Like most rural idylls however, Southwell is not all it's cracked up to be. The youth - and yes, there are a few knocking about - are by necessity an inventive lot. The lack of diversions means that we had to make our own entertainment - the old fashioned way. If the seasonally appearing, and much anticipated, fair is to be believed, Southwell has the worst drink problem of any of the towns it visits. And to be fair, at every night the fair is on at least 2 teenagers leave in an ambulance. Drugs are rife also.
Too many kids with too much money leads to some memorable nights out; and against the backdrop of some pretty(ish) countryside, rural adventures abound. Descriptively named meeting places such as The Africa Tree (looks like a tree in Africa), The Overhang (a tree with a, yes, you guessed it), The Swamp (a biggish, deepish muddy puddle), and - slightly less predictable - The Borrowers (a tree down a lane that has a small door, windows, and a washing line - where children, smokers and passer-bys leave presents . . .) made up our social lives, and I wouldn't have wished for it any other way.
A recent winter walk reminded me just how little things had changed; we met up at the Hearty Goodfellow, and I was gratified to see that everybody had a little something interesting in a hipflask. We wandered passed Elves Forest (do no piss off the fairies), through Teletubby land (home of organic mushrooms) and over towards Brackenhurst College. At some point we summited a small hill to see a mass of Elephant Grass - no consultation was needed as we plunged without hesitation into the lovely labyrinth. We had a good wronk about, did a bit of pushing over and had a ball, before we all realised we were quite quite lost and we had to locate each other by shouts as we rounded up the troops. Just as we had all finally recovered from the excitement of it all, we passed a 3-foot penguin sitting on a bench. Cue Hennerz, our photographer, cataloguing this happy accident.
We reached our final destination - The Reindeer in Edingley, and tucked into a roast by the fire, before getting stuck into the booze. After bewildering the barmaid by ordering After Eights (she did not know quite how to apply Baileys to Creme de Menthe, bless her, but it tasted alright even if it looked a bit shit), we made our way back to The Hen House where we gate-crashed Barbara and Marcus' party (Hen's long suffering parents - aka The BabaCus). Sophie stole two bottles of champagne from her parents' house, which promptly got lavishly spilt all over the kitchen floor, and then Hennerz and I proceeded to get political and opinionated all over the place - I cringe when I think about this part. We do it regularly I'm afraid to say.
Last night I also indulged in a spot of Southwell tradition – with little else to do, Becky and I decided that attempting the Fury would be a good idea. The Fury is a pub-crawl of Southwell’s 10 pubs. I’m sad to say that we made it to only 7 of these; we got distracted by weird locals in 2 of them, which left us very short on time. We did have 2 bottles of cider to help us with the long walk between establishments. We also confused a barmaid in the lovely corner pub, The Coach House; on asking for Jeigerbombs (a request that was always going to raise eyebrows – indeed we heard our order echo through the pub in politely hushed tones) we received shots in coke – the Redbull didn’t get a look in. Regardless, good times were had by, well, us. We seemed to be accompanied for half the crawl by a gorgeous yellow Labrador puppy, who ran around each pub causing mischief.
I must say that kids who grow up in busy, fun places, with real entertainment, are actually missing out; some of the best and most amusing memories I have, are born out of a need to entertain ourselves. Perhaps then it is no coincident, that there is a large population of thespian types in the area - and I imagine there is an even larger population of swingers.