|borrowed image http://www.demotix.com, rush hour at London’s Waterloo 12.10.12|
I claim to be a long lost city citizen. I’ve now been a resident in the English countryside for 5.5 years. Before that, I was an island dweller for 3.5 years. Added together: that’s 9 years outside a metropolitan area.
When we first moved to England I was determined to find a job in London. After months of pounding the pavement, I anxiously joined the commuters waiting in their sleepy stupors for the morning train, squished against strangers on the underground, and raced to the bus stop in pursuit of arriving to the office on time.
The city’s buzz soon drowned into a repetitive hum of a daily three-hour commute, extortionate fares and no time for happy hour with colleagues before my return train left Waterloo Station. I lasted seven months.
While I traded iridescent light for moonlight, the city’s energy continued to resonate in me.
We recently treated ourselves to a much needed weekend country-scape. In just an hour’s drive we were in the aorta of London.
|on board the big red bus|
|waddling along the Serpentine, Hyde Park|
We scavenged for treasures on the crowded streets of Portobello Market, window shopped along High Street Kensington, took a winter’s walk in Hyde Park, shared a pint with some locals and enjoyed dim sum in China Town. Our two-year old daughter tagged along for our adult recess.
She belted out “The Wheels on the Bus” to passengers on a double decker, chased the ducks and pigeons along the Serpentine and danced with the Hare Krishnas through the streets of China Town. I was beginning to believe that my daughter was my kindred city slicker until she stated,
No cows in London.
This same proclamation happened while on holiday in Paris a few months ago. Whereas then I had let it slide, I decided it was time to address her concerns straight on by emphasising some of the city’s pros:
Horses in the parks! Quaint black cabs. The Queen! +Hamleys of London Toys… Big Ben… big red buses?? ….
No good, mommy.
I watched my husband wipe the smirk off his face.
I often question if our daughter would benefit from being in the city with more activity and culture. What I (again) realised, at least during this early stage, is that she gets more joy out of a muddy puddle in our driveway than staring at a lily pad painted by Monet. And while I know she will one day love going to the theatre, a ticket to “The Lion King” would be better spent now on a year’s pass to the local farm’s open day.
|down on the farm|
|new arrivals, open day at the farm|
She is, like any child, the byproduct of her own environment which currently includes a field for grazing cattle outside our garden. She says bonjour poule every morning to the neighbour’s chickens and knows which road to take to get to “Old MacDonald’s Farm.” While I am happy she has the country dirt on her boots, I want her to also know the city grit in her heels. Experience is, after all, the greatest joy of life.
We drove back with snow flurries falling onto the streets of Knightsbridge and arrived home to our snow dusted cottage. We fired up the chimney and all enjoyed afternoon naps.
The next morning as I lay snuggled in the warm duvet, I was grateful not to be a shivering commuter waiting for the 7:17 train. I know I need a dose of city now and then. If for nothing more than to keep the dust from gathering on my handbags. In between visits I will continue to embrace the sweet country air, the mud and, yes, even the muck.