In a village by the coast a number of disputes about boundaries between properties were known to exist.
Basically, winds sweeping off the sea were blocked in some cases by high fences, but the high fences meant the neighbour suffered a loss of sunlight. In other cases there was no major loss of sunlight, but people felt that such fencing distracted from the openness of the flat, sandy terrain, that wild look that they had come to enjoy in the first place. Some said that wind-resistant and salt-tolerant plants could still be grown and indeed gave the village its look, whereas others wanted more plant varieties made possible by solid fencing.
The local Vicar (illustrated) had an idea, when he arrived at this argumentative village, which was to appoint a Village Improvement Society. This consisted of himself, his curate, the publican and the local councillor none of whom had intense personal disputes and indeed all of which were already a little sheltered regarding the coastal breezes. They discussed the problems of the village and that the villagers had always argued among themselves on all sorts of topics and they had local council and local parish magazines to prove this. However, the new fencing business in the nearest town had led to a more intense situation of fence improvements causing new arguments to intensify. So the Village Improvement Society produced a number of public documents to be read, and then decided as the disputes continued to appoint a team of Pastoral Visitors taken from some of the same upstanding members of the village itself, excluding himself this time, but including the present curate, the publican, the town councillor, but also the local librarian and the shop keeper. Again, although all of these knew about the issue, had spoken about it with neighbours, they themselves had avoided the private disputes.
The Vicar asked for the group to meet, and it did. This was said to have been "a very honest meeting" in which the whole range of issues was addressed. It discussed the complete problem of the fencing and the look of the village (as above) and produced a twenty page report for the Vicar and the Village Improvement Society.
The Parish Magazine only gave a most basic outline of the gathering but indicated that the Vicar had thanked the group for its honesty in meeting and now asked them to go into any situation required. However, the short article explained that they could not alter the laws or indeed the practices of anyone who said they were not going to do differently: a fence put up was a fence put up, and the look of the village was a matter of opinion.
Members of the Pastoral Visitors went around the village knocking on doors asking if they could be of any use. Some were told no, and that was that. Some spoke briefly on the doorstep. Others were let in to have a cup of tea.
The members gathered again and produced another twenty page report. The Vicar did not publish this report but put a note in the Parish Magazine that the Parish Visitors had had a number of "very honest encounters" with villagers who spoke with them on doorsteps and "engaged in more depth" with those who offered a cup of tea.
In one case the Pastoral Visitors decided to go down to a house on the coast where the next door neighbour had built a solid fence, but not one of the highest ones, and met inside the living room. They had a good conversation with the householder, which was duly noted down in its essentials. However, only two of them approached the neighbour (so as to be non-threatening) who told them his fence was staying up. As a result the Pastoral Visitors produced a twenty page report for the Vicar (and the Village Improvement Society) who wrote in the Parish Magazine that in depth conversation was taking place that he was keen to maintain.
So the Pastoral Visitors returned to this house a number of times, always enjoying hospitality, and then decided they would invite the houseowner out to have a meal at the pub. Still, though, only doorstep encounters happened with the neighbour, who said they can knock on his door as often as they liked but the fence was staying up.
According to the Parish Magazine the next twenty page report discussed the deepening dialogue taking place, including the meal at the pub (but not who with), and that in this case the neighbour was at least prepared to talk over the doorstep.
In the next Parish Magazine there was nothing further to report, but the Vicar added what good work was carried out by the Parish Visitors and commended their service. The Parish Visitors met and decided to continue knocking on doors and having occasional cups of tea, as the village continued to argue in the same way, and in the following Parish Magazine the Vicar continued to call for reports on its activity. Meanwhile no fences had been removed, none lowered, and nothing resolved about the village's appearance. Indeed, as some said, what would the village be without all its arguing: it had been like this for generations.
However, the Village Improvement Society met and in the next Parish Magazine, the Vicar announced the setting up of a Village Faith and Order Commission, and this would consist of himself, the curate, the publican, the librarian, the shop keeper, a town councillor from another village and the local community police constable.
He asked the FAOC to read all the Pastoral Visitors' reports and then produce a report for him that might detail what action could take place. The new report was not made public, but the first Parish Magazine after publication said that nothing done could affect people's property rights and access to the law, that it was hoped people would observe good community relationships, and that there would be some alterations to church services thanks to a few ideas from the curate. The Pastoral Visitors would still be made available, but only on demand, and therefore subsequent reports to the Vicar would come from the FAOC.
However, a month later the Vicar applied to become Rector of another parish, as announced in the Parish Magazine (it modestly left out that he was being seen as bishop material), and the FAOC did not meet again, and the village continued just as it had done for generations.
Although the Pastoral Visitors' reports were supposed to have been destroyed, a villager picked up a CD being used as a coaster at the pub and found all the reports on it. They were emailed around, and as it became clear who said what about each other the village descended into even more arguing, and a number of solid fences were put up between properties where there had only been basic boundary marking fences.
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