The village of Wotton-by-Woodstock in Oxfordshire has everything: an oversubscribed school, a shop and a village hall, erected in that great era of village hall-building, the Twenties; but now itís in need of a new roof.
A journalist in the village has organised a programme of literary events, as part of a fund-raising campaign to provide it, and I was invited to give a talk. Having been plied with wine before speaking, I felt it went swimmingly; whether the audience were of the same mind is, of course, a different matter.
However, they did turn out in large numbers on a snowy night and sat through it in their overcoats: a testament to their commitment to the village. Afterwards, a couple reminisced about the condition of rural life in the Seventies, exemplified by the state of one of their parentís cottages. The buildingís walls streamed with water, the lavatory was at the other end of the garden and not a bean was ever spent on repairs.
By contrast, the problems facing villages today are rather those of affluence. People may struggle with high property prices, but most of the houses have been done up.