Most people will know Aesop's tale of the country mouse, tempted by the apparently easy life of the town mouse who, after an encounter with dogs, chooses security over plenty and returns to the country. It's a story which has become part of the folk law of Britain as it speaks to a very real difference. To me, having lived in small towns or villages all my life, the main lesson of the story is the sheet incomprehension of city dwellers for the differences. Its made worse by the fact that most legislators live in a city. It's easy to create a policy based on parental choice of schools when there are five or six schools within a reasonable public transport commute of people's houses. The trouble is that in a country area schools are based on historic market towns and choice is not realistic. The same applies to health and whole body of other sectors, and that is before we get on to more emotive issues such as hunting
However transport is where it really hits home. If I lived in London I would now own a car, Public transport is a viable alternative and the market size means that shared ownership schemes and hire options can be used for the odd occasion where it isn't. In the country however this is simply not the case. To illustrate this think of my journey last Friday. I landed around 0600 at Heathrow and knew that attempts to get a lift from Bedwyn station would not be well received given that preparations for hosting the book club take all day. So i decided to attempt the complete journey via public transport.
The sequence was as follows:
Overall it took me the best part of four hours to complete what would be a seventy minute drive and at a cost which if anything was a little more than the petrol cost of driving. Today I will drive back from Leeds to home by way of Luton. I drove up last night as it was the only viable and cost effective way of doing the journey. The public transport route would have cost over £200 before taxi fares to connect between stations and locations without a bus service and there wasn't a viable route. If I had lived in London I could have made it.
Where I live several local businesses are concerned that the coming increase in VAT and other costs on petrol will be the final straw that breaks the camels back; they have no option but to drive long distances between jobs in a rural environment. Train costs has also gone up. To get to London for an 0900 meeting from the nearest station now costs me over £100 for an hours journey, and the parking cost at the station has also gone. That cost will not allow me to sit down most days, let alone work as the trains are over crowded.
Regrettably I will probably have to buy a third car this year given that I can't expect other members of the family to available at all times of the day and night to provide a chauffeur service; not is it reasonable without the means of getting out of the village for a day or more. It's easy to be ethically pure in the city, in the country you end up with a car per head and little choice about it.
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A diversion into popular culture today - but one with a different take on storytelling ...