Another problem with Cornwall at the moment is the number of houses that are classed as second homes, by this I mean they are not lived in for a great deal of the year. In the winter months the windows of many Cornish villages are in darkness. This is a poem about people who want to live here…then want to change the places they barely live in, forgetting the reasons they came here in the first place.

 

THE CHRONIC ILLS OF N.A.R.N.I.A.

When NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) becomes…NARNIA (Not Anywhere Remotely Near, I’m Afraid)

(1)
You’ve all seen those boxes of chocolates
Where the beautiful scene on the front
Distracts you from the quality of the produce inside
As you wince on the whinberry cracknel, you gaze
At the resplendent honey-stoned thatched cottages
In the Cotswold village of Bibury, Gloucestershire
Or the sunlit cobbles on Shaftesbury’s Gold Hill
Or maybe the view from your holiday-let window
Where now they want to site a telephone mast which
Would be over your dead body if you actually lived there
But will give you the signal you crave for the wi-fi
For your guests who, perhaps won’t notice the mast
If you get the young woman that does (when she comes on the bus)
To place a welcoming tall vase of flowers on the windowsill.

(2)
You’ve purchased that bijou buy-to-let cottage
Perfectly placed right next to the pub
The pub that serves the Indian Pale Ale you so like,
The pub you sat , applauding the open mic.
The pub where you first understood that life could be good
The pub where you made the decision to buy
A second home for you because…well, “the money’s there!”
But now your guests are crying their children can’t sleep
And the Tripadvisor reviews are deafening
So, you’re doing your best to get the pub closed down
From another world…from NARNIA.

(3)
You campaign to stop the church bells from ringing
On a Sunday morning just as they always have
So that on the occasions that you come to stay
The sacrosanctity of your well-deserved lie-in
Can be respected and religiously observed.
You should be up there ringing those bells
And announcing how wondrous it is to be here,
Crowing like the cockerel you seek to silence
From his early renditions of unbridled joy.
Give him free range, he only lives a few years;
Let him (like you) enjoy his time in the sun.

(4)
You wouldn’t welcome new industry if it came
All granite and wood; wrapped up in a Poldark set
The old stone engine houses live on, their beauty keeps them
As marketable as castles, menhirs and standing stones
But now they’re blighting your view with wind turbines
And all your energy is going into the petition to stop it.
The farmer grows the power you need for your website
To protest against his fields of black solar panels
That dare to raise their sightless gaze like sunflowers
From this inspected isle that you call a second home.
Now there’s talk of them building a lithium mine
Somewhere over the hill and even though
You won’t be able to see it…you’ll still know it’s there
And their wagons will have to pass by your door
If they miss the turning…
So, you’re going to do your best to stop it.
You’ve already come up with the acronym
And you zig-zag your diesel SUV
Beating the village bounds like a Luddite
Sponsored by a local estate agent

(5)
You’re glad the ivy-clad shack in the village
Has been condemned by the testimony of profits
An old garage that has been there since the first car…
(Look, it’s there on that old postcard you shared on Facebook
The post that said…“this is where our new holiday home is”)
…has now become an eyesore that needs to be removed
But not for affordable housing, dear God!
We don’t want their sort round here
With their noisy children (remember yours?)
And toxic old cars (remember yours, back in the day?)
Lowering the standards…now ours have been raised.
You could tell some tales of your council house upbringing
But we don’t want that sort near here…
Not Anywhere Remotely Near, I’m Afraid.
“Why should I care, I’ve worked hard to get here”
But did you really work any harder than those
On zero-hours contracts, holding down three jobs;
Delivering your groceries and your Amazon buys
Or caring for someone’s bothersome parent?
Those who will have to work hard all of their lives
To find the money to pay for the ever-increasing rent.

This land, like Narnia, is one you found and loved.
Arrived at, not through a wardrobe but by car or train.
You marvelled at its harbours, it’s churches and farms
And found a mystical land ripe for exploration.
At what point did you lose that wonder
So that you fight to stop the fisherman build a net loft
Or a farmer to raise a barn?
Their forefathers made this place.
Harbours weren’t built to be pretty.
Barns weren’t built to be converted.

Live here because you love the place…not its market value,
You who have achieved fiscal strength
Through the dictates of your heritage
Or just lucky breaks in the property stakes.
Social housing all sold off and not replaced…
Remember when you were young
And a home was actually affordable?
Jobs were for life if you so desired
Or just until something better came by.
You paid your tax and insurance stamp
And raised a family there.
Then the lying witch in the boardroom
Gave you the chance to own your own home;
The chance to own Gas, Electricity and Water
The chance to share in the power…
The power to stop caring.

This power of this land is not driven by windmills or solar panels
But by the house price and the fervour of its protection.
To care more about the value of what lies around you
Under the pretext of beauty is disingenuous.
This land and its children are worth more than that.
It seems life is like that box of chocolates
Where the cover has more value than
The contents of the box…
Who know exactly what they are gonna get.

© gray lightfoot