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).