If there’s one single thing that prevents people from moving to the countryside (before they retire!), it’s the fear of not finding any work and ending up destitute. Certainly, with a small, dispersed population, the rural world has fewer and less varied traditional job opportunities. And the pay is generally much less.
For many folk that I know who’ve made the move, this is a cost worth paying. Some take more lowly jobs and accept that they simply can’t afford as many new clothes, meals out and gadgets as they might have once done. The compensations of rural life outweigh all these.
Others are able to retune their urban skills to rural needs and find a very good living – or freelance from the comfort of their own homes. It’s in times like these I envy doctors and teachers.
But there’s another group that I belong to. The commuter brigade who retain one foot in the city to afford their rural dream. Somewhat counter-intuitively I live in the countryside but must travel to a city to work on a magazine about the countryside.
It would take me under an hour to drive – but I prefer the train from Abergavenny (following the line of the hills and crossing the river Usk at last three times), changing at the world’s worst designed train station (Newport – seriously, who created this passenger unfriendly tin can?) for Bristol. When it all runs smoothly, it takes about 75 minutes door to door plus I get to do some work on the train.
When it doesn’t work… well, it’s no fun. Like today when some insert expletive toe-rag stole a load of crucial copper cables that meant the signals broke down between Cardiff and Newport. The words ‘death penalty’ were bandied about on the platform.
I was stuck at Newport for an hour (don’t get me started again). Fortunately I had Roger Deakin’s Wildwood to read, which took me far off to the sacred groves of Devon and my blood pressure eased.
Is there anyway round this? Not that I can see. Fortunately job and my rural existence feel more complimentary – it’s right that an editor of a rural magazine should live rurally. If only I could move the office to my spare room.
Again, like so many of my early experiences of rural life – it’s all a bit of a juggle and a compromise.