East of the Dee, England extends without ostentation across the red and green plain of Cheshire. So says the Reader’s Digest Book of the Road, and who are we to disagree? But demur we must, because, since the arrival in the village of Great Budworth of Mr John Ryan, a self-made millionaire, ostentation has come.
For centuries, the rhythm of life in the tiny village to the north of Northwich has beaten undisturbed. True, the cobbles no longer echo to the hooves of shire nags but to the rumble of passing Pirellis. And when the curfew tolls the knell of parting day, homeward plods the weary public relations executive to his timbered second home. But such 20th century invasions apart, Great Budworth remains in essence what it always was, a sleepy corner of England where everyone knows his place and all glory in the beauty about them.
To quote again the lyrical author of the Reader’s Digest book of maps, “Cheshire – a county of meadows, cows, Cheshire cheese, meres, mosses (swamps), red sandstone churches, and half-timbered magpie houses in black and white.” To that list one must add mock Victorian lamp posts, huge wrought iron gates, and brick-built barbecues. These additional features were introduced by Mr Ryan and his girlfriend Sandra Newman, shortly after they moved into the 450,000 home, The Farthings, in Great Budworth. Other village residents complained, the local council demanded a retrospective planning application and, when it arrived, turned it down. Now in the county of cows and swamps there is bitterness.
The sad story of John Ryan, 47, and Sandra Newman, 42, shows yet again how inadequate are the simple devices of socio-economic classification. For behind the hard won rise from group D to A, there is a heart-rending tale of repression and rejection that compels the victim for ever to feel a D. Feminists talk of the glass ceiling, the invisible barrier against which their rise to the top beats in vain. But for impediments numerous and subtle there is nothing to compare with the British class system. A solecism of speech or dress can cut off a man from acceptance just as easily as a major social gaffe. To wear a tie and pocket handkerchief fashioned from the same material and in the same shade is to invite as much muttered opprobrium as might be occasioned by pinching the bottom of the squire’s wife.
When Mr Ryan first opened the door to The Farthings, he thought he had arrived. He had, after all, come a long way from the council house in Doncaster where he spent his early years. In between, he had built a successful cosmetic surgery business and amassed a fortune. His choice of profession alone gives a perfect flavour of the age in which we live. A hundred years ago, a man seeking great wealth might have fashioned his prosperity in coal, steel, beer, or cotton. Today the richest seams are in hairdressing and body piercing.
It is perhaps incidental that in the course of his profession Mr Ryan was of great service to those very Ds and Es he thought he had left behind. For it was to his flesh-moulding establishment that Miss Melinda Messenger brought her breasts. And from his establishment that she took them away again several sizes larger and so expertly cantilevered you could stand a pint pot on them. Readers of The Sun who daily look upon his work and tremble would not begrudge him a penny of his wealth.
But it is doubtful that the villagers of Great Budworth count many Sun readers among their number or find their senses reeling at the sight of great balls of silicone. For them, Nature unadorned is sufficient. When the world seems too much with them late and soon, and the shadows of despair fall, all that is needed for lightness to break through is a cow or a swamp. But certainly not a thumping great wrought iron gate, a garden pond with a vulgar fountain, and a row of repro lamp posts.
Naturally enough, Mr Ryan puts it all down to jealousy. “I feel I am being victimised, all because I have a Bentley and Sandra has a Jaguar. People in this country don’t like success. The people complaining don’t seem to have much money.”
But Mr Rod Bowman, chairman of the village amenity society, denies the charge of envy. “Actually it’s a very welcoming little community,” he says. “I think it’s sad that Mr Ryan has taken this personally.”
He could be right. Perhaps when Mr Ryan sweeps from his drive in his burgundy Bentley, straws fall from the gaping mouths of awe-struck yokels. And when Miss Newman, a former casino croupier, swings a shapely leg into her Jaguar the hedgerows bristle with prying eyes and quiver with the fury of rustic lust.
Somehow that seems unlikely. All the same, Mr Ryan should take Mr Bowman at his word and stick around. A few years hence, some village historian may point to the disused forge, the farriery, the Grade One listed byre and, of course, the swamp, before nodding in the direction of The Farthings and informing the curious visitor, “There be the dwelling of Miss Newman, who shook as pretty a dice as any in all of Cheshire, and her companion Mister Ryan, the old village breast-smith.”