The weather is fantastic, which seems to have kept everybody in buoyant spirits. I spent the weekend back in Appleford watching the Cup Final and breaking through the back of the marking. It was great to put a little distance between the year gone and start to ease gently into the summer.
Appleford is tiny only with 200 houses. My parents bought their house in the mid-sixties and I spent my entire childhood there. Going back is always joyful and from Twickenham a one change stop in Reading means I can do door to door in under two hours.
...but there is trouble afoot. Didcot, expanding with commuting families and new built estates, is an economic success story and threatens to swallow the village into its suburbs. A new incinerator has been planned, which will burn thousands of tonnes of rubbish, but will provide a noisy eyesore. And now the rail services that currently link the village to Oxford in a two hourly service are set to switch to a once every six hour service - the death knell many fear for Appleford halt. I'm emotive as from the age of 12 the train was my escape route to the bright lights, record shops and, on a Friday night, the ice rink in Oxford. This became ever more vital once Mrs Paul finally closed down the village shop, with its never ending supply of chewy cola bottles, in the early eighties.
The village, in Astrerix like fashion, is full of resistance however and has over the last few years got ever better at organising and protesting. A regular newsletter campaigns on local issues. A dynamic fun loving vicar, perfectly pitched for a rural parish, cheers everybody up with jolly sermons and chocolate and the MP Ed Vaizey seems genuinely engaged.
As the train pulled in the platform was filled with protesters brandishing placards. On the opposite platform stood a photographer from the Oxford Mail. The driver was confused and waited for the village to get on. The photographer got confused and asked the train to pull out.
'No one is using the train!' said Marion, who has lived in the thatched cottage, up by the church, forever.
'What are you doing, then?' asked the driver not unreasonably.
'Protesting!' said another man, who I didn't recognise.
'What about?' asked the driver.
'That there soon won't be trains for us not to use!' said Marion smiling, with that she raised her placard defiantly.
O Appleford at the heart of the nation!