Rural ambivalence

‘So? How is it?’ your city friends will ask about your countryside move. Here most people who’ve moved out make the mistake of sounding unrelentingly positive. ‘Yeah! Great. We love it. It’s weird – we don’t miss London at all,’
they’ll say, launching into some spraff about how lucky they are to have the best of both worlds, because they can visit London all the time yet still escape the grind, blah blah.

No one hears that, of course. What they hear is an unconvincing exercise in self-justification. Because moving out of London is never straightforwardly brilliant, no matter how fond you are of fields and WI bake sales. Anyone who’s spent more than a month in the capital will move to a small town and balk at the twee shops selling costumed teddy bears and pervading hordes of old people, regardless of how much they enjoy the space and tight-knit community feel.

Because in Britain you can’t have the best of both worlds – the rural views combined with top-flight museums and kick-ass sushi restaurants. In parts of America you can (such as LA and the Hamptons), but here everything’s a trade-off. You’re allowed your world-class cultural stuff, but only if you take the crowds, pollution, traffic, etc. Alternatively you can have the big house, pretty scenery and quiet, but you’d better like staying in.

Not that I was going out as much in London, mind you. That’s the trouble: once you have a kid, you don’t see the glitzy, ES-party-pages face of the city so much as the waiting-at-a-windswept-bus-stop-outside-Chicken-Cottage side. To get more space, you find yourself living in steadily crappier areas until one day you’re in Cockfosters wondering why the hell you bother.

At least here there are no bus stops involved, since you can drive everywhere (which is brilliant, I don’t care how fashionable it is to protest otherwise). And my son gets to go to a picture-book village pre-school and roam acres of woodland. People round here boast (rather nauseatingly) that the kids are free-range. But that’s not without peril, either. You can, after all, be too sheltered. I don’t want him to become the kid who fears crowds and cries if he sees a black person.

So when my city friends ask how it is here, I always answer with a qualified, ‘It’s fine, but…’ Making them wish they’d never bloody asked.

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9 Comments

Filed under General rants and moans

9 responses to “Rural ambivalence

  1. I grew up in the country – rural Devon, not another house for a mile in any direction – and although I’ve always appreciated its aesthetic value, I was bored out of my mind as a teenager and spent most nights staying with friends in Exeter. I’ve lived in London for half my life now, and with kids of my own, I do think of moving to the country (mainly to avoid the annoyance of living with back-chatting ghetto-speaking white middle class West London kids in a few years) but memories of the boredom put me off. I’d love to have livestock and a huge garden/veg patch (I have chickens in London, as I am a middle class stereotype) but I know I’d miss the shops and the buzz and the schools are great round here, and we both have good jobs here, and there are advantages to growing up in the city, too. It’s always a trade-off. At the moment, I’m torn, so reading your blog with interest.

  2. Hi! Great blog, you are echoing what I am feeling and this is how I imagine my blog to look if we ever moved to the sticks. IF.
    Hope to read more of you once crazy December is over. Yes, the advent calendar is great fun but I feel a tiny bit swamped.
    Deborah xx
    PS: *screams* what have I got myself into???

  3. So very true! I think the pros of living in the country definitely outweigh the cons for me at the moment but sometimes it’s a very close call indeed.

  4. london mummy to be

    just stumbled across your blog as in this dilemma myself. love london, all my friends are here, and just about to have 1st baby. but husband needs to change careers so do we take the plunge now or have to uproot again in a few years time?! when i’m in town i wanna be in the country and vice versa. am i really ready for the ‘good life’? trying to convince all my friends to come with me…that would help.

    • Such a dilemma, I know… It is lovely being in the country with a toddler, but I don’t know that it makes that much difference in the early baby days, when they’re not moving around. The important thing then is for you to have a support network of friends and relatives. But if you do think you’ll be in the country eventually, it might be worth moving now so you can meet people at the baby groups. The other advantage of being outside London is that childcare is much cheaper. It depends entirely on your circumstances and what you want to do, I’m afraid… But, although your friends won’t come with you, they will come and stay, which is really nice – much more satisfying than the odd hour snatched with them in a cafe. Good luck, whatever you decide to do!

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