The Oddness of Countrylife

Moving to the countryside means an adjustment. The days of popping to the cornershop on foot for a cheeky bar of chocolate or bottle of wine is gone. A trip to the chippy means getting into a car rather than a pair of trainers. If you forget something when you've left the house, it's a swearing trip back in the car, rather than popping out of work at lunch and down the street on the bus to your home. Living in a city is a million miles away from here. Living in the suburbs is not option when you are surrounded by rolling hills, daft sheep and lanes that go on for ever. 

rural life, rural problems

However, we do have a cornershop, a farm shop. We supply rhubarb to it. It's forty minutes away by foot and around an hour back, all uphill. Never underestimate the knackering effect of a gradual incline. Anyone who says a hill round here is gentle, has never done that much walking, we see ramblers, red faced, panting like dogs, falling on us for water as they pass our garden. Today, as we write this, there is a bike race on and St John's Ambulance is parked on the corner by the pub. They're not there for the beer. Bicycles as they come past our house, wobble, by the time they get to the pub on the corner they have gone beyond the wobble to riding like the leaning Tower of Pisa, only bloody mindedness getting them to the ambulance and water. After all, we may have lots of water on these moors, but the effect of the hills dries everything to stone. Beware of hills and the people who live on them, we have been dried into stubbornness by the North wind. 

rambling, walking

Someone sane would hop in the car to go to a cornershop that is more than fifteen minutes away. Hell, we know people who go to the cornershop five doors away in their car. Yet, the walk to the shop is a forgotten thing, the urban and rural adventure we hand over to the car and to the swearing, and to the emergency braking and to the pillocks who don't understand what speed limits are. We crave the excitement of an unannounced walk through the landscape. Frankly, when you drive you see nothing but tarmac.

walking, rambling

A good walk can clear the lungs, the mind and the soul. It can also clear the bank balance if you take a cash card with you, so leave it at home and take cash. It's also easy to forget to take a drink, which is okay when all the thirst is downhill, no one ever got thirsty going downhill. We all forget that downhill is a doddle requiring no tea, water or beer. Going uphill requires plenty of water, the promise of tea and the dream of an ice cold pint. The sun is beating today, the heat is like a drum on our fleeces and coats and wool gloves. We came prepared and we misjudged. Life on hills is all about being prepared for the worst in the countryside. No one ever died in suburbia from forgetting their jumper.

walking, hill life, rural life

Yet, the breeze is ice cold meaning that we go from fleeces and coats to rolled up shirt sleeves until the clouds roll over again and we are back in coats, still sweaty, still wondering which daft bugger suggested a walk to the cornershop. Our cornershop today has kune kune pigs, some lambs and what looks like a slightly annoy bullock. Our cornershop is celebrating surviving the hillside for five years. That's the difference between a cornershop in suburbia and a cornershop here. No one ever in suburbia said, 'Let's go and celebrate that Arnold's Cornershop has been open for five years'. Up here though it is cause for celebration of great local food, independence and the fierce realisation that in a community that stretches over countless of hills that there are enough people stubborn enough to shop in any weather. Last time it snowed we went out sledging and bumped into a couple who had walked in deep snow with their partially frozen spaniel to the cornershop to get food. No one said they were barmy - they were - no one said that the snow would melt later that day - it did - no one asked whether the shop was closed - it wasn't. We all know that to live on a hillside, on a moor, with the rabbits, the sheep, the hard as nails cows and the buzzards who are waiting for you to drop dead means that you are barmy, you don't give a damn if people think you are and that not opening a shop even when it's wiped off the face of the Earth is just giving up. Hill people don't give up. Those that do, just bog off back to suburbia and never celebrate anything ever again. They never see real pigs, lambs and cows too, those people go to petting zoos and leave caustic reviews on Trip Advisor about how the animals smelt.

rural life

Anyway, a good walk, a sweaty back and a breathless gait means you can mess around, have a natter, an argument and declare that we should have brought a picnic. Well, if not a picnic, a sandwich and a thermos. Well, if not a sandwich and thermos, something to drink. Well, if not a drink, there must be a stream somewhere round here. There is a stream, a lovely flowing uncontaminated spring a mere three miles across the valley. Everyone knows where that is. There are plenty of wells up here, we pass many a capped well as we go, home of now stagnant waters and the ghosts of suicidal women. We're not kidding on the last one. Eliza Jane MacKay topped herself in 1906 at a local farm well by the road and she was so thirsty her ghost haunts the pub on the corner. Even in death she wanted a drink. God rest her soul. Thirst is a big thing up here, you're in a desert, the moors are a desert, a land so eroded that it leaves no shelter from the elements and people like walking in it. Water is king here but also a good stone to sit on every couple of miles works wonders, especially if someone had remembered to bring a thermos or even a bottle or even a stream. Cake would go someway to easing the misery. We share this love of cake with you in suburbia and the city, and those who watch Paul Hollywood porn.

cake, rural life

So, hill people are stubborn but you'd never see a sign like this in suburbia or even the city. For those of you hard of viewing, it reads: FOR THE ATTENTION OF WHOEVER IS REPEATEDLY DEFECATING IN THIS GATE ENTRANCE. DEPOSITS SUGGEST YOU SEEK URGENT MEDICAL ATTENTION. No one ever said that stubborn people don't have a sense of humour and you can guarantee whoever is doing this had to get out of a car to do it. So it's none of us up here. It seems daft to get into a car just to shit on someone's gate but that's what modern life does to some, it makes them so soft that they can't get in a car without needing the toilet. Those people don't like cake, or a sandwich, or even a good thermos and bubbling spring. These people just like to crap. They speak it. They do it. Their lives are crap so they are spreading it around. We all know them. The crap speakers. 

By the time we get home, still laughing about townies with laxative problems, the sun has turned to snow and the hillside is vanishing into a cloud. The countryside is odd but not as odd as someone who travels from the suburbs or the city to shit on a gate. You have to pity them, they probably dream of a picnic, or at least a sandwich with a can of something, they probably don't have a thermos and real cake is a myth to them. Either way, the landowner cared enough to tell them to seek medical help, that wouldn't happen in the city.


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