The village of Merchington can trace its origins right back to The Domesday Book. Its name derives from 'merchynge town' - literally a town where a gorgeous, slim, kindly, and highly-respected young local woman sold merchandise to anyone who wanted to buy it. And also to anyone who didn't.
The landscape is dominated by Trubblert Mill, where cloth of all colours - but mainly black - is woven for making into t-shirts. From there, barges carry the t-shirts along the far canal to distribution centres all over the country.
The Mill's current owner lives in Sodham Hall, the large manor house at the top of the hill as you head west towards Wunnorse Town. Sodham Hall is the country seat of the Third Earl Of Merchington, a lovable but eccentric figure, whose mission in life was to invent a cloth that would keep its wearer forever young.
The Third Earl wandered the moors by day and by night, collecting the larvae of the lycra-worm to use in his experiments. But he got no closer to his goal until one day when he accidentally tripped over the tigerskin rug in the hall. The larvae molecules and the tigerskin follicles started rockin'n'rollin 'n' sockin'n'soulin 'n' thumpin'n'pumpin 'n' fizzin'n'whizzin 'n' jizzin'n'jazzin... and then spontaneously combusted. The explosion caused a chain reaction of nuclear fission'n'fusion 'n' blahblahblah... and lo 'n' behold, tigerprint spandex was born. Blimey.
The international head office of The Gaffer Tape Company, famous for its slogan "You can't rock without a roll!" is based in Merchington. The High Street is also home to a Ferrero Rocher shop, which is currently running an 'all you can eat for a fiver' promotion. Ambassador, you are spoiling us with your special offers!
A short walk from there is Muso-Aid, a charity shop which raises funds for down-and-out musicians. Many musos shop there and some even work there, but if you recognise any ex-rockstars it would be diplomatic *not* to ask for an autograph.
Under the aquaduct is a parade of shops including estate agents Allcock & Ball, Minikabz'n'Kebabz, Ye Olde Cybercafe, a thriving fancy dress emporium, and, hewn into the sheer granite face of the hillside, a small tea-shop. The appropriately named Hard Rock Cafe doubles up as the entertainment hotspot of Merchington. Scheduled to appear are a Puppet Show and a band called UFO. If you look closely you can see a tourbus parked outside, with a woman co-ordinating the unloading of several boxes. Wow, she's pretty.
Across the village square you can be assured of a warm welcome in The Bassplayer's Arms. This traditional English pub serves a wide selection of real ales, and an even wider selection of unreal ones. The pub is rumoured to be haunted, and it's quite true that strange knocking and wailing noises have been heard after closing time, but a TV documentary crew checked it out and discovered it was just a bloke who'd got locked in the Gents. A bassplayer as it turned out. Wouldn't ya just know it.
Further along the road you will find Merchington Cricket Club, where every Sunday throughout the summer comes the familiar smell of linseed oil and cucumbers. Listen carefully and you might hear the thwack of leather and a triumphant cry of 'Howzat!' coming from inside the pavilion.
Sadly the post office, hitherto the hub of village life, has been shut down and demolished to make way for yet another branch of the American Embassy. The golden arches are already in place on the High Street, and the pre-formed modular sectional plastic building is just about to be craned into position, ready for tomorrow's Golden McBreakfast grand opening ceremony. Be there or be in the Market Square.
The police station is run with an iron truncheon by our village bobby, Sergeant Heartbeat. He's firm but fair. He'll know if you're lying - so you don't have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court. And of course anything you do say may be given in evidence. So you'd best come quietly.
After some more shops, we arrive at Merchington Village School. The school is highly-respected within the community, and is run by nuns from a local coven. Oops that should have said 'convent'. Easy mistake to make though. Exam results are consistently high - this is either down to cheating, or to the strict curricular regime of headmistress Mother Malicious and her sadistic sidekick Sister Vicious.
The toll house on the edge of the village stands on the site of the original home of the woman who gave Merchington its name. Her descendants still live there, and to this day, just as they have done for the last 1000 years, everyone who travels into the village must present the lady of the house with a shiny golden coin. And the same again on the way out.
To the north-east stands the parish church of St. Peter The Bassplayer. The vicar spends a lot of time in the pub doing charity work - he's raising money for a rehab centre, as you will notice from the Gibson Thunderbird painted aloft the tower. The fundraising is up to the fifth fret already - but it's okay, the money is only resting in his account.
As you leave the churchyard you'll come to the allotments, where passions are running high ahead of the annual Fruit & Veg competition. In previous years there have been acts of sabotage, so this year the members of Merchington Allotment Federation In Action are taking turns to camp there overnight, in a bid to catch the beetroot thief red-handed. The rhubarb rustler had better watch out too, as this year the sticks of rhubarb are at least a foot long. Ouch. He'll not be looking forward to getting his five-a-day.
Beyond the allotments you'll see Pikey Common, a green-belt area of natural beauty which is home to a family of raggle-taggle-gypsies-o. So if you want your drive resurfacing, you'd best get it done now as there is only a small amount of tarmac left over from a local road-building job. Allegedly.
News Update... Pikey Common recently played host to a big fat tipsy wedding which, although fillumed by a Channel 4 documentary crew, was vetoed from being shown here - on account of Paddy (I'm really a big soft pussycat) Doherty gettin into a bit of a scrap at the reception, and the footage being impounded as evidence.
But we are allowed to tell you that the bride wore a dress made entirely of dayglo neon pink meringue, festooned with indoor sparklers. Unfortunately, on arrival at the choitch, her dress was gorged upon by the bridesmaids, and then finished off by a scabby dagg. But the fire caused by the discarded sparklers made a useful diversion for the groom and his friends to relieve the vicar of his roof.
On the south side of the village is Merchington International Airport Parkway Rail Station, with more than 100 trains every hour and direct rail links to all the major cities in Europe. At least you'd think so, after all the planning that went into it and the exhorbitant amount of time and money it cost to build. In reality it has one train a day, which could leave at any time, in either direction, with or without its coaches, and which might topple over before it gets to the first bend. But the long-haired fella sitting on the bench and the fat old woman lugging a trolleyful of suitcases to the far end of the platform don't seem to notice.
Also available... fridge magnets, sticks of rock, and many other souvenirs of Merchington including mugs, teaspoons, tea-towels, and those curved metal things you get on walking sticks (no, not decrepit old headbangers waiting for hip-replacements... we mean those badge thingies)
If you've survived this far, and would like to learn about Tourchester which is up the road and round the corner from Merchington, the guide book for Tourchester is here.