I can vividly remember having a conversation with my London-based Nan about which was better - the countryside or the city?! Back then, I was firmly convinced the countryside should win that debate - these days, I have a lot of love for both. I thought a modern twist on the whole Country Mouse vs Town Mouse story might be in order!
A podcast version of this story is also available.
Felicity In The City
Robin was Felicity's cousin, but the two children didn't see one another, much. Robin lived far away in the city. So, when Felicity's parents told her that Robin was coming to stay, Felicity was very excited!
Robin and his parents arrived on Friday evening. Everyone was very happy to see each other, but soon, it seemed that Robin was bored.
"What is there to do around here?" Robin asked, once all of Felicity's toys had been shown off. "Is there a cinema? Or can we go out for dinner somewhere exciting?"
Felicity shook her head. "We have to drive to the nearest town if we want to go to the cinema. And there's really only the village pub, if we want dinner out."
Robin's eyes widened. "Then, what do you do for fun?! I go to the skate-park with my friends after school and we do tricks. And then we sometimes go for a milkshake at this really cool place, where they put whatever chocolate bar or sweets you like into a cup and mix it all up with ice cream, right in front of your eyes! And if it's the weekend, we might go to a museum, or even to play Laser Tag at the arcade."
Felicity gasped. That sounded really cool. Her cheeks flushed red, when she realised there wasn't anything like that where she lived.
"Well..." She began. "After school, my friends and I go to the fields and run around and make dens in the bushes. If we get hungry and it's the right time of year, we can pick blackberries. And sometimes, I go to my best friend's farm and we collect eggs, together."
Robin pulled a face. None of it sounded as exciting as life in the city, and Felicity knew it. Still, she was determined to prove to her cousin that he could have fun with her in the countryside.
Over the course of the weekend, Felicity taught Robin to climb the highest tree in the woods, to carefully step over the stones that paved the way across the stream that ran along the edge of one of the fields, and to spot stars in the clear night sky.
And, to Felicity's surprise, Robin seemed to enjoy himself!
"He never runs around this much at home," Felicity heard his mother say. "He's looking so rosy-cheeked from all this fresh air, it's lovely!"
By the time that Robin and his family went home, Felicity was exhausted, but happy. She'd loved having fun with her cousin and even better, she felt like she'd persuaded him that life in the countryside wasn't as boring as he'd first thought.
A few weeks later, Felicity's dad announced that they were all taking a trip to the city, to stay with Robin and his parents. Felicity was overjoyed!
It was a long drive to the city and by the time they arrived, Felicity was expecting it to be quiet and peaceful, ready for bedtime. But, to her surprise, signs were flashing on tall buildings, noisy cars were trundling along busy roads and all of the shops seemed to still be open, despite it being dark outside! It was very strange to see so much activity going on, and Felicity felt a little nervous.
It took Felicity a while to get to sleep that night, because of all the strange noises in the city, but she awoke the next morning feeling excited to explore. Robin's parents took everyone to a big museum, with a real dinosaur skeleton in a huge hall! Felicity could hardly believe her eyes!
They went to the special milkshake place that Robin had told Felicity all about, then they visited the skate-park that Robin and his friends liked to go to after school. Everything was so much bigger in the city, that it took Felicity's breath away. She couldn't get over how much there was to do, all of the time!
As they ate dinner that night, in a funky restaurant, Felicity started to feel a bit sad. She and her friends didn't have cool places to hang out at, like big museums or skate-parks. The buildings back in the village seemed ever so small, compared to the shining skyscrapers in the city, too.
"What's up?" Robin asked, noticing how quiet his cousin was as they left.
Felicity shrugged. "You were right all along," she sighed. "The countryside is boring."
Robin chuckled to himself. "I was wrong," he insisted. "Think of all the space you have to run around," he said, as they left the restaurant. "If we were in the countryside right now, we could dart off in any direction, leaping over tree stumps and wading through streams. But look..." He pointed across the busy carpark, to the bustling streets beyond. "If I want to go to a big park, I have to catch a bus to get there, first. You have it right on your doorstep!"
Felicity pointed back at the restaurant behind them. "But, if we want to go somewhere cool to eat, or to visit big shops, we have to drive for ages to get there. You have everything you need, right here!"
Robin shook his head. "We both have everything we need," he told her. "You have the space to explore and run around. You can see the stars in the night sky. And whenever you need to go to the city, you only have to get in the car, or hop on a bus or train. I have the big shops and exciting places to visit, but I don't have the peace and quiet that you have, or the freedom of the wide open fields. But if I need those things, all I have to do is travel to find them. Home isn't about the most exciting place, or the place with the most space. It's about where you feel happiest. And it's about knowing that you can go anywhere else you like, to explore the things you don't have on your doorstep, but you can always go home again, afterwards."
Felicity grinned back at her cousin. "When did you get so clever?!" She laughed.
"When I came to visit you," Robin replied. "You taught me that new places are exciting and that different doesn't have to mean boring. I'd like to think I can teach you the same."
"You have," Felicity smiled.
By the time Felicity and her family headed back home again, Felicity was tired, but happy. She had loved every second of her time in the city, but she was excited to get back home to her sleepy little village. The sky was dark when they pulled into their driveway and climbed out of the car. Felicity glanced up at the clear, black sky, with its millions of twinkling stars. It wasn't the same as the bright, shiny lights of the city, but it was home.
And suddenly, Felicity realised that home was anywhere that felt right to you. The city, the country, and anywhere in between.