So having had the luck, and perhaps some would say curse, of moving around the country during my childhood and now adulthood I am left wondering what I am best suited to; town or country. Now being in a position where I get to enjoy both simultaneously I might just be able to find the answer.
London is great, arguably the best city in the world and a kaleidoscope of cultures, lives and stories. I wake up every morning in leafy Barnes in South West London with a myriad of very expensive 4x4s parked on the road outside, a plethora of basement excavations and loft conversions being carried out at any given time and the need for an expensive blow dry just to walk to the middle class bakery of choice Gail’s. But it’s home and it feels like home. I first lived here 10 years ago and fell in love with the way the Thames meanders through the village , the 5am wake up call of the first plane descending towards Heathrow and the very convenient 23 minute train journey from Barnes Bridge to the metropolis that is Waterloo and the City beyond. It is a bubble of middle class and upper class life in modern day Britain. A snapshot of those who have succeeded in life and the lives that this affords. It is testament to what happens when you work hard, invest in the right property at the right time and end up with three kids at private school, posh wellies, a slobbering Labrador or two and a set of Range Rover keys on the hallway table. It is leafy and very slightly ‘Surrey’ but you have the convenience of being able to book an Uber, order a Deliveroo and walk to cafes and shops with everything you need.
But the South Circular is best avoided at most times of the day, the house might be expensively and tastefully furnished and loved but it is a terrace with a small garden and the pain of having no parking space outside your front door when you get home from Waitrose with bags of shopping in the pouring rain. There is the constant challenge to be keeping up with the Joneses, to be making sure Arabella and Ptolemy are attending the correct variety of extra curricular activities and the 12 or more hours a day your spouse works just to be able to afford the mortgage. I do wonder if many of the people I pass on my way to the 6.31am train are happy and satisfied with the way their lives have turned out. Do the positives really outweigh the negatives?
On most Saturday mornings I get to wake up, jump in my car and head west along the M4 to a place called Ledbury in Herefordshire. First you pass the junction with the M25 and you start to breath a little more easy, Reading goes by and then it’s like you have left the hustle and bustle of your busy life behind. Things slow down, everything seems more relaxed, the sky seems bigger with more space for life. Along the A417 I gradually pass by all the Range Rovers coming from my part of London as they descend on their second homes in the chocolate box Cotswolds. Yes this is the country but it can have the feel of just a ‘country’ version of London. As I head north and west the countryside really opens up and the moment I cross the border into the other place I call home everything changes. Herefordshire is sparse, beautiful and like no other county I have been to. The red clay soil, the precise lines of apple trees in the cider orchards and the sight of a field of Hereford cows. There is no smog here, there are no planes flying over and at night you can see the stars and hear nothing but silence.
But unless you are in a town you will be lucky to get 3G let alone 4G, broadband is slow, people drive slow and at harvest time forget gettting anywhere in a hurry. You have to get in your car and drive if you want something as simple as a pint of milk. Life is not so convenient, it is not quite so easy. I do wonder if this is mentally and emotionally a better way to live? Is it a better place for children to grow up and retain some of their innocence before they enter their teen years and the not so great world of social media? Or is it old fashioned and very slightly backward?
I don’t have the answers to my questions, perhaps I never will. What works for one is not the same for someone else. All I can do is enjoy both, live both to the fullest and hope that my stories and experiences strike a cord with all who come across this blog.