Dear Dave

Wednesday 30 July 2008

The good life

Dear Dave,

The love of Lewis' life is moving away.

It's a shame for the poor lad. This is the third time it's happened.

He's only six.

Every summer, someone he cares for leaves the area. The first year of nursery, it was his best friend (also called Lewis). Our Lewis cried at the thought of it for weeks. The second year of nursery, the girl he was going to marry returned home to the States. This year, it's her replacement.

And this is after we had to live through the trauma of a love triangle last autumn. The girl spent rather a while deciding between Lewis and one of his other friends. We were left cruelly dangling for days. Now, like so many other people we've known, she's off to live in the country.

Her parents say they'll be back to visit but, from past experience, it won't happen much, if ever. People move to the country and disappear. They make new friends and, thanks to all the time they spend commuting back into town to work, they don't have energy or opportunity to keep up with old acquaintances. I can understand that. Or maybe the locals eat them. Who knows?

I grew up on the outskirts of Nowhere. (The middle of Nowhere is actually quite crowded these days - there's even a Tesco and a small cinema that shows films which are six months out of date. We lived a fifteen minute bus journey from there. Annoyingly, however, there weren't any buses...) We moved a little bit closer to Somewhere when I was twelve but it was still necessary to have an Ordnance Survey grid reference taped to the phone so the fire brigade had a chance of finding us in a hurry. The exact number of ducks in the local pond was a regular topic of conversation.

The day I cycled to the nearest Post Office and discovered that it didn't sell envelopes, I knew it was time to plan my escape.

I've lived in the city so long now, I don't think I could cope without being able to get to the shops on foot. Although I may not get much chance to go to the cinema, I'm very happy to know it's there within walking distance, in all its twelve screen glory. Yeah, there are cars everywhere and teenagers gather on street corners at dusk, but there are parks and swimming pools, chip shops and soft plays. Oh, and ironically, we don't need a car ourselves. I suspect that half the cars around are being driven by people commuting in from the country.

Still, as I get older, the call to return to a rural life grows stronger. Every so often we think it would be nice to move to a small town. From there it's perhaps not much of a jump to a quaint little village. Before we know it, we could be considering property investments in Orkney.

I can see the attraction - the fresh air, the scenery, the sense of community. Not to mention the increased chance of survival during a zombie-infested apocalypse, thanks to the isolation and the readily available supply of fresh food and shotguns. Then again, I actually prefer my air without pollen and the scent of cows. There's also quite a nice view out our back windows already. More than that, being part of a rural community takes just as much work as being part of one in a town and you tend to need a car.

This time of year in particular brings back memories of my childhood home, though - sun-dappled foliage, the open sky, delicious warmth, the pungent aroma of assorted flora, the quack of fourteen ducks in the distance... Ah, maybe it wasn't so bad... Then I remember being stuck there, not seeing friends for weeks at a time, until I was old enough to drive myself along the single track lanes overgrown on either side with sun-dappled foliage so thick it was impossible to see what was round the next bend. (Hint: It's always a big tractor coming the other way.) I remember the cloying heat, the isolation and the glare off my computer screen despite having drawn the curtains.

Admittedly, things have changed a little round my parents' way. Oddly, there's a McDonald's really close. Also, there are buses now. If you get up very, very early, you can take a bus (via every forgotten hamlet on Earth) to reach town just in time for the morning rush hour...

I suppose it wouldn't be too bad if we had a car. There'd be fresh air and open spaces and...

No. I can't do it to the children.

They may turn their noses up at all the opportunities for entertainment and Saturday jobs available in the city and choose to lurk on street corners instead, but at least there will be corners on which to lurk. ('Two streets? Joining together? When I was a lad, we counted ourselves lucky if we had a grass verge covered in horse dung. If a combine harvester came past, we had to jump into a ditch just to get out of the way...') More importantly, they'll be able to go round to visit friends without needing a lift.

If they have any friends left who haven't moved to the country, of course...

Yours in a woman's world,



Anonymous said...


Your poor children would be devestated. I know mine would if we ever moved back to the city.

They wouldn't have any clue what to do with a soft play. Or a street corner. Or- my goodness- a street.

DadsDinner said...

My kids will grow up and move to the country. Yours will grow up and move to the town. We will both sit and mutter (but at least I'll get to do my muttering in a Starbucks I was able to walk to...)