Well you see, said the vicar the new folks are moving in to the old cottage today.
Oh really that’s lovely said Mrs Jones.
And that’s When the Greens found village life ain’t so charming.
Myths of Country Living.
Let me first introduce myself, I am Paul Green and I now live in Callaly in Northumberland England, till just over 9 years ago I had no idea that this place existed. My home town was Blyth, Northumberland and I lived in a series of homes all located within typical housing estates and had never really shown any interest in the countryside, apart from to view it through a windscreen, or over the handlebars of my motorcycle as it whizzed by.
That’s was till 7 years ago when the idea of moving to the countryside for a more peaceful life started to grow on both myself and my wife, we wanted to be away from the spotty youths wearing tracksuit bottoms with their hands rammed into their trouser, the cars with loud exhausts, the seemingly feral children and the constant assault of noise on your senses that comes with urban living. Do I sound like a snob there?
There were several false starts, daughter going to university, and then coming home to live with us again, our first grandchild but in the end we just thought, stuff it there will always be a reason not to do this, so we decided to do it, regardless of whatever life may throw at us. This is how a scant few weeks later we were standing gazing in wonder at the kitchen of a cottage in Snitter, small place just outside the well-known tourist town of Rothbury, Northumberland that in estate agent speak “requires some updating”, as the kitchen lacked a ceiling, any units or worktops and the walls of the bedrooms were soaking plus black with mold we thought that description was estate agent speak at its best, or worst, we couldn’t decide.
It didn’t take us long to walk away from that option but by chance we got a call from the agent to tell us of a property we could view nearby and the key was held by the neighbor. After a bit of a detour, the Sat Nav took us to the “wrong “side of a farm track that led to the cottage, the entry point we needed was on the other side of the valley.
However even when we found the correct entrance and I started to warily descend the path that was part tarmac but mostly ruts and gravel I did say to my wife” don’t think I could do this every day”, rather embarrassing now and maybe an indication I still had my “townie” head on. Upon arrival we were met by “the neighbor” who took one look at my tattoos, shaven head and a face that even when happy looks like I am going to rip your heart out and blanched, I did mention, sort of, I was a biker didn’t I?
Once we had the keys and we walked into the cottage we knew this was the one, great views, almost completely on one level, important for my wife due to some health’s issues and more importantly quiet.
We were going to be country folk, here are some of the lessons we learned and the myths we exploded.
Well sort of, ok there is none of the spotty youths and noisy cars I mentioned but till you have heard the sound of hundreds of sheep calling to their respective lambs or the mournful bellow of cows after being separated from their calf’s you have not heard noise.
Not forgetting the petite, sweet innocent looking girls from the farm a scant half mile from us who when you’re dozing in a deck chair in the garden can have you fall out the chair when they raise their voices to deal with a misbehaving horse or reluctant ewe.
The first time it happened I thought she was warning us of an incoming zombie invasion; I fell out the chair and was on my feet adrenaline pumping looking around for the emergency.
How they produce such a volume of noise when they are so small is beyond me, is it in the breeding?
First lesson learned noise carries out here.
But at night that makes living in the country so special, to stand and just listen as an owl hunts hooting in the distance or the times when suddenly there is nothing, only utter silence.
My favorite noise?
Sitting in said garden on a hot summer day and hearing a motorcycle going through the gears at full revs from the A697 which is several miles from us but as I said, noise travels.
Can’t take the biker out of me even in a country idyll.
It smells beautiful
I am sure when you see those people on TV shows who are looking to move to the country they picture themselves with a morning coffee wandering dreamily down a garden path smelling their roses. Maybe they can but along with the roses you’re going to smell much more.
The countryside has animals, animals both smell and produces smells and oddly it doesn’t seem to matter what sort of weather it is you can still smell that.
I am lucky to be able to step out my door and be on a country track ideal for walking /hiking in.
First time I set out I instantly found something out, here everything smells of sheep. It’s a distinctive odour that’s hard to describe and once used to it it’s not unpleasant, in fact you will hardly notice but it’s there and it lingers. Comes mainly from the fleece and the lanolin it contains I think.
Along with that they of course do what comes naturally, what goes in must come out and it does, whenever and wherever the sheep, or whatever animals are being farmed wants to.
So get used to the smell of, shall we be delicate here and say, manure.
Though I urge you don’t, as I did, decide to be nosey and go and watch the septic tank being emptied. You won’t do that twice.
Of course even though I have said all that you are still breathing incredibly clean air, not laden with traffic fumes or other human’s bodily odors and that’s wonderful.
Though one day parking up to go into our local shop/garage which is only a few miles away from a National Park I came upon a bus load of Asian tourist all wearing those surgical style face masks .
Even tried to explain to those that spoke some English it wasn’t needed but they simply clutched the mask to their mouths tighter.
Maybe a lesson that you don’t know how good something is when you live with it daily.
Lessons You Soon Learn
First lesson you learn on your first day, or night.
Its dark, and I mean really dark. No street lighting and it’s easy to forget that till your first attempt to get to the toilet in the middle of the night. Then you find out you don’t know where that coffee table or sideboard edges is until you stab yourself with the edge of them, items on list for next day buy some night lights.
Also unless you are lucky you can forget “I am too tired to cook let’s get a takeaway delivered.”
Most takeaway shops don’t deliver, great for the waistline and pocket but not for convenience.
Our treat is a mobile chip van comes to a location about six miles from us every Friday, that’s it folks.
Lastly it’s likely you will get snowed in, for how long and how severe it will be is down to where you live. As I mentioned we live off a steep farm track so it’s quite common so buy a big freezer and fill it. Ditto with some dry goods, again we have a large walk in larder and always have plenty of fuel for the fire.
All good advice but don’t forget you will get cabin fever, year before we moved here the neighbors were snowed in for six weeks and thanks to the snow slipping off the roof it took out both their Sky dish and aerial.
All they had was DVDs and books plus then an incredibly slow net connection, barely able to stream entertainment.
So before you so decide to move to the countryside perhaps you need to look across the room and ask yourself “Could I really spend six weeks locked in a house with those people.”
Well, could you?
Till next time, all the best Mr Green….