What makes two lads who have lived half their lives in London head for the rural hills? British writer and critic AA Gill becomes ill at the very thought of bucolic landscape, gambolling lambs in pastoral fields, and Arcadian ranges in the blue-misty distance. Is it possible to abandon the cut and thrust of a major city, put behind the plethora of cinemas, theatres, galleries, museums, and—above all—blitzing nightlife of London?
Well…yes. Forget the tube commuter crush with the ever-present danger of catching whatever the person jammed against your shoulder may be suffering (ah, the Underground cold epidemics…). Forget the five-minute car journey that takes over an hour at any time between 3:30pm and 6:00; and reports of rural violence are greatly exaggerated in comparison to getting thumped on the head by a Doc Marten-wearing skinhead who hadn’t anything better to do on the Finchley Road that evening.
Of course, it’s not all easy moving to the country. The locals can be alarmingly polite on streets where even complete strangers throw out a friendly “Ayuh” as they pass. The choice of fresh food is bewildering and soon threatens the comfort of a Tesco ready-made. Much cheaper beer in the pubs can soon lead to serious liver complications. But a five-minute walk between home and the office makes up for it all.
And who, in 1983, would have thought that the sleepy market town of Ludlow, South Shropshire, could possibly give birth to the revolutionary computer games magazines of Newsfield Publishing? By the end of the 1980s, local youngsters had become the jury and judges of the might of British and American video gaming. That’s what some might call taking the urban jungle with you and planting it in a rural idyll. And in a way, that’s what it was.
There must be many who would rather commit suicide than cut themselves off from the urban vibe, so for them the decibels and pollution, the push and shove of overcrowding, the frustration of public transport and eternal traffic jams. If we ever yearn for an injection of London, it’s a two-hour ride, a frighteningly expensive car park, and then endless fun remembering how to negotiate the tube. But that’s like riding a bike. You never really forget how to slip and slide between clumps of bovine crowds on the concourses, or bully past those who will insist on standing all over the escalators instead of on the right.
If there was ever a hint of homesickness for the great smoke back in the late 1980s, the Internet banished that in the late 90s. Now even in sleepy Ludlow, set like a jewel in the rolling hillsides of Shropshire (quoting a recent TV programme), we’re connected to the world…at least when BT has a broadband signal from the local exchange. So really, we feel like CityBoiz planted in an Arcadian arbour.
Roger Kean Oliver Frey