...Everyone Natters. That's what the 'Welcome to Lancashire: A Place Where Everyone Matters' sign, up on the West Pennine moors, has been altered to read. Yes, I laugh each time I drive past because it's just so true.
Being a full-time mum to a toddler means I'm usually out and about at playgroups or the swimming baths or park. Other days it's just me and Joe doing our thing. And whilst that's fun and I savour those times, it would be a bit dishonest to suggest that I don't enjoy adult conversation too. Taking on the persona of a children's TV presenter during daylight hours is both exhausting and slightly crazy-inducing.
Lucky for me then that Lancashire (and Rossendale, the valley in which we dwell) is full of natterers. Jay thinks it's funny. I like that people say hello when you pass them whilst out walking. Especially in that lovely broad accent. I talk a lot. So does Jay actually. The other week a little old lady stopped me in the supermarket to say how nice it was that I was constantly chatting to Joe as we did the shopping.
I wasn't even aware I was doing it. There's a continual monologue going on in my head anyway so it's not entirely surprising that it finds its way out of my mouth too.
Yesterday we went for a walk around Helmshore, the place where I grew up. Yes we could have got there on foot but I drove. It was hot and there are hills. Lots of hills.
The woods, the footpaths, the fields... all scenes of childhood games and adventures, pony rides and picnics. Then later on teenage trysts and illicit cider drinking.
Whilst out and about we got chatting to some nice people and passed the time talking about characters around the village past and present, and the usual things: do-you-remembers, who sold what house and all the rest of it.
Joe and I continued on our merry way, stopping to pick some raspberries then heading down to the park: Snig Hole, as it's known to locals. Snigs, apparently, are eels in ye olde Lancashire. The 'Hole' bit refers to the river where said snigs lived until they were caught and eaten by the eel-loving locals.
It was ridiculously hot. We ate a packed lunch and played on the swings, and I bumped into a few of the mums from playgroup. More stories and chatter were exchanged. And then a friendly girl with two small children introduced herself so we had a lengthy conversation too.
On the way back up yet another hill to where the car was parked, an old schoolfriend (and one time suitor - I think it lasted roughly a week) pulled up in his truck for a chat. He's a farmer and he was taking his lunch break from, erm, farming so we had a catch-up too.
I do love all this talking, passing-on of information. I love the impromptu nature of it; of seeing people you know when you're out walking, and talking to friendly strangers too. The word 'stranger' often has creepy connotations but you know what I mean. Little conversations here and there often bring things to light: you always know someone mutually or both remember something from a long time ago.
Even the odd bit of gossip isn't a bad thing. Not the malicious type - just the 'Ooh, really?' sort. Like finding out all about the big feud between the baker and the butcher in our village. My mum thinks Edenfield (where we live) is annoying because everyone knows your business. I don't mind that. It's far preferable to the strange anonymity of those places where people don't speak to, or even acknowledge, their neighbours.
I've just become aware that this post is starting to ramble. You can type too much as well as talk to much, it seems.
Anyway... later in the evening we headed out to a meeting for Incredible Edible. We're hoping to extend the scheme to Edenfield and went along to find out more. It was the best kind of meeting. A beautiful balmy evening up on the edge of the moors, sitting around a wooden table in a farm yard. It just so happens that I more or less grew up on this farm - I kept my pony there and every evening and weekend I was to be found somewhere on their forty-odd acres. Going back was lovely. It's changed a lot but in a good way.
So we sat in the sun and talked and planned and Joe looked at the chickens and stables and played on a porch swing. It was lovely. And it wasn't as much a meeting as a big, well, natter.
Welcome to Lancashire.
Have a great weekend!