These days many wealthy city folk are moving to the country. Fair play and good luck.
However, it is an unfortunate fact that many find it hard to assimilate. One of the major reasons for this is the actual countryside is a place where people live and work, not the large leisure park most city people have experienced thus far. Thus the reality is not always what our new neighbours expected to find and, often, they don’t like it as much as they thought they would.
In the spirit of public service, then, here is your handy print-out-and-keep guide to a comfortable new life in the sticks.
- The Roads: They are covered in crap. This is a function of drainage ditches being full, of animals on the roads and of large agricultural machinery dropping muck everywhere. This is fine. It is not “a matter for the Parish Council”.
- The Parish Council: This will usually be made up of folk who’ve lived in the village for years and also some newer blood. That’s a good thing. It is not a replacement for your Kensington bridge club, or meeting your girlfriends in Harrods, and there is no need for you to join it and try to change everything in order to fill your long afternoons. Unbelievably, we’ve managed so far without you for more than 500 years!.
- The Village Pub: A fine and wonderful place which is to be treasured and used. The best thing about it is it’s a real leveller – doesn’t matter who you are, you’ll be judged on how you treat others and nothing else. If you’ve got anything about you, you’ll come to love this about it above all else. On which note, then, please don’t come in and grumble about dogs running around, or about the fact you can’t get St Tropez scallops fried in yak’s butter at 4.30pm or that they may not be able to make you a Brandy Alexander. Also, best not to only come in twice a year, the second occasion being Christmas when you address the landlord like an old friend and loudly call him by his Christian name to impress your friends visiting from Hampstead.
- Animals: There are loads, and we kill and eat quite a lot of them. Many are quite noisy, especially cockerels. This is also not “a matter for the Parish Council”. Equally, some are a problem and will be killed by your fellow inhabitants from time to time; others will be killed by each other or by cars. There is not a “little man” who comes along to pick them up. Just drive around them. Finally on this one, please don’t feed the foxes. They’re not “cute” and they kill all our chickens. This makes us all quite angry.
- Your New Dog: Obviously you will have bought a pedigree mutt to go with your new house. Enjoy. However, it’s worth taking the time and making the effort to train it properly so it doesn’t chase sheep or deer, or dive in to areas of nesting pheasants. In the north of the country somebody is likely to shoot it for chasing the former, in the south for chasing or doing the latter. Despite having a Kennel Club name longer than most people’s address, your dog will still be turned inside out by a hand-loaded .243 cartridge. If it’s a gun dog and you intend to work it there’s no need to pay someone £3000 to train it for you. Ours are all rubbish too.
- Your New Gun and Togs: Over the years you’ve enjoyed a bit of corporate shooting, and good for you. However, you now have a bit of an issue. Your £18,000 English side-by-side and the £7,000 worth of kit you bought from William Evans on St James’s mean you really need to be able to hit a cow’s arse (NB: cow – large bovine animal found in fields and, occasionally, running down the road for no obvious reason) with a banjo. Actually nobody cares if you’re rubbish, so long as you can laugh at yourself and take a bit of ribbing, so pop the expensive stuff away and go and buy a working gun whilst you get your eye in.
- Your Trousers: Those yellow or blue cords from Oliver Brown on Sloane Street don’t make you look like landed gentry, they make you look like a derivatives trader on a long weekend away. Just don’t.
- Your New Community: A village is just like a city, only smaller and therefore more intimate. That means it’s made up of people from all sorts of backgrounds. This is a good thing. If you take the time to get to know them you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the breadth of experiences and knowledge. Lamenting loudly that nobody you now know has been to see the Chuck Close at Tate Modern is not the best way to achieve this. Nor is making rude assumptions about them and living behind your closed front door all week until the next set of visitors from London arrive for the weekend. You’re missing the best bit of being here, the people.
- Your Nickname: Everyone in the village will have a nickname. Most are well meant, if a little brusque. When you discover yours is “Honking Giles” don’t move house, it’s a sign of acceptance. It’s the people without one who need to worry.
- Finally: None of the above points apply to villages like the one illustrated here (in Oxfordshire) where the TTP (Twat Tipping Point) has already been reached. Most of these are in the Cotswolds and are now, basically, London-in-the-Dale. Here you can behave like as much of a narrow-minded, braying bellend as you like and you’ll receive a warm welcome from your fellow pillocks, and Kate Moss (pictured). If points 1-9 above alarm you, this is your solution; if not, we’d love to see you in the actual countryside.