Once upon a time a little mouse was born in the depths of the country. She spent her entire childhood tootling along the lanes, smelling the wild flowers, watching the tadpoles turn into frogs in the little streams, listening to the birds singing and generally getting used to the peace and quiet and the slow pace of life.
Then country mouse grew up and met town mouse. He was a macho guy, used to living in some of the most populated cities in the world having spent his formative years in the city of Shanghai. Of course country mouse fell in love and they were married.
For some years town mouse took quite happily to the country living but then was posted to city life and country mouse followed him there. For much of their lives together they lived in a city, albeit in a bungalow with a big garden, at the end of a cul-d-sac and well away from the traffic noise.
Then, when they were getting quite old they tired of town life and moved together back into the country, where country/town mouse herself now lives. Oh how lovely were the sights, sounds and smells of the wide open country. She didn't miss city life one little bit!
Are you a country mouse or a town mouse? I can see the attractions of city living - if you want to see them at their best go to Elizabeth's site (The World Examining Works) where she charts living in Manhattan in photographs - making it look really
exciting. So, what makes city life unbearable for me (for I, of course, am that country mouse in my story)?
Apart from the noise, the crowds, the smells? It is probably the traffic.
Years ago when I travelled across China by train I had a taste of both. Beijing was certainly crowded with people but the wide open spaces were huge - The Forbidden City, Tien en Men square - and there was so little traffic - just millions (and I mean millions) of bicycles. Well that was in 1984. How things have changed.
As China has embraced capitalism, as car sales in China outstrip those in the U S, things have changed! Now - would you believe this - there is a sixty mile long traffic jam on the Beijing - Tibet highway. The Chinese are nothing if not enterprising and the fact that it will probably take three weeks to clear it has made them set up their own traffic jam community - organising card-playing sessions at the side of the road, buying their food etc. from various stalls set up by villagers along the way, and generally making the best of it.
When I think of those tiny villages I passed through on the train all those years ago - an abiding memory is of seeing a donkey working a mill grinding stone while the villagers stood around watching, and the tiny black piglets running in the gardens, playing with the children.
That entrepreneurial spirit will have stood them in good stead for setting up hasty food stalls cooking all mannner of foods for the 'jammers'. And as the Times says this morning, China is rapidly overtaking Japan as the home of traffic jams.
So - what kind of life style do you like? Are you willing to risk the odd traffic jam in order to live the fast life? Do you prefer to vegetate in the depths of the country? Do you like a mixture of both? Answers on a comments postcard please.