Country Life


For 40 years we have lived on the outskirts of this village, overlooking farmland that is constantly evolving through crop and season. For years I have been able to sit in my, let’s call it ‘office’ – it has a desk in it – and watch the world go by. Today I have been watching a hovering kestrel patiently waiting for a hapless mouse to simultaneously show its hand and seal its fate. In the summer I watched a pair of buzzards soaring effortlessly on the thermals, waiting for whatever-it-is that buzzards wait for to inadvertently pass their way. I spent months listening to the raucous crow of nesting pheasant and, last winter, I watched on fascinated as a Merlin (a bird I had never seen before) chased a wren around our snow-bound garden.

Over the years we have had fox cubs on the back lawn and deer nibbling the hedge. And we have had mice: lots and lots of mice – in the freezer motor, in the ceiling, in the loft and, on one occasion, (guess the decade) in the coffee percolator. My shed must have incubated enough of them to keep the whole of the county’s kestrel population happily replete. My last forty springs have been spent throwing away all the mouse-nibbled garden gewgaws of winter passed.

So what, you might ask, has brought about this bout of melancholy reminiscence and, more to the point, why bother you with it now? Well, two things. Yesterday I sat, as I nightly do, at my desk, looking out across what is currently a mottled brown sward and watched, as I am regularly privileged to do, a spectacular orange/red sunset descend to my left, as crystal-dark and sparkling night folded in from the right and it was, as it always is, breathtaking. And the second thing? The second thing is the knowledge that I will not be able to do so for very much longer.

The sun will continue to set, of course, precisely where it does today, but soon I shall not be able to see it. I am not moving, but the village is. And what the village is moving into, is the field behind my house. In fact, what is actually moving into the field behind my house – it being a sizeable plot – amounts to half a village all of itself and as it comes – and I can see it in the distance now – so goes the wildlife, so goes the view. Now, I realise that this might sound selfish; after all, I do not own the sunset and the country needs houses, the people need homes – I understand that, but how selfish is it to mourn the passing of something that I have known for two-thirds of my life?

I do not know what will eventually lie beyond the hedge where I occasionally find grass snake eggs nestling, probably a wooden boundary fence and red-brick as far as my jaundiced eye can see. I suppose that new my neighbours will be able to share my garden mice, but the deer, the fox cubs, the kestrels, the buzzards, they will all go elsewhere, for somebody else, far remote, to enjoy – or not. And the sun will set in an orange blush behind their new office windows, whilst I pull the blinds on the rosy, security-lit glow of a housing estate where the world used to be…

The sky is dark, the wind is cold
The night is young before it’s old and grey…
‘The Thrill of it All’ (Ferry) – Roxy Music (Country Life)

Please accept my apology for the lack of jokes today.  Normal service will be resumed after a little sleep…

3 thoughts on “Country Life

  1. Colin, I empathise. Our village is based by housing construction sites, as are all the villages in this area. 800 new dwellings here and counting. We have already far exceeded our quota to meet housing needs until 2031. Building for profit, it is.

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  2. What a shit.. sorry… shame… All around us rise the ubiquitous red brick gulags, completely devoid of any architectural merit. The propery developer cares little for your view, the wildlife or your privacy… I actually hate property developers…

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