It was a mad, ill conceived adventure but one that we ultimately profited from in more ways than financial. Because of our experience there, our move here was probably smoother than if we had come direct from London. We knew exactly what we wanted, in exactly what kind of community we wanted to be part of and how big a town we wanted to live in. Our eyes were open to what kind of accommodation would be best for us and our children; what we would be capable of looking after and how it would impact upon our lifestyle. The place we have now feels more ‘us.’
This post is not really about Swizzerland, though, and more about where we came from. I don’t know why I am borrowing a Sergio Leone spaghetti western title, but no matter:
- People It is probably a cliché (eh? See how my French is coming along?), but we met some extraordinarily nice people in The Middle of Nowhere. We were welcomed without prejudice and shown remarkable hospitality, generosity and we never failed to be surprised by the kindness shown to us. The UK can sometimes feel a little intimidating: sneering mobs of yoofs in clouds of Lynx lobbing empty alcholic juice bottles at broken down trains is sometimes the vibe one gets on a bad day. But The Cotswolds – and Gloucestershire for that matter – seemed to be entirely populated by nice people. But not in a creepy way.
- The Countryside The Cotswolds is stunning; it’s all rolling hills and stone walls, like something out of The Hobbit. It must be a piece of piss working for the tourist board, all you have to do is stick your camera out of a window and click. The only downside of this is that every village looks exactly the same and you need a GPS to double check that you are actually home.
- Real Shops This doesn’t mean that I spent all my time internet shopping, but that there were real shops as apposed to chain shops. Every small town in The Cotswolds would have a high street and – sure – there’d be some chain shops (Boots etc) but there would be a higher proportion of butchers, bakers and…just shops. There seems to be a trend (not just in the UK) that if a shop is even half way good then it must be replicated a million-fold and positioned on every high street and shopping arcade like Hitler Youth centres so that the message can be indoctrinated into as many people as possible. I have never understood why a chain cannot employ localised branding. They could keep their logos, but style the shop and stock wares for the community not the brand managers. So Starbucks could do an Otterchino: Otter Ale with an extra frothy head…or Thé du Confiture: Tea with clotted cream and strawberry jam on top.
- The Weather Maybe be were unlucky. Maybe we needed to toughen up a bit. Maybe we needed more umbrellas. But it did seem to me to rain…a lot. Like, I’m English, but it started to bother me that it was raining all the time. I don’t mind the odd shower or even the occasional night of thunderstorms but I don’t like being an extra in Waterworld. Being in a crap movie is bad enough but being in a crap movie with Kevin Costner would drive me over the edge. There are statistics (there are. I initially couldn’t arsed, but then changed my mind: clicky) that show that Gloucestershire is wetter than anywhere else in the UK , and it is: a lot wetter.
- Rugby I like rugby. It can be diverting to watch big posh blokes using an overly complicated and confusing game as an excuse to feel each other up and then have a bath together afterwards. Over compensating, I think it’s called. But my real love is football but no one is interested. In my time there I only found three other football fans: two were Nottingham Forest fans and the other a Derby County fan. What were the bloody odds? You walk into a pub on the evening of the Champions League final or a World Cup qualifier or something and they would rather scour the channels and find a rugby match between Sloppy Bottom Irish and Badgers Arse XI than watch a real sport. It proper gave me the arse sometimes.
- Ale Ale is nasty. I tried lots of it. I had award winning ales; light ales, dark ales, fruity ales. I went to pubs who – apparently – could hand pull pints that were amber nectar. But to me, they all – pretty much – tasted the same: nasty. They gave me bad hangovers and made me trump with such toxicity that even my children would pass comment. In my opinion there is beer, lager and Guinness. Beer is made by the Belgians and Germans. Lager is made by everyone, but the Czechs really know what they’re doing, as do the Germans. And stout, which is only made by the Irish. The English make ale and I don’t like it. The Scots – on the other hand – make great beer.
- People There are some very good looking people in the middle of nowhere (you know who you are…) but maybe it is the lack of population, or something, but there were quite a few mingers in The Middle of Nowhere (you know who you are…).
- Mud There was mud everywhere. There is mud here – obviously – they grow stuff, like wine and tomatoes; so there is obviously earth. But In The Middle of Nowhere it is everywhere and invades your house, your car and you end up getting covered in it and before you know it you don’t care and start looking like an indigenous native with wellies. It just doesn’t seem to be so abundant here – perhaps they employ migrant labor to hoover it up at night.