There’s a world in my head which is exactly like the real, everyday world, except it’s only the good bits. I am far too easily irritated–or not even irritated, just discouraged–by things that aren’t done properly. (It’s a family trait. My brother used to come home from school in a cloud of enraged misery because, oh, let’s say, a band concert that he was meant to be playing in was disorganized and underprepared. It’s the kind of thing that just happens in life, but we’re not the kind of people who can just shrug it off, or rather, we can but we need to have a mighty good bitch about it first.)
Consequently, whenever I see things done well, or whenever there’s a lovely day, or evening, or a good meal, or a wonderful conversation, they often go into a little file in my head, marked “Perfect World” (well, not actually, but sort of). If, for argument’s sake, there’s a heaven, and if it’s unique to each of us, these are the things that will go into mine.
Here’s my newsflash: I have found the Perfect World’s village shop.
It’s in Compton, West Sussex. It’s actually a village shop/tea room (which probably explains much of my attraction.) The first half of it is the shop, with a magazine rack that contains not only four different magazines on field sports (two of which had virtually identical headlines, something along the lines of “Find and train the perfect gun dog!”), but also the Literary Review (with a cover article on Oscar Wilde biographies) and Private Eye. Along with chocolates, biscuits and crisps, the shop stocks a small but well-thought-out inventory of essentials: proper cheeses, local sausages and eggs, lavender and honey (also locally sourced), yoghurts both normal and Greek, esoteric juices (pear and raspberry) as well as apple and orange, two pestos, Nutella, sauces–basically, it’s everything that might at some point crop up in a recipe and make you think, “Oh, I need that, but I think we’ve run out.” They also sell fresh vegetables, and probably fruit in the summer, and baking essentials. Nothing is excessive, but nothing is missing. It is literally perfect.
The tea room is in an annexed room on the side, six or seven tables and a window overlooking the village square, pub (an extremely picturesque Coach and Horses) and old well. They sell soup (parsnip and red chilli today, which was well worth it) with cheese scones, jacket potatoes, sausage rolls, baguettes and the like, with tea and coffee, and of course a vast array of homemade sweets: lemon sponge, coffee sponge, chocolate sponge, Victoria sponge (I do love a sponge cake, me), sweet and savoury scones, flapjacks, tiffin slices and chocolate caramel shortbreads.
Also, it’s run by local ladies and they are just the best. The very phrase “local ladies” sums them up. You know what I mean. Efficient service, fabulous cooking, friendly faces.
There is definitely a place for Compton Village Shop and Tea Rooms in my little heaven.