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Random observations on Potterverse mores and overseas misconceptions - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
Random observations on Potterverse mores and overseas misconceptions

The Broomsticks may be overrun with sprogs and students.  Perhaps this is why everyone seems to think it would provide table service.  Go down the Hog’s Head, though, and I’ll wager as near as damn it that you’ll wait a long time for a pint if you sit at table like a Yank tourist waiting for ‘someone to take your order’: get up to the bar like a Christian, damn it, and order your drinks ‘and whatever you’re having for yourself, Aberforth.’  Fanfic generally wants a quick course in pub etiquette.


I’m sure things are just as convenient as can be in the cities and perhaps some market towns, but if you set your scenes in smaller towns, or in ‘village or hamlet of this fair land’, ice cream comes on Thursdays, in a van, from a larger area conurbation, at the hands of someone surnamed Vecchio or Tomasso or Salvaggio or something like that.


So, for example, in your ideal non-urban setting:



Bell-ringing rehearsal is on Tuesday evenings.  The village XI take the pitch Sundays at 2.0, all through the Spring and Summer (May to September, generally, depending on location and climate).  It will be accompanied by its mascot, a stout and quarrelsome Parson Jack Russell terrier.  The September Sunday after the last match is the Harvest Festival, generally two or three weeks after the village fete.


Thursday nights should be kept free for the quiz night down the local.  The more ‘refained’ element is at the Arts and Watercolours Club instead.  The sprogs are Scouting and Guiding that night.  Some weekends will be taken up by the Amateur Dramatic Society, subjecting the village to interminable runs of Agatha Christie plays and The Admirable Crichton.  No, time does not pass in villages.


Tuesdays and Thursdays are Bridge Club nights.  They are not half so revealing of your neighbours’s characters as is the naked savagery of the annual Parish Whist Drive.  The first Tuesday of each month is probably the gardening lot – which if particularly snobbish will call itself a Horticultural Society.  The anglers meet when they damned well please.  The philatelists have the second and fourth Thursdays for their bacchanalian rites.


Horse trials and various rural and earthy shows tend to be in June.  The school will have its fete and Midsummer Party near, wait for it, midsummer.


The Ladies and the WI (4th Tuesday of the month) and the Mothers’s Union are, naturally, laws unto themselves, but it can be certain that they’ve booked the village hall years in advance.  It’s worth staying on their good side, nonetheless.  After all, who else provides the WI markets and the cream teas?


If you’ve a sailing club, it will awake from its winter torpor in March.


The footer club and the rifle club, which very well may have its range in the back garden of the pub, God protect us all, do not hibernate at all.  If they’re not doing what they do, they’re yarning about it.  Over a pint.  Or three.


If it’s any time between Advent and February, there will be panto.  Resign yourself to the fact.


The Neighbourhood Watch never sleeps.  Particularly old Miss Whosit, who considers this a licence to snoop.


Wednesday nights are probably the badminton club lot.


At least weekly, the village hall or the church hall will have a luncheon.


The bowls club goeth where it listeth.


Keep an eye out for car boot sales, farmers’s markets, and plant sales.


The Field Club want you.  So do your local Wildlife Trust.  Wear your wellies.


The second Monday of each month, say, is the branch meeting of the Royal British Legion.  Honour them.


If you cannot attend the parish jumble – April, as a rule – and have no good excuse, you may as well pack now and call the removal chaps to bring the pantechnicon, as you now have no future in village life.


There will be a Pony Club.  This is a fact of life.  Accept it.


Precisely the same applies to your local Conservative Association.  It may well double as the local golfing association.


All of this, of course, will be in the parish magazine, delivered monthly to your door with the usual wild inefficiency eked out with goodwill that is the mark of the voluntary do-gooder.


The history society and the preservation group meet monthly down the local.


If your village is too small to have a library, as is quite likely, the mobile library will call weekly or every other week.


If you really want to top up the school funds, a music festival is in order, headlined, at least in a Certain Part of the Country, by the Wurzels.


The post office or sub-PO will also, almost certainly, be a shop as well.  It will close at noon on Wednesday; you’re on your own until Thursday, love.


If you’re very fortunate, the village will have a band.  Contrary to metropolitan belief, these are not limited to mining towns Oop North.  There may be a village choir.  If so, its rehearsals are dictated by parish choir rehearsals, which in turn are dictated by the organist’s schedule, the vicar’s schedule, and, especially, the market day schedule.


Most villages and quite a few towns will not have a barber, hairdresser, or other form of tonsorial engineer.  Gentlemen will solve the problem by going up to town – London – and combining calls at their tailor’s, boot maker’s, shirt maker’s, club, and the oyster bar at Wilton’s, with a stop by Geo F Trumper for a haircut.  Everyone else will make do with the local mobile hairdresser (on the model of the mobile library), who will be brassy, will chew gum, and will be very improbably christened, with a name straight out of a BBC soap.


