We live in Cambridgeshire. This is river country.（註 1）The Great Ouse and it’s tributaries, including the Cam and the Little Ouse, crisscrosses the county, before emptying in the Wash near Kings Lynn in Norfolk.
We are blessed with beautiful waterways and meadows, and sleepy little riverside towns and villages. Timber and thatch are common in many older properties, and some newer ones too. As with many parts of the British countryside, there is a calm and dignified tranquility about our countryside.（註 2）
It is a setting that has inspired many artists. Painters have for hundreds of years sought to capture the magic of the river around the town of St Ives. Lucy Boston, the author of the Green Knowe series of children stories, lived on the river at Hemingford Grey.（註 3）The old Manor house, her old home, remains in the family. We pass the house and it’s beautiful gardens on our regular walks. It dates back almost a thousand years. The setting could not be more magical.
In spring the meadows fill with flowers— daisies, buttercups and cornflowers. Elsewhere flocks of sheep lazily graze on new shoots, as farmers shepherd ewes and their new born lambs into separate enclosures where they can be more easily cared for. Farming here is not industrial. Despite being close to the Fens, the breadbasket of England, most operations continue to be small scale and family affairs.
Our bedroom window looks down on a nearby brook. Late in the long summer days we see deer, weasels and other similarly shy creatures come to water. The horses in the field barely seem to notice.
As summer approaches the river comes to life. Life spawns in the shadow of waterlilies — frogs, eels and river fish, especially roach. Above the water skit dragon flies. Ducks, geese and swans, ever present along the waterways, are now joined by ducklings, goslings and cygnets. And then there are people, on the water and on the banks, in boats and canoes, and on paddle boards, and having picnics, reading or just taking in the sun with friends and family.
People who live in villages and hamlets around us tend to be reasonably well-to-do.（註 4）Many are retired. Jobs are a few, and good jobs almost non-existent. But there is not the extremes of the city. People are comfortable.
It is a great place to raise a family. There is space, and time seems to pass at a more gentle pace. Around us is nature, and each day is a lesson. In nature we experience birth, growth and renewal, but also decline and death.（註 5）
This year I have watched young bluetits and rabbits grow. But I have also seen life cut short. Only last week I cradled a young rabbit I had found calling for help by a garden fence. Its back was broken. It died in my hands.
We learn not to moralise but to accept nature as it is. It is a place where children can be innocent, and where people have the time to be considerate and caring.
I want a life where in summer we can picnic by the river and swim in its waters, and where in winter I can ride a toboggan down from our hill towards the now frozen brook. I want each spring to cut new flowers to bring colour into our home, and each autumn to collect fruit and berries with which to make jams and chutneys.
I also want my children to be raised to appreciate the local economy, to know the farmers whose produce we eat. I want them to be able to work in the village shop, and understand that communal ownership does and can work better when communities are built on trust. I want them to sing in the choir and try ringing the church bells without feeling the need to be Christian; and to embrace their culture without politics, and to celebrate what is good about their country without nationalism. I want to provide for my children an environment that might be a sanctuary and roots in a caring community.（註 6）
Coming from Hong Kong, and as a Hong Kong family, we did not know what to expect when we moved to the UK. Moving to the countryside was an even bigger step into the dark. Yet we wanted a quieter life, away from the crowds of big