Saturday, 5 November 2016

The Pros and Cons of Rural Living

I live in the middle of Snowdonia National Park, so it's safe to say I'm rural. My idea of rural living is having tons of space and peace and quiet, so I hear nothing but the chirping of birds with the morning sun and the irrational fear of ending up having Truman Capote write a book about my horrific demise, a la 'In Cold Blood'.

The Silence:

None of the above statements is actually true. I haven't been savagely murdered in the night (obviously...) and, although I do wake up to animal noises in the morning, these are from the cows in the farm next door and not the relaxing bird tweeting I was hoping for.

Apart from the cows chatting excitedly in the nearby fields, and the chug of the last train from the local station (by last train, I mean 10pm...), there is no other noise. And it takes a bit of getting used to.

When we lived in Scotland, I owned a detached house, but it was still so close to my neighbours that I was always mindful of my music being too loud or hoovering at 7am*. 

When I moved to be with Les in Stirling, we were in a semi detached and you could hear the people next door putting their kettle on. I'm not even kidding.

These days when I get home from work first, there's absolute silence. This is generally shattered by me stubbing my toe on a stair, or dropping something in the kitchen, so it rarely lasts for too long. But, it's there, and it's now my favourite thing about coming home. I'm surrounded by people all day and, when I get back to the cottage, there's not another soul in sight…if I discount that rabbit that lives in my garden and keeps munching on my butternut squash (not a euphemism).

Just me and the silence

Phone Signal:

Dyffryn Ardudwy, like many little towns and villages in North Wales, is the place where phone signals come to die.

I often worry about the whole 'In Cold Blood' scenario I mentioned earlier so, should two random drifters decide to descend up my rural North Walian village, I'll be able to shout for help, but I won't be able to use my mobile.  Well, I will…for text messages and Facebook, but not to actually make any calls.  

I can't use my mobile phone anywhere within the cottage. If I want to speak to someone, I have to venture outside. Not to the front of the house, though; to the back.  I can get signal roughly halfway between my patio and the fish pond. It’s all kinds of inconvenient.

I imagine, if being attacked by serial killers, I *might* be able to slip outside, but I don't really fancy my chances, tbh. I'll simply have to rely on that baseball bat I keep under the bed for assistance. Even if I could call the Police, trying to direct them to my house would surely use up the last few minutes of my life: 

'You know when you come into Dyffryn from the Harlech end? yeah? Well you'll see the 30mph signs and then you'll see a sign for the farm on your right hand side. You need to turn right there. If you go past the bus stop, you've gone too far....and I'll be dead'. This is how I imagine my last conversation with Heddlu would pan out.

Aside my fear of not being able to call the Police because I have no phone signal, it also means that no one can get in touch with me for last minute get togethers. This, however, is a very, very positive thing. There's nothing better for someone with social anxiety to genuinely be able to say 'I didn't get your text' and not feel horribly guilty about it afterwards.

Don't try to call me, there's no point
TV Signal:

We don’t watch a lot of TV in our house; mainly because we don’t have much time.  Because of this, we see no use in paying for satellite.   And because we don’t have satellite, we don’t watch much TV.  Also: we have no signal.  On our regular TV, we have three channels that work, all of which are largely shit.  This makes it very difficult to keep up with any of the good shows which happen to be on terrestrial TV, like GBBO and, well…that’s pretty much it, to be honest.  

I decided to buy a smart TV and sign up for a subscription to Netflix.   Now I can scroll through all manner of shows that I still don’t have any time to actually watch, which seems like such a pointless waste of money.  It does, however, have lots of crime shows, and they’re a perfect background companion to my silent evenings spent writing in my office.  My love of anything murder related, in all likelihood, is the reason for my fear of being murdered in bed. 


I’m not much of a shopper.  I’m not a huge fan of wandering through department stores, trying stuff on and then attempting, poorly, to match it up with something else.  It’s not really for me.  I love going to my three local charity shops in Dolgellau, though, which I do a couple of times a week on my lunch break.   The thing about living in a rural area is that there really are no shops…or, at least, not the ones I’d generally choose to buy from.  

