The first and most obvious thing to think about is the logistics. Hard logistics make one immediately think that things aren’t simple. In fact, I think this is bollocks..but more on this in a moment..
Getting around is the fabric of daily life, whether heading on a commute, buying supplies or taking the kids swimming – and one of the things we’ve noticed really quickly about life in the country is this: you are absolutely, totally indebted to the car as a form of transport.
I used to moan endlessly about the £2.60 bus fare for the mile and a half journey from Odd Down to Bath city centre but – fuck me – at least there was a bus. And a regular one. One that didn’t go via the arse end of nowhere. And one that went every half an hour rather than every half a week.
Actually – all that nice stuff about getting a bus is immaterial. Where we are, the nearest road which might on occasion have a bus on it at all is about two miles away. Where that bus might stop is an unknown. Where it might be going to: probably somewhere not terribly useful, and almost certainly not a direct route to wherever that not-terribly-useful place is, either.
The point is: places in the country are far apart. That is, after all, why it’s called “the country”. So when you’re in the country, you’re in a car – a lot.
The corollary of this is that you suddenly have to be terrifyingly organised. In Bath, if our car low-petrol indicator goes on, we have a grace distance of about 20 miles to fill up, which probably equates to a choice of about 15 different petrol stations. Here, you’re a lucky person if there’s one. Oh, and it also has to be open. And have petrol in it.
See also: milk. Bread. Eggs. Cider (the biggie). Coal. Batteries. In short: you ain’t going to be popping up the Coop, because the nearest open shop is 20 miles away rather than 20 metres.
Logistically, you therefore have to think a whole lot harder. This seems like a complexity, but in fact it rather remarkably results in the opposite – but only once you’ve got used to it.
The net result of realising that you can’t just go get a pizza is that you stock up on good, healthy food rather than shite. You stop heading down the road at 9.59pm in order to buy more cider. If you haven’t got it, you do without. You don’t “pop” into town to grab a coffee; instead you hang out by the sea or plan a journey with a lot more thought and care. It’s still a fucker when you realise you’re out of cider, but you very soon get used to dealing with it. Or…planning better 🙂
Logistics aside: we’ve also down-sized tremendously in moving from a 3-bed / 2 reception into a 2-bed / 1 reception. The amazing thing we’ve noticed about this is that this – necessarily simpler life – immediately provides a huge amount more focus.
The boys – who used to have their own toy room stuffed to the ceiling with shit – now have a tiny selection of favourites: Lego. Books. Games. They are markedly happier with less. I was kind of expecting this to happen in a way but even so I’m astonished at how much more relaxed and focused they are playing now; farting about in the stream, building Lego, reading. They have a happiness about them which is actively diminished by the noise of modern consumerism. Granted – these aren’t children who ever spent days in front of a TV or hunched over a DS – that’s not how we think kids should be – but nonetheless the change here is palpable. As a consequence, we’re already planning on getting rid of much of their toy collection when we return to Bath. They don’t need it, they don’t want it and they’re happier by far without it.
I – who used to have a shed full of gadgets and keyboards and Arduinos and misc leads and…shit – now have just a few bits and bobs. A guitar, a piano, a Mac – and a massive ton of books. And by god – as I looked through GoodReads for the first time in a long time today – I realised how much I want to read, how much joy I get in reading and how easy it is to get sucked away from it into arbitrary, time-sunk Xbox-style nothingness.
For a while the logistical stuff made me worry that maybe in our search for something simpler we’d in fact moved from a comfortable, easy life into a complicated, challenging and far from simple one. But now I realise that simplicity comes in different, more subtle ways – it is about what you read, how you eat and the way you and your family spend your time. The consequences of this are far-reaching and I’m not sure I quite understand them yet – but I am starting to understand how much richness there is in simplicity, and how easily the stuff of modern life can take you away from this.