Saturday, April 13, 2013

Small Town Life

It's a very small town, Saltburn. So much so that on his second day here, TLOML was approached in the supermarket by a friend of my sister's, with the words 'You must be A--'. My nephews' childminder saw us walking past the cafe she was in and told my sister later she'd spotted us. Newcomers like us must stick out like a sore thumb, with our fancy city ways.

It's true what they say about the North. People are friendlier here. They smile and say hello under all sorts of circumstances: anyone I pass on our street, or on the walk through the Valley Gardens, says hello, for starters. Checking out at the supermarket is not a quick transaction, but involves at least a few pleasantries. When I popped into the pet shop to buy Jack's special diet food the shopkeeper wrote down the name of a cheap website I could order it from, and  recommended a local vet - having asked me if I was new in town (again, I must have that look about me). I was in there for a good five minutes. Nipping into the butcher is an even longer job, though that's in part due to TLOML's willingness to talk meat. But also because, it being a small town, he knows my sister and my schoolfriend/landlady well, and enjoys a bit of a yarn about the joys of Saltburn life and the coming attractions (farmer's markets, airshows, and the like).

Pushing Lady P around starts even more conversations. People up here love a baby. She gets cooed over in every shop and cafe - and sometimes even just in passing on the street.
These two ladies are chucking her cheeks and removing her dummy because 'she looks much prettier without it'. If a stranger tried that in Camden TLOML would swing for them and I'd run a mile, pushing Lady P's chariot as fast as I could. But here in Saltburn we smile and nod. There is a tradition in the North to put silver into a baby's pram, but I promise we're not motivated by that. It's just nice the way the boundaries between strangers are so much lower here.

After years of living in cities - the past two in London and New York, both places where eye contact is considered an act of aggression - I am really rather enjoying the friendliness.

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