I’ve enjoyed looking at the snow from my bedroom window. Looking is fine, just don’t expect me to venture outdoors. You know how people describe themselves as outdoorsy? Well, I’m more indoorsy.
Inside a house is safer, more private and it has beds to lie in, chairs to sit on, running water and central heating. Much more civilised. I’m of an age where I like a nice sofa now. Actually, I’ve always liked a nice sofa. I’m with Winston Churchill in that I also believe that the secret of life is “conservation of energy. Never stand up when you can sit down, and never sit down when you can lie down.”
I grew up in a very urban area of a city on a small terraced street with Double Decker buses trundling right past my bedroom window throughout the day and evening. You could walk to the city centre in 10 minutes, there was a shop two doors away which sold sweets and if you wanted fresh air there was a park down the road to cover all that business.
Parks are great. You can pretend you’re in the countryside without leaving the safety of the city. Taking in a nice leisurely stroll is so much more reassuring and relaxing when you have mobile phone reception and a 24 hour Spa shop to buy cigarettes from within staggering distance. Personally, I don’t feel at all safe without a back up lighter, a minimum of 20 cigarettes and at least two bars on my phone. I also need regular coffee. There’s never a Costa outside of towns.
I’m petrified of dead animals. Rotting fox corpses by the roadside horrify me and I retch a little when I see a battered pheasant. The countryside is a place of dead animals. Death lurks around every corner and decomposition is left to take place without the intervention of a friendly council bin man to scoop up the cadaver and dispose of it neatly. I was once strolling through some remote woods and smelt the unmistakable tang of rotting flesh in the air. I stifled my gagging and walked on with a mounting sense of dread expecting to see a murder victim or two. It was a rotting sheep pulsating with maggots. Seeing that left me feeling quite traumatised. You don’t get that in the suburbs. The worst thing you’ll see in the city is a gunshot victim or a collapsed pensioner and at least the police are usually nearby.
Nature is pretty brutal too. The countryside is awash with violence whether its pine martins ripping apart rabbits by the throat or owls swooping down and disembowelling mice, it’s a nasty environment. Not to mention the personal danger. There’s ravines, badly made footpaths, rickety stiles and concealed mine shafts. It’s all so slippery too. I watched enough “999” with Michael Burke in the 90s to know that a rural amble usually results in loss of limbs at the very least.
The countryside is very pretty looking, although it does have a lot of dirt and soil and it over relies on the colour green. It could be tidier and better organised (and would be if I had the time). The problem for me is that it’s all a bit samey. You walk up a hill and you see hill. You get to the other side of a hill and see the other side of a hill. You walk back down again, looking at a hill. It goes on a bit. I prefer buildings with interesting architecture, throngs of weird people to gawp at and be entertained by and an ever changing vista of life; much more stimulating.
You can’t dress nicely in the countryside. Who wants to wear clunky boots, fleeces or backpacks? They’re awful things and there’s never a reason I’d go somewhere where you need to wear sensible shoes or waterproof items.
It gets so dark there too. I was stunned in my late 20s at how dark it gets in the deep inner countryside. I don’t think I’d ever stayed anywhere as remote as the cottage I stayed at in rural France. It was horrifyingly claustrophobic at night. It was an unpleasant revelation to realise darkness was so intense. I thought that kind of darkness just existed in horror films. Have you noticed that lots of horror films are set in remote country farm houses? I can see why. There’s a good reason.
Finally, there are all those animals. I do like animals but prefer them either on TV or behind bars in a zoo or through the glass of a car window in a safari park. Walking through a field of cows terrifies me and all those news reports of couples being trampled to death by crazed bovine herds echo through my head and set my pulse racing.
If you’d like to invite me out on a stroll I’d love to come, as long as it’s less than 3 miles in total, it’s not raining, I can bring a Kendall Mint Cake, a thermos, 40 cigarettes, a chapstick, some Clinique lotion, a pack-a-mac, some emergency flares, an umbrella, a blanket, biscuits, a first aid kit, a stun gun and a novel. Oh, and will you carry my bag? It’ll be quite heavy.
Chris is a theatre and book obsessed Midlander who escaped to London. He’s usually to be found slumped in a seat in a darkened auditorium.
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