Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Joys of Grumbling

I've lived in the country now for ten years and am still full in the throes of a love/hate relationship with it. Love the wildlife, the space and the quiet. Miss the buzz of town life - the culture and the carry-outs!

So when I found a little book on my shelves this morning with this subtitle: Many hundreds of examples of those chagrins and mortifications which have beset, still beset, and ever will beset the human race and overshadow its journey through this earthly paradise, the whole being conveniently displayed in an alphabetic arrangement for purposes of Comparison, Consolation and Diversion, I knew there would be a chapter on country life. And there was. Here are a couple of grumbles from the very chapter:

"And in my situation at Stamford there was not one person, clergy or lay, that had any taste or love of learning, so that I was actually as much dead in converse as if in a coffin."
That was the Rev William Stukeley writing in 1726. A few years later, here is an extract from a letter by Elizabeth Montagu:

"Though I am tired of the country, to my great satisfaction I am not so much so as my Pappa; he is a little vapoured, and last night, after two hours' silence, he broke out with a great exclamation against the country, and concluded in saying that living in the country was sleeping with ones' eyes open."
Oh yes - I get that one. I've written myself, that getting through late winter here is like living in a big sock - constantly dark and gloomy and nowhere to go.

But nothing compares to this marvellous litany of despair from Sir John Dalrymple in 1772, proving that there is nothing new in trying (and failing) to live the good life:

"I pulled down as many walls round the house as would have fortified a town. That was in summer: but now, that winter is come, I would give all the money to put them up again, that it cost me to take them down.
I ordered the old timber to be thinned. The workmen, for every tree they cut, destroyed three, by letting them fall on each other. I received a momentary satisfaction from hearing that the carpenter I employed had cut his thumb in felling a tree.
I made a fine hay-stack; but quarreled with my wife as to the manner of drying the hay, and building the stack. The hay-stack took fire; by which I had the double mortification of losing the hay, and finding my wife had more sense than myself.
I paid twenty pounds for a dung-hill, because I was told it was a good thing; and, now, I would give any body twenty shillings to tell me what to do with it."

Fabulous stuff! There really is nothing new under the sun (or in the dung-heap).


meleah rebeccah said...

I could never make it in the country. I like cement way too much!!

robin j said...

I lived in the country for many years its a great place for healing and I liked the fact when things happened it wasn't just a page everybody turned over in the paper. You always knew a helping hand was never far away. However I like the culture of the city I now live in perhaps one should be a child in the country and an adult in the city

Anonymous said...

It is really hard to strike a balance, isn't it? I have lived in the city for most of my life but on my occasional forays into the country find it so therapeutic that when I leave I long for the peace and quiet and think about it all the time. Yet I have friends who live in the country permanently and long for the hustle and bustle of the city. Maybe it's in our nature to always be a little discontented. I think the only answer is to have a country house and a city house (like I could afford that...) Still, it's nice to dream!

Lisa Allender said...

Love this blog--discovered you after seeing Selma in the City was given an award, and she referenced this blog!
I grew up waaaay out in the country(we lived on 20 acres in central Florida--just southeast of Tampa),raised many animals, had vegetable gardens, etc.....but I LOVE the city. My favs:
San Fransisco, LA(LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!), New York City (when it's warm weather--I usually go in winter, but it's TOO cold!), Paris(of course!)
Currently, I live in Alpharetta, a northern 'burb of ATL, and we border a large nature trail. I suppose it's a compromise between city and country!

rwalker said...

Living in the country can indeed be challenging. Especially in the summer without enough insect repellent. Nature is lovely, but much of it wants to eat you.

After living in Atlanta for 12 years, I'm pretty much done with "big city" life (though, I don't really consider Atlanta to be a "big city." New York. Los Angeles. Now those are big cities.)

At the same time, I have found that very small towns can be, well, too small in certain ways. Now, I have found a happy middle ground. A town/city of about 60,000 or so seems to lack much of the annoyance of a big city, but will have natural food markets, some culture, and things like that.

Look forward to checking out more of your blog.

Cheers, Robert.

Anonymous said...

Definitely the city for me. Even though Sevilla is more like a big village.

Too much nature in the country ... and way too many mosquitos.

Puddock said...

Thanks for all those great comment.

General feeling seems to be that the countryside is great for the soul but full of nasty biting insects - I'd go along with that!

Robinj - you were luckier than I am - my neighbours don't have helping hands. The nicest thing you could say is that they keep themselves to themselves, but I usually say much nastier things about them...

I miss the buzz of city life and the culture - all those people, all that life - but I don't think I am going to be able to give up my little bit of land. I guess I'm just going to have to top up on excitement with regular trips to the city (and hope that my neighbours move and nicer ones move in!)