diamond geezer

 Sunday, September 22, 2002

22 September - the Countryside comes to London

It's exactly a year today since I packed up all my belongings and moved from a small village in Suffolk to the East End of London. To celebrate this anniversary, the Countryside Alliance kindly arranged for quarter of a million country folk to come up to London just to remind me exactly what I'm missing. Nothing.

The streets of London were filled with red-faced protesters, converging on Whitehall via Hyde Park and the Embankment, demanding Liberty and Livelihood. Most were wearing that dull shade of green that only people who live in the country ever dare to wear in public, usually a Barbour jacket or something disturbingly tweedy. They wore flat caps, sensible brogues and sideburns - it was as if last week's London Fashion Week had never happened. They dutifully waved their placards, some lovingly laminated from a poster in the Daily Mail, others insulting the Prime Minister, but most just admitting that they enjoyed murdering animals for fun.

Some marchers looked so rich, in an in-bred landed-gentry sort-of-a-way, that it was obvious they were only there for the Liberty of shooting a few foxes rather than the Livelihood of a few genuine farmers. Many had dragged their children along and given them a whistle to blow and a political statement to make. I thought there were far too many marchers from Essex, which in my opinion is barely the countryside at all. However, I suspect many of the more bemused-looking country folk had never been to London before in their lives. I fully expected to see some of them in Pret attempting to barter a prize sheep in exchange for a sandwich.

The march went on, and on, and on, in much the same way that the countryside does. At the Cenotaph the protestors marched past in silence, which might have been powerfully impressive were it not for the racket being created by the helicopter hovering overhead. Then after Big Ben everyone dispersed, either to the clubs of Pall Mall, which appeared to be doing brisk business, or back to the Landrovers and home to rural Hampstead.

I know that the moaning marchers have all missed the most obvious way to improve their lives - sell up and move to a town. I found my Liberty and Livelihood by escaping the countryside and moving to London, and I have no intention of ever going back. More buses pass my front door in an hour now than used to serve my old village in a week. If I want a pint of milk today I can buy some in a shop one minute's walk away rather than have to get in the car and drive for miles. If I want a life I have one on my doorstep, rather than just the possibility of village hall bingo every third Thursday. So, I'll happily leave the countryside in the capable hands of the Barbour brigade. The rest of us will carry on living.

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