Everywhere I have moved has been for a reason – usually because I have a new job to go to. That’s why I am confused by the sheer numbers of Londoners who are deciding, seemingly on a whim, to decamp – or as they put it, ‘downsize’ - to the rural idyll, often by sticking a pin in a map and thinking “That looks nice”.
One of them is having a good old moan in the Daily Mail today about the countryside and country people. Kate Mulvey, who quit London for the Cotswolds, reckons around 115,000 people are leaving the city for a similar rural idyll every year. But if she’s to be believed, people like her who don’t fit in are “stigmatised and even cast out” by “dowdy” “bigoted” “hectoring and pushy” and “very nosy” country types, who all wear dirndl skirts and Alice bands.
Single, divorced or childless (I prefer the word childfree) women, she claims, were viewed with suspicion as potential husband-stealers and were therefore to be avoided. That’s not something I’ve noticed in my village I have to say; it’s not something that has happened to 30-something, single and childfree me.
According to Kate, conversation stopped when she walked into the pub. “In London, you could walk into a pub half-naked and people would look at you for barely a split second,” she writes. Maybe Londoners are more self-centred and not really interested in other people? Perhaps if Kate and her ilk were less self-obsessed, they would find life in the countryside a little easier.
When I left the country for the first time at the age of 18 to go to university, I realised very quickly that the town was not suddenly going to bend and start doing things my country ways. I was the newcomer; I had to learn the ways of the place I had chosen to move to. I learned that I didn’t leave my door unlocked, that I didn’t walk down the street in at twilight with my Walkman clamped to my head, indeed, that it wasn’t wise to walk home by myself late at night in the dark.
Whenever I have moved to a new job, I have adapted to the culture of that workplace. I have not subverted my character – and God knows, I have a strong character and plenty of opinions which I am wont to voice - but I have not forced ‘my way’ upon people and places that have been doing things ‘their way’ for a lot longer. True, I have not liked everyone I have encountered, but I have always made friends wherever I have gone.
When city people stop thinking that the countryside is an Archers theme park and stop trying to make everyone else behave like displaced Islingtonites, then perhaps they’ll be happier. There is a reason the phrase ‘when in Rome’ has been in common parlance for so long.
But then, if articles like Ms Mulvey’s puts more of them off, perhaps country people will again be able to afford homes in their own villages.