Friday, 14 October 2011

Feature: Life in the countryside

 Country Living

The Countryside. Tractors trundling through fields of wheat, bales of hay piled high in barns and gruff-voiced farmers toiling away happily amid the muck and mess. Perhaps you imagine picturesque villages encircled by winding rivers, or a quaint village shop selling only local produce. Round, rosy-cheeked people in wellies and dungarees, smiling and waving to each other in merry greeting as they go about their business.

Photo by Michael Palmer

What a delightful image. Is that how you imagine life in the country?

If it is, then you have clearly never experienced true rural living. The kind where tractors wake you up at 5am spreading fetid manure over dull brown fields, where cows stand dumbly in their own filth and sheep lie dead with their necks at unsightly angles. If you're lucky, your local farmer is a hard but fair man who occasionally hands you a cabbage when you cross paths - if you're not, he leaves his perished livestock to rot in your garden. That once beautiful village you live beside has long since been filled with newly-built eyesores and is populated with what one can only assume to be recently released convicts; wave cheerfully at someone in these parts and you're more likely to walk away with a black eye than a smile in return.

Of course, I may be exaggerating just a little... but country living is certainly not the unblemished dream it's marketed as - truth is, it can be trying at the best of times. Take winter, for example - in particular, winter in rural Scotland. It can be (quite literally) bone-numbingly difficult. It gets so cold that the water in your pipes freezes up. Everything is covered in a thick layer of ice and the sheer volume of snow can be enough to stop you from getting out of your front door. In the town, snow is unquestionably a pain in the posterior, but only rarely does it prevent people from functioning on a day-to-day to basis. In the country, snow can bring everything to grinding to a crashing halt. The elderly population flock to the local shops and buy all the bread and milk they can carry, roads become treacherous and, occasionally, completely impassable, and even central heating isn’t enough to keep the chill from your bones.

Photo by Michael Palmer

Snow isn’t the only natural hazard for a rural resident; adverse weather of any kind can become a serious issue very quickly: Heavy rain? Expect flooding, blocked roads and leaky ceilings. Gale-force winds? Count on damaged roofs, battered outhouses and fallen trees. Electric storms? Say goodbye phones and the Internet! Then there are the inherent problems when it comes to emergencies. If you’re unfortunate enough to fall victim to a house fire during the winter months, it could take the fire brigade the best part of forty minutes to reach you, and when they do, the water in their hose-pipes is likely to freeze before it reaches your ailing home. Having a heart attack? Good luck explaining to an emergency operator that your house is down the windy road outside such and such village, past the tree that looks like Mel Gibson and behind the derelict cottage with the rope swing out front.

So have you been persuaded to up sticks and move out to the land of the bumpkins yet? Didn’t think so. But, despite the ghastly picture I’ve painted of it thus far, life in the country does have it’s upsides. Take privacy, for example. In the country you can blast music to your heart‘s content, dance around your garden completely nude without a care in the world or wail like a banshee if you stub your toe. You can walk out of your back door in the morning in nothing but your boxers, grab your mail and do a moonwalk back up the drive without upsetting any nosy neighbours (though you may inflict some serious psychological problems on a few unlucky birds).

Photo by Michael Palmer

Often, you can walk for miles in any direction without encountering another living soul, throw raging parties and investigate long-abandoned buildings. You’ll be privy to stunning vistas and encounter breath-taking wildlife up close and (occasionally too) personal every single day.

It may have it’s downfalls, it’s problems and niggling irritations… but life in the country is rewarding in ways that have to be experienced to be understood. Those who have grown up here may long for escape, they may even achieve it - but there will always be that little part of them, that inner bumpkin, yearning for the rotten stench of cow dung in the morning.

- Charlotte Peters


Very nice article Charlotte, and amazing photography as always Michael.

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