Things I like about the countryside: moo cows, baby sheeps, colourful fauna, quaint stone buildings.
Things I don’t like about the countryside: everything else.
Country dwellers fall into two categories: 1) people who were born and bred in the country, 2) people who relocated to the country from a city. What these country folk all have in common, regardless of locational heritage, is disdain and pity for us city types; they’re smugly convinced that they have it sorted, with a slower paced, undemanding, quieter, and therefore more fulfilling lifestyle. They will often openly ridicule the ‘rat-race’ of city life and shake their simple heads at the thought of all that sinful stimulation, and then return to spinning cotton, pulling wilting veg from the baked earth, and quilting – or whatever else it is they do in the comfort of their obnoxious thatched homes.
I’ve had time to reflect on the merits and downfalls of country life as I’m currently on a week-long mini-break with my family; we are staying in a poky, characterful cottage in a small English village. It’s very pleasant and peaceful if you like that sort of thing (antique jewellery shops, cobblestones, piglets – awwww! – pubs full of red-faced locals, and braying groups of hooray Henrys celebrating the Jubilee), and intensely frustrating and vomit-inducingly twee if you don’t. I’m especially unimpressed with the lack of phone reception/internet access (trite city-girl whinge, yes, but it’s true!) that means writing a daily(ish) blog is going to be an exercise in patience and ingenuity, and with the miniature proportions of the streets, on which timid introversion is the manner of choice – making me feel like a brash, blonde human foghorn dressed in synthetic leopard fur. Additionally, because this bit of the countryside is near the coast, everything is covered in bird shit.
This country discomfort is nothing new, and arriving here for this break has made sense of my decision to holiday exclusively in cities for the past few years. As you can probably infer from the tone and content of this blog, I’ve never felt entirely at ease in cultures which require modesty and discretion. Plus, me and the countryside still have beef from that time its people called the police on me and my brother Joe for having a fight in a graveyard at my Grandma’s 70th.
The main thing I’ve noticed about the countryside this time though, is that EVERYONE is coupled up here. There are middle aged married couples in the pubs, thirty-something gay couples browsing the kitsch tat on sale in shops on ye olde high-street, and groups of young professional couples hee-hawing over dinner in posh restaurants; in a troubling couples mash-up, last night I spied a teenage Lolita type rubbing the groin of her elderly beau with her naked foot in the lounge of a local hotel.
I’m sure you’ll agree single people, that the last thing we need is to have multiple varieties of couples shoved down our throats. It’s not fantastic, self -esteem wise, to have to confront idealised versions of the only thing your life is missing on an hourly basis. Just as it would be difficult for a committed dieter to sit across the table from a gleeful glutton scoffing cream cakes and not want a bite, so, on seeing these pairs of lovers stroking each-other in public, I have found myself questioning the ferocity with which I promote singledom. Perhaps I’d be having a nicer time, embracing rural pleasures by looking at moo-cows and joyously picking wild flowers for the dinner table, if I were here with a boyfriend rather than my parents (Dad keeps pointing at quaint countryside things, and making loud, semi-homophobic jokes about all the gays), my youngest brother, and my Nan (who can barely walk due to a hip problem, refuses to use a walking aid, and keeps making us sit down ‘for a little rest’ every 100 yards or so).
At least being in the country is giving me a renewed passion for city living. I’ve only been here a day and I’ve already been greeted merrily by numerous strangers – I find myself savouring a return to London, where respect for anonymity is such that it’s considered uncouth to make eye contact on the tube.
I’m not going to be a po-faced cow for the whole of this holiday (I’ll pass off the above rant as a reasonable and inevitable adjustment period); I’m determined to get through the rest of the week cheerfully with the aid of real ale, brandy and introverted, disdainful judgement of the all the country-folk I come across. However much I enjoy this break in the end though, I’m 100% sure it’s not going to make me a country-lover, and if I invert the above observation re: the ubiquity of couples in the country enough, I come to conclude that visiting the wilderness is what couples do when they’re alone together (I’ve even voluntarily embarked upon disastrous country breaks with ex-boyfriends that give validity to this conclusion). Therefore I am able to override my instinct to be jealous of all the perfect couples (because I know from experience that the country-break = desperate attempt at relationship resuscitation), and decide instead that never having to visit the country in pursuit of a romantic idyll is a reason to be single. Although, I actually don’t mind camping, if there’s baby lambs about.