THE BLOG
30/12/2013 06:20 GMT | Updated 18/02/2014 05:59 GMT

Suffolkating: Welcome to the Country

Next morning, everything's brighter. The sun shines; through the front window we inspect black shapes in the field opposite (unable to find the binoculars we are unable to decide if they're sheep or cows). Out back there's a 150-foot garden, leading down to a clump of trees where the kids insist I must build a tree house and a trickle of a stream which you cross via rickety bridge and stile to a meadow where horses accept apples from your hand. In the decrepit summerhouse from which we have rescued the cats I shall write my Great English Novel; and in the shed I will somehow construct rudimentary furniture and make our house a palace fit for Islingtonians.

The house, half of a semi, is in a row at the outskirts of a tiny village that stretches along a B road between two slightly larger villages you've never heard of. Most of the neighbours seem friendly; one has a daughter Emma's age and soon, to our kids' amazement she knocks on the door - uninvited - to play. This never happened in London, where play-dates were timed with military precision.

A few days later, I'm stuck up a step-ladder holding a drill and wondering what to do with it when our immediate neighbour trudges grimly to the door; he's around 70, with an unyielding and yet woebegone face, like a dead Bob Willis. When I put out my hand he regards it like it's a dead badger and doesn't shake:

"Can't. Arthritis."

I look down at my hand then put it in my pocket.

"Now I don't want to get off on the wrong foot," growls Willis, though it's pretty obvious to any black sheep watching that he does, "but last night the noise was terrible. Never heard nothing like it. With the last lot it was rows, with yours its telly."

Not having been home the previous evening due to the fact I was struggling back from town I apologise profusely and manage to drag the conversation round to his lovely garden. When he leaves I'm relieved: at least we broke the ice. When Lynda arrives home from work I tell her about our nice new neighbours and her jaw drops.

"What? Is he KIDDING? We didn't HAVE the telly on loud!"

After living in London for decades with no trouble we move to the country and our immediate neighbours are demented. My suspicions are confirmed when I see the paper boy - who seems even older than Willis - delivering their newspaper. It's a Daily Mail.

The following morning Lynda and the kids drop me at the station and arrive home about 8 am; again there are thuds on the wall, as if they've waited for me to go out. Yet each time Lynda goes to confront them they refuse to answer - perhaps wisely, as she's from Kirkby.

Displeased with the state the house was left in I email the previous tenant, who now has our Georgian place in N19, complete with heating, mobile phone reception and a kitchen sink: she replies promptly.

No, she doesn't think it was unreasonable to expect us to drive into town the minute we arrived to get some electricity; no, she has no idea why the kitchen sink doesn't work; and why should she have left any oil in the tank when she's a hard-up single mother?

Best of all is her response to my complaint about the fly infestation that greeted us on arrival and almost prompted us to book into the nearest hotel. Doesn't she feel the teensiest bit guilty about that?

Her response is short and sweet:

"Welcome to the country".

Yes, I think, and welcome to the city. Hope you enjoy it.