English Villages on View

I love English villages, or, at least, the idea of them: the thatched cottages, the gardens with their exotic-sounding veggies like courgette (zucchini) and Swedes (rutabaga), the endless cream teas, the common area called the green, and the often odd local vicar. Because I've never been to a single English village in all of my trips to Britain (I thought that Thirsk - the home of James Herriot's vet surgery - was, but it's actually considered a market town), most of what I believe about them comes from British television or books.  It could be that what I "know" about villages is not absolutely true, but it's been fun watching how they're portrayed.

My absolute favorite village television show is The Vicar of Dibley, starring the awesome Dawn French. Geraldine Granger, the cute, chubby new girl in town is also the village's first female vicar and at least one of the church council members is NOT pleased.  The cast is made up of some wonderfully eccentric characters including Owen, the randy farmer, Alice, the not-so-bright love interest of the not-so-bright son of the wealthiest man in town and Frank Pickle, the gay secretary who is overly meticulous in his minute-taking endeavors. Much of each episode consists of a council meeting in which serious matters are being considered in often hilarious discussions, although several of the episodes were so moving that I cried. The characters could easily be turned into caricatures, but they all have deeply human cores that are revealed throughout the course of the series and that make them all seem quite possible.

Two other series I've been watching recently are also set in villages or small towns. If you like cozy murder mysteries, try Midsomer Murders. This series has been going on so long that I'm surprised there is anyone left alive in the fictional Midsomer County! Clatterford is more of a town than a village, but you still get the village feel as this show revolves around the small group of people who make up the Clatterford Women's Guild.

The next time I go to England, I must visit a village and find out if everything I've seen on television is real!