The city lies far, far away. After just over four and a half years in the city - one thousand seven hundred and thirty eight days to be exact - we travelled the M25 for the last time on a regular basis. So what is the difference between living in the South West of one of the greatest cities of the world, and living in a village just 129 miles north east?
Firstly, it's quieter! No Heathrow planes screeching overhead a few minutes from touchdown every 90 seconds for most of every day (some days they use a different flight path a few inches to the right!) No buses burping over the speed bump right outside our front gate! No all night parties - at least not yet! No-one comes home at 3am with their wheelie suitcase clicking over the pavement joins.
Secondly, it's friendlier! As in many cities around the world, London can be unfriendly. Greetings are seldom exchanged between strangers in the streets. Shopkeepers always have a queue of people impatient to be served and rush, rush, rush means there's no time to greet, smile and engage in small talk. Avoiding eye contact with anyone approaching you in the street is the signal to say, 'don't even try'!
What a difference in a country village. Everyone at least says 'Hello'. Strangers will happily chat about yours or their dog, the weather, the garden - small talk, but it starts a conversation, usually continuing to exchanging of names and which street you've moved in to and sometimes the number of your house - there aren't many streets in this country village! ("Oh! I live just around the corner from you in No. 7"! or "Oh! you're next door to Sydney"!) Of couse if you happen to be a family moving into the small village to be a fairly prominent part of the village, everyone will know you before you arrive, resulting in "Oh! I've heard about you!" Leaving you wondering what exactly has been said!
There are no street lights in this village, just 'the parish light' as someone said last week - the full moon. After nearly five years of STARvation, at last we can see the heavenly lights across the dark sky. Waking up in the middle of the night has become exciting not frustrating! Is this painting the kind of picture one usually sees in tourist brochures or coffee-table photo books?
Fourthly, country life is slower, more content, happy and relaxing. Children play tennis and cricket in the street and practise wheelies on their bikes. Dogs are socialised about 5pm each evening! People stop and chat at the corner.
Yes, as some have said, East Anglia has been left behind - thank goodness for that!
(For previous blogs see http://www.roseinlondon.blogspot.com/)