When I was living in Cardiff and Bristol, the countryside wasn’t far away; in Wales I had the valleys just up the road, and from my house in Bristol I could see the rolling hills of north Somerset. So after nearly three months living in the Big Smoke – a fair old trek from anything that could be considered ‘nature’ save for a few squares of yellowish grass nestled among grey buildings and adjacent to noisy roads – I was starting to yearn for a bit of greenery. Earlier this week, then, I toddled off to the countryside for a couple of days to assume the role of one of those tedious city-dwellers waxing lyrical about ‘getting back to nature’ and ‘just feeling so relaxed, yah?’
I stayed in a tiny hamlet on the outskirts of a village in, essentially, the middle of nowhere. Nonetheless, its proximity to a village that had not one, but two, small supermarkets meant it was still positively cosmopolitan compared to the boondocks in which I spent my teenage years. On the first evening – having been told by our hosts that there was a pub about 20 minutes’ walk away – we set off in pursuit of food. A leisurely stroll through some of England’s prettiest woodland was what I was all about anyway.
And then, after breathlessly clambering up a 25% gradient hill, avoiding the stares of inquisitive locals (IT’S ALRIGHT, I’M FROM THE COUNTRY TOO. I’M ONE OF YOU), quick-stepping it past a mohwaked man who appeared to be constructing some kind of torture device from wood and leather in his driveway (Deliverance, anyone?) and wading through a herd of donkeys, we made it to the pub only to find they don’t serve food on a Sunday night. My first reaction was astonishment. But why not? That’s ABSURD. And then it all came back to me. No food served in pubs between 3pm and 6pm. Corner shops closing at 4. Nothing open on bank holidays. Half-day closing on Wednesday afternoons.
I now live in a world where I can get a kebab at 5am if I want. Midnight pharmacies mean I can get obscure medicine at almost any time of the day, and if I wanted to go out and buy a pineapple in the middle of the night, I can. While I joke about the quaint novelties of country living and lament the lack of phone signal when I go back to visit my parents, I’d completely lost sight of its general pace of life. Twenty-four hour supermarkets are unheard of and finding a decent loaf of bread anywhere come 4pm before a bank holiday is almost impossible.
So while I had quipped about embracing the great outdoors as a tedious city-dweller, I realised with a sinking feeling that there was much more truth in that than I’d previously thought.