And you thought inner cities were bad?

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The Independent Online
This is a village story. One evening last December Mrs Heather Edyvean-Driscoll, 49, of Kites Hardwick in Warwickshire, was approaching the pretty hamlet of Dunchurch, near Rugby, behind the wheel of her Land- Rover Discovery. According to a following taxi driver, Mrs E-D was driving "erratically" when - all of a sudden - she overshot a bend, hit a bollard and careered into The Old Forge, a nearby cottage. The airbag on the driver's side inflated, leaving an encumbered Mrs E-D to guess what her next move should now be.

Alas, she guessed wrong. Throwing the vehicle into reverse, she backed - at speed - into The Old Dairy, a half-timbered property and the idyllic domicile of Mr Peter and Mrs Jennifer Trewren. Such was the force with which the Land-Rover connected with The Old Dairy, that the vehicle smashed entirely through one wall and came to rest 7ft inside the living room. As ill luck would have it, it was into this very room but a few moments earlier that Mrs Trewren had dashed, in order to see what the commotion outside was all about. She very soon found out. Within seconds she was lying - badly cut - with her own central heating radiator on her legs - looking up at the back axle of Mrs E-D's four-wheel drive, and reflecting that this was as bad a piece of parking as she had encountered in her 52 years on the planet.

When the case came to court last week, several interesting aspects of the attitudes of those involved were highlighted. There was the ingenious barrister for the driver, a Mr Burbidge, who argued that the manner of his client's driving suggested "badly balanced wheels". True, he agreed, she had panicked. However, "If she was a woman of sturdier resolve", continued Mr Burbidge, "the handbrake would have gone on immediately. But she moved the gear stick and it went into reverse". Connoisseurs of the English language will enjoy the implication that the fatal move was the work of an autonomous gear stick, as well as the assertion that the use of the handbrake is an indication of a robustness of character.

Then there was Mrs Trewren, whose broken foot and cut leg led her to criticise the leniency of the judge in only banning Mrs E-D for three years, and ordering her to do 150 hours of community service. "She could have killed me and she's allowed to walk free. I've seen no sign of remorse, no apology."

This uncharitable view does at least stem from a proper observation of Mrs Edyvean-Driscoll, whose own comment on the affair was to argue that "the whole thing was inflated out of proportion. I don't hit houses for a hobby," she went on, "I've got better things to do, you know, than go waltzing into people's front rooms."

This delightful tale serves once more to remind us townies that country people really are as different a breed as their recent demonstration in Hyde Park averred. They blend recklessness with a love of home in a way that city-dwellers find confusing, hunting the fox, coursing the hare, baiting the badger and belting around the lanes in their Land-Rovers at top speed and driving into each other's cottages. It's the kind of thing that villagers do.

Villagers. You only have to read the word "villagers" in a newspaper, and you know that someone is in trouble. In the same week that Mrs E-D appeared before the beak, reports also surfaced concerning the two lottery winners who have bought a nice house in a small village. In their garden they constructed a lovely children's playground, with walkways, towers, rope swings and slides, all made out of natural wood and costing pounds 20,000; the sort of playground that graces many city parks to the gratitude of child and parent alike.

And the villagers objected. "It looks like something out of Tenko," said one campaigner. So, where you or I might see a structure redolent with the memories of childhood adventure, the "villagers" see a Japanese concentration camp, reminding them of torture and death. This week it looked as though their pathetic campaign to tear down the climbing frame would succeed.

There are - it seems to me - two types of villager, both of them essentially insular and backward. At its extreme, the first is inbred, hostile, violent and determined to wreck the local ecology. The extreme version of the second - more recent incomer - is selfish, unreasonable and dedicated to obliterating any disturbances to their substantial ease. Both might easily unite to prevent the construction of a child's wonderland. And both deserve to have Mrs Heather Edyvean-Driscoll drive by their Old Cottage on a winter's eve.

Miles Kington is on holiday

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