Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The town mouse and the country mouse

I have spent the last week at the Accidental Homestead, way up the country, in deepest, darkest Staffordshire. It's a pretty rural (read: isolated) spot, but for a few days at a time I can just about manage to hang out there without climbing the walls.  Home for the holidays, I am usually asked, by people who live in the countryside, how life is down in London. The phrase 'the big city' is even occasionally used. I tell them that city-life is great, that I'm busy and interested and constantly learning and exploring new things. I tell them about a brilliant exhibition of Israeli art currently on at the Tate Modern and a fascinating documentary I recently saw at my local independent cinema. Their brows furrow, and their eyes glaze slightly. They look baffled for a couple of seconds and then they change the subject to discuss the single film playing at the single cinema for 50 miles, confident that everyone will have seen it and that they will have something insightful to add to the conversation.

This year, I found myself chatting to a committed country mouse; one born and brought up in the most rural of fashions, who lives proudly at a remote farm, along its own private drive, surrounded by rolling hills full of sheep. "Oh, I could never live in the city." said the country mouse. She mock-shuddered and I - feeling my own town mouse hackles rise (yes, I know mice probably don't have hackles, go with it) - asked her why.  "Well, there are just so many people, aren't there?  So much is outside of your control. I'd hate that, not being in control of my life." I protested that actually, in a city, with so many options for work and entertainment and socialising, you actually had far more control over your life, more choice and freedom.

"Ooh no, but there's so much more disruption." said she. I countered with the feeling that this made life so much more interesting and varied. And before she could plough on, I said "And...what happens when you run out of milk, or worse, wine? You're miles from the nearest shop. You can't just wander on out and buy some more, you've got to get in a car and drive. Hell, you've got to own a car in the first place!"  She rolled her eyes and told me that one simply had to be more organised in the countryside. Actually not necessarily more organised..."less lazy. That attitude that you can have anything you want when you need it, without planning for it, that's a very lazy attitude to have."  That's me told, then.

But if that's what it means to be a city-dweller - to be lazy, out of control, at the mercy of a hundred and one potential disruptions, surrounded by other people - I'll take it. Because I like being able to run out of milk without being wildly inconvenienced. I like the chance encounters and the alternative plans that you make on the fly when your original ideas don't quite come off. I don't want to live so far away from anyone else that if anything (heaven forbid) went wrong no one would notice, or be able to reach me. I like being part of something bigger than myself, my household, and my own four walls.  And if that makes me a town mouse, so be it. Here's to another fabulous year in the city. 

Happy New Year to you all, loveliest of readers, whether you be country mice or town mice. I like you the best because you're blog-reading mice!

12 comments:

  1. Happy New Year.

    These mice are just deciding whether it'll be country Cheddar or townie imported Pont-l'Évêque for lunch.

    Have a great 2014.

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    1. And the same to you, Rashbre - enjoy your cheese!

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  2. That's a great story. I prefer to live in the city, although right now I'm stuck in a small town and it's maddening. I do think it might be easier to live a contemplative life in the country.

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    1. I wonder if small towns - those in-between spaces - are the worst of all; maybe it's worse having a tantalising taster of all that cities can offer rather than living in complete rural isolation? Hope it doesn't drive you too mad! Hang on in there and dream of big cities, Patience!

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  3. I have a lot of friends in the countryside that protest they could never live in a city, but I'm convinced they all think London is like Oxford Street, everywhere as that's the only area they go to when they visit. They don't see the quiet, leafy areas with their own village feel, and clearly don't believe me when I tell them they exist. Always, always the city for me!

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    1. So true - the big city is not just tourist-rammed central streets. There are so many sweet little areas that feel like small towns, or even big green spaces where you can forget you're in a city at all. There's something for every kind of mouse here in London, eh?

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  4. What an interesting post. I often meet people who say "I could never live in the city" but I never actually discuss with them WHY. I am entirely with you on this. In fact, if I feel low I like to go out into the centre of London and all the people bustling around remind me that there is more to life than me. I too would be climbing the walls if I had to live in the countryside, much as I love and am attached to certain parts of it.

    Happy 2014!

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    1. Happy New Year to you too, Jenny!

      It is an interesting thing isn't it - maybe it takes a certain sort of person to thrive in a city, one who doesn't enjoy isolation, or who just feels more comfortable surrounded by activity and change? Maybe it's just people like me who get very easily bored, and who just need endless entertainment?!

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  5. I'll take the city any day! I have been living in Adelaide for too long, and coming back to Dublin for Christmas has been so good - there is so much to do, people don't walk maddeningly slow, there is a variety of shops, foods, restaurants, culture - could go on and on, but I'll stop now! :) x

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  6. Some people are more suited to cities and others are more suited to the countryside. Some of us can find a happy place in both locations. I don't understand why an individual would be so against living in one or the other :( I, like you, could never imagine not being able to easily get my hands on a good bottle of wine (or milk I suppose if you find me in a practical mood). That doesn't make us lazy. I like the option of choosing to do something by myself or with a group of people. That doesn't make me an insecure person. It's nice to feel like part of the bigger picture. There's always good things and bad things for both town mice and country mice, just find what suits your soul best and then dip your toes in to the other from time to time for a bit of excitement or peace : ) Thinking out loud process over. Another brilliant post Flora. X

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    1. Definitely agree there is probably a little of each mouse in every one of us, Lou. We just need to find our perfect balance...or take plenty of holidays away from our chosen spot in the world!

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