I recently read an interview with Anita Rani in Red magazine where she said that despite presenting Countryfile, she never actually wants to live in the countryside & prefers living in London.
It got me thinking about living in the city, the suburbs and the countryside …
I have friends who grew up in a city and could never leave to live in the countryside…
…I have friends who grew up in the countryside that can’t stand the thought of trying to settle in a city.
I would say I’m a bit of both.
My ideal is when living in the countryside but working in the city. There are a lot of places, especially in the North, where this is achievable. When I moved to Sheffield, I really struck gold with this. It was a 15 minute drive into the city, yet we lived in a suburb right next to the woods and right next to the stunning peak district drive that takes you to Manchester. We also lived adjacent to the woods which was pretty cool (minus the rumoured nudist that lived there?!). My mum & sisters still live in Sheffield and I love nothing more than visiting. I owe a lot to that place.
I grew up in and around Stratford-on-Avon & loved being surrounded by countryside. A lot of my family are there and it’s just a 10 minute drive into the Cotswolds which really is one of the most beautiful places the UK has to offer. I adore it. Yet growing up, I spent so much time in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and even places like Oxford at weekends. Going to gigs there sometimes 3 times a week was the best use of my Chambermaid job wages… I used to wish I lived right in the heart of somewhere like Birmingham to be closer to the theatres, shops, music venues but I guess every countryside kid feels like that growing up, right? The calm of the country bored me. I yearned for the busy nights, the bright lights and the constant swarm of people – all with different stories.
My parents always encouraged independence. For that, I will always be so grateful. They were happy (if not, bloody worried!) for me to be catching trains to new places, enjoying my youth and hanging out with some pretty cool people. Because I was allowed to pretty much do what I wanted (within reason) from a young age, they trusted me. I became streetwise SO young. When you’ve got a creepy lead singer asking you to skip school to meet him, you quickly learn that ignoring those messages was/is the SAFEST thing to do… I guess living in the countryside and hanging out in city centres taught me to keep my wits about me. My bag was always glued to me, my friends never left my side and we would always check in with family. I’m still a bit like that now.
I spent my first gap year working in Stratford. Sure, I saw absolutely everything at the RSC but I also felt trapped. I couldn’t be arsed dealing with the Grammar School parents asking why I was working in retail and not volunteering in Africa. Sue, babe, it’s actually expensive to volunteer and some of us are working class and have to work to live?! Lol hun, bye. I used all of my holiday allowances to be in London, Edinburgh, Greece and at festivals. I actually dated someone who was constantly touring and thinking about it now, part of me must’ve saw the attraction in “having” to go to different cities all the time to see him. I was always incredibly eager to escape.
That summer, I moved to Sheffield. It changed me. I blossomed. I had to make a whole new set of friends (which I still love), in a city that I’d only ever been to when seeing bands play. I grew so much as a person in that time, despite me back then thinking that I knew myself. In fact, I got into drama school only a few months after moving there because of how I had changed. Despite where I came from, I had more acting opportunities and a chance to use my skills in an arts based job. Within two weeks I was teaching drama and going to acting classes. I was hanging out with so many different people, who didn’t know me, who I didn’t know and I couldn’t get over how confident it made me. I thought I was confident before but something here clicked. I found my worth.
Growing older and working/socialising in the city, I began to appreciate the countryside even more. When the hustle and bustle got too much, there was an inner peace amongst the chaos, knowing that I was able to escape it daily.
Despite me once believing that I could never settle down somewhere so ‘slow’ and ‘boring’, I am now not completely against the idea…
Working in the city centre, sleeping in the suburbs. I dare say that’s my happy medium.
The buzz of a city inspires me and is often where opportunities tend to materialise… It’s where everything happens. It’s where everything is. So far, nearly all of my acting work has been in a city but I look forward to rural work just as much as city work. I love both equally.
Being outside in the countryside is something I crave and adore. To be honest, I need it for my mental health. Taking in the fresh air, listening to the birds and getting lost by a lake brings me a pure joy that I find both healing and rejuvenating. It’s quite hard to put into words, that feeling of being outside. It’s extremely cathartic.
Thankfully, Alex feels the same. It’s kinda handy knowing that the person you are going to marry is also an actor that wants the same things as you and I’m very grateful for that! I know many couples can become torn when it comes to deciding where to live or settle.
The truth is, part of me doesn’t want to settle completely, even though I want to own a house at some stage. I get bored easily and always need to be on the move, visiting somewhere else or somewhere new. Maybe one day that will change, who knows?
In the words of Hanny Montanny, (living in the suburbs, working in the city) you get the best of both words…
What do you prefer? Has your childhood changed what you want? Has it confirmed what you want?