Dilemmas: The bucolic life is unfair to an urban wife

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What an urban lot Independent readers are] Or perhaps the countryside isn't what it was in Wordsworth's day. There wasn't a single lyrically pastoral line written to encourage Juliet, a full-time townie, to agree to move to the country with her husband, who longed for peace and quiet and wide open spaces.

Mr J Grant of Woodspring, Avon, showed no mercy when he exhorted: 'For God's sake don't move] Peace and quiet is something you do not find in the country, what with the noise of agricultural machinery, yapping dogs, the local church bells going hour after hour like a load of tin cans, and then there are the aeroplanes . . . and the local quarry, and clay- pigeon shooting. As for the country being crime-free, a glance at any local paper will tell you that its regular toll of assaults, stabbings, burglaries and murders can match the inner city any day.'

Mr Grant's dislike of the countryside is so strong that he sits in a 40-minute traffic jam every morning to drive into the office he rents in the city - and 'the additional expense of renting an office and having to buy and run a second- hand car are considerable. The countryside - for those who have no feel for it - is a dump.'

Some suggested compromise. Nicholas Gough of Malmesbury, Wiltshire, recommended moving to a quieter, suburban part of the city. But I suspect the suburbs would be hell for both of them - golf courses instead of country, and a lousy train service to town. It would make two people thoroughly miserable instead of just one.

Some even argued that moving to the country would mean that Juliet would see even more of her townie friends than before because, like Debbie Webster of Parwich, Derbyshire, who moved to a small rural village with her husband from San Francisco (the only writer to enjoy village life), they claimed that Juliet's city friends 'will beat a path to your country home at weekends]'

But is that what Juliet wants? It's one thing to have lunch with a friend in Covent Garden; another to face her and probably her partner in their dressing-gowns two mornings running at weekends.

John Carter of Kensington suspected that Juliet's husband might be harbouring a fantasy about the country, anyway. 'Does he really like it?' he asked, suspiciously. 'I suggest that they let their flat in town next December, January and February, when it's bleak and bitterly cold, and then rent somewhere in the country to try it out.' Mrs Louise Goode said Juliet should move to the North, where beautiful country and fascinating cities lie side by side.

Sylvia Marlow of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, came nearest to a solution. She moved to the country, reluctantly, years ago. 'My husband was delighted to get away and live in as remote a spot as possible. I got very depressed and it was a bad start for my first child. I've felt very deprived of sophisticated people, theatres, exhibitions, etc.' She suggested Juliet and her husband do 10-year stints in town and country, it being too expensive to move more often. 'That seems fair, but they should be sure into put it in writing. Memory can do odd things.'

That is the fairest solution. But in reality Juliet has the upper hand because to keep her sanity she need only stay put. She should simply say to her husband: 'OK, you find your dream cottage and then persuade me into moving.' If her husband could really be bothered to go off on his own, fix up appointments with estate agents, drive around looking for cottages, bring back seductive details, negotiate good prices and butter her up to get his way, then good luck to him.

But these are not masculine tactics. As long as Juliet does nothing - but isn't a wet blanket if her husband tries to get his country act together - she will probably get her own way without feeling guilty or, indeed, him feeling resentful. A woman's answer, I know. But perhaps Juliet should remember the old Jewish story. 'My husband takes the big decisions, I take the little ones,' says a wife to her friend. 'He decides what our government's foreign policy should be; I decide where we live.'

Dear Virginia,

A couple of years ago I was given the most dreadful patterned scarf by a friend. It was extremely expensive so I kept it by, in order to give it to someone else as a present. Last week I went through the drawer where I keep bits and bobs to look for a present for a friend's 30th birthday. It seemed as if this scarf was perfect - it was her to a T. I have just returned from the post office where I sent it off, only to be reminded by my partner that the friend I sent it to was the very one who gave it to me. Is there any way I can wriggle out of this ghastly situation?

Yours, Louise

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