I am a full, card-carrying member of the swathe of humanity labelled "Generation X". We're the last generation to have a handful of tv channels and the first to have computers in our home; we're the generation that embraced SAW and techno and grunge and Britpop. We grew up with Spielberg films and E-numbers and nothing to do. We're a generation that is, above all, riddled with cynicism and disdain and an ironic distancing of every experience. It was something we developed to cope with Thatcher and Reagan and AIDS and the threat of nuclear war hanging over our heads and all our parents getting divorced. We became tough.
I suffer from this affliction more than most. Every joyous event happens to me through glass. I watch it from outside, unwilling to commit until I've decided if this is something I will allow myself to enjoy. Every unfiltered moment of happiness is met with pursed lips; every emotional outpouring is greeted with a raised eyebrow. I am, in short, a nightmare.
It means that when I am told something will be beautiful and great, I'll blow my cheeks out dismissively and say to myself, "we'll see about that". I arrived in Church Stretton with my cynical faculties at maximum. I'd read, prior to arriving, that this was a lovely place. A gem in the Shropshire countryside. "Nicknamed Little Switzerland", one website told me. Yeah, yeah, I thought.
I left the station and cracked a smirk of superiority. Beyond the platform was a rough, badly tarmacked road, cracked and broken, lined with garages and workshops. Cars and vans broached the pavement while at the end of the street was a fast, unlovely A-road. Charming? I thought. This could be anywhere.
I crossed back over the railway line, past the town sign informing me it was market day, and something hit me. Perhaps it was the fine buildings, grand but not ostentatious; perhaps it was the steep hills rising up to form a picturesque backdrop. Perhaps it was the ginger cat that stepped away from the verge to beg for a stroke at my feet. Something infiltrated my brain and made me think, "oh no. This place is great."