There are some things that are just too quirky or silly to admit some affection for them, not if you want to retain any credibility that is. Luckily, since I have never really had any credibility to start with there is nothing much to lose to say I have a fondness for what I think is a very British bit of weirdness; that massive contribution to world culture that is the model village.
If you’ve never been to a model village, or do not understand what I mean, first I should explain that this is model in the sense of a small representation of a larger original, as opposed to an ideal example of what that should look like, although there is an element of the idealised in their design (incidentally, my ‘perfect’ village is Bamburgh in Northumberland, which has every element that any good village should have, including nothing at all to do if you are a teenager).
No, model villages of whatever size are where buildings and other structures are created in reduced scale (usually something like 1:25 ratio) and laid out in pattern so that the visitor can, Gulliver – like (or, if, you prefer, more like a very careful Godzilla) wander through the landscape admiring the level of detail. Sometimes the buildings are copies of real examples, others are fictional ‘examples’ of what, say, a thatched pub should look like. In the more sophisticated sites, there is often electrically operated features; a train always makes a good impression, or a windmill with slowly revolving sails, or a bridge that lifts to let and equally miniature boat sail through, doomed to repeat the journey many times a day on its underwater line.
All this is very twee, and sometimes it might be difficult to see the appeal. But what I like most about most model villages is the attention to detail and sense of humour. No opportunity is ever missed to get a little joke in there somewhere so miniature posters, bill boards or banners are always worth reading. My personal favourites have been the tiny model workman who’s miniature van proudly has ‘no job too small’ emblazoned on the side and a house where a man clings onto the roof dressed only in spotted boxer shorts while an angry husband remonstrated with his sheet covered wife in the window below. This latter one was actually in the Mini Europe attraction in Brussels so probably should be disqualified, but considering the scene is pure British farce it must get an honourable mention. In fact this place is very weirdly British, as a tiny Tardis next to the House of Parliament shows as even in these days of the revitalised series Doctor Who is still something I tend to believe is largely a British phenomenon.
There are a mere handful of Model Villages in the UK. Probably the most famous is Bekonscot in Buckinghamshire (http://www.bekonscot.co.uk/) where the aforementioned helpful tiny workman can be located. They cost a surprisingly large amount of money to maintain (being outdoors and small and detailed are not good bedfellows for longevity) and are something we should cherish. Go visit and take children with you (although if you are short of them, as we are, then your own inner child does just as well).