The Aardvark Blog
12 Steps to Moving to the Country
12 Steps to Moving to the Country
At the weekend the Telegraph had a long article on how many people are considering moving to the country. Judging by conversations with customers who come into the bookshop this may well be true, but there are a number of important things to bear in mind before making the move. Hence the Aardvark 12-step programme to becoming a country dweller!
The Aardvark Twelve Steps to Moving to the Country
1) If you move to the country chances are you will need to take your work with you. Many people who live here in the Marches end up commuting long distances to jobs in Birmingham or Cheltenham. This is fine for a while, but inevitably ends up undermining the quality of life that people have moved to the country to find. Are your skills portable ? If you are a teacher or medical worker, you will find that jobs in the public sector are hard to get, since people tend not to move around in the country as they do in cities.
2) Making friends is easy but it takes effort. When you find your perfect village home don't just settle down to make your nest comfortable. Join things. Start going to church, support the local travelling cinema. In this way you will help to support the community and make important contacts.
But whatever you do, don't be ...
3) An over enthusiastic newcomer. Nothing irks country people more than being told what to do about a hot issue by people who have only been in the village for five minutes.
4) Get a dog. Enough said. Why else would you move to the country?
5) Learn to love your neighbours. In the country your neighbours will become very important to you. When the electricity goes out - as it will - you will need some-one to borrow candles from. Or as happened to me, when a pipe backs up and starts depositing water onto your patio, you will need some-one to help you bail out, before the water can get into your house. Neighbours are crucial. Even if your neighbours are not sympatico to you, act as if they are. After a while, miraculously they will be.
6) Don't tell your new friends about all the city things that you miss. It is not true that there is nowhere to get a decent cup of coffee ( as the owner of Great Brampton House famously wrote in a Telegraph weekend feature ). What is true is that it is that you may have to look a little harder and go a little further. But chances are within 20 miles of your new home you will find exactly what you are looking for.
7) Don't underestimate the talents and life skills of the people who live around you. Because you usually see them covered in mud and hauling an unruly brood of kids and dogs, doesn't mean that they are not eminent people in their own right. Within a few miles of where I write this there lives an opera director, several award winning artists, a former head of a London academic institution, a professor of politics at London University, one of the foremost architectural historians in the country and one of the country's leading violinists. You are moving to the country, not the boondocks.
8) Learn to dig into your pockets if you want to get a good education for your children. There are fantastic schools in the Marches, but not all fall into that category. You may therefore have to pay to transport your child to the school of your choice. You may need to hire a tutor to get them through Maths or French. You may even have to find the money to send your child to a private school. On the plus side everything will cost significantly less than it did when you lived in London.
9) Learn the new do's and don'ts of conversation. In the countryside people are perfectly happy to discuss politics, sex or religion with you, and whatever your views you will find a reasonable response. Do not under any circumstances however venture to discuss either Windfarms, Hunting or the Badger Cull. A recent Christmas drinks party was nearly ruined by an inadvertant venture into Badger land. Just remember that for farmers badgers do not come out of the pages of 'Wind in the Willows', they are sharp toothed pestilence factories.
10) Learn to appreciate your independent shops. Relax, breathe deeply, you have escaped the identikit high street. You will learn to revel in the joys of such endangered species as record shops, butchers and even green grocers ! There are so many wonderful shops within a few miles of here that it is hard to know where to start. What about Prince and Pugh's or Bradfords in nearby Knighton. Both the kind of shops that sell almost everything, and where service is always with a smile.
11) If you want to appreciate crime you may have to content yourself with Midsomer Murders. Apart from the occasional celebrity murder, and the odd shed burglary, crime in the country is fairly non-existent. Over the years I have managed to leave my keys in the door of the car, in the ignition of the car and in the front door, with nothing happening at all. You will find that there is more of a drug scene than you might have expected, but other crimes very rarely happen.
12) Don't be afraid when the light disappears and it starts to get very cold in your perfect black and white cottage. There is nothing to be alarmed about , it is just the onset of winter. In the city the seasons barely impact on your life. If you are working in an office, chances are that you will work most of the year in a summer shirt. But in the country the movement of the seasons will rule your life. The first joy that comes with Spring. The hope for a long warm summer. The sadness of autumn, and the annual winter hibernation when your new found friends go to ground and you don't see a soul until the middle of March. Your garden will become your domestic tyrant. Fruit will need to be picked, then tomatoes and apples will need to be made into chutney. Finally come the emergence of Spring you will find that your only topic of conversation is the great plague of rabbits who will act on your garden in a way which would lead the biblical locusts to give up and look for alternative employment.
But lastly don't worry. The path to country living has been taken by many before you, and will be trod by many after you. I myself was once an inveterate townie. I have made all the mistakes above, and have the Orvis undershirts to prove it. Yet what a difference to your existence it will make. So breathe deeply and take the plunge.
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