A short guide to the country for townies
Those who move to the country should realise it is violent and muddy, horses don’t need road tax and there is no poo fairy
The gamekeeper on the shooting estate where I have a small country retreat received a phone call from a panic-stricken resident of the nearby village a few weeks ago.
“Is that the ranger?” asked the lady, who had recently moved from suburbia to our little corner of the Surrey countryside.
“Ranger?” said the gamekeeper. “There ain’t no ranger here.”
“Yes, well,” continued the lady, very flustered, “someone told me to call you because you are the person who takes care of foxes.”
“That I am,” said the gamekeeper, now on more solid ground.
“Thank goodness,” said the lady. “I need you to come and deal with a fox in my back garden.”
“Right you are,” said the gamekeeper, and he drove straight over to her large, elegant house, located the fox, and without further ado, put a fatal bullet in it. Upon which the lady came screaming out of her house.
“What did you do that for?” she wailed.
“You said you wanted it dealt with.”
“Yes, but you didn’t have to kill it.”
The gamekeeper then saw that he was dealing with a townie.
Townies, as the cricketer and country-dweller David Gower complained in a recent interview, have very little clue as to what life in the country is about and how one might survive it. Townies think you can deal with foxes by ways other than killing them. Perhaps they think you can hypnotise a fox into the back of a Land Rover and then take it for a course of aromatherapy, after which it will see the error of its ways and desist from slaughtering poultry, game birds, smaller farm animals and family pets.
Gower is right to say town dwellers should be forced to learn about the countryside, but I am not convinced you could make them listen.
When they come to the country, they try to sanitise it to make it more like the town. Where I am, we woke up one day to find that a millionaire who had moved into a mansion with faux turrets had, during the night, resurfaced with shiny tarmac the dirt track bridleway leading to his driveway. So when we ride our horses on it now, they skate down it.
There is also a lottery winner who flies his wife to the pub in his helicopter. All this is very irritating for those of us who try to live as nature intended, which is to say driving to the pub in a beaten-up Fiat Panda rather than landing there in a Sikorsky.
Wearily, therefore, and with no expectation they will heed it, I give townies this short guide to what they should know about the countryside before moving there:
1. It is violent. Get your head around this basic choice: kill foxes or watch them kill everything else. There is no other option.
2. Horses are entitled to walk on roads. Do not shout at riders to ride on the grass verge. This is not legal. And no, horse riders do not have to buy road tax, in case the charming man who once screeched at me to do so is reading this.
3. Wellies may become stained by mud. Get cheap ones for everyday and save your special edition Hunters for best. Ditto Range Rovers.
4. Dogs may defecate in woods. Please refrain from picking up your dog poo in deserted places and hanging it in a small black bag on a tree. There is no poo fairy who comes in the night to take it away.
5. Stiles are provided for your convenience. Do not stand next to them rattling gates and demanding farmers “open up” or you will call the police. If you can’t climb a fence without suing someone for emotional distress and/or going to the European court of human rights, please go back to suburbia.
6. Trees and grass may grow, as part of a natural process. Do not ring the council to complain. They get government money per head of population and if only six people live there, then all you need to know about the local services is this: there are none.