"I am a village idiot. By far the stupidest person in the place, the one they are all kind to, never bother trying to explain things to you know what I mean. The trouble is I’m not taken seriously as a village idiot. Being so thick you can’t understand what the people around you are saying, you know, the normal lives they lead, should be enough, do we need this drooling at the mouth and speaking in absurd rustic accents that no one else uses, do we need the wild, straggly hair and foolish leer? If I am much stupider than the rest then I am the village idiot. QED. But people say no, they won’t accept it. They bring up the business of the job in the City, they make snide remarks about the First from Cambridge. The trouble is this absolutism that people bring to the debate. You’re not really thick they say, not like the village idiots I remember, now they really were dim, they’d have given their right arm for your brain, but it’s not about I.Q.’s, it’s not about numbers, it’s about difference, you see. Relatively speaking I’m in just the same position.
It’s not like it used to be, it’s true. The place has changed. Fewer farmers these days and rather more Nobel laureates has, I admit, raised the tone of debate in the Aquinas’ Head, but that’s just the point; I could have joined in the chat with no trouble a generation ago, but nothing stays still, and that is what gets forgotten.
Fine people here, very friendly, take a chap as he is, you know. If you’re an idiot they treat you like one. There’s old Freddy Barnes, grows the finest vegetables in the village- I’m very partial to a chalotte, myself- spends his time digging a bit, weeding a bit, sprinkling a bit of manure here and there and he makes enough to live on. Used to have one of these Internet companies, selling, for their weight in gold, as it were, personalised individual methods for sending any other specified Internet company to the wall. Quite brilliant. But it was all too much for his nerves, and he came here to relax and lead the simple life. He says he gets the same buzz from spraying greenfly, and who am I to argue? It’s all above my head.
Then there’s Dravindra Singh, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at somewhere terribly famous, the one all the other linguisticians went to when they couldn’t work out what the Halibi tribe were trying to express by a rising tone in the fourth declension of the thirteenth variation of the seventh primal grunt. He would listen once and explain it to them almost as though he were talking to me. Remarkable man. Then one day he had a seizure or something, poor chap, not really old, either, and when he recovered they found he could only communicate in fifteenth century Estonian. Bit of a problem really, especially as he runs our Post Office in his spare time. But they brought someone in and gave the whole village evening classes and in a few weeks they were all chatting happily with the Prof in the saloon bar and making jokes in the shop about the fact that the word for paperclip is the same as the word for- well, you know what I mean. Anyhow, problem solved. Except for me of course. They were very good, of course, let me sit in the classes with them as though I was going to learn too, but I couldn’t get past the basics, you know, and all I can say to him is, Hello, How are you, and Look at that dungbeetle trying to shag that dried leaf, and Do you think the sun will come out later, I want to look for leeches, and that sort of thing. All too much for me, of course..."