There were complaints from newcomers to the neighbourhood about night-time low flying exercises by helicopters from the naval airbase at Yeovilton. One local resident took to the Internet to complain about the attitudes of the newcomers: the air station ha been there for three generations; people who had moved into the district cannot have been unaware of the potential for noise; the people doing the complaining should keep quiet.
There was a logic in the local resident’s arguments: it would have been difficult to have been looking for a house in the locality and not to have noticed the frequent appearance of military aircraft in the sky. Had the complainants moved into our district fifty years previously, their complaints might have been even louder. Supersonic flight over land was still permitted at the time and naval jets would regularly break the sound barrier. The sonic boom would hit our house with such force that my mother’s saucepans would fall from the hooks on the wall.
Yet, behind the prickly reaction to opinions that many people would probably have thought reasonable, there is probably a much bigger reality, that of economics.
Douglas Howe, the wise teacher of economics forty years ago at Strode College in Street would have suggested to us that there were few questions that economics did not explain.
The newcomers who have moved into our area are generally considerably wealthier than the families who have been here for generations. They have been able to afford expensive houses, they spend their money in the many new shops that have appeared, they live lives that are far more affluent than those of the traditional local people.
Perhaps there is a feeling of jealousy towards them, perhaps there are also genuine grounds for feeling resentful that house prices have been pushed up to the point that someone who earned the average income in Somerset could have no hope whatsoever of obtaining a mortgage to buy a house in the community.
“Economics,” Douglas Howe would have said, and he would have been right.
The news stories about the reaction of Cornish and Welsh people to English visitors and English second-home owners are explicable in similar terms. Tourism might bring income to a community, but for working people, it brings low wage seasonal jobs. Travel to Cornwall or travel to the Welsh holiday areas, out of season and you see places as they really are.
People may be jealous, they may be resentful, but behind those sentiments there is a sense of economic injustice.