Pat Keenor: Who remembers Trumpton?

Pat Keenor

Pat Keenor - Credit: Archant

Introducing our new columnist PAT KEENOR, who brings her lively, quirky, whimsical take on life in Devon to our pages every month in her Maid In Devon column

WHO remembers Camberwick Green and Trumpton? These TV programmes first aired on the BBC in 1967 so I’m guessing only older readers know all about firemen Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb.

For you young whippersnappers who can’t even remember Z-Cars or Farrah Fawcett’s hair in Charlie’s Angels, Camberwick Green and Trumpton were animated children’s shows relating to life in the two villages.

Of course it was an idealised version of life in - I suppose - the Edwardian era. After all there was no need to scare ’60s children to death with stories of drugs, sex and rock and roll, even if such shenanigans were going on in some parts of the country.

The Trumpton and Camberwick Green residents had to deal with crises like a shortage of flour or water or a swarm of bees. At one point villagers were up in arms over rumours of an electrical sub-station being built (shades of wind turbine objections here?).

Episodes had titles like Cuthbert’s Morning Off, so you can imagine not much vandalism, wife swapping or glue-sniffing in the park went on...although I’m not sure what dastardly deeds were afoot in the episode called Miss Lovelace and the Mayor’s Hat. The mind boggles.

There was even a village policeman, PC McGarry, keeping everyone in order. If you had a problem there was no need to phone some central number and wait for a police car to turn up from 20 miles away, log an incident number and then disappear into the night never to be heard of again. No, PC McGarry was hand to sort out the perpetrators. And Dr Mopp made house calls. Can I hear the sound of bitter laughter?

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There was Chippy Minton the carpenter, Mrs Cobbit the florist, Mickey Murphy the baker and Windy Miller who ran the working mill, to name but a few of the businesses and trades.

The village where I live once bore a resemblance to Camberwick Green and Trumpton. We had a shop, a butcher’s, a hairdresser’s and a post office. All those have gone, most recently the post office which has been replaced by a big red monstrosity, a post box on the street side of the pavement. It takes up a lot of room and causes cars to stop on a busy road. So that’s progress for you. There are plans for an ‘outreach’ post office service, open two days a week in a community room; ‘outreach’ presumably being a synonym for ‘half as good’.

But after my initial reaction of anger at losing one more village service came a feeling of guilt. After all, how often did I use the post office? How often did I pop in there to buy a greetings card, a pack of ballpoint pens, or any of the useful things it sold? I tax my car online, I bank online and I do a lot of shopping online. I rarely buy a stamp. If I do, I get it from the supermarket.

I can count on the fingers of one hand how often I used the butcher’s and the shop. Until recently I worked 25 miles away from my village so it was easier to get everything I needed in the supermarket near my office rather than make a special effort on a Saturday to use local suppliers.

There are a lot of people like me in the village, commuters who take their custom elsewhere. So I guess I am part of the collective guilt for rural areas losing their services. Now I work from home more, I would really value those shops - but it’s too late.

But all is not doom and gloom. We still have Mr Crockett the Garage Man. Or, to be more accurate, a filling station with Spar shop. And another hairdresser’s has opened. Local people, too, carry on all those vital trades like plumbing and carpentry. And my village is still a pleasant place to live with very little crime. Replace Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb with Burrows, Burrows, Mister Leach, Tucker, Downs and Pike - and it’s not so very different after all.