Thatchers, smiths, vets, farriers, plumbers, glaziers, hauliers, butchers, fishmongers, bakers, fruiterers, greengrocers, cabinet-makers and joiners, the steam laundry, gardeners, the milk, and similar indispensable folk may be a village or two away, and make rounds and deliveries.  Farms with pick-your-own should be sucked up to, and you want to make friends with the local beekeeper.


Note: if, in post-War fic, you decide to elevate the loyal town of Hogsmeade to city status as a reward for its staunch support for Harry – and feel free to borrow the notion with due credit – do remember that, although founded by Saxon refugees, it is in Scotland.  It will not have a mayor.  It will have a provost.


There.  That should go some way towards placing Harry and Company in an environment that’s not blatantly americanised.

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executrix From: executrix Date: May 5th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Accio Honey For Tea and Fix That Damn Clock While You're At It

While I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and can well understand why someone would want to live in a world like that, nevertheless it brings up questions that I often had when I was still writing Blakes7 fics. B7 is a BBC series, of course, but it's set a thousand years in the future, and I felt that a syncretic culture would develop over that time, that would have certain identifiable US-derived elements. (And later on, one thing I like about Firefly is the *idea* of a syncretic culture although I agree that it wasn't worked out very well in the pathetically small group of episodes we have been vouchsafed.)

Similarly, I don't think that the WW would feel any particular affection for the local Muggle culture (and British wizards would not necessarily even think of themselves as such) so I don't think they would necessarily be the Village Green Preservation Society.

Although in my Blakes7xHP crossover Blake did suggest to Hermione that a Campaign for Real Butterbeer might be a useful organizing tactic.
clanwilliam From: clanwilliam Date: May 5th, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Accio Honey For Tea and Fix That Damn Clock While You're At It

A Campaign for Real Butterbeer?

*shudders delicately*

The local branch of CAMRA would have reinstituted tarring and feathering at the slightest hint of such a thing.

One nitpick on icecream: if the village has a shop (and they're a rare breed in small villages these days), then you can probably buy a limited selection of icecream from a tiny freezer in there. It will almost certainly be all ice lollies of varying descriptions. And may well contain a few bags of frozen peas and potato waffles as well.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: May 5th, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
It should perhaps be made clear that the above summery is an excellent description of England. Scotland is a different kettle of fish. Not entirely, but more than a foreigner might think.

Otherwise, though: encore, especially re the provost.

Despite your Saxon refugee theory, the name 'Hogsmeade' bothers me. I'd almost rather think it's a corruption of something Norse, but my ON is no longer good enough to allow me to hazard a guess at what that might be...
clanwilliam From: clanwilliam Date: May 5th, 2006 11:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Although the Italian icecream is still bang on. My cousins have cousins in the Hebrides with Italian surnames.
onyx_noir From: onyx_noir Date: May 5th, 2006 11:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fanfic generally wants a quick course in pub etiquette.

That's because the majority of the fanfic is written by american teen-agers. Half of whom have probably never been in a pub, because the drinking age here is 21.

Here from daily_snitch and couldn't resist adding my two knuts. Sorry. :-)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 6th, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC) (Link)

2k welcome here.

That wd explain it, you're quite right.

The icon, by the bye, is brill.
the_gentleman From: the_gentleman Date: May 5th, 2006 11:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
I should probably do one of these for the Home Counties commuter belt, but I fear it would bring on depression.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 6th, 2006 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Wouldn't it just.

Even so, I keep trying to tempt, provoke, or seduce you into just such contributions.
kateanguapotter From: kateanguapotter Date: May 6th, 2006 01:51 am (UTC) (Link)
(from the daily snitch) It is absolutely astounding how much the picture you painted is like small Australian country towns. And even large country towns (generally about 6000 people). Except we have flying clubs instead of anglers clubs. :oP

I appreciated this muchly.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 6th, 2006 04:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you.

That's the Anglosphere all over, isn't it. It's the little things that persist.
From: arclevel Date: May 6th, 2006 05:37 am (UTC) (Link)

Here from the Snitch

A lot of this was really interesting. However, and I rather hate to say it because you've been so thorough, but if "knowledge of English village life" were ranked on a 1-10 scale, I think you perhaps took about a 7 as your baseline. I'm at a 4, at most, and I expect that's about 2-3 higher than the average American. My only knowledge of mobile libraries comes from "Billy Elliott", and I wouldn't know what Guiding was if I hadn't been a Girl Scout for long enough to realize it was called something else in every other country in the world. I figured out what a "vicar" was a year or two ago.

In other words ... what's the difference between a village and a town? Size, obviously, and presumably form of government, but what would rough cut-offs or average size be? If 1,000 people lived there, what would you probably call it? 5,000 people?

Since I already mentioned the vicar, I know that England isn't as blatantly religious a country as the US. Would the average villager go to church on a regular basis? If so, would they likely care, or would most of them go because it's the thing to do.

