If you ‘escape to the country’ you’ll come running back
THE news of Harry and Meghan’s planned move i nto Frogmore Cottage at Windsor has provoked all kinds of delicious rumours about duelling Duchesses at dawn.
A rift between sisters-in-law is a cracking story but the fact is that, when William and Kate first became parents, they too moved out of London, to Norfolk.
In their desire to bring their children up in the countryside, the Royal couples are no different from countless other young parents who dream of toddlers frolicking among newborn lambs, petting cows and roaming the bluebell woods. After all, who wouldn’t want to leave a city where the price of a two-bed flat now tops half a million, for a rural idyll where you can scoop up a four-bed house with garden and Aga for much less? Then there are the schools. Competition for a place in a good, as opposed to dire, London comp is now more intense t han entry t o Eton. How wonderful for one’s child to be a hop, skip and a jump from a small village school.
But my message to anyone with a head full of bucolic fantasies is: be careful what you wish for. Over my years as Vogue editor I saw increasing numbers of staff embark on a daily twohour commute in order to provide the childhood of their – if not their children’s – dreams. And I watched many of them trudge back, tails between legs a few years later.
City life may be cramped and dirty, expensive and stressful but t hey soon found the countryside has its own drawbacks. Yes, they had larger houses, but they missed their friends and found the pool of potential new ones dauntingly small. Yes, they could walk to the pub but where was the glorious array of exotic takeaway options for an evening with a box set?
The dank, dark days of winter are bad enough in the glare of street lighting, but they loomed even darker and danker in a cottage down a single track lane.
And of course the children, far from making dams in babbling brooks and shinning up trees, only wanted to sit inside with an iPad and Xbox.
Even the schools weren’t what they had hoped for. I met up with a friend of mine recently who has just embarked on her own escape from London.
Her small son had got in with a group of ne’er- do- wells at the village school and was coming home every evening spouting revolting new swear words. Her dilemma was compounded by the terribly English fact that she was desperate not to appear the middle-class newbie kicking up a fuss and complaining.
Something tells me this is a problem that Meghan will never have to face.