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Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The appeal of living in the country

(This is just a short piece that I wrote about the appeal of the countryside when I wanted to write but wasn't sure what to write about - it's quite rambling.)

Living in the country is an idea that many of us hold close to our hearts, but asking why this is – why country living holds so much appeal – is difficult to explain. I am not a practical person but to shortly list the realities of country life would be pretty easy – to start with, the sheer cost of petrol and the lack of buses mean that it’s not very cost effective to pop out to the shops to buy some milk it’s suddenly ran out, each journey must be planned and everything generally takes much longer (although, it must be said that it would be considerably quicker than travelling in the centre of London, or any city centre for that matter).

Country living evokes feelings of nostalgia, looking back or imagining a childhood spent feeding horses handfuls of grass or sitting on top of hay bales, watching the sun rise and the sun set over a patchwork landscape of green and bright yellow fields. It brings up the sense of community that is so often lost in cities and towns, where people don’t smile or say hello because there are just so many people, all walking quickly down the streets to different places for different ends. It is of course also tied heavily to the homes where people do live in the country – whether it’s the chocolate box cottages, the farmhouses with original fireplaces and floorboards to lust after, or the perfectly ordinary houses with beautiful views. It’s the wild flowers on the windowsill that look like they’ve been freshly picked from the garden, whether they have been or not, or the kitchen that’s filled with the warm comforting smell of yeast from an afternoon spent baking bread.

Arguably, it’s about a certain lifestyle. Keeping chickens, pigs or even bees, growing vegetables or keeping a pot of herbs on the windowsill, are all stepping stone towards being self-sufficient – something that would be essential back when transport was not so easy to come by. Walking dogs, especially two or three black Labradors – what seems the staple to a country house existence – attending gatherings to celebrate anything from the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to the aftermath of the village fete, and not forgetting having everyone know everyone else’s business (even to whether Mrs Pots is having roast beef for supper or if the vicar was right and she was cooking roast pork and apple after all).  

Ultimately, however, the undeniable appeal of country living is perhaps a throwback to a time gone by – a time which seems simpler, maybe just because we didn’t live it, and altogether prettier. It’s gentler, it’s relaxing, and it’s pure unadulterated escapism. What’s extra nice is that I still love the village where I live even after years of living there, suggesting that the allure is timeless. Even though we still don’t keep chickens and don’t live in the perfect pretty cottage yet (the walls still half-painted, the unsightly plumbing in the bathroom still there – the list goes on and on), as well as the whole one hundred village ‘natives’ living generally in fleeces and grubby wellington boots, it is quite lovely and actually rather beautiful.

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