Editor’s Comment: May 2018
PUBLISHED: 11:42 23 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:42 23 April 2018
In this month’s comment, our editor Mike Lowe urges former city-dwellers disillusioned by the cliché Cotswold dream to stick with it – summer is coming after all!
The Cotswolds is the home of the cliché. It’s our own fault. The honey-coloured stone, the rolling green hills, the electric-gated houses with gravel drives, the black Range Rovers, the Barbours and Hunters, the tweed jackets and red trousers, the cashmere jumpers worn slung casually over the shoulders at the weekend, the Michelin-starred gastropub in every village, the country suppers, the “rather good little primary school”, the rosy-cheeked children picking buttercups in a field, the pony in the paddock, the hobby chickens at the bottom of the garden, the permanent sunshine – all contribute to the glorious image of our region as seen by outsiders. The truth, as we all know, is very different.
The problem this false vision causes is that we inevitably fail to live up to expectations.
Never a month passes by without a resentful woman – and it’s always a woman; I don’t know why – taking to the pages of one of the posher newspapers to complain bitterly about how rural life has been a wet and muddy let-down. Yes, the money you got for selling the flat in Fulham might have funded a delightful country house with a few acres, and you might lie to your metropolitan friends that “it’s only 90 minutes from London, and Daylesford is just up the road”, but when reality bites, it has teeth.
They complain that there’s no public transport and they have to take the car absolutely everywhere (the absence of a Cotswold tube network seems to have eluded them when they signed on the dotted line). They complain that there are tractors and cyclists and horses and sheep holding up the traffic, and that the roads are just muddied and pot-holed tracks. They complain that there is no pub or shop within seven miles and when they do finally get to Waitrose in Cirencester, they’ve sold out of baby leeks for that week’s featured recipe.
The children go to three different schools and have seven different after-school activities meaning 60 miles a day along those 17th-century lanes, the pony has gone lame, there are rats in the summerhouse and Mr Fox has decimated the chickens. The ancient central heating has broken down, the wi-fi is appalling so they can’t even vent their frustrations with a credit card, the cleaner has quit to go and pick strawberries at twice the money, and they were shouted at by a farmer last week for letting their Cockadoodle run round the fields off the leash.
All in all, the rural idyll has turned out to be less than idyllic.
To these poor, unfortunate, disillusioned people I say: Wait. Stick with it. The summer is coming and it’s getting warmer. The sun will soon bring that honey-coloured stone to life. Ploughing and muck-spreading are over. It’s all about having fun now – at Badminton, the festivals, the village fetes and the dog shows. The children will soon be picking those buttercups... and you can always buy some new chickens.
In this month’s issue, Katie Jarvis looks at the difficulties of trying to live a single-use plastic-free life. As she rightly points out, such is the toll on our environment and our wildlife, Something Must Be Done. But it’s not that easy, as readers will discover.
And meanwhile you’re thinking “Hang on, who’s this bloke to preach to us when his magazine comes wrapped in plastic just about every month?”
Well aware of this potential charge of hypocrisy, I took the matter up with our production chaps. Our printers, who turn out millions of magazines a month, have invested heavily in the machinery to ‘wrap’ the magazines, so any change would have an immediate impact on our printing costs. However, the leading industry bodies are well aware of this issue and are searching for sensible solutions.
It also turns out that the polythene we use to wrap the magazines is actually recyclable, it’s just that local authorities aren’t yet geared up to take it.
A solution will have to be found, and a change is gonna come. But in the meantime don’t blame me for strangling whales. Blame the Council.
PS: I see from our Jam and Jerusalem column (Page 149) that the WI are now on the case. I expect that the situation will soon improve dramatically.
For more of Mike’s musings, follow him on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor