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City girl reflections on a countryside upbringing


Aberdeenshire 24

A week ago I published an outfit post, which had me sitting on a log in some woods. Not that that's very interesting. However this was the first outfit post I had published which used the Aberdeenshire countryside I grew up in as a backdrop instead of urban buildings in Glasgow or Dundee.

Taking those photo was a bit of a faff compared to Glasgow, and not just because I was doing them myself with new equipment. I had to walk quite a bit to find 1) a backdrop I liked and also 2) somewhere shielded from the wind which is a bit harder given the lack of tall buildings in the countryside. To top it off I felt awkward walking about a residential village in full make-up whilst carrying a tripod and rucksack with two DLSR's and three lenses.  In Glasgow it's not bizarre to spot fashion bloggers or art students out photographing each other in Merchant City or the West End, but in a random Aberdeenshire village it's a bit of an oddity to say the least. However this all got me reflecting on my childhood in the countryside compared to my life now in a city.

I'm possibly making it sound like I grew up in a cottage on a hill where you had to drive to the shop. In truth, I actually grew up in a medium-sized village with the city of Aberdeen itself visible from some of the raised ground. And aside from complaining that I had to get to a bus stop at 8am for school whilst the kids who lived in my high school's catchment area could just roll out at quarter to nine and toddle on down, I never considered my upbringing to be rural. If anything, it could be considered the best of both worlds.

But now having lived in Scotland's largest city for two years (!!) and one of Scotland's smaller cities for four years before that (where I at one point lived right on the main street) it does feel like my parents village is the back-end of nowhere. I never wore wellies when I was younger (my shoe of choice was Converse...so not much has changed) but I found myself eewing at the site of some mud when I went for a walk on the country roads, even though it's no more muddy a place than it was when I moved away in 2008.

I always knew it was truth and as an adult I have confirmed to my parents that my hunch was correct: I'm a city girl. Despite this I view my countryside upbringing favourably and consider it a big part of self-identity, even though I lack any desire to ever live there again.

When speaking to someone I've just met I used to switch between saying I'm from the city and the shire. But I lean towards using the shire these days. You see when you come from somewhere that's perceived to be a bit different it's met with curiosity and questions; rather than when you say you're from a city where a couple of thousand other people live and the person you're speaking to has friends from there anyway. I can sense the difference in response when people find out I'm actually from a village outside the city boundaries. Even if they crack a few jokes about fields and sheep.

You even see rurally located businesses using the romantic countryside image as part of their marketing. Artists living in seaside towns citing it as a major part of their inspiration and artistic journey, even if they only grew up there and haven't lived there in a few years. Same as some natural beauty companies who like to point out that all their products are hand-made on a farm. I don't own a business but I still almost always choose to say I'm from Aberdeenshire for similar reasons.

Then, there's the life experience. I'm a bona fide city girl who can't ever see herself returning to the countryside (or even the suburbs...). But I'm not someone who declares themselves either a city or country girl without having ever experienced the other side of the coin. I've done both and lived both and I know for a fact the city is correct for me and don't ignorantly poo-poo the other.

I don't particularly want kids (ever) but if I ever did decide to pop out a few mini-me's (or adopt, more likely) I'd want to do it in the countryside. It might drive me slightly insane not to be within walking distance of a wide range of shops but my own countryside upbringing just evokes the feeling in me that it's better.

I love cities. I adore having something to do 24/7, the endless shops and that I don't look weird with my DLSR. But I do like a break back home (though home can be a strange word for me) even if I do get a bit bored and have to take the car or bus everywhere. Because it does mean I can get some nice backdrops for my photos and I still get surprised every time when I look up at night and smile because it's not very often that I get to see the stars twinkly brightly.

Morag x
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  1. I had a similar upbringing to you, maybe not as rural, more suburban. I grew up in Sussex, in a little town, very posh. I moved about a bit but always stayed around the near London area, except for living in Ireland for a while, which really was rural! I appreciate that I wasn't brought up in a city but I never fitted in where I grew up, in a city, I now live in Portsmouth, it's so much easier to meet people, and go places! I think I will come back to Portsmouth a lot in my life because it's a small city, cheap and by the sea. I do sometimes find myself missing my quaint little town with it's tudor houses and country paths :)

    amber love

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    1. That's partially my story as well - I didn't quite feel as though I fitted in where I grew up. Smaller places seem to have particular cultures about them, whereas cities are full with a wide variety of people and I feel I can be myself in them more.

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  2. This sums me up too Morag! Actually odd how much it sounds like me. However, I actually am from the back-end of nowhere. From age 5 to 17 I lived in the middle of nowhere and, yep, had to drive to get to the nearest shop.. From about 13 years old, though, I was adamant I'd move to the city. And it's never changed. I do also agree that I'd rather bring kids up in the countryside, though, as my upbringing was fantastic. I just couldn't live there as an adult without children - the city feels more like home.

    The Likely Lady xx

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  3. I can relate to this so much! I grew up in Elgin-not far from Aberdeen which I thought was a huge city when I visted. But I moved to Edinburgh over 2 years ago and can't imagine moving back to a wee town. I'm a converted city girl!

    Littlekaatie.blogspot.co.uk

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  4. I've tried both and I'm definitely a country girl! I love being around nature and having the peace and quiet of the countryside, nothing beats it for me. I used to love living in the city when I was younger though :)

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