There are very few halls for hire near me, which is why I found myself in Hillam Village on a blustery day in 2018.
There was an odd air of emptiness in this place, my husband noted it as soon as we stepped out of the car. We’d had to park on the side of the road, as there didn’t appear to be any car parks in the entire place. I’d complained about this, but my husband had made the valid point that many of these small rural places were simply not large enough to warrant building one and, besides, an ugly tarmac car park would surely ruin the idyllic appearance of such a place.
He was right of course, besides feeling a little deserted, the place was perfectly idyllic. There wasn’t a sign of modernity in the whole place. The people of Hillam must have decided that keeping cars off the streets would best preserve the aura of antiquity in the place and it had certainly worked. Little thatched cottages were bunched up next to each other, their front gardens seamlessly blending into the scrappy mud track road. In what looked to be the town square, a gnarled tree sprouted from an ugly mound of earth. It seemed odd that such a picturesque place would have an eyesore such as this as it’s centrepiece, the poor thing looked half-dead!
We’d arranged to meet a lady from the village council to take a look a their school hall, our youngest was due to have her eighth birthday party soon and we’d found that all the halls for hire in our immediate area had been booked months ago! My husband and I had both felt like quite the fools, calling round all of these popular party venues asking if there were any spaces in just a fortnight’s time…well, you can just imagine the responses that we got! Only when we were forced to look further afield did we find Hillam Village. We must’ve driven past the little signpost dozens of times over the years, but had never thought of popping in. Then again, why would we? The village was, to put it rather bluntly, a dead end. The only reason you’d have to go there is if you lived there, or if you were in desperate need of a party venue!
We’d found their school hall in the phone book of all places and had a brief conversation with a ‘Mabel’ over a very crackly line and that had led us to the village. We were only slightly disconcerted to find out that our phones had dropped out of signal when we’d entered the village, but it was hardly surprising considering how deep into the valley we were. We must have been waiting a good half hour before a grey-haired lady tottered out one of the tiny cottages and made her way over to us. She had a beaming smile on her face, but my husband and I were somewhat taken aback by her clothes.
She wore a rough-hewn woollen cloak with a hood and no shoes on her feet…