13 April, 2014 / General

The dirt on country living

sheepI grew up in a village in West Yorkshire, where our neighbour tried to revive his deceased corgi by placing him in the airing cupboard. After moving to London, and vowing to never go near the country again, let alone live in it, here we are in deepest, greenest South Lanarkshire in Scotland.

We’ve lived here for fifteen years. I now own countryish things I never thought I’d own: a rake, warm gloves, a waterproof coat. Finally I grew sick of Jimmy telling me off for clopping around country lanes in sandals and mules, and saying smug things like, ‘There’s no such thing as the wrong kind of weather, just the wrong shoes’, and got myself some wellies.

If you’re thinking of taking a similar step, here a few things I’ve learnt about the country over the years.

  1. 1. It’s not like Country Living magazine. We have yet to furnish our home with ‘charming finds.’ It’s a mixture of knackered Ikea stuff and a lumpen brown DFS sofa chosen in haste as our children were jumping on everything. 
  1. You can be noisy.At least, if your house is apart from other houses which, thankfully, ours is. So our teenagers’ drums and guitars can be played at deafening volumes, which they don’t appreciate at all. In my Hackney flat someone would complain if you walked across your own living room in anything other than carpet slippers.

    3. It’s a myth that everyone’s friendly in the country.But when they are, they really help you out. I’ll be forever grateful to the newsagent who phoned me because he was worried about my mother spending too much money in his shop. Also the butcher who, when I ran over yelling that there was a crow in our house, shut up his shop and heroically removed the bird from our living room, with the aid of a small tea towel. 
  1. It’s dirty.Sure, I was a dirtier person in London: when we moved to Scotland I was amazed when a cotton wool pad didn’t come away gunmetal grey after being in contact with my face. But our house here definitely sucks in more filth than any of our London flats ever did. It comes in on your wellies and stuck to the dog. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. Just that the countryside somehow manages to sneak into your house and there’s no way of keeping it out.  
  1. Animals.Everyone knows that bulls are dangerous, but what about the rest? I mean, cows are big and therefore intimidating, but could they harm you? All these years here and I still have no bloody idea. Would a ram actually ramyou? While some people move to the country and immediately acquire all manner of hooved beasts, it’s not essential. Some, like us, remain city cissies where livestock is concerned. 

    6. It can become very competitive. In terms of being a proper rural type, I mean. Not real country people, who’ve grown up here – they build dry stone walls and help calves to be born without making out it’s any big deal. It’s the newcomers who shout about being country people now. They’re the ones curing their own bacon and going on butchering courses and posting pictures on Facebook of themselves surrounded by entrails and blood. 

  1. You’ll feel compelled to make jam. Fruit, sugar and a load of boiling – how hard can it be? Let’s just say Bonne Maman aren’t exactly quaking in their little gingham boots. 

    8. You get used to not having access to everything 24/7.It’s fine, it really is. My mother never needed to buy oven cleaner or chicken breasts at 2.30 am, and neither do I. 
  1. People never forget things.When I was about three I had a pee in our road. It just seemed easier than going home and using the loo. Being a tiny community, everyone knew about it about five minutes later. It was still being talked about as we packed up to leave when I was 14 years old.
  1. Children love it. As a nipper I spent my whole time rolling down hills, jumping in rivers and having a fantastically free time of it. I even saw a flasher once – a proper old-school one, with his beige coat held wide open. ‘I saw the front of a man!’ I yelled, tearing into our house where Mum was tending something on the stove. She didn’t even look round. It was hardly unusual, I suppose. Think of the seventies and what comes to mind? Soda Stream and men flashing their bits. Anyway, to me the country wasn’t boring at all. Then I became a teenager and wanted access to Miners make-up and boys called Dave like the ones in Jackie stories, and nothing was ever the same again.

So be prepared for your children to grow out of their rural habitat. When that happens, naturally they’ll blame you for their crappy life. But then they’d do that wherever you lived.



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