Did anyone read the diary of a country mole in the Sunday Times? It chronicled the move to the country of a city girl and her family, a disastrous move which ended in their return to London. From the very first article her entire unsuitability for the project screamed out from every paragraph - self pitying, self obsessed, with a mind as closed as a clam and the resourcefulness of a used tissue. (Life being what it is, I shall now somehow meet her and she will be utterly delightful and I will be unable to look her in the face.)
So I thought I would have a try at some advice for those considering relocating: what is life in the country really like when the weekenders go home and it is raining again?
You spend a lot of time on your own so you need to like your own company. Days can pass without a soul coming along the track and you can find yourself hanging around in the post office, as desperate for conversation as the old lady on the bus who lives on her own. You need to use the internet, to email and to phone and to hold onto your friends. But you also need to get out and do things, not specifically looking for friends, most of all not seeking "like-minded people" - vile phrase - but being open and interested and ready to be involved. Building a new network will take time and you will likely end up being friends with older, younger, richer, poorer, different people to your city friendships. If you are not out there, it won't happen.
Paradoxically, along with more solitude than you are used to, goes less privacy, in fact no privacy at all. Everyone knows who you are and where you have come from. Everyone knows if you have visitors, where you shop, when your son in getting married. Sometimes your neighbours know more about your family than you do, or it feels like it. It's a reasonably benevolent interest: you have become part of this community and the interest just goes with the territory. Smile, answer all questions easily and openly. Never be secretive, it is a waste of time, and don't lie unless you have a fabulous memory. And never forget that the person who is interrrogating you in the newsagent is very likely to be related to the person you moaned to in the post office. There is no better advice than your grandma's: "If you can't say anything nice, say nothing."
The seasons are huge and overwhelming - spring so utterly beautiful it knocks you out of your socks, autumn rich and full, a summer's day a piece of paradise. But winter hounds you in a way it never does in the city: the dark and the wet keep you housebound and, when you do venture out, the world is mired in mud. You live in fleeces and wellies and you wear so many layers, even in the house, you look like a tennis ball on legs. You need a plan for winter: books to read, curtains to make, novels to write, friends to visit even though they would rather come in spring. You need to internet shop so that there is always a delivery van bringing lovely goodies in from the outside world. The marking of the seasons by festivals and ceremonies happened to help people to survive through the desert of winter so you need to throw yourself into Bonfire night and Christmas, stepping stones across the wilderness of dark and wet.
You really do need to like the things that the country offers you. If you love gardening, have always hankered to grow your own vegetables and long to prune apple trees and make jam, you have a focus for your new life. If your interest in plants is in looking at them and your passion for food needs delicatessens and fabulous new restaurants you would be better in the city.
One of the greatest privileges of living in the country is living somewhere beautiful. You know if you are the sort of person who responds to light on the hillside with a singing heart. You know if you were the kind of child who loved the nature table and have become the kind of adult who is interested in identifying which bird is filling your ears with song. If a tree is just a tree and all birds are indistinguishable shades of brown, there is not a lot of point in living surrounded by woods and wildlife.
There is not much consumerism in the country. The latest, newest, biggest and best tend to pass us by. Heels and handbags are an irrelevance. Botox and cosmetic surgery belong to another world. Cars need to go, to carry the load, to cope with the mud and the snow. An open topped Merc would get you laughed at rather than admired. Shoppping is not a pastime if you have to drive for an hour and a half to get to a shopping centre and if the audience for your fabulous fringed belt is a couple of incurious cows.
So that is about it really: no shops, restaurants, theatre, fashion, privacy; much mud, cold, beauty, beetroot, birdsong; silence, stars, buzzards soaring and circling, rain and wind in your face, snowdrops, roses, compost, log fires, chickens and a warm, perfect egg.
Take your pick.