Posted in Events, Personal life, Writing

Beware of Scary Crows

My column from the October edition of the Hawkesbury Parish News was written in the run-up to our annual village Scarecrow Trail

Photo of two scarecrows with a zimmer frame, radio and cups of tea
Charmingly detailed scarecrows outside Beaufort House, our local residential home for elderly people, during the 2016 Hawkesbury Upton Scarecrow Trail

While taking the scenic route to Cheltenham earlier this week, I nearly crashed the car when I spotted Harry Potter on his broomstick. A closer look revealed he was in fact a scarecrow in someone’s front garden, sadly too distant for inclusion in Hawkesbury’s Scarecrow Trail.

I don’t know why scarecrows attract people as much as they deter birds, but there is something very winning about a well-made scarecrow, and not only on Hawkesbury Show Day. I reckon Scarecrow Trails are what inspired the Gromit and Shaun the Sheep events that recently took Bristol by storm, every exhibit a riff on the same theme, allowing its maker to express his or her own sense of fun.

Photo of Debbie with Gromit statue
Selfie with my favourite Gromit, designed by Cath Kidston
Photo of a Very Hungry Caterpillar costume
Our Very Hungry Caterpillar scarecrow was cunningly recycled from a Village Show carnival costume by replacing four children inside it with two planks of wood and two bricks

You’d think birds would have to be daft to be repelled by such inanimate objects, but don’t be taken in by them. Crows are smarter than you might think. If you google “crows using tools”, you’ll be scared by their prowess. Like early man, they’ve learned to manipulate sticks and to bend or break them to form more useful tools. I’ve even seen a video of one bird giving another CPR until they both flew away unscathed.

Birds may not have the opposable thumbs that helped human beings get to where we are today, but with the bonus of long beaks, they are slowly catching up with us. Let’s hope they only ever use their powers for good. But just to be on the safe side, I’m leaving my scarecrow in place after Trail week is over.


Cover of All Part of the Charm
My memoir of village life is available as an ebook and in paperback


If you enjoyed this post, you might like All Part of the Charm: A Modern Memoir of Village Life the book I published earlier this year combining all my columns for the Hawkesbury Parish News from 2010 to 2015.

It also includes as bonus material a collection of essays I wrote about moving to the village 25 years ago. Now available in paperback or as an ebook, it’s perfect bedtime reading – or for your smallest room!

Posted in Writing

Hawkesbury Upton, Centre of the World

English: Automobile Association Village sign T...
Surely all roads lead to Hawkesbury Upton?  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Have you ever been to Hawkesbury Upton before?” a small child asked a group of visiting teachers at Friday afternoon assembly.

The teachers, from six different countries, reluctantly admitted they hadn’t. A ripple of “aahs” went round the parents at the back.

The child must have been surprised, because to our village children, Hawkesbury is the centre of the world. Why wouldn’t these people from Turkey, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Holland and France have wanted to come here before? The British Council clearly considered our village special, because they’d made Hawkesbury Primary the lead school in the Comenius Project. (Well done, Mrs Lewis and team, for your hard work securing the €20K grant to make it happen!)

And hadn’t we seen a steady stream of tourists throughout the summer, on a pilgrimage all the way from Bristol to see “our” Gromit? It would seem reasonable to come from even further to see our lovely village, even without a giant blue dog in our midst as bait.

The prime meridian at Greenwich, England
The Greenwich Meridian (Photo: Wikipedia)

When I was at primary school, I felt my home town was the centre of the world. In one respect, technically I was almost right: Sidcup was very close to the Greenwich Meridian.

Not so here. But what better place could there be than Hawkesbury Upton, with its strong community values, endearing customs, indelible sense of identity, village pride, and streets that stay safe even after council cuts plunge them into pitch black around midnight.

If ever there’s an election for a capital of the world, Hawkesbury Upton will certainly get my vote.

(This post was written for the November 2013 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News.)

Where do you consider to be the centre of the world, and why? I’d love to know – do leave a comment!