Terence Blacker: Moving to the countryside can be more punishment than reward

The Way We Live: There is more time and energy spent every day simply on surviving – driving to the shops, getting logs in, keeping nature at bay

Share

Like a porn channel that peddles varying versions of the same basic fantasy, British TV offers its viewers a gentle, sun-kissed, urban view of life in the countryside. The birds and woodland creatures are there on Springwatch. The Making of the Countryside brings us the rolling fields and moorland of the landscape. Interesting little rural issues and conundrums appear on Countryfile. Human life away from the cities is represented on Emmerdale or in the latest leafy detective drama.

Not before time, this sustained propaganda has been challenged. Launching a campaign called "Over the Hill", the Rural Media Company has warned those who are considering retiring to the country – almost 60 per cent of the people they surveyed – to look at the realities of what they would be facing.

"Never mind the rural dream, I still have the nightmares," wrote the author Mavis Cheek, supporting the campaign with an article in The Daily Telegraph. Her 10 years away from London had opened her eyes to aspects of rural life rarely covered in Escape to the Country: unacceptable attitudes by builders towards women, lack of local facilities, boys on motorbikes, racism, a dependence on cars, pheasants that wake you up at five in the morning, tractors, gardens which keep growing and growing.

It is a convincing piece, and some of the online replies it provoked have served to confirm its arguments. "Go back to the city where you belong, you middle-class townie drip," wrote one reader. In fact, Mavis Cheek is making a worthwhile point to anyone who is considering a move away from the town – and not just those about to retire. Largely thanks to the sentimentalised version of country life which appears on television, more and more people are attracted to the idea of a rural downshift. A move to a cottage is seen as a reward for hard work, like a gin and tonic at the end of the day.

There will be less stress and noise, the thinking goes. The contact with nature, the air, the exercise, the dog bounding happily at your feet: these will all be good, life-enhancing things. I happen to agree with all that, but I have also noticed that, for those used to convenience, a variety of human company, and entertainment, a move to the country can bring only disappointment and boredom.

Away from Emmerdale or Midsomer, there is more time and energy spent every day simply on surviving – driving to the shops, getting logs in, keeping nature at bay. Socially, it can pose problems. Like parents of small children, one can find that circumstances push you into the company of people with whom one would not normally be friends. There is more emphasis on the local community – a good thing, on the whole, but one which might involve your spending far more time discussing roads, litter, hedges and footpaths than you would dream of if you lived in a town.

Nature is closer, and that, too, might be less attractive than it appears on Springwatch. There are rats. Sheep in this part of the country have begun to abort their lambs as a result of yet another agricultural disease. Farther west, trained marksmen (ie farmers' sons) will soon be out at night shooting badgers with rifles. In the summer, the swallows and house martins that nest in your garage or around your eaves will shit on your car. The house will be under attack all year round by mice, wasps, moths, flies.

If you are contemplating a move to the country and these things depress or disturb, you should think again. Ask yourself honestly whether at the moment when you return to the town after a weekend in the country, your heart doesn't lift slightly. Do the houses on each side of the road settle around you like a comfortable old coat? If they do, you should probably see the countryside as a nice place to visit – and to look at on TV.

Sell your face and you sell your soul

A couple of years ago, there were reports in the press of a female undergraduate who had resorted to working in a lap-dancing club in order to pay off her student loans.

A marginally less sad version of the same story is contained in the news that two Cambridge students resolved to pay off their debts by allowing their faces to be used as sites for advertisements. They made £5,000 in two weeks.

With the sponsorship of the accountancy firm Ernst and Young, the face-painters – Ross Harper and Ed Moyse – have now set up a website called Buy My Face, which will enable other young people to walk around with their faces decorated by the logo for a bookmaker, accountant or maker of crisps.

The only possible disadvantage of the scheme is that it makes the face-advertiser look not only like an idiot, but also an idiot who will do anything for money. On the other hand, he is a perfect walking, painted symbol of an age in which nothing is too personal to be used for the purposes of marketing.

terblacker@aol.com

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Network Engineer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Setup, configure, troubleshoot,...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: the SNP’s ‘fundamental problem’, says Corbyn, is that too many people support it

John Rentoul
An investor looks at an electronic board showing stock information at a brokerage house in Shanghai  

China has exposed the fatal flaws in our liberal economic order

Ann Pettifor
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future