“I ENJOY ironing,” says R from next door, as I hand over my laundry basket. I can hardly believe my luck. When he brings it back he explains it’s taken him a bit longer than it might otherwise have done because he ironed a cross into the pillowcases when he double-folded them. “Then I thought it might not be how you like them, so I did them without a crease.” This is no namby-pamby new man, but an ex-farmer, now smallholder, a Yorkshireman, born and bred. He’s just come out of hospital after an operation. He explains that if he doesn’t iron he might be tempted to watch television all day – in other words, relax – and that wouldn’t be good for him. In exchange, I’ve agreed to do his washing because their machine’s broken down and a backlog of repairs means a 10-day wait.
Meanwhile, our other neighbour takes R to the field to feed his animals (including two ex-pantomime, white, Shetland ponies) because R can’t drive yet, while Ian – my Ian – helps to put up the trees in church in preparation for the Christmas Tree Festival. It will be launched on Thursday with a concert from the East Witton Male Voice Choir and the Askrigg Ladies’ Singing Group, led by Diana, the music teacher in the village.
Our Advent window is a hit – done by Ian in my absence – portraying (guess what?) a steam engine snow-ploughing its way through the Pennines. The windows are yet another village venture, and a further example of the community working together to create a typically magical Askrigg Christmas. Then in January will be the annual pensioners’ Christmas dinner when around 100 older people, many living alone, will come along and enjoy turkey and all the trimmings, and – just as important – a good natter. All thanks to the local WI which thrives in this part of Wensleydale.
I wonder – is this David Cameron’s Big Society? No, it’s a Small Village. Doing what it’s always done.