I'm vaguely aware of the concept of a Women's Institute, but don't *really* know what it is. How's it different from the "Ladies" or the Mother's Union?

And as to the pubs, the first item on your list: does that mean it's standard to buy the bartender a drink every time you get your own? How much does the man intend to drink in an evening??

Feel free to ignore me if you don't actually want to bother with all this, but I thought I'd ask. :-)
lasultrix From: lasultrix Date: May 6th, 2006 07:55 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Here from the Snitch

Buy the bartender a drink? wtf? *confuzzled*
lasultrix From: lasultrix Date: May 6th, 2006 07:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Every so often it's good to have a reminder of just how much diversity there is in this world... in this case, that just across the Irish Sea one can such an utterly foreign place.

We have Italians we couldn't live without, too, but ours bring us chippers.
(Which fandom taught me you call chippies.)
tamerterra From: tamerterra Date: May 6th, 2006 01:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's a mile or so up the road, and it looks like a foreign place to me, too. ^_^;;
author_by_night From: author_by_night Date: May 6th, 2006 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Interesting! Very handy information.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 6th, 2006 05:17 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thankee. Glad to oblige.

I do hope that it is handy.
aillil From: aillil Date: May 6th, 2006 12:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
May I ask what "footer" is? Is it football?

And apart from Thursday, traditional no-money-left day, hasn't Monday also become a favourite for quizzes?

After reading that short educational post on treacle in minnow_53's journal, this most informative assortment of snippets of information is sure to come in handy, too. *g*
Having lived in Ireland, I already know some of this, of course, so that it struck me as very strange that Madame Rosmerta would come to the teachers' table in PA and serve them their drinks there. But then, the minister was sitting at that table.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 6th, 2006 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, yes and yes.

Football it is.

And quizz night will no doubt vary from place to place depending on local conditions - rather as choir prac does.

And the Three Broomsticks is not precisely your local, is it, what with the kiddies there all the time and so forth. I'm not sure what it is, really, inn or hostelry or what.
eagles_rock From: eagles_rock Date: May 6th, 2006 01:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
In return for those glorious memories of days at the beach (10 miles of sand, freezing cold water) always finished off with real Italian icecream, I would point you at mina_de_malfois; it's a hoot.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 6th, 2006 05:20 pm (UTC) (Link)

Oh, thank you.

That WAS funny. Thanks for the link.
sollersuk From: sollersuk Date: May 6th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Jack Russells are brillian wicket keepers. The ones with four legs are useless batsmen, though.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 6th, 2006 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)


Rather like Geraint Jones.

Except for the brilliant wicket-keeping.
From: seneska Date: May 6th, 2006 07:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Fanfic generally wants a quick course in pub etiquette."

Strange, that's usually where write mine, and all for the betterment.

And no matter where you are, there is always a Pony Club. Half my school owned horses and whatnot. And I was in a Manchester suburb.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 6th, 2006 08:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

And it shows.

Malt does more than Milton can to justify God's ways to man.
lucubratrix From: lucubratrix Date: May 9th, 2006 11:52 am (UTC) (Link)
It appears that small towns and rural areas are not entirely dissimilar across the American/British divide.

I'm actually quite surprised by the similarities, although I suspect that 4H (of which I am a veteran) is more animal husbandry and generally FFA geared (Future Farmers of America) than a Pony Club would be. Very familiar notions include mobile libraries and gardening clubs and historical societies and choirs and all that (though my own small town did in fact have its very own library). Pick-your-own farms, too, though mostly berries and pumpkins in my experience.

The town I grew up in even had milk delivery in a van with reused bottles... my wife, being raised in a city about an hour and a half away, always is stunned by how bucolic and twee my hometown is.

Questions for clarification: how densely settled are non-Urban British settings? I.e. how big are the pieces of property, generally, and how far apart are houses? How far might one have to drive to get to the nearest grocery store? Is the average non-urban British setting heavily wooded, or more farmlanded?
lucubratrix From: lucubratrix Date: May 9th, 2006 11:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I was so caught up by responding to your excellent post that I forgot to thank you for the very detailed and much appreciated exposition in the first place! So, thank you for a most helpful article!
ellie_nor From: ellie_nor Date: August 7th, 2006 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Late reply...

Anyone who wants to get a full stereotypical flavour of southern English village life could do worse than listen to The Archers (ignoring all the soap opera hystrionics, of course).
wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 7th, 2006 07:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Too true.

Although the histrionics are also becoming all too lifelike these days, I fear.
syntinen_laulu From: syntinen_laulu Date: October 22nd, 2011 03:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
You forgot the rugby club!!!
wemyss From: wemyss Date: October 23rd, 2011 06:57 am (UTC) (Link)

By diligent effort, I have indeed done.

Pub-wrecking hearties.
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