Living in a village has its plus points. There’s not much traffic unless all the roads are closed. It’s more or less always easy to park anywhere. You can go for fantastic walks in the countryside. It also has its negative points. Public transport is terrible. It takes around an hour by bus to get to the nearest town centre because the bus goes the circuitous route. The tube is not too far, but you have to park half an hour from it if you have a morning meeting, which potentially could be good health-wise, but the stress of trying to find somewhere – anywhere – to dump the car probably wipes that out. It would be nice just to get the bus to the tube and take it easy, but, of course, life is not that simple and there are usually multiple pick-ups to do on the way back.
Daughter one is still trying to find a job. Her agency suggested one in a town on the other side of the big town near us. It would take around two and a half hours to get there and most, if not all, of her earnings would be eaten up with bus and rail fares. She’s learning to drive, but even if she could we’d have to buy her a car. Meanwhile, only son’s school is in a village with no public transport access. Daughter two’s is a 20-minute drive away and lately she’s being staying after school to rehearse for a GCSE drama exam and she only seems to find out about the rehearsals at round 7.55am on the day.
Another problem with village life is the one I was most worried about when we moved – the lack of almost any sort of diversity. Daughter three, in particular, had a hard time at primary school as a result of being “different”. This antipathy to difference is a generalised thing – perhaps it’s a hangover of the playground years. It is no surprise that the area voted overwhelmingly for Brexit and that leave was emblazoned across the road like some sort of command to those of us with strong family ties to the continent. “We didn’t vote for you to leave”, my neighbour told me when I said I was upset. Who then? My son’s best friend’s family who are Polish? The only woman in the village brave enough to wear the hijab and who has had eggs thrown against her house? The handful of traveller families who residents organised an entire campaign against with posters saying “protect our village, protect our way of life” featuring in every shop window and inside the school car park? I confess it makes me angry from time to time, but most of the time it just makes me extremely sad.
Having been at a very multicultural secondary school, daughter three has now transferred to a more local one. There are about six or seven children in the entire school who are not white. She is extremely aware of this. I’m not sure how much the schools in the area appreciate this issue. I was told by a member of staff that there were some Black and Asian students at the school and “some dark Europeans”. I have been scanning the crowds for these dark Europeans at drop-off time. I have yet to spot one.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.