Brian Viner: Country Life

Share
Related Topics

This latter band occasionally try to remind us just how utterly swell it is to live in London, although, frankly, they're wasting their time. We need no reminding of the pleasures of living within ambling distance of a Greek grocer, a French confectioner or a Lebanese restaurant, or of trawling Time Out for any film that takes one's fancy, because we enjoyed them and we still miss them. It's just that we have a different set of pleasures now.

Not necessarily better, just different. And come to think of it, not necessarily different, either.

A few weeks ago, I got a text message from a mate, informing me that he was having a fabulous evening at an Elvis Costello concert at Kenwood House, beside Hampstead Heath, with a few friends and a lavish picnic. It was perhaps ungenerous or even paranoid of me, but I couldn't help thinking that there was a subtext message, namely: "You'd have been here, too, if you hadn't moved to the middle of nowhere, to that Costello-less land within sight of the Brecon Beacons."

Anyway, I texted him straight back, cheerfully writing: "Bet there's enough hummus there to sink the Ark Royal". I know what those Kenwood concerts are like. I resisted the temptation to add that, the following weekend, we, too, were going picnicking at an outdoor concert, in the grounds of Ludlow Castle to boot, an arena even more splendid than Kenwood. Besides, I didn't want to introduce a competitive element: after all, the Ludlow Castle concert was not Costello, still less Dylan or Clapton, but the Abba tribute band Björn Again. "Oh God, how provincial!" I could imagine them sneering at Kenwood. "Stuffed vine leaf, anyone?"

For the record, we had a wonderful evening at Ludlow Castle. The concert traditionally brings the curtain down on the excellent Ludlow Festival, and in a way, the headline act is incidental (although I'm not ashamed to say that Björn Again were splendid, and that I sashayed to "Dancing Queen" very nearly uninhibitedly).

Moreover, this was followed by a firework display as spectacular as any I've ever seen, certainly, ahem, more spectacular than the Bonfire Night extravaganza at Alexandra Palace that we used to watch from our bedroom in Crouch End. At the end, as the smoke plumed up from the battlements into a clear night sky, it was illuminated by red light, which made it look as though the castle had been torched by marauding medieval chieftains. Or was it just that my imagination had been ignited by Björn Again's rendition of "Fernando"?

Whatever, our picnic would certainly not have disgraced Kenwood, and there was probably enough hummus within the castle walls to account for the Graf Spee, if not the Ark Royal.

Incidentally, I love that English habit of glancing at neighbouring picnics to see whether theirs is better than yours. One or two passers-by were actually moved to comment on the magnificence of our spinach quiche, while I confess to gazing longingly at a handsome raspberry pavlova being carefully divided up by a busty woman wearing Abba-inspired satin. Maybe this business of us all obsessing about the virtues of city over country, or country over city, is a magnified version of the same thing. It's natural to be bothered by the thought that someone else is enjoying their picnic more.

'Tales of the Country', by Brian Viner, is out now (Simon & Schuster, £12.99)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Foundation Phase teacher vacancy - Roath, Cardiff

£100 - £105 per day + Travel Scheme plus free professional training: Randstad ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Are you a qualified secondary...

Science Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher - NewportKey ...

Year 6 Teacher required - Cardiff

£100 - £110 per day + Travel Scheme and Free Professional Training: Randstad E...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Gordon Brown’s finest hour, a letter from Quebec and the problem of anti-politics

John Rentoul
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week