My closest Dorothy Perkins is an hours’ drive away and the same goes for Debenhams, Next, etc.   My closest town centre is a half hour drive and this is a big deal as it has a Tesco, Lidl and Aldi.  I have a tiny little Spar store in my village, which can be used for those all-important Wednesday night wine emergencies but, for everything else, it’s a case of being very, very organised during the week.   

In Scotland, I lived next to a Tesco in Stirling and the biggest shopping centre in Scotland when I was in Mid Calder.  I have every supermarket you can think of, as well as tons of restaurants, a multi screen cinema, retail parks, and actual stores that *just* sold wine.  From my own little piece of heaven in North Wales, it’s more than an hour to the nearest Asda and retail park, and I genuinely don’t even know if there’s a Sainsbury’s within a two hour drive.  Not that I need one, you understand, I’m just used to knowing where it is.

Because of this, my shopping habits have had to change quite dramatically.  In my previous life, I probably went to the supermarket 5 or 6 times a week and picked up different meals.  Now I go once for my weekly shopping, and occasionally pop to the little Coop near my office if I need emergency crisps.  

On the flip side, I save unfathomable amounts of money in Wales.  This is primarily because I *can’t* go the supermarket all the time and also because I no longer have earth’s largest shopping centre on my doorstep.  This is a very good thing indeed.  I honestly can’t recall the last time I bought clothes anywhere other than a charity shop and I can only thank the very well dressed women in the area for their commitment to visit Monsoon, Debenhams and Oasis so that I don’t have to. 

If nothing else, I'm saving a fortune.  

Small Town Familiarity:

I often found myself working on small Scottish Islands and was instantly noticeable to locals because I wasn’t, well…local.   I was also instantly noticeable because I was working for VisitScotland and was on the island to conduct property inspections.  This didn’t always make me that popular.   As much as I loved the remote area of my home nation that I worked on, I always liked coming home and blending in to the background.  I don’t like standing out and I hate being the centre of attention. 

When I moved to Wales, I pretty much made myself the centre of attention (or that’s how it felt to me) because I am, quite literally, the only Scot in the village.  And I’m only Scot I’ve actually met in 18 months of living here.  I think most of us chose Australia over North Wales, tbh.  I have no idea why, though, as Wales is lush. 

What I find most difficult is having no where to hide.  In my village and all of the surrounding towns, everyone seems to know everyone else.  I can’t go a day without someone asking me if I heard that Glyn from Barmouth has hooked up with Deilwen from Bala and how she’s Alun’s daughter’s boyfriends best mate from Porthmadog.   It’s not even a widespread at seven degrees of separation, it’s usually just the three.  I, therefore, assume that everyone else is asking everyone else if they’ve met the new Dr and his wife.   

To make my point clearer, several patients have been in to my husband’s surgery following our return from honeymoon (people he’s never met) and offered him their congratulations.  That creates a bit of stunned silence and is instantly unnerving to me.  It's not that I think these people have been stalking us, it's just that I'm not used to anyone knowing anything about me.    

At one level, this is lovely as everyone’s looking out for each other and there’s a real community spirit here that I’ve never really experienced before.  On the other hand, it makes me worry about that little road rage incident I had last Monday when I honked at some bloke in a BMW who was driving like an idiot and overtook me on a blind corner.  He could well be my local butcher for all I know.  

He might have gone home and told his wife about the foul mouthed woman in the Toyota Yaris and then his wife was all ‘A grey ’58 plate?  That’s that Dr Tam’s wife.  She’s Scottish, she is…works in the Job Centre.  Lives round in Dyffryn…’   Or something like that.  Before I know it, I’ll be known locally as That Angry Driver From Glasgow.   I’m not even from Glasgow, but everyone that meets me knows of its existence and assumes I must be from there.         

At the end of the day, though, if I do get slain in the style of the Clutter family from Holcomb, Kansas, as retold in Truman Capote’s controversial book, someone is *bound* to notice that I’m missing real quick.   And that can’t possibly be a bad thing, can it?

Suz x

*I've never hoovered at 7am in my life. And have absolutely no intention of doing so. Just because I can, doesn't mean I will.