Monday 23 October 2017

Ditch city life for fields of dreams? Not so fast

Urban dwellers may long for the idyllic country life, but it's not all rose gardens and rolling hills, as Bill Linnane has discovered

The bad life: People have an idealistic view of country living, like that portrayed in The Good Life
The bad life: People have an idealistic view of country living, like that portrayed in The Good Life
In Withnail & I, Withnail and Marwood discover rural life is not all it's cracked up to be

The idea of country living is one that resonates with us all. Deep down, we all have the suspicion that urban spaces and their associated lifestyles are somehow eroding our soul. So the announcement from Kiltyclogher, a north Leitrim village, that it was desperately seeking people to move there resonated with many city dwellers.

The poor immobile thousands who take part in the live reenactment of the video for REM's 'Everybody Hurts' that is the M50 at peak times must surely drift off in their minds and think 'I shall rise and go now to that village in Leitrim and build a wattle and daub five-bed detached mansion as there are no planning laws in the country'. But for anyone considering a move, there are some things you might want to consider.

Goodbye internet

There are degrees of country. A small town or village will offer you many of the amenities you enjoyed in the big smoke - public transport, council water/sewage schemes, street lighting so every evening walk doesn't turn into the Blair Witch Project - without all the negatives - giant rats, hourly burglaries, increasing secularism.

But then there is the country-country, out there in the dark beyond the last street light, and that is where things get complicated. While the city-dwelling flaneur may feel exasperation waiting in line for their frappucino or pickleback (it's a shot of whiskey with a shot of pickle juice, obviously), nothing will ever compare to the white-hot rage caused by trying to use the internet while living in the country.

A move to the sticks is, in broadband terms, like moving back to 2004. You used to complain about sluggish 10mb speeds, now you would sell your firstborn for something over 1mb. You've taken lots of nice photos of sunsets over fields, but you can't upload them because the upload speeds never go over 30kb. The sweet irony of this is that you need the internet more than ever, as your kids are now miles from their friends and you are miles from everything in the world.

Rubbish broadband isn't the only difference from town to country, but it is the first one you will notice.

Hello vehicle

You may have felt you spent forever stuck in traffic when you lived in the city, but in the country you will spend even more time in your car, only navigating the shattered no man's land of potholes and subsidence that is Ireland's secondary roads. In the city, you can stroll to the shop for a pint of milk or to the pub for a pint of porter, whereas now you have to drive absolutely everywhere.

You may think 'well there's always the bike', but then you realise that the road is not wide enough for a bike and a car to pass each other, nor is it wide enough for a car, a milk truck, a combine harvester or a truckload of bales to pass. Incredibly, you might actually have been safer on a bike in the city, despite still facing a similar threat level to that of fighter pilots in World War II.

What's that odour

The scents of the city are manifold - exhaust fumes mingled with overheating tarmac and the many flavours of vape juice being enjoyed by popcorn-lung aficionados. The country has a simpler odour: poo. In the city, you come to believe that your food comes from supermarkets - in the country you are constantly reminded that food comes from the land, and that land sometimes needs nourishment in the form of poo, which was cleverly rebranded as slurry.

You may feel like complaining about the smell, but remember that this is like moving in next door to a fat-rendering plant and then complaining about the smell of fat being rendered. Also, the fact you now have to look after a septic tank means you don't really feel like sitting in judgement of the poor cows. It is also why you give a sizeable-yet-shame-filled tip to the lads who come to drain it twice a year.

Power cuts

If the power goes out in the city, tens of thousands of people instantly start harassing the ESB to fix it. In the country, you usually walk outside your house and peer across a field to your neighbour's place to see if they have the lights on. If they don't, you go back inside and tell everyone to stop flushing the toilet, as no power now means no water.

This is because you now live in the country and own a pump and are learning the hard lesson that water is not a god-given right, but something that actually costs money. Who knew?

The biggest problem in a power-cut (apart from the flushing of 'solids') is loss of your already patchy internet, as you now can't even tweet about how you are basically living in Black '47 and no human has ever suffered as you have for the 25 minutes before the power comes back.

Céad míle suspicion

With your Dublin reg, jackeen accent and big city confidence, it will be assumed that you have moved to the country under the witness protection programme, or are just on the run from one of those drug lords with stupid nicknames, like The Marsupial, or Fathead.

You think your move is going to be like Green Acres or Cider With Rosie, but your interactions with the locals will be more like the warm reception given to the war hero in Ryan's Daughter, or the wealthy investor in The Field.

Why not endear yourself to the locals by putting up signs along the road about speeding, complaining about the smell of slurry, or the noise of crow bangers, or threatening to shoot the next cow you find in your garden? That should keep the numbers down the next time you host the Stations.

Country living is not for everyone. Life is just as hectic, but in different ways, much like in Withnail & I. People are the same wherever you go, so while the notion of escaping the rat race to north Leitrim might sound appealing, you turn your back on all the many positives urban life offers. After all, if living in the city was such a nightmare, two thirds of our population wouldn't be crowding into it.

Irish Independent

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