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Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 10:46 GMT
Town v Country: Which is best?

Can you dig it? Who picks a life in the sticks?
"Country life is best," is expected to be Prime Minister Tony Blair's message during his two-day visit to Britain's south west.

The government has come under fire from rural groups who accuse it of paying too much attention to the problems of urbanites.

BBC News Online compares the lot of country folk and city slickers.

Matt Bennett, 25, lives in Newton-on-Ouse, a small village 10 miles from York.

Ossian Ward, also 25, lives in the London Borough of Lambeth, close to the city centre.

Crime - There's the occasional burglary - it's mainly people coming in from the cities. There's the odd bit of vandalism. Despite the myth, you can't leave your door unlocked. Crime - There are still annoying things like being broken into and getting mugged at cashpoints, but most urban areas have become quite chichi. You can't walk anywhere without being watched on CCTV.
Nightlife - There are two pubs. They're the focal point of the community - apart from the church. But who goes to church? There's indoor bowls, but nothing for the kids to do. Nightlife - It's the greatest benefit of urban life. They're turning every other shop into a bar. You can listen to jazz, hip hop or chamber music anytime, any day of the week.
Transport - Those without cars, the young and the old, are massively disadvantaged. The best I can say for public transport is that it's irregular. Hire a taxi and you're looking at a tenner. Transport - The tube is stinky and doesn't work properly. I'd prefer to travel by car, but the traffic's so bad that you can't drive anywhere.
Shopping - Not many young families move to the village because it lacks amenities. The nearest post office/shop is a mile and a half away. Ours closed in the 60s. For food shopping you have to go seven or eight miles. Shopping - The big supermarkets stay open all night, but it is getting increasingly difficult to find nice things in the High Street shops. Thankfully we haven't quite adopted America's love of malls.
Schools - My old primary school got closed down. Now kids as young as five have to be bussed to another village for their lessons. Schools - My school was alright, although I'd have liked to go somewhere less stressed out. There are some really rough places around. If don't make the right choice, if you have the choice, you can end up in a thoroughly bad school.
Housing - Lots of people come in and buy three small cottages and knock them into one. It's all part of the gentrification of rural areas. The prices have risen, excluding families from the village who have been tied to the land for time immemorial. Housing - There's a nightmare on the horizon. You can't even move to a "bad" area without having to pay through the nose. Everything is being developed, every warehouse or old school is being turned into expensive flats. If transport was better you could live in the cheaper areas further out.
Environment - The main benefits of rural living have to be the fresh air and nice views. As a general rule farmers keep their mess in the farmyard. Environment - There's plenty of smog. You have an all-year-round cough, but you soon get used to it.
Health - We don't use the local witch as the midwife anymore. There's the occasional doctor, but if they get called out a lot they'll spend more time in the car than with patients. I often wonder how long an ambulance would take to reach us. Health - You can find a doctor quite easily. Actually getting an appointment is another matter. It often seems like there's half of Lambeth, in various states of ill-health, trying to get into my local surgery.
Jobs - There's nothing in the village. Working on the land doesn't pay handsomely and you have to have the time and money to afford a long commute each day. Maybe the internet will change things. Jobs - There seem to be plenty of jobs, but it's quite hard to find something good unless you're into IT. There's a lot of uncertainty which turns your working life into a real rat race. Everyone's so driven and you feel burdened to keep up - if you haven't got a good job you haven't got anything in the city.

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Rural life
Is life better in the countryside?
See also:

02 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Blair to woo rural voters
02 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Brown faces farmers' anger
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