Wednesday, June 20, 2007

When in Rome

The novels of Daphne du Maurier have long instilled in me a fascination with Cornwall; in idle moments of fantasy, I think how lovely it would be to live there. But I have no connections with Cornwall other than a romantic notion of what it would be like: I have never even been there.

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.


22 comments:

Gill said...

would love to comment but I'm just ironing my Alice band...

Pig in the Kitchen said...

ouch! Does that qualify as one of your Paddington hard stare moments?! ;-)

ziggi said...

me too, and polishing my Hunter wellies and rewaxing my Barbour

lady macleod said...

Daphne du Maurier! I can't believe you read her too. Mercy what was I? I think thirteen, fourteen? I read everything she wrote and took it all oh so seriously (note the head thrown back with the arm drapped over the forehead and the shoulders drooped in despair..). Too funny.

Buggers to Ms. Kate whatever. I have lived city and country and see her ilk I have to say more in the city...but that's just me. I have to go milk the camels now and put the goats out with the sheep after I wash down the back sluice to the river. Uh huh.

mountainear said...

I think the countryside will probably manage without her.

Drunk Mummy said...

I don't want to sound snarky (oh, alright then) but isn't there something rather creepy about that publicity shot next to the patterned sofas?
I can't stop thinking about the 'readers wives' connection.
I read this article, and noted that she was merely on a temporary 'house swap' with a friend. I would suggest she had already drawn her metropolitan conclusions before she ever 'tried to integrate.' You can almost hear her squeal with self-indulgent delight as she decides what fun it might be to take the piss out of the plodding country folk.
Its just a shame no-one ran her over with a tractor, or gave her a good slap.

mutterings and meanderings said...

ill, you mean you've taken it off?

Pig, I think on this occasion, I am being very fair and balanced in reply to something I feel is not very fair or balanced...(Paddington stared, hard)

Ziggi, time polishing Hunters and rewaxing Barbours is never time spent wasted, given that it's alwas so cold and muddy in the rural idyll..

lady M, I learned from Daphne that one should never pick bluebells and bring them into the house, and that cigarette ash is actaully good for carpets ..

Mountainear, i think you could be right ...

Drunk Mummy, I think you may have a point - espeically as she didn't do what I would've done if thus assaulted by the ex-military type - slap him hard across the face and complain voicerously!

Mopsa said...

Methinks this was an experiment that had drawn its conclusion before the subject had even entered the stated environment. I suspect Kate thing is found wanting on the braincell front in both rural and urban communities. You'd have thought readers were bored of her kind of article by now. And m&m - it's about time you headed south for a Cornish visit - fab places for riding (including on the beach), walking and indulging in all kinds of rural romps. The Grey Mare would love it.

Gill said...

I iron my alice band while it is in situ naturally, it was welded on at the same time that bull shit was glued under my finger nails. City types only have it coming out of their mouths it seems and they walk about the countryside spewing it everyehere. Never mind a few prods with a pitchfork should get rid of 'em.

ps cornwall IS magical you should go there.

Jane said...

I think the distrust of the single woman is pretty universal. When I was divorced, I was living in London and was swiftly dumped by half of our mutual friends, and looked at with suspicion by some of the rest.

And does it really matter so very much what people wear? The author sounds just as predjudiced - maybe if they'd been Prada'd up she'd have found it easier. I'd love to hear the other side of this story.

Anonymous said...

Ace work Eminem ! Truly you are the REAL slim shadey - please stand up, and take a bow...

Stay at home dad said...

Talking of spewing bullshit, it is The Daily Mail...

Unfortunately property is just as unaffordable in cities nowadays as it is in villages.

Vanessa said...

Firstly, Drunk Mummy - you're so right about that publicity photo and did you notice that the carpet needed hoovering...?

Secondly, these people who relocate apparently solely so that they can then tell everyone how far superior they are to the locals drive me demented. Wife in the North being a prime example...

Gill said...

I once went to a works party where everyone from away was moaning on about how awful living in west cumbria was, I said 'why don't you just fuck off then?' which I am sure confirmed their prejudices!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Being a 'townie' for 31 years then relocating and becoming a farmer & country-bumpkin I can say that I much prefer the country. I wouldn't live anywhere else now except Northumberland but as I visit Manchester once a month it's always good to keep in with the locals, wherever you are.

beta mum said...

I'm not even sure what a dirndl skirt is. I do know an Alice band when I see one though, plenty of those in London. My daughter's a fan too, but she is only 6.
I've mostly lived in towns, but having grown up in Jersey, where the distinctions are blurred by the size of the place, I prefer the country - if only you didn't have to drive so far all the time.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Mopsa, unfortunately, it seems quite the vogue to slag off the country and its inhabitants. Jealousy, I suppose ...

Gill, or electric cattle prods!

jane, I'd love to hear the other side too!!

Thankyou Anon, when you gonna get this column for me then??

SAHD, the issue is that people working in cities generally have higher wages than those in the country. Where I live, houses cost 10 x the average salary. I work in the town, because of the type of job I do and in order to have a decent wage. Unfortunately around £200+ a month of that is eaten up in petrol. But I ain't moving ...

vanessa, the phenomenon strikes somewhat like the Victorian missionaires off to subdue the savages ...

Gill, that's exactly how I, and most people I know, see it ...

CJ, it took me a good few years to get back here but I don't intend to move again either ...

beta Mum, it's the Sloane Ranger descriptions that also get me - now, I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Sloane Ranegrs originated in the Sloane Square area of London...

Brom said...

A mate of mine used to describe himself as a "Childless one parent family"

Stay at home dad said...

House prices in London are 10x average salaries too...

That's alot of petrol. You need a Prius!

Gill said...

I actually got round to following the link and read the original article. What an amazingly prescient woman! She walked into the pub and KNEW WHAT EVERYONE WAS THINKING! She should be on telly with Derren Brown.
Also, being a country type and not reading women's magazine's means that I am a bit behind on the fashion front. Has the Margaret Thatcher hairdo come back in then?

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Pig is feeling intimidated by Paddington's hard stare. She has tucked her curly tail between her legs and moved on to the next post about Glastonbury.

rilly super said...

ah, Rome, sigh