I live in a small village, twenty minutes away from Oxford. If you ask any of my friends from University and beyond, however, I live in Oxford.
Not knowing what to say when people ask where you are from is one of the minor inconveniences that comes with living in a village. If I reply “Kidlington”, I end up trying (and failing) to explain where exactly “Kidlington” is. If I reply Oxford, I feel almost deceitful.
I never felt any particular way about living in a village before I moved to University. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good, it just was. Having lived in the same house for my entire life, I didn’t have anything to compare it to. Even though my University town isn’t huge or particularly urban, moving there still proved to be a huge shock; being able to walk out of your front door and reach 20 different cafes within 5 minutes was mind-blowing. Most of the friends I made had grown up in cities, and as I got used to the buzz of city life, I found myself feeling as if I had missed out for the past 20 years.
Recently, several of my friends from University came to stay with me in my village. As the day grew closer, I found myself worrying; what could I possibly show them that they would find interesting? The village pub? Sainsbury’s? The birthday banners which occasionally pop up on the roundabout heading out of town?
I started to regret ever having invited them. The day arrived, and I picked the girls up from the station. I decided to take them to a little cafe by the canal for lunch while we decided what to do for the rest of the day, hoping they wouldn’t be bored by the 20 minute walk, or disappointed by the small menu.
We set off shortly after they arrived. I opened the back gate to my house, revealing miles of fields stretching as far as the eye could see. One of the girls excitedly exclaimed “So this is the countryside!”. We meandered along the footpath, stopping every now and then to take pictures. Agricultural fields opened up into a tranquil meadow, where three roe deer were taking their lunch. I pointed out the deer, not thinking much of it, and carried on walking. Behind me, in hushed tones, my friend murmured: “This is like a fairytale”.
We ended up spending most of our day at the little riverside cafe I have been going to since I was 14. We laughed, basked in the sun, and the girls talked about how much they’d love to live somewhere like this.
Before now, I had taken my upbringing for granted. Now, I look back on memories forged in this small area of the country–of dog walks through wildflower meadows, of paddling in streams with my older brother, of picnics in meadows, disturbed only by wasps–and I wish that this phase of my life could last forever. I love my little village. I love the fields, with their winding brooks and grazing deer; I love the rubbish shops on the high street, which never seem to have anyone in them; the church bells which ring out so often that it feels like the ringing is coming from inside your own head. This is my home, and the imperfections are just as special as the high notes.
Therein lies the peril of growing up in a village; once you realise how lucky you are, you will never want to leave.