Living in the city certainly has its advantages.
The great public transport infrastructure, the melting pot of cultures and languages, the access to museums, galleries, theatres and restaurants. Having all of this also comes with its downsides – the noise, the pollution, the rudeness, the stresses of city life in general. The most fundamental flaw for me most recently has been the fact that the city is, quite simply, not the countryside!
I have lived in cities for most of my adult life and I do love them, but growing up I lived on the edge of a market town. When my mother told me to go out and play it was into the field at the end of my street, where I went with all of my friends. We would spend endless hours in the fields, traipsing past the cattle (we were completely unafraid of them), hiding in the bulrushes and eating wild blackberries, gooseberries and crab apples! We even knew, by sight, what leaves and plants growing at ground level that we could eat and that wouldn’t do us any harm; we didn’t care a jot that the cows had just spent the day in the same field (I’m sure there must have been many tummy aches but I don’t remember them now). I guess you could almost have called us feral!
On warm summer days mum from all the houses on the street (there were only a total of 8 houses) would sit on a hill in the midst of those fields and chat and laugh and try to put off the time when they would have to haul all of us children home, make us our teas, plonk us in a bath and put us to bed, only to do it all again the next day. On a good day my father would come home and make fresh apple tarts and carry them into the fields to us with flasks of tea. Happy memories.
With those memories in mind I wondered if there were anywhere in the city one could go to at least get a feel of the country. It was when I was relaying this to a friend of mine she suggested that we go to a ‘city farm’. In all my years living in London the thought had never crossed my mind.
So it was on a bright sunny but very cold morning last week I headed off to meet a very good friend of mine and her little girl to spend a day at the farm.
The moment we entered, the smell was familiar. The smell of cattle! Not to everyone’s taste I understand, but boy did it take me back!
There was a large black bull with the softest, fluffiness coat I’d ever felt on a cow – the ones at home never felt like that, they were proper dairy cows who spent all day in the fields in all weathers. This big fluffy black bull got brushed and washed and fed all day long by visitors posing for photos!
Next I encountered ‘Murphy’ – no relation, honestly. A gentle old horse if ever there was one, unlike his companion, who came with a warning that biting was a distinct possibility, but only because he assumed anything put near his mouth must be food. Let’s face it, which of us hasn’t felt like that on occasion?
A cockerel strutted across my path rather confidently, herding his harem of hens into a sunny corner of the yard, and right next to them there were pigs sunbathing and geese making a racket. It looked like they were catching up on the latest barnyard gossip whilst having a dip in their little pond. For some reason those scenes of my mother and her friends in the field spring to mind again, can’t think why?
There were billy goats and baby goats, but none of them were gruff. Once again they were all quite gentle and it was adorable to see the school groups of tiny children in awe of these animals. I really do think it’s important for city children to see animals up close, and if laughing and giggling and shouting are any measure of enjoyment, a very good time was being had by all – me included!
It is so easy to get stuck in the city way of life. I really must remember to try and stay in touch with Mother Nature more often. If she is anything like my own mother, she’ll give me a good telling off if I leave it as long until the next time – but I guess that’s what mothers are for! I really do feel like spring has arrived and winter has gone for another year. It’s a good feeling!
Until next time,