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The Vacuum Issue 2 spacer Issue 2
Living in the Country
by Carlo Gébler
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Since the 12 July 1989 I've lived in County Fermanagh (with little forays to London and Dublin.) If required I can expand on how and why.
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Most writers who write about going to the country essentially tell two stories. The countryside is a nightmare full of awful people and worse smells. Or the countryside is a wonderful idyllic place that is not the city. There is no dog shit or skin heads or Friday night grid-lock.
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I'd like to posit a third view. This (coming to the country) has been the best possible and the worst ever career move I could make. The plus side is time. I've worked. That's because there's nothing else to do. There are no diversions.
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This is also an envy free zone because I am so far removed from Grub Street with its horrible toxins. In a metropolis as a writer you get clogged up with these. But here in Fermanagh there are no toxins to inhale and so I never get sick with jealousy.
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I've also had the experience of the natural world. One notices the sky, the seasons, the weather, and everything to do with the natural world when you live in the country. It's the only thing that is going on so you can't fail to notice it. That in turn has affected and enriched my writing.
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On the negative side the country has been a disaster because by being here I've been out of the loop. I don't go to parties and therefore I don't bump into people who commission and therefore I don't get asked to do things. Journalism and reviewing has really dropped off since I came to live here and that's because I've been forgotten. Oh woe is me.
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If I am used by the metropolitan publications it's only ever in connection with Ireland or Ulster. They (people in cities) can't imagine that I listen to Mozart or revere Proust. Oh no, if you live in the bogs then the only subject you're fit to write about are those bogs.
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The really interesting thing is that this prejudice is in direct ratio to proximity. It's metropolitans in Belfast and Dublin who are most certain that my expertise is only local. And curiously it's metropolitans in Belfast and Dublin who are the most ready to put on cod Fermanagh accents. These people think I live in a rural Oirish equivalent of the deep South, full inbred harmonica playing red necks who bugger visitors and marry their sisters.
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London metropolitans have a different attitude. Because I live in a marginal place (especially one with the rumble of violence in the background) I have kudos in their eyes. I'm a brave solitary prepared to live on the violent margins.
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London metropolitan types also think I possess a kind of doughty flinty independent spirit which they wish they had so they too could flee the bars of Charlotte Street and the watering holes of Soho. And of course there's envy mixed up in their attitude to me. This derives from the awful knowledge that it only takes me a minute to get to work. I walk across a playground from the old school where I live to the bicycle shed that is my office. They, on the other hand, have to come in on the Northern Line, so the journey to work takes over an hour.
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Of course it would never cross their minds that I'm really dying to get back to a city only now I've got so many children I couldn't afford to do it. Nor would it ever cross their minds to ask me to write about anything other than here. They're just like the Irish metropolitans in that respect.
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