Londoners: how to have a gay* old time in the countryside

by Julie Alpine-Crabtree









We are in Aberdeenshire, enjoying autumn’s rich larder. While outside the air is thick with fog and the smell of gently decaying beech leaves, inside all is warm fruit loaf, home-made play dough, and nights in front of the telly listening to Mum deride Ashton Kutcher’s performance in Two and a Half Men. Under this roof, the wife-beating cokehead Charlie Sheen is regarded with affection, lovable rogue that he is.

Planning a visit to relatives far from civilisation home? Here are my top tips:

1. Turn on the light for any nocturnal trips to the bathroom – or, for that matter, first-thing-in-the-morning trips to the bathroom (winter hours of daylight in the North East are 10.30am-2pm). This will reduce your chances – and your kids’ chances – of stepping barefoot onto a pile of still-warm mouse innards, a headless magpie or a ripped-apart rabbit carcass, courtesy of the cat. Although, intent on running to the lounge to catch the early-morning, pre-actual-programming CBeebies jingle (Milo), and to the kitchen for a restorative bowl of sugar-honey-crusted-sugar-nut cereal (Mummy), accidents will happen. Wet wipes at the ready!

2. Need your bush waxed? Get any hair removal done before – or after – your sojourn. I made the tactical error of booking an appointment for a bikini wax at the beauty salon within the local country club. Think anorexic oil wives, high-achieving children and perma-tanned golfing husbands. When I indicated that I would like a landing strip (its dimensions more choc-ice than toothbrush bristles), the beauty therapist raised one perfectly drawn-on eyebrow and informed me: “We don’t do intimate waxes here.” I’m only glad I hadn’t taken along a little bag of Swarovski crystals and asked for a full Monty followed by the application of a sparkly pink and diamond otter.

3. Stock up on arrival on any food on which the smooth running of your equilibrium depends. Not for nothing is that shop on the ground floor of our building called a ‘convenience’ store. Being used to having it and, in addition, a Pret, Eat, Starbucks, Pod, Costa, Sainsbury’s and Co-operative all within spitting distance, I forgot to go on a shopping expedition and managed to run out of breakfast cereal by Day 3. Which resulted in me eating a whole box of After Eight Mints for breakfast. Be cupboard aware, campers.

4. Do not be alarmed if you find parochial colloquialisms to lag somewhat behind those of the city. Witness me squirm like the sick lovechild of Viz and Men Only magazine as my mother asks: “Has your pussy been out today?” Or, to the kids: “Do you want to stroke pussy?”, “Look at the pretty pussy,” etc. Although I have tentatively broached the subject several times in the past (Mum, you do know ‘pussy’ is now commonly taken to mean ‘vagina’?), it has become apparent that my expecting things to change at this stage is like my parents asking me to start referring to, say, Monday, henceforth as The Great Lord Oso of Disney Day.

5. Employ caution if your toddler stops to admire a feather. Chances are it will still be attached to a bird. A bird that is currently hanging upside down by its broken neck in the garden shed following a weekend shooting party. Cue questions. Cue vegetarian kids for life. And when sausages are the only food your toddler will eat, this could be a real issue.









Roll on Christmas holidays!

*Local term to denote ‘jolly’ or ‘festive’