Miles Kington: Country life isn't always as simple as people think

You used to sleep through the planes going to Heathrow. Now your are kept awake by owls
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The Independent Online

Thinking of moving out of London to the country? Of course you are! Who isn't? But before you take the plunge, cut out and study this little chart. It lists the 10 vital stages you will have to go through in the London-to-country transition...

1. It all starts when you pop out of London to stay with friends called Mary and Jim in the country for the weekend. It is idyllic. They have a garden and river and a farmer's market. And a jolly village pub. And friends in the village. And when you go shopping with them to the local town it only costs 40p an hour in the main car park! You look at each other and think: Mmmmm...

2. Back in London, you have the worst day ever. Traffic jams. Muggings. Tube stuck in a tunnel for 40 minutes. "Right!" says one of you. "We're going to start looking for that dream cottage in the country. We owe it to the children not to let them grow up in this jungle."

The children are aghast. They plead with you not to take them away from their friends. You ignore them. You make friends with estate agents in small country towns. You can't believe how cheap property is out there. One of you, a journalist, writes a piece headed: "Why I Can't Wait to Move out of London".

3. Just when you think of giving up the search for the perfect country place, you find it. It's not actually perfect - not so near to the trains, or a big town, or a river as you'd hoped - but it's really really nice. And it's got an Aga! One of you says they could easily work at home, and the other says two or three days in London a week are all they need. And you buy. (You write a piece headed: "Farewell to London - and Good Riddance!").

4. You used to sleep through the planes going to Heathrow, but now you are kept awake by owls.

5. On the one hand the place you've bought is really nice, and you can at last see the stars at night. On the other hand, you now make the acquaintance of: hopeless local plumbers, mice, an old-fashioned and frankly useless village school, lanes where your 4x4 can't get past, dry rot, damp rot, rising damp, flooding, late trains to London, and shops that have never heard of coriander or houmus.

6. Friends from London come to stay. They love it! They tell you how lucky you are. They go back to London, glowing, just as you did when you stayed with Mary and Jim. You write an article headed: "When the Magic of the Country Starts to Wear off".

7. You hear that Mary and Jim, the couple you first stayed with, have split up. He has gone back to London where he is having an affair with a colleague, and Mary has stayed, very unhappy. You look at each other and go: Hmmmmm...

8. Your first winter. You didn't know that the roof leaked. You find a bedroom full of water. You make friends in the village, yes, but you can't have a decent conversation with any of them, because, well, for instance, none of them even knows what the Groucho Club is, for God's sake. Actually, you're starting to forget what it is yourself. You write a piece headed: "Why I Can't Wait to get back to London".

9. You decide to go back to London. The children kick up a terrible fuss. They've made loads of friends in the village and they've started riding horses. They don't want to go back to London.

10. You go back to London, but you can only afford Ealing. You find you are now kept awake by planes overhead, which you never were before. Your children are bullied at school because they've picked up a Wiltshire accent. You write a piece headed: "Back in London At Last - But Have I Done the Wrong Thing?" A publisher you know rings up and suggests that you write a book about your experiences as a dire warning to all those with the same idea...

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