Thursday, 12 November 2009

Country Living?

I thought it was timely to think about 'Country Living' as the Country Living Fair is currently taking place in Islington, North London.

I was born and brought up in an inner London borough. In the window of our kitchen over the roof tops and chimney pots, St Paul's Cathedral could be seen quite clearly in the distance. Looking out over foggy old London I often yearned to escape to the country. I got my chance occasionally when the family went off for a country jaunt. I would dress in 'country clothes' and take my child sized willow basket for collecting wild berries. We would catch a train to Kent and pick up my Nan and Grandad on route. I always had a box of fruit gums to eat on a journey like this and would suck them until they were paper thin.

My countryside memories are of family members enjoying each others company, getting stung by nettles and brambles and picking the juiciest, biggest blackberries EVER!!! We would sit down by a stream or visit a traditional pub where I would have a cooling glass of lemonade after all that busy foraging. I would return home, tired with aching joints and rosy cheeks and sleep very soundly.

Throughout my life I have always tried to get away from London and live my country dream. I now live in an outer London borough and I guess this is the closest to the country I will ever get. When I think of the Country Living magazine it doesn't reflect what I believe country living to be about. It is more about Londoners upping sticks and moving out to the country to live in a 'designer' home. It seems that many of the people featured in the magazine are displaying a 'country living' home style rather than a lifestyle. We rarely see pictures of muddy floors, or old country people, poverty and dilapidated homes, or people that live near motorways and run down villages.

Now and then a property may come on the market in a beautiful rural location. 'Needs complete modernisation. Original features. Investment opportunity.' A house that was once a home to a person that really lived a country life now becomes a show home and photo opportunity to people who want to emulate a country way of life.

I feel sad because I am a fraud. I will probably attend the Country Living fair. I will still buy the magazine each month and drool over a 'lifestyle' that doesn't exist. I will cover my laminate floor with raggy rugs and pretend that flagstones lay beneath. My stainless steel sink can pretend to be a butlers sink if I narrow my eyes ever so slightly. It has the depth of a butlers sink if not the colour. My 'Aga' is a fitted oven but I can drape my carefully folded tea towel over the handle and imagine otherwise.

Real country living? I don't think it is for me after all. I think I will return to my town bubble and play at a country life from the confines of my home.


  1. Thank you for your honest post Simone! (I get CL too)

  2. Brilliant post! It's so true. 'Country living' has become very much like that.

  3. Lovely post and you're right about country living. I will be the CL Fair tomorrow and will think of you.:)

  4. Great post Simone. Cl is a very glossy view of 'country living'. As you say, where's the mud? Where's the reality? My version is muddy, currently very wet, and rather shabby. And I love it!

  5. Ps I meant to say too that Roger Deakin, author of Notes from Walnut Tree Farm in your photo, is far more down to earth and realistic. His writing is sublime.

  6. Blogger ate my comment! Now I have to start all over again! Anyway, I was saying...I loved reading this post. First, the story about your childhood memories. And second, your openness about 'country living'. There is no way you are a fraud! Silly girl! I think 'country living' is an attitude and in your heart of hearts you can be any manner of 'country' you want to be. I have no doubt your home is sweetly YOU. I know I would love coming to visit you for tea and enjoying your cozy comfy home! Oh dear, this wasn't as good as the first comment. If you get the first one, post it, okay? LOL!!!

  7. I really hate to be controversial, but I don’t subscribe to Country Living. It’s not that I don’t like it in its entirety, it contains good design ideas, but I think many articles are just that little bit too staged, and this idea of living is out of reach for many. I was a farmer’s daughter so I know first-hand how hard it is to make a living in the country, my Dad being on call 24 hours a day, forever tired, and sacrificing time spent with family. Saying this, as a kid growing up in the country I did have the freedom to roam, something which I would think impossible for you. I’m glad you enjoyed your day trips to the country, just like I would have enjoyed a day in the city, and I would have thought it was great to live with St Pauls Cathedral in your sight, instead of looking out on fields full of ginger pigs! I really enjoyed chewing over your post Simone. x

  8. Real mud just isn't properly photogenic! I gave up on all but the occasional CL when I found the same features being recycled from year to year.

  9. Hi hun

    Well as you know my blog name is Country in the Town... I have the flowery curtains and quilts but no way could I cope with really living in the sticks!!! I do love the style but I'm a town girl and will never change.

    I know what you mean about CL magazine, I used to had a subscription (when I could afford it!) and lust after the beautiful houses but the people in it do often seem like city folk who live exactly the same life but in a cottage.

    I work in an estate agents part time and I can think of one cottage we sold that people couldn't believe an old lady had lived in until recently. She had coped with very primitive conditions and only lived downstairs and yet soooo many people wanted to buy it and alter it completely.

    But hey, our bubbles aren't so bad and if it makes us happy then why not?!

    Mel x xx

  10. Great post, Simone, I've read it several times and it has brought back so many memories of my country childhood that I could write a whole post about living in there and not just a comment. There is a huge difference between the lovely dream Country Living magazine offers and the reality of what really happens when you live and work in country industries or on the land. Having said that a life without dreams and aspirations would be pretty dull and we all take from things like magazines and other media and adapt them to fit our own lives. When I was 16 or 17 - I longed to escape the village I lived in and come to the London of the swinging 60s - the grass is always greener etc:) I loved reading your childhood memories of the country and hope you write more in another post. Have a great time at the show and keep enjoying the magazine :)

  11. I agree with what other people have said. Great post!! Love your childhood memories!!
    I don't subscribe to CL and have never bought one of their magazines, I just occasionally flick through it at doctors/ other people's houses and always feel it is indeed too stages - everything is just squeaky clean and everyone is beautiful - that's just not real life!!

  12. Oh well done you for writing what so many others (me included) were obviously thinking!!
    Yes, its a pretty mag isnt it, and yes, there are some beautiful and tempting design ideas in it - but, I imagine real country living not to be as glossy as the mag would have us believe...its like Coast magazine, that brings to mind heaps of Londoners buying up all those little cottages in Cornwall etc each time I open it, and there's an unbearable smugness in all the articles and pics that sends me demented, nevermind the half empty villages that locals cant afford to live in!
    Needless to say, my love affair with that mag has worn a bit thin and I wont be subscribing again.

    Bah-grumble-grumble!! I love this post though, its thought provoking and true, and whilst I agree with every word you have written, I know I too will probably still buy CL each month... :)

    J x

  13. Haven't been over for a while *blushes* but loved reading you "thankful" posts :o)

    This post really struck home to me - I always wanted to live in the country but in the magazine type way, not the hard slog way... what can a girl say?? I never really lived a big city life, but I still yearn for the open air, the plots of land that tend to come with country homes, the growing vegetables etc... I am a dreamer, through and through!!

  14. Hi Simone

    I read your post with great interest! As a child I was brought up in towns in the South of France and then aged 14 moved to Dorset in a quiet rural village. What a shock that was but I ended up up loving it! Three years later my parents moved to Kent so I had to follow, very reluctantly. I lived there for another 17 years and did not like it one bit. Every time we wanted to have a day out in the countryside we had to use the M2 which was usually full of roadworks and delays. I couldn't wait to one day go back to the West Country where the pace of life is slower & gentler.

    In 2002 I moved to Somerset and feel a lot more at home now. I love living in the sticks! You do get muddy floors and tend to have to do mail order to buy nice things!

    My white floorboards are constantly being cleaned beacause of little paw prints going in and out of the cat flap! BUT I don't mind, it's a small price to pay for living where I do. I could show that side to people on my blog but I don't thing they would get much pleasure out of seeing that so I focus on what's looking good at the time.
    When I see CL magazine or any other magazine I do sometimes thing and wonder how do they get looking that immaculate but then I remind myself it's a photo shoot and it probably never really looks like that...We all dream and I don't think that's a bad thing, never give up on them.

    Love your ginger fluffy pussy cat!

    Take care
    Isabelle x

  15. I feel exactly the same and don't think I'll be renewing my subscription.
    A great post!

  16. I think you are so right. The country Living in the magazines doesn't exist. I would love to live in that dream but it's not practical-not unless you have tons of money! but that doesn't mean you can't be inspired by it.
    Great post.


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