Jayne Dawson: I love the countryside '“ but only through a TV screen

It's all about the countryside now, isn't it?

Tuesday, 23rd February 2016, 2:38 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd February 2016, 2:40 pm

We townies have always felt a bit inferior, staggering around the urban streets, our thin blood two thirds petrol fumes, our grey skin one third asbestos particles.

We know our place, and it’s well below the people who live down country lanes. The ones with lungs full of air that sparkles and fizzes like champagne and with skin like freshly churned cream, with roses sprinkled on top.

You have only to watch Countryfile to know this. One minute those presenters were trudging through a show that was on the dutiful roster of things that must appear on a Sunday teatime, the countryside equivalent of Songs of Praise; the next they were being treated like rock stars - except for John Craven.

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No matter how grey the hair, how weathered the face, John will always be That-Young-Man Who-Presented-Newsround-in-nice-jumpers. But not the rest.

They are all hair and teeth, slim lithe bodies and honey-tanned legs. They put the titillation into tractors, the sexy into silage, the ...oh you get the idea, think of your own.

Which is nice. I’m not against it. I love a bit of countryside on my telly, whether it’s the weekly glamour of the Countryfile crew, or the seasonal catwalk parade of the Spring/Summer/Autumn/Winterwatch.

There are few things in life more pleasurable than settling down all cosy with a cup of tea and watching someone else commune with nature. It’s earthy, it’s elemental, it’s ..not you having to do it.

Which brings me to Julia Bradbury. She’s the one not now on Countryfile. She strides out doing her own thing for ITV . And she does it beautifully because she has somehow learned how to look weatherproof and winsome all at the same time, a feat of fiendish difficulty.

Plus, I met her once, and liked her a huge amount . She was intelligent, friendly, and just really normal.

So I’m sorry, really sorry, that I now have to say that I wish she would shut up. Just zip it and leave us alone.

Because ahead of her next show, Julia - now a mother of three - has been talking about the parental duty to get children walking, to introduce them to the outdoors, to enjoy the glorious moment of being between a soaring sky and a carpet of green, sort of a thing.

And she is right, I know it, I know it for a stone cold fact.

But I just don’t want to do it. Fair enough, I don’t have to. If my offspring want to walk, they can do it themselves. But they don’t all that often, so I feel guilty. Julia is making me feel all bad for not making them all outdoorsy, for passing on my love of watching the wondrous beauty of the changing seasons through a safe TV screen.

I’m trying to improve with the next generation. I’ve bought a pair of those posh wellies so me and my grandson can go yomping. So far we have yomped down to the shops, over to the swings and round the back garden but, you know, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Basically, I’m too impatient for walking. I understand, agree with every fibre of my being, that being outside is better for everybody than being indoors communing with a computer.

But country walking is boring. It’s just a really slow and inefficient way of getting to where you want to go.

Who has time to walk? Go by motorised transport, you will get there so much faster. If you want lunch at a country pub, just get in your car and cut out the tedious preamble of the amble, if you see what I mean. I don’t even know what to do on a walk. Am I supposed to chat? Am I supposed to be noticing things? I have no idea. All I am ever thinking is that I am hungry, tired and need a wee.

I know everyone else is right, and I’m wrong, but I can’t help it. I love the countryside, I can’t get enough of it - but I prefer it via my television.


Let’s talk cycling. We’re doing the outdoors, we might as well.

I’ve always had a desire to be a cyclist. You know, to get me from home to shops.

I see myself on my upright bike, a wicker shopping basket attached somewhere, loaded with a loaf of fancy bread, some overpriced speciality cheese, a few perfect pieces of fruit.

But wait, I’ve forgotten. I live in Leeds, not Amsterdam, and the only cyclists on the road are those Lycra types who treat cycling as an extreme sport, not a mode of transport.

They make it look all hard-edged, and mean. They make it look like a matter of life and death, which it is.

I don’t care what you say, cycling on any road without a bike lane is a dance with death.

But of course we are getting a cycle lane. Sometime this year the route between Leeds and Bradford wil open.

I hope it is a huge success, and a great big poke in the eye for all the negative, dismal people who keep complaining about the cost and the disruption. Where is your vision, people? This is a ride into the future under construction here.

There is another problem though - I live at the bottom of a big hill. Coming home will be a breeze. Setting off, not so much. I’m thinking electric bike. There is a new one where you create electricity as you peddle, and glide up mountains. It’s £2,000 but everything falls in price, doesn’t it? Here’s hoping.


If that chap Napoleon, who described us as a nation of shopkeepers, had seen us now, he would have had us down as a nation of extension builders.

While going through my own building experience, I heard the same story from every trades person who walked through the door: “I’ll be finishing at 10pm and that’s the earliest I’ve stopped all week. And when I say week, I do mean all seven days,” they would say.

Which puts us all in a tricky position, because there is nothing neighbours dislike more than an extension. Call in the builders and your neighbourly relations are very much on a knife edge.

Actress Anna Friel is discovering this now. Her extension is very much in the celebrity league, not a box on the back like mine and yours, but she is having neighbour problems with a disputed allegation that her work has accidentally strayed three inches onto her neighbours’ territory.

I feel the pain of that dispute from my own little box at the back.