When standing, squashed and hunched on the busy 8:00 Northern Line into central London, the words ‘how does the Cotswolds wash its face against the lights and excitement of London?’ have never seemed more ironic. The lady next to me certainly hasn’t washed her face, let alone her armpits for a good day or two in the humid city.
Nevertheless the buzz here is undisputable. The constant hive of smartly dressed business people and the chitter chattering of tourists ringing along the streets gives you the extra energy to perfect your London stride. No more are the days in the Cotswolds of sauntering slowly and calmly down the path to your nearest local cafe; it’s all about getting to somewhere in the shortest time possible, regardless of if you actually have somewhere specific to be.
I grew up in the beauty and space of the Cotswolds. Living in a rural village just outside of Cheltenham galloping around the fields with my own dog. I just loved the open spaces. There were just nine other kids in my primary school year, about 60 in the entire school, and we were all content with our lot. Even the ‘chavs’ at the local secondary school most of us progressed on to weren’t the big city deprived or troubled youths coming from appalling backgrounds, but kids just looking to rebel against the serenity of their upbringing. The Cotswolds, removed from city neurosis, is a great place to grow up. Comparatively, my friends who grew up in the bright lights of London City have very different stories from their school days.
On telling Heather, my good friend from South London, about the local townies who terrorised the school from the age of 11-18 by verbally teasing teachers and having a few cigarettes round the back of the P.E. block, she retorted by completely blowing that out of the water with the simple statement ‘we had metal detectors at the school entrance to make sure no one managed to smuggle a gun into school’.
So. How does London wash its face against the Cotswolds? I’m going to answer this by tacking three subjects.
Of course, for a girl totally into anything edible (give me something yummy to eat and you’ll be my new best friend), I’m going to start with my favourite topic: food.
Do you ever crave for a Chinese at 4 in the morning on a weekday? Are you constantly striving to look for a Mexican infused stir fried pizza slice? No? Me neither, but you never realised that’s what you wanted until you move to London. London is the city where you can get just about anything, anywhere. Which is great. Buy why? The Cotswolds, far from being sleepy or slow, allows a genuine feeling of satisfaction that comes from patience and long-awaited for good food.
Yes, London does have the latest trends in fare and produce hitting the streets – one of my particular favourites was the cereal shop which caused a lot of controversy at selling all sorts of cereal for £5 a pop!
But the Cotswolds has fantastic food, at fair prices, with a huge variety to offer. Some of the best food I’ve tasted has been from the well-established but highly ingenious chefs around Cheltenham who experiment with both traditional and exotic dishes.
And I’m very lucky to be living with girls who are well connected to the London circuit. One of my housemates writes for a style magazine so always knows what’s happening which keeps us in the loop. She took us to a ‘supper club’ at a brunch café in Balham just last week. Could that sound more pretentious? And that’s another thing, in the Cotswolds the new trends aren’t just for show, they’re genuinely to try new things out and give people something different. Cirencester’s Sushi restaurant did just this, a new variety of Asian food styled out in a modern setting but ultimately a decent meal from passionate Asian chefs. Or the numerous homely pubs staggered around the countryside serving roasts with local veg and the chef’s own personal recipe for gravy that have people queueing out the door. Quality food can be found from Piccadilly Circus to Painswick, the only difficulty is you have to be ‘in the know’ in London to get the new food phenomena before it’s replaced by something equally as delicious.
Ingenuity is another key factor that both London and the Cotswolds possess but in totally different ways. The Cotswolds seems to harness and develop young talent. With the advantage of the close network of people living around the Cotswolds, of which anyone can enter if they work hard enough, they’re in the lucky position to invest in and develop the talents amongst them. Alternatively London seems to be a place that such rural talents go to get ‘recognised’ by a wider audience.
The simmering amount of entrepreneurs, artists, engineers and more bubbling under the surface from Bath to Gloucester is unbelievable. Yet to make in on an international scale the view is that London is the place to do this. This is true on an accelerated scale – if you’ve really got ‘the x factor’ and are willing to work hard night and day to pursue your goal of world domination then London’s your bet – yet such entrepreneurship is nurtured in the countryside in a gentler way allowing individuals to continually grow. To those who blossom when put under pressure then London is the ideal environment to pursue your passion but for those who need more space to contemplate and cultivate then there is nowhere better than the Cotswolds.
Finally, I wanted to mention the general culture of people. An obvious point that barely needs anything more said on it you may think. One of the main allures of home for me is the pick-me-up feeling that comes from walking around looking at faces that don’t look as though they’re about to jump in front of a bus. It’s having a conversation about the weather with your local supermarket cashier. It’s feeling like you know everyone without actually knowing them.
You will defiantly hear yourself saying: ‘I’ll never turn into one of those boot faced people, eyes cast down, in their own world’ – but however hard you try to resist, that is your ultimate fate. Whether it takes you one week or one year, it is bound to happen. That is why I am so completely grateful that I’m able to go home to my family and rest, recuperate and recharge ready for returning to the vibrancy of the capital.
Aside from the shop assistant having a bad day or the local farmer who can only communicate via grunts you know that if someone was having real trouble around the Cotswolds then there would be plenty of people offering help of some kind. It is that type of community security which makes it such a desirable place to live.
Although by no means the only three comparisons I could pull from life in the country to life in the city, they are three that initially jump to mind when asked about the main comparisons of moving away. I’m enjoying my stint in the Capital City and learning a lot. My siblings and I used to complain that we’d never have been great writers, song lyricists or tortured artists because of our upbringing amongst such a harmonious landscape but I am particularly appreciative that I have connections there still so that when I do decide to up-sticks and move to a less hectic setting, there is nowhere else I can think of that would top the green green grass of home.
Kate Godding. 24. London (and the Cotswolds)