What is it, I pondered to my wife the other day, that people in London actually do at the weekends, or indeed any time, when they‘re not working? Or pretending to work.
Because I simply don’t believe city dwellers, be they in the capital or the bustling metropolises of say Manchester or Liverpool, have any idea of what “busy” actually means.
“They’re loafers,” I said. “Idle as anything. Even if they’ve got kids they’ve no idea of the concept of ‘hectic’.”
We’re in the country, in West Somerset, just off Exmoor, with an old farmhouse and a few acres. And before you cock a snook at this Tory toff land-owning out-of-touch rural dipstick, I’ll reassure you that if we sold Rooks Nest Farm, with its outbuildings, cowshed and acres, we might get a three-bed flat in Peckham.
So we – happily, consciously and deliberately – choose this rural existence where, as I suggested, and as Sir Les Patterson might say, we’re busier than a one-armed taxi driver with piles.
Land and a garden is wonderful but it requires work. So, depending on the time of year there are leaves to rake, lawns to mow, lawn edges to be edged, hedges to trim and cut, beds to weed, veg patches to nurture, roses to prune, wood to be culled from old branches and seasoned for the fire, outhouses to maintain, weeds to be attacked, slates on the roofs of outbuildings to be replaced, stonework to be re-pointed, fences to be fixed and gates maintained.
And if you’re a country person and you’re fidgety and restless, like me, and you have a shed but no cows or horses you don’t just leave it as a shed, you put a kitchen in one bit, tables in another and before you know it you’ve got a supper club-cum-restaurant.
And then winter comes and two days before an event it’s raining so much the floor of the shed gets flooded.
So while the city dweller is contemplating his or her beard waxing I’m digging out a hole to work as a sump, then fixing a pump and piping and endeavouring to be rid of the water that seems to be oozing constantly from under the ground.
Then there’s the dog to walk, of course. And you may say that city people also have dogs to walk but I’ve been in Hyde Park and I’ve seen the dog walkers dog owners use to walk their dogs so they can just mince down to the coffee shop.
And we also go out for walks to get warm, which I’ve just done since that last paragraph, while your metropolitan simply turns up the central heating on their phone app. And while I’m putting scarves and hats and gloves on our little nippers to go and hunt for kindling, the London mob are simply taking their littl’uns out for a babyccino.
And what of eating out? In town you mooch about the kitchen and think for lunch shall we eat Thai, or some sushi, or at that little Italian or go into town and have lunch at The Ivy? While we have to plan a Saturday meal out like the Londoner plans a holiday.
Anywhere decent is booked up for weeks so we must sort our Sunday lunches out like a military campaign.
If the urbanite wants to nip to a museum or cinema or gallery or aquarium they just walk out of the house in their trainers and get a tube, bus or tram.
We need to put Wellington boots on just to get to the car. We can’t nip out for a croissant (they need to be bulk-bought frozen at the cash and carry) and even if we did nip out for coffee, we could scour the countryside for hours and not find a decent one.
We work in the week and graft at the weekends. And we love every minute of it. If I spent a summer weekend in London I’d need to seek out a local park and ask if I could do some mowing.
And while the townie lies awake at night fussing about whether Deliveroo can bring them an oat latté at breakfast with sprinkles, I’m wondering if the plum trees will fruit this year, if the fig will survive the coming frost and whether my cowshed will be still under water in the morning.
When our London pals come to visit they lie in bed ‘til midday then sit around drinking coffee and reading the papers.
Suggest they come out and help chop some wood, or take a walk, and they make noises about having the wrong footwear and needing to catch up on emails. Some of them, expecting neanderthal food and drink customs, send ahead a milk frother.
Townies, you don’t know you’re born.