Isolation and wasting cash on petrol - country life is overrated says this Norwich lover
PUBLISHED: 11:44 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:51 08 August 2019
Rachel Moore is celebrating 20 years of living in the Norfolk countryside, but if she's honest, she feels it is far from idyllic
In a few months, it's my 20th anniversary of moving to the country.
Two decades of feeling uncomfortable, awkward and like I don't really fit.
Two decades of my inner voice telling me to get over myself, get a grip and how lucky I am to be away from traffic, crowds and the hardness of city life surrounded by the most beautiful Norfolk can offer.
Make the most of the peace, the space and the green swathes topped by the big Norfolk skies, says the voice. People in Brixton and Old Trafford would kill for this life. Lucky me.
Only I've never felt lucky. To be honest, I've felt fairly miserable and isolated. That feeling that something is missing, although out of the window everything looks perfect.
We did what felt right at the time; giving the children the space to run, a Swallows and Amazons life.
What we didn't think about was that, with growing children, unless they have friends in your village, we would be forever in a car getting out of it.
Soon I was driving 300 miles a week for their sport and fun. A car journey was needed for everything, even to buy a pint of milk, and every excursion needed military planning. The lack of cultural stimulation and variety that country life offers started to rankle.
Everything was an effort - going to the theatre, catching up with friends, seeing the latest film. But that effort, I kept telling myself, was worth it because we were lucky.
But being spontaneous in a village is nigh on impossible, unless a walk or wander to the pub (if you're lucky enough to have one) to see faces you see every day counts as the limits of your impulse.
We could walk, of course. That's what the countryside is for, but not to get anywhere we needed to go.
Then I met my partner.
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An East End boy, brought up in Canning Town/West Ham, he's lived bang in Norwich city centre for 25 years. Now, splitting my week between city living and my village home - heavily weighted the city way - I think he's the lucky one and I've discovered where I am happiest and most at home.
I can be at the Theatre Royal within two minutes, in Zara in one, at the Forum in four and Cinema City in 10. We use the city in the way I have never used the villages I've lived in, where I always looked outwards for work and fun.
The car stays parked while we walk or cycle. I've discovered parts of the city by foot or cycle I never knew were there and can be out of Norwich on the Marriott's Way countryside in minutes.
The choice of eating out, bars and pubs means, if we want to be alone, we won't run into the same faces we would see every day in a village.
This week, Prince Charles published The Village Survival Guide, with tips and advice on the best ways to build a strong rural community.
It takes the right people to make a successful village - those with time and inclination to give to their community, run vital services and thrive on the smallness and often insular attitude. That's not being rude, just realistic.
It takes a certain type of person - and they are great. But you either fit or not. Self-awareness is crucial before you make that decision for your family.
I now know where my children would have preferred to have been brought up. They also find small communities stifling and love city life. They look forward to me relocating to the city so when they come 'home' from their own lives there's action on the doorstep.
It's not just children and young people offered independence in a city. The elderly, often isolated in villages, can find a new freedom moving to the city where services, entertainment, clubs, shops public transport running more than once a day and low maintenance housing are all on hand.
Escape to the country is a contradiction in terms. Rural living can be a prison, living in a glass house. In the city, no-one is bothered about your business.
For some it's liberating, but for me it was suffocating and life limiting. Have you tried getting a taxi from a rural area after 8pm at night?
It's taken me so long to admit without guilt that I love the countryside, but as a retreat, somewhere to go but not live.
Even my dog loves his new city life. Now 12, the smells of the city streets and parks have given him a whole new treasury for his senses. He struts through Norwich city centre like a king.
Dogs are ten a penny in the country. In the city, he gets far more fuss. City pubs are dog-friendly and the fun he is having has knocked six years off him. Not bad for an old boy pushing 90 in dog years.
The rural idyll is enticing, but it can't be for everyone. It could be the most expensive mistake you have ever made.