The Contented Countryman - Episode 1 - Welcome

Season 1, Episode 1: Welcome

Fennel Hudson provides an introduction to The Contented Countryman podcast, and asks that you contribute ideas for inclusion. To listen to the podcast, click the play button above, or subscribe via iTunes.

Transcript of The Contented Countryman podcast

Episode 1 – 24 February 2017 – Welcome to The Contented Countryman podcast

Hi, Fennel here from Welcome! …to The Contented Countryman podcast.

Now that you’re here, let me introduce you to our quiet place. It’s a place of our making. A special place, where we may savour things that really matter.

It’s your opportunity to take time out from the stresses of modern life, to stop the wheels for a while, unplug from the daily grind, escape to an idyllic and peaceful place, and enjoy the natural world.

It’s where we’ll talk about nature connection, wildlife, rural lifestyle, and how the ‘truly great’ outdoors helps to shape our identity and passions. It’s about the quest for freedom and adventure, reflection and contentment. Ultimately it’s about achieving a slow-paced and meaningful life.

Whether you live in the countryside or not, The Contented Countryman is where you can savour the joys of country life. It’s where you can hear the birdsong and connect with nature. And, as we’re part of nature, we’re talking about the nature that’s not just around us but within as well.

We’ll celebrate the seasons, connect with the pulse of life, and talk about the joys and challenges of living and being in the countryside. We’ll be talking to people with inspirational stories about countryside contentment. I’ll be presenting seasonal nature notes and, if appropriate for the mood, I might even read you some chapters from my favourite countryside books.

But for all that to work, you need to know a little more about me. After all, we’re here together. Just you and I. Awaiting the dawn.

So, who am I?

I’m Fennel.

I’m a lifestyle and countryside author. 

I write about nature and the outdoors, and how travels in wild places enable us to explore the notions of freedom and self. I champion lives that are lived on our terms, not succumbing to the beat of someone else’s drum. I believe in individuality, personal identity and life purpose: that we should always know and remain true to ourselves. And because of this, my favourite quote is: “Don’t do anything that offends your soul.”

Through my books I try to observe the subtle things, the gentle things, the significant things that might otherwise go unnoticed. Things of beauty, however small, are the building blocks of a contented life.

I don’t ask for much. I’m a simple man who likes nothing more than sitting quietly amongst nature, where stillness within encourages so much movement and life around me. I seek freedom in those ‘quiet corners’ of the landscape that provide opportunities for my soul to breathe. Energised by the natural world, I’m most at home in the countryside.

And I should be. It’s where I was born and raised; it’s where I live and work. If my boots cease being muddy, then I’ve walked too far along a well-worn path. I veer away, into the undergrowth of the unknown, to find comfort in the familiar.

Why? Because the countryside, to me, is home. It’s where I’m most happy. Where I can proudly say that I’m a contented countryman.

I’m also someone who’s seeking to connect with you. To find common ground – quite literally – in the countryside. To find shared beliefs and causes, and truths that resonate. I’ll speak, you’ll speak, we’ll speak. We’ll speak to friends. We’ll listen. And we’ll hear. Because it’s about sharing the message: that life in the woods and fields is so vibrant, so energising, so ‘contenting’.

But for all this to succeed, I need your help.

I need your involvement. I need you to think about the things you’d like to be discussed or the issues to be addressed, or the people you’d like to be interviewed. Then contact me through to let me know your thoughts. This is our place, so lets make it as relevant, thought provoking, entertaining, and fulfilling as possible.

I mentioned earlier about how one’s connection with the countryside enables contentment. A slowing down, a relaxing, appreciating.

Wild places. Natural places. They’re our playground, providing freedom – for our souls.

The message in my writing is always ‘Stop – Unplug – Escape – Enjoy’. But the ‘stop’ bit doesn’t mean for us to – how shall we say? – ‘cease’. It means for us to stop doing the things that prevent us from living. Because, to be contented, we have to be free.

Freedom is what we seek by venturing into green open places. But is it a place, or state of mind? Is contentment something to be found outside, or within?

If something makes us contented, then it’s helped us to move from a state of discontentment. Which means that something else must have been making us feel like we needed something more, something different. An ‘unease’ that things weren’t right. That something was out of balance, or lacking, or wrong. 

And some will say that it’s in our nature to be discontented, that – through eternal restlessness, materialistic cravings and ambition – we always want more. It’s how we progress, how we evolve.

But listen to your intuition. It’s a powerful thing. It gnaws at our conscience.

Listen to the ‘gut feel’ that tells you, from the depths of your soul, whether your life is in balance.

Balance, for those of us in control of our destiny, is achieved through the choices we make.

As Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1897 book The Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow: “It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do.”

So, ‘balance’ is best when we are pulled in both directions, to savour the pleasures and pain of both extremes. As I once wrote, ‘You have to experience the bite of the wind to appreciate the warmth of a winter coat”.

For us, being outdoors in green places is more than necessary. It’s essential. The longer we’re away from life-giving places, the less we live and the more isolated and ‘disconnected’ we feel. Like apes in a zoo, we gaze through the bars of our urban making and yearn to be free.

No wonder, therefore, that the Oxford English Dictionary describes ‘contentment’ as: “a state of happiness and satisfaction. For example: he found contentment in living a simple life in the country”. 

Isn’t it great that the very definition of contentment is illustrated by the example of a simple life in the country? We know it. They know it. It’s official. The countryside brings contentment.

But where does all this come from? This idealised vision of contentment? The green and pleasant land, rose tinted and filled with country-folk sitting on hay bales watching the sun go down while they chew grass stalks and contemplate their good fortune.

My view is that it’s  from literature. Great and compelling writing from poets, natural history authors and storytellers. Romantics like William Wordsworth, with his Lyrical Ballads, and Thomas Hardy with his Far from the Madding Crowd. They call to us, beckoning us so seek the rural idyll. A better life, away from the madness of the modern world.

But, as we know, a country life is a tough one. A practical one. It’s about working the land in all weathers. It can be brutal and relentlessly laboursome. But so can urban living. ‘Nine-to-five?’ It doesn’t really exist any more. We’re ‘always on, always connected’. But connected to what? White noise? No wonder the silent beauty of a star-filled sky is such a celestial treat.

There’s great wonder to be found in the natural world, if we make time to stop and observe. And then, when we finally see, we can study, reflect and learn.

As Charles Dickens wrote: “It is not easy to walk alone in the country without musing upon something.”

This, for me, is where the very best naturalists exist. The great nature writers, such as Gilbert White, Richard Jefferies, John Clare, Henry Williamson, and WH Hudson, are all known for writing in the ‘rural tradition’. They see and reflect, making observations that we can compare to our existence. My personal favourites are: the sporting countryman known as ‘BB’, who wrote classics such as ‘The Idle Countryman’ and ‘The Wayfaring Tree’, and the rural lifestyle author C Henry Warren.

It’s perhaps fitting that I took the name of this podcast from C Henry Warren’s anthology, given that he so passionately sought contentment in the countryside. Also that he knew that the countryside is a living, breathing, evolving thing. He didn’t romanticise ‘the good old days’, but instead sought to ensure that traditions continued into the future. Which is exactly what my books seeks to communicate and what – I hope – this podcast will achieve.

I remember C Henry Warren recounting in his 1945 book England is a Village how one villager said to him: “They say times are better now, with less work and more pay. They say we worked so hard and so long that we hadn’t any time left to enjoy ourselves. I dunno so much about that. Why, in them days, after ten or twelve hours’ scything in the harvest fields, you’d hear men go home at night singing; and it weren’t always for the beer inside ‘em either!”

Isn’t it strange how this image of contentment goes ‘hand in hand’ with outdoor labour? That physical activity in the outdoors can provide contentment? 

Hence the term ‘contented countryman’.

‘Countryman’ means someone who lives or works in the country. The ‘man’ part comes from the latin word ‘manus’ meaning ‘hand’. To be a countryman, therefore, is to be a ‘country hand’. Which is why we don’t say ‘countryperson’, however politically correct it might seem.

Male or female, a countryman is someone with his or her hand in the country – be it work or play. If their heart is there, then being there (in thought or body) provides their contentment.

Thinking of the countryside, of open places, green places, fresh air and a sense of freedom, it energises us, lifts our spirits, makes us happy, healthy, and contented.

Treasure these moments.

As ‘BB’ wrote in his 1950 book Letters from Compton Deverell: “There are thousands of people like you, and me, who wish for nothing better than to enjoy these delights while yet we may…Only be thankful, that is the main thing, only be grateful for this gift of life.”

Wise words from the author whose books carried the inscription:

“The wonder of the world
The beauty and the power,
The shapes of things,
Their colours, lights and shades,
These I saw.
Look ye also while life lasts.”

A fitting tone, don’t you think, for The Contented Countryman podcast?

So...look ye also. Be grateful for the gift of life, appreciate the countryside, and – above all – be contented.

If you like this podcast, then you might like The Quiet Fields, Fennel's Journal No. 7, and Nature Escape, Fennel's Journal No. 12. Please also subscribe to Fennel on Friday. You'll receive a blog, video or podcast sent direct to your email inbox in time for the weekend.