The pace of London life is too slow for me

'The men who dig up roadsare no fools. As soon as the traffic has gone elsewhere,they dig a new hole there'
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The Independent Online

When you live in the country after spending half your life in London, you notice certain differences. You notice, for a start, that the pace of life in the country is very much faster than it is in London, or at least not nearly as slow. Every time I visit the capital these days, I cannot help noticing that people spend most of their time stationary - in traffic jams, or praying for a taxi to come along, or sitting in a taxi, or waiting for a Tube train...

When you live in the country after spending half your life in London, you notice certain differences. You notice, for a start, that the pace of life in the country is very much faster than it is in London, or at least not nearly as slow. Every time I visit the capital these days, I cannot help noticing that people spend most of their time stationary - in traffic jams, or praying for a taxi to come along, or sitting in a taxi, or waiting for a Tube train...

Most of the time they're slightly late for something, and getting stressed because they haven't got there yet, and because people feel stressed and rushed and late, it gives them the illusion that the pace of life in London is therefore fast. But the only thing in London that goes unusually fast is your pulse rate.

This time of year in the country, by contrast, things change at a tremendous rate, often once a week. Roadworks come and go, like tree trunks in the river; as soon as the temporary traffic lights are installed, word gets round, and traffic flows down another country lane to avoid it. But the men who dig up roads are no fools, and as soon as they have noticed that the traffic has gone elsewhere, they follow it and dig a new hole there, and tell people to "Wait here when lights are red".

As if things weren't exciting enough, there has been a new game down here this spring, called Spot the River. We live in the valley of the River Avon, not the Avon that goes to Stratford or any other Avon, but the one that goes from Bradford-on-Avon to Bath and then to Bristol. Isambard Kingdom Brunel did think of running the main London- Bristol railway line down this valley, but apparently one look at the geology of the valley persuaded him otherwise, even though it would mean having to dig Box Tunnel. The valley was all oolitic limestone and very unstable, he thought; building a railway line down here would be asking for trouble. There was already a canal in the valley, the Kennet and Avon Canal, and they still to this day have trouble with instability of the underlying ground, which is apt to wash away or collapse.

Well, there has been a lot of rain this winter, and what seems to happen to water in this valley is that it doesn't just flow into the Avon and go away to Bristol; it goes underground, waits for a while, and then comes out in places where water never came out before. Our local hotel has a small permanent river, which isn't meant to be there, running down its drive; it emerges from the ground just below the car park, rushes down the drive and vanishes in a drain which happens to be at the hotel gates. When visitors arrive at the hotel they must get the impression that a mains water pipe has just burst.

There's another river that occasionally forms in the village street, and another in our neighbouring field, which runs alongside the Avon. Every winter the rainwater combines with a bit of river floodwater to make a temporary lake in the field, but this year, for the first time that I can remember, the lake hasn't gone away. It has stayed a lake. It has stayed so long that it has been adopted by ducks and a swan and a couple of Canada geese who paused there three weeks ago and have decided to stay. The lake is presumably fed by an underground stream, because otherwise it would have dried up by now.

Pretty exciting stuff, eh? And as if that weren't enough, my wife came back from a walk along the field yesterday, saying that she had seen something amazing sitting on a tree stump in the Avon, and she bet I couldn't guess what it was.

I tried. Kingfisher? Heron? Cormorant? No - something much more amazing than that.

Golden eagle? Shipwrecked mariner? Mermaid combing her long tresses?

No, something even more amazing. What she had seen sitting in the sun was a tortoise (or a turtle) which, when it spotted their approach, had slid into the river, done some diving and manoeuvring, and then swum away. My wife had two reliable witnesses to back her up, so I am forced to believe that we have a turtle (or tortoise) living in the river, which has either escaped from captivity or been thrown out by someone who didn't want it, and is now adapting to life in the wild.

Forget London. This is where the action is.

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