their importance by nitpicking; the town councilors meet monthly to vote on ineffective resolutions, and the Villagers get on with their lives: old women shrill insults across the street at one another and laugh; young girls dream and flirt; boys double-park their speedy, noisy discotheques-on-wheels for the Village has no municipal police; labourers fill The Village’s six bars and shout about football and then go off fishing, planting potatoes or building houses without planning permission; couples come together, undo and then regroup with ‘variable geometry’ thereby ensuring a vibrant, vigorous gene pool; even the Church has fallen into step choosing more carefully the Village curate after two previous men-of-the-cloth married local girls and then another became an actor. Goat farms and vineyards proliferate, apparently the first being one of the Devil’s conditions for his intervention, and the wineries, well …

Dylan Thomas would have been at home in The Village!