The Open Air Museum
Two years ago, our village was purchased by
English Heritage to be used as an open-air museum of southern
English middle class life. The plan was to capture lifestyles
before they passed away.
I and my family had more to learn than many
as we were some of the few working class villagers living in the
council houses. The wrecked and rusting Lada which had been a
feature of our drive for some years was the first thing to go.
The local council had been threatening legal action, but English
Heritage were much more friendly, arranging for the vehicle to be
towed away and replaced with a new people carrier
exactly like the ones in neighbours drives. They also
cleared the old bedstead and other refuse from the back lawn and
rebuilt the garden to include decking, a water feature and some
strange architectural structure - the purpose of which I have
not, to this day, ascertained. They also sent us to classes on
how to talk and eat correctly.
I gave-up my job with the council and am
now paid to spend my days wandering around the village, taking to
other villagers and answering questions from the public. Part of
my role is to engage in loud conversation with fellow villagers
when the public are in earshot using one of a number of pre-prepared
scripts. I hate horses, although the regular sight of them ridden
through the village remains a useful prompt to buy dog food.
Despite this, one of my scripts relates to how well Emily
and Samantha have done at the local gymkhana and the rising
cost of hay. I have learned to carry this off rather well, I
think. I have also learned how to compare the specifications of
several types of MPVs in the most tedious manner
possible and discuss the minute detail of products available at
the local DIY superstores and garden centres. Following intensive
training, I am now even able to bore people rigid with how well
the children are doing at school, their prowess at music and, of
course, their riding skills. I start the Foreign holidays
made mind-numbing course next week.
Recently, I mastered the art of competitive
conversation where each of a group of middle class men must
covertly boast of some aspect of their own achievements in the
context of a seemingly normal conversation. When in doubt I talk
non-stop on The plans for the extension.
All aspects of middle class life are
included, and hidden domestic violence, infidelity and sexual
deviation all feature in the scripts though, thankfully, do not
need to be performed in public. For completeness, one in four
villagers are playing a role of being off work with depression
and stress. The remainder of us form long traffic queues in and
out of the village each day whilst complaining about public
Now the Museum is established, we can be
assured that future generations will never forget the southern
English middle class lifestyle.