‘Mov­ing to the coun­try hasn’t been a walk in the park’

Do you dream of es­cap­ing the drudgery of ur­ban liv­ing? The real­ity is far less idyl­lic, as Het­tie Har­vey dis­cov­ered

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - GAME CHANGER - Pho­tog­ra­phy: mar­sha arnold

Iwent out for din­ner a few weeks ago. Once, that wouldn’t have mer­ited a men­tion, but since mov­ing out of Lon­don to live in Shrop­shire six months ago, I don’t get out much. In fact, it was only my fourth night out since the move.

As it was, I sat at a ta­ble of 12 Lon­don­ers on a week­end jolly, and found my­self struck mute as, around me, peo­ple dis­cussed every­thing from the gen­eral elec­tion to the Hock­ney ex­hi­bi­tion at Tate Bri­tain (I had to look it up later). When my hus­band Do­minic and I moved, I gave up my jour­nal­ism ca­reer to look af­ter our chil­dren, Ge­orge, three, and Arthur, two, and I have barely kept up with the news, let alone things cul­tural, since. I haven’t had to dis­cuss any­thing more se­ri­ous than the su­per­mar­ket list in months.

At that din­ner, I re­alised with ris­ing panic that I had be­come com­pletely out of touch. So I kept quiet and hoped that no­body would no­tice. But as a well-ed­u­cated woman still (in the­ory) in pos­ses­sion of all my fac­ul­ties, who un­til re­cently worked full-time on a na­tional news­pa­per, to find my­self un­will­ing (and, frankly, in­ca­pable) of join­ing in was alarm­ing. It’s one of many side-ef­fects of our move I hadn’t fore­seen.

When Do­minic and I first de­cided to up sticks and move our fam­ily out of the city a lit­tle over a year ago, we had, like most Lon­don­ers, cer­tain pre­con­ceived ideas of what our new life would be like. The de­ci­sion had come down to prac­ti­cal is­sues: wor­ries about money, the Lon­don schools lot­tery, com­mut­ing, pol­lu­tion. Crime cer­tainly played a part; in the city, our front door was dou­ble-locked day and night, even be­fore there was a shoot­ing at the end of our street; and a woman was stabbed out­side our house at four o’clock on a Sun­day af­ter­noon.

Fu­elled by our ad­dic­tion to Es­cape to the Coun­try and long evenings spent hunched over RightMove, we had fever­ish dreams of sell­ing up our Fins­bury Park home and swap­ping it for a huge, ram­shackle (yet cosy) farm­house, with flag­stones on the kitchen floor, a dog curled up by the Aga, in a re­mote lo­ca­tion (but close to a shop and a lovely pub) with beau­ti­ful views. The usual. And of course, there was the idea that our life there would be one long af­ter­noon curled up by a blaz­ing fire eat­ing freshly baked (by me) cake, hav­ing been on a brac­ing walk on which our ap­ple-cheeked chil­dren would have gath­ered bugs, birds’ nests and wild flow­ers.

Not that we were en­tirely naive, but be­tween want­ing to be­lieve that we could build a bet­ter life for our fam­ily, and peo­ple’s as­sur­ances that we would be emo­tion­ally, phys­i­cally and fi­nan­cially bet­ter off, per­haps

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