I have always been a city girl. I was born in a city, grew up in a city, and have lived in sprawling metropolis my whole life. My childhood had some country excursions, but they were always intermittent and ended the day with coming back to “civilisation” of a city home, street lamps and close neighbours. I had “city” hobbies – I read books, caught public transport, went to the mall or the museum, and avoided helping my parents in the garden wherever possible!! It is safe to say I wasn’t exactly a “country girl”. I didn’t always keep my sneakers or gum boots in the back of the car in case of some emergency, I avoided the outdoors where possible – unless it involved a nice tidy netball court of course! I have never ridden a horse, and the one time I attempted to collect eggs from hens, the hens chased me, and I screamed so much that I dropped all the eggs. In fact, I think the closest I ever came to a farm was visiting a dairy farm in Year 11 for a Geography field trip…
So it may surprise you to find that although I was the opposite of a country girl, I was obsessed with the quintessential idea of what life in the country would be like. I had images of a big house, with a country kitchen, a cute farm boy who liked me, riding horses with my friends (thanks, Saddle Club), vintage “perfect” lifestyle, where all I had to do was roll out of bed and look over my garden and sigh *ahh… isn’t life simple?” The silly misguided ideas of a young city girl.
Now I know what country life is like. Little did I know I would end up in love with a fully fledged country boy. Duncan grew up in the country – 22 acres of family owned pastoral land, surrounded by native bush. His family even owned several horses over the years! The complete opposite of my upbringing. I was quite excited to see what this country lifestyle would be like… until I realised quite how much work it is. All 22 acres need tending to, if not by the family then at least by animals or renters. The animals all have special dietary and safety requirements – from shoeing, to moving paddocks, and vets visits. Then there’s the land itself – it takes two days on a ride-on lawn mower to fully mow the grass!! The gorse needs keeping under control, the trees need tending to, the vegetables need looking after, the hay has to be made and brought in, and the horrifically long driveway need resurfacing with gravel every 6 months… not to mention the fact that you’re miles from anywhere. Any kind of emergency, be it “we’ve run out of toothpaste” or “I’m going into labour” requires a good 20-minute drive to the local township – or 45 minutes to the hospital (and THAT’S if you’re lucky with traffic!).
While country life does have its perks… there’s nothing quite like waking up and watching the sunrise over 22 acres or having vegetables from your own garden or watching the horses frolic about in the fields… I still think there is a reason majority of the world’s population live in cities. Where I grew up, I had neighbours on all sides, which meant all the kids in the street played with each other. There was usually at least 4 or 5 of us at any one time, riding our bikes, playing basketball, or having a water fight in the summer. We also had a park down the road, which meant if we wanted to go and play soccer, or take the dogs for a run – we could! When I got older and started to have more of a social life, the city was perfect. I could walk to the bottom of my road and get a bus to the mall, the beach, or the city centre. Plus most of my friends lived within walking distance – or at least one bus ride away. Living in the city has meant that I didn’t have to go into Halls of Residence to go to University. I lived rent free at home, with Uni a quick bus ride away. City life was social… and convenient. Even Duncan, who grew up in the country, states he couldn’t do it himself. He always says “I couldn’t take it on… that much land, there was always work to do… my parents never had time to enjoy the country life, because they were too busy working it”.
Yet “country life” still seems quintessential and idealistic. Many people still long for a lifestyle block or a cottage in a country village. I don’t believe this has anything to do with the country itself – sure it is pretty – but it’s hard work. I believe people are still fascinated with the country because they believe it takes people back to their roots – and to something that many cities lack – community. The problem with cities these days is that people don’t talk to their neighbours, kids don’t walk to school in big groups, they don’t ride their bikes in the street. Although the country is isolated physically, the city is becoming isolated emotionally… We can ride horses and grow vegetables in the city. But that sense of community is disappearing. We need to rekindle it. Otherwise, it will disappear forever, and the days of water fights and walking to school will become a distant memory.