Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Two Paths Ran in Parallel in a Yellow Wood
For "yellow wood" read Romsey, the small market town where I was born and where my mother still lives.

There are two ways to walk from her house to the town centre. One involves going straight down Cherville Street, a distance of some 300 yards. There is also a path of the same distance that runs more or less parallel to Cherville Street, between the back of the Cherville Street gardens and the school fields where I "played" some forty years ago. There's nothing special about the path, but it does have some brambles growing along it, and in early autumn I've been known to raid them for blackberries. At the far end of the path (about fifty yards from the far end of Cherville Street) there is also a rather picturesque thatched cottage.

Now here's the strange thing. If I meet a stranger coming the other way along Cherville Street, we will pass each other wordlessly, as is customary with town dwellers. However, if I meet a stranger coming the other way down the path, we are apparently obliged - by what law I don't know - to say "Hello" or "Good morning!", rather as we might if passing each other in some isolated spot on Dartmoor. In other words, the path has somehow been designated as the countryside, despite being in the middle of the town.

Admittedly it's a small town, there's grass or garden either side of the path, and occasionally there are songbirds to eke out the crows and gulls that stalk the football fields. Beyond those fields the River Test flows somewhat bucolically, I suppose, but still.... With Cherville Street just fifty yards away, how did this custom get established?

Anyway, this is just a note for me to ponder, but I'd be interested to hear of any similarly inexplicable designations of community space as country, town, or something else, especially if they seem to have popped up without anyone apparently taking a decision about it.

That sounds completely normal to me. ;)

Might it be that it was right to greet the oncoming stranger in both streets, in time not all that long past, but that as new, more urban industries moved in, the more urban not-locals tended to take the more obvious route, and as not-locals didn't adhere to local mores, and so gradually the Cherville Street protocol changed to big-city ways?

I have to overcome a degree of cognitive dissonance to fit Romsey and big-city into the same schema, but the point is well taken! In fact, Romsey is less industrial now than it was when I was a child (when the smell from the brewery malt-house was in stiff competition with the sound of the abbey bells when it came to assaulting the senses of the townsfolk), but we have certainly had many incomers in that time - commuters and retirees - who know not the old ways.

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