As a teenager, village and small town life isn't the most exciting way to spend your days, especially when buses to larger surrounding towns are so infrequent and catching trains require kindly chauffeuring parents or the very same unreliable buses. Growing up in the countryside there's really very little to satisfy once you get beyond the romper suit stage - unless of course you're already massively into gardening, rambling or suitably outdoorsy activities like horse riding. As soon as I was old enough to realise this, I set my sights on leaving the "Garden of England". Once the University application stage came along, the majority of my chosen educational institutes were Northern cities far from home and ALL were much bigger places than the historic market town of Cranbrook I originally hail from.
Now, as an adult-in-denial, I enjoy my return visits to Cranbrook but still wholeheartedly prefer the pace of city life. Many of my friends are either returning to country living or contemplating the move. Discussing the prospect at the weekend and the advantages/disadvantages, reminded me of Channel 4's Love Thy Neighbour. More and more regionally-based reality TV shows seem to be cropping up (MTV's Geordie Shore, ITV's The Only Way Is Essex, E4's Made in Chelsea...) but the only one that has managed to attract my attention was Love Thy Neighbour - albeit accidentally.
Returning from London to Leeds every weekend generally means Friday nights are spent catching up with The Boy and The Major and Saturdays are for being more active and perhaps hooking up with other friends. Several Fridays running I was quite literally glued to the television by the array of hideous characters appearing on Love Thy Neighbour. The show promised one of twelve contestants the prize of winning a home in the Yorkshire village of Grassington, near Skipton. Each episode would introduce different configurations of the "family unit", be that a gay couple, an unmarried three teen family, new age travellers, a lesbian partnership, a British-Indian couple, a single mother and her son or young lovers still living with parents.
Out of the contestants that I did catch, the most sycophantic one made it to the finals and this was no real surprise given that some of the village members came across in an exceedingly negative light. I watched in a state of disgusted hilarity as a certain villager rallied around gathering information for a popularity poll before smugly telling contestants his findings.
If the programme aimed to promote traditional English village life with its sense of community then it was a complete failure. Judging by the array of contestants chosen from all walks of life, producers most probably sought to highlight small-minded village views as mildly prejudice folk were shown attempting to appear open-minded while judging whether a transvestite and his wife would make the perfect Grassington addition. The village's irritating lack of basic resources and privacy encroaching way of life merely acted to remind me how unappealing living in the sticks in a small community is. Give me a city any day! Still, if the show hoped to stimulate tourism in Grassington it may have worked some magic on me - I'm now slightly tempted to make the small journey from Leeds to Grassington, if only to do a spot of repugnant z-list celebrity resident spotting.