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!