Friday 27 April 2007

A non-country person

Some people just aren’t suited for country living. On days like this, I do wonder about including myself in this. It’s raining, I’ve got a headache, the house is a tip, Asbo decided to pee against the loo (‘Well, he was trying to pee IN the loo,’ said James trying to be fair). My ‘author’ hasn’t sent through the stuff she’d promised and so I’m left with little option but to make the beds and brush my teeth. James has gone off for a day’s football training, so I don’t even have the excuse of being Good Mother and doing educational things (like slumping on the sofa next to him, watching Biker Mice from Mars). Now, if I were in London, on the other hand…….

But really I jest (well, mainly). I have lived the country life so long I’d be greeted with profound ridicule if I ventured back to town (bad hair-cut, frowsy clothes, mud splattered up back of jeans). I know my place. But some people should never even think about stepping over the M25 (and some shouldn’t even stray into the suburbs). Like Verity. She rang last night in a huge fluster. To recap a little, she’s one of my oldest friends who had a nasty divorce and, after many years of wilting on our sofa and gazing gloomily out at the rain (inbetween stints at her high-powered city job) she decided to find a new man. She went in for a dose of Internet dating and it kept us amused (and alarmed) for months. How could one (small and stroppy) woman find so many totally unsuitable men? I could entertain you for hours on this but, to cut a very long story short, the last straw was the Harley-riding ex-paratrooper who turned out to be seriously into S&M.

‘She’ll end up on the news – in a body bag,’ said Adrian rolling his eyes. Fortunately she saw the light – one night in a dodgy South London dive – and gave him the heave-ho. And then she met Harry. Harry seemed perfect – except he is full-on country man and she is full-on city woman. She might have a fondness for Emma Bridgewater, home-made plum jam and old lace, but her heart truly beats to the Prada drum.

But love is blind, and overlooks such small details as septic tanks and thigh-high mud and No Shops, and I kept getting email after email from telling me that Verity wanted me to see this or that 6-bedroom beauty in Beds or Bucks. The price tags were truly terrifying but what really got my stress levels rising was the thought of how she would cope with country living and, more to the point, if I could handle the fallout.

But she was determined, put her house on the market and – how bitter this was – sold it within days. Harry’s cottage didn’t prove so easy to sell and, as it is small and full of electronic gizmos, she decided to rent, in the country, down a lane. I laughed my head off. At first it seemed fine. The village was ‘sweet’ and the shop ‘quaint, but really it’s easier to pop into M&S at Paddington’. She was looking forward to the village fete and thought she might get a small dog.

Then it all went suspiciously quiet. Until last night.
‘Why does oil run out?’ Er, hello, who is this?
‘I came home and there was no heating. The man from the farm said my fuel gauge was on empty. So I phoned the oil company and they can’t deliver until NEXT WEEK!!!’
She was furious.
‘I’ve never had anything that wasn’t on mains before. How do you COPE?’
Er, by checking the fuel gauge?
This precipitated her into full-on rant. The smells were ghastly, the mud atrocious (she had wrecked her Gina pumps), the locals all half-wits without a brain cell between them, the local craft fair was full of ‘twee tat’ and the commute was killing her.
‘I’m exhausted! EXHAUSTED!’

She should try ferrying small boys on three-hour round trips to play with friends, or go to the ‘big shops’. But really, that isn’t fair. You’re either a country creature or you’re not. She’s not.
So what of the great big house in the country?
She snorted eloquently. ‘No way! We’re getting a mews house in Marylebone.’ Phew. Huge sigh of relief. Not only will I not have to mop up the misery from rural Bucks, but I get a smart London crash-pad. Huzzah.

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