If you ‘es­cape to the coun­try’ you’ll come run­ning back

The Mail on Sunday - - News -

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.

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