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.