Kerre Woodham: Heavenly creatures

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We've just come back to New York after three days in the Hamptons and I have to say, it's not a moment too soon.

We stayed in East Hampton, the most absurdly pretty town you're likely to see outside of a film set. From the moment we arrived we were cocooned in niceness.

The ordinary houses are shingle-roofed, with wrap around verandas, and American flags flying proudly at the front door. Hydrangeas bloomed abundantly along the pathways, and window boxes were filled with perky red flowers that positively screamed "Howdy!"

The homes that were definitely not ordinary, the East Hampton mansions, were jaw-dropping. Huge two-storey homes on vast rolling estates with post-and-rail fences, tennis courts and swimming pools.

The blue-chip properties lead to the sea and have their own beaches. They seemed peopled with strong-jawed men, trim, blond women and perfect children with thick hair and straight teeth.

The grass is lush and green and the roads are bordered by centuries-old elm trees whose branches entwine to provide umbrellas of shade.

There is no litter, no graffiti, no dog poo, no vandalism. Even the air is perfumed - there are no unpleasant smells.

The beautiful and well-chosen trees from the townspeople's gardens lend the air a fragrance which is singular to East Hampton. The people are polite and friendly. They engage you in conversation, at restaurants, in shops and on the street.

Dr Gerry, who does Billy Joel's teeth, has a son who's been to New Zealand and loved the place. The handsome man buying his leggy girlfriend an Herve Lerger dress (for US$2000) has a couple of guys from New Zealand training his horses.

Another man really wants to do a triathlon in New Zealand before he dies because New Zealand is the home of triathletes.

On learning you're a visitor, they are at pains to ensure you know where to go, what to do and the best way to get there.

They're well-travelled, well-read and wear T-shirts supporting Obama, conservation and the benighted folk of Darfur, despite the fact that as a town they pay more in tax than we as a country would in a year.

People don't lock their late-model convertibles, and the garden centres leave their plants out at night, confident they will be safe. And they are.

There's no spitting, and no swearing. The perfect teenage children swim on the beach and kick balls around and tussle with one another, but there's no f-ing and blinding.

The combination of all the niceness and the crippling jet-lag meant at various times I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. How can a town be so gorgeous?

I asked a nice old man walking his dog whether there was ever any graffiti or had they cleared it up for the Fourth of July.

"Oh, no, dear," he said. "There's never any graffiti. The ladies from the Village Improvement Society simply wouldn't allow it."

After a couple of days, suspicion set in. People simply can't be this nice. And maybe if you scratch the surface, they're not.

But it says more about us that we found such civilised society unnatural and unnerving.

- Herald on Sunday

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