Sunday, 23 October 2011

Week Three in a Country Village

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.

No, in the country the planes are seen, not heard. The buses run once an hour, if you're lucky! And being a small village everyone knows everyone and I presume one would be singled out if they disturbed the silence of the night!  Even a stiff wind goes about its business quietly. Sirens are heard in the distance perhaps once a week but not a constant wail all day and all night.  No helicopters flying the rich and famous partygoer home in the early hours of the morning, and shaking the roof timbers!

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! 

Thirdly, the countryside is just so much more beautiful!  At the end of my road there's a 'lane' (what we'd call a dirt-road in South Africa, but I'm not sure of the 'polite' name in UK!). This lane leads past a few huge houses, a farm and into a field, over a couple of stiles, and in less than quarter of an hour we're at the water's edge. The yachts are mainly moored at this time of the year and bob lazily on the river. The barges haven't budged for a while and no longer go with the flow. The seagulls squawk and continually fight for possession of their piece of land, or bread or whatever they feel like squawking at.  At weekends children wade into the shallows in their wellies and throw pebbles as far as they can, creating ripples.  On a day without a breath of wind each of the yachts on the water becomes a twin, joined at the keel.

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

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