Before arriving in Russell some five or so years ago I had dwelt all my years (and it's getting to be many years) in cities. Cities are organised. They have to be. They have street names and the houses have numbers. They (cities) are a little impersonal so moving to a small village/town would always be, for me, different.
I found the easiest (perhaps not) way to find out anything in or about Russell is to ask, at a dinner party or something, what I am going to ask. An ordinary question... and I have had this conversation, in many forms, many times. This is the simplified version...
"Could anybody please tell me where Dolly Lambert lives?"
"Because she invited me to go and see her, and I want to go and see her."
"Dolly lives in the Green House on Appletree Street."
"That's what she said, and I drove up Appletree Street but there weren't any green houses."
"That's because it is painted blue."
"Why did she say it's called the Green House, when it's painted blue."
"Because (sigh) everybody knows it was always called the Green House before it was painted blue."
"So I look for a blue house, that's all, a blue house? Didn't see any blue house either."
"That's because it's on a back section."
"Well how am I supposed to know what back section it is on."
"You go down the private driveway."
"What private driveway."
"Opposite Olie Sugden's house."
"Which is where?"
"Next to Joe Swampits."
Me (sarcastically) "So if I want to go and see Dolly Lambert, who you told me lives in a green house, which was painted green and is now painted blue which everybody knows, is always called the Green House, which I can't see anyway because it is on a back section and the driveway is opposite Olie Sugden's house. Can't you just tell me a house number?"
"Because you don't need one, everyone knows where Dollie Green House is, you just drive up Appletree Street, look for Olie Sugden's house and Dolly's drive is opposite."
"Who is Olie Sugden?"
"Used to be married to Jennie, she's a Wakefield, used to work at the Duke, Olie lives next door to Joe Swampit."
Big gulp of wine, deep breath, fixed smile.
"HOW DO I KNOW WHICH IS OLIE'S HOUSE EVEN IF HE LIVES NEXT TO JOE SWAMPIT'S HOUSE, I HAVE KNOW IDEA WHO THESE PEOPLE ARE!"
"Well everybody knows Joe, he is the shoelace man."
"What's a shoelace man?" (sigh)
"He is famous, everybody knows Joe, he does tie-dyed shoelaces, been doing it for years. His wife is an artist, he's got a red car, he's a Bushing."
"What's a Bushing?"
"Big family, own half of Russell."
"Well if Olie's ex wife is a Wakefield who are they?"
"Big family, own half of Russell."
Through gritted teeth, "Which is his house then?"
"The one with the small apple tree."
"But," (look exasperated) "what little I do know about Russell, I do know everybody in Appletree Street agreed, years ago, to plant an apple tree in their front garden."
"But Joe's is the smallest, just look for the smallest apple tree."
"So I drive up and down Appletree Street looking for the house with the smallest apple tree in the front garden of the bloke next door to the bloke that makes tie-dyed shoelaces and is world famous, and whose wife is an artist, and opposite his house I see the drive that leads to Dollie's house which is called the Green House but it's really blue and it's on a back section anyway and that's it?"
"Yes. There are two blue houses but the Council doesn't know about the second one as Dolly never told them cos she would have to pay rates on it and all that, and she lets it out."
"So which one does Dolly live in?"
"Neither really, she lets them both out and stays with Millicent who was married to Olie but they split when he spent too much time on his tie-dying his shoelaces."
"Millicent lives in a yellow house in the Back Road, she's got a brown car, you go..."
"Wait wait wait! Why on earth would Dolly have told me to go to Appletree St if… And you told me Olie was married to Jennie so…"
"That was before Dolly, and Dolly was only trying to make it easy for you and Millicent's place is hard to find, she knows you would only have to knock on the door at the Green House and they would have given you directions, silly, that's Russell."
"Pass the wine."
And the ammunition!