Opinion: Why would anyone – of any age – want to live in a village?
- Credit: Archant
Does anyone under 50 – or over 50, for that matter – really enjoy living in a village?
I mean really enjoy it; actually love the reality of the day-to-day life.
Very few, I suspect, however they might protest otherwise.
Villagers either know nothing else – they've lived there all their lives and are proud to be 'country folk', even if they do secretly lust after the idea of being able to walk into town for a Costa, leave the car at home for days, have the safety of a well-lit pavement after dark and getting away from everyone knowing their business.
Not that they'd ever dare to say it out loud.
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...Or they are people who moved to the country as a lifestyle choice to 'get out of the city', could afford a nice house and it was the next step in a life of glittering success. Box ticked.
Few are brave enough to utter that it's not what they thought. They just skedaddle back to town as much as they can. The reality of a rural life rarely (ever?) lives up to its idyllic ideal.
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An isolated settlement with no shop, no post office, possibly, if you're lucky, a pub clinging on to survival for dear life, a bus a couple of times a week, no paths, and no streetlights.
Many villages today are full of weekday-empty houses of the second-homers, so many villagers don't even have neighbours.
But, as the 'communities' are so small, everyone knows who does what, when. Not that interest in your daily routine and lifestyle always translates into warmth and friendship. Where it does, you're lucky and embrace it.
There's no nowhere to hide in a village. Everyone knows your business, whether you tell anyone or not, and then makes your business theirs to tell.
Life in the sticks can feel intrusive yet very lonely. I've been thinking about small rural villages, 18 months after I escaped from one, after reading that even fewer affordable homes are to be built.
Affordable housing no longer has to be part of the mix of small-scale developments after communities and local government secretary Eric Pickles changed planning rules a few weeks ago.
The result will be even fewer low-cost homes, pricing young people out of villages and staying close to their families.
But why is this bad? Sleepy villages should be the last place young people in their 20s and 30s would want to be, suffocated by their neighbour parents and people they've known all their lives; graveyards of ambition.
Young people should aspire to strike out, to experience more out of life than the claustrophobic sameness of a small village, and make their mark somewhere else.
That's the thing about villages. They can be claustrophobic one minute, isolating the next. Without a car, you're stuck. With a car, it still takes ages to get anywhere.
Parents with babies and small children must go stir crazy. They can't walk anywhere because there are no paths, just road and mud. Trips to work become journeys and parents have to drive everywhere, offering children little independence. Teenagers have to be driven everywhere (when they're not loitering by the bus stop or on the village green because there's nothing else to do), so parents have no life. A trip to the supermarket, cinema or theatre becomes a major excursion.
But the idea of village life for people living on a city rat run is still rosy. Bringing up children in the country sounds lovely. It's not. You have the same anxieties, just with lots more mud and too much travelling.
Teenagers need a regular bus route and nearby train station or they become reliant ninnies. Or you have to buy them a car as soon as they turn 17, and not everyone can afford that.
And everyone goes to bed so early in villages, whether they're up with the lark or not. I used to be the only light on after Newsnight.
But it takes all sorts and I admire those who make it work for them.
As a lifelong Archers fan, I yearned for a life in a Norfolk Ambridge. Once you're there, you soon learn there is no such thing.
Villages are no place for young people and, as unfair as the housing market might feel, it's doing them a favour.