There's a huge difference between taking a vacation in the countryside and living there, especially if you're a city dweller at heart. Rolling landscapes, wildlife, horse riding, peace, tranquility, fresh air and a feeling of at one with nature all sounds very idyllic in country living magazine, but the transition from the concrete jungles of cities and towns to the rural pastures of country life can become an absolute nightmare if you have not prepared yourself fully for the country living experience.
The exodus from our cities to a rural idyll seems to be more popular than ever. People even endure six or more hours of commuting, just to enjoy country living, but just what is the attraction to country living? Perhaps it's the roses round the cottage door? Rustic types popping round with home reared honey and eggs? Above all, you would expect a bit of peace and quiet, wouldn't you? Well, after having taking umpteen vacations in the English countryside over the years, and being ardent subscribers of country life magazine since getting married, my husband and I decided to take the plunge into country living once and for all.
We moved from the city to a small village near the East coast of England. Inclement weather could still have an impact, as winter power cuts were quite common. One year, a Royal Air Force helicopter had to drop supplies onto the village green. We came to realize that it was actually easier to go for long walks around a city than it was from country living. We were surrounded by farmer's land and there wasn't much public access. When there was, you had to keep your dog on a lead.
Peace and quiet was the last thing we got. It was soon apparent that the local fly boys liked to terrify the life out of us by skimming over our chimney in their fighter jets, making a noise which made your windows rattle. That's if the cockerel or bird song didn't wake us first or the merry church bells ringing at eight in the morning. There was also the hooting of the owls, the roar of the motorbikes and the shouts of the returning revelers from the village pub at chucking out time. Just to ice the cake on our country living, there was a pig farm in the center of the village, which was fine unless you were down wind.
Already, we're were beginning to regret the decision but we decided that we had to take a deep breath and try a little harder to adapt to our new surroundings. "It just takes a little getting used" my husband reassured me, but I could tell he was becoming as discontented and frustrated as I was with the whole setup.
As for neighbors, the small community seemed to attract eccentrics in disproportion to the population. Country living is a breeding ground for them. In fact I probably shouldn't say this, but our little pastoral neck of the woods seemed like the biggest freak show on the face of the planet with more than its fair share of social misfits and odd balls. Take Beatrice. Now she was an old aged pensioner who lived alone, and liked to dress up like a femme fatale from the French Resistance, complete with caked on stage make up and a beret worn at a jaunty angle. Her favorite hobby was going to people's funerals, regardless of whether she had known them or not. This was an opportunity to really dress up.
Steve and Julie were ardent vegetarians but lived on a diet of veggie burgers and chips. The joys of country living were lost on them. If Julie couldn't be bothered scrubbing, which was often the case, she would throw a saucepan in the bin and simply buy a new one. Julie would pack her bags once a fortnight and leave Steve. You could set your watch by it. She always returned to burn more saucepans. There was a wood pigeon, which had taken a shine to all our gardens, eating up everyone's seedlings in the process. Steve kindly volunteered to remedy this. Not by shooting it, they were vegetarians after all, but by driving it far away and releasing it. He didn't drive far enough. It kept coming back. He took it further and further away. Three times. Finally, the fourth trip was successful, just when we thought we'd have to put it on the train to Inverness.
Can you believe that unless you had at least 3 generations raised and buried in the village, you were considered an outsider. But the fact of the matter is that many new arrivals work so hard at fitting in that they contribute more to the local community than most of the locals ever have. The concept that county living is full or laid back beautiful folks existing side by side in peace and harmony, is a pretty twisted one! For many like us, it eventually becomes too much stress and daily discord, and so we and others before us had to leave our dream of country living and return to the city for some peace and quiet, and dare I say a little normality.
If you were born and raised around concrete structures, heavy traffic, entertainment, and crowds of people, then your best bet, if you can afford it, would be to have a countryside home for short vacations if you really want to get away from it all, but as for moving out to the mud and madness for good, think again. During the spring and summertime, country living might seem like a Garden of Eden, but think winter. Monochromatic landscapes, wet, freezing cold, isolated and often cut off, and a shortage of everything – including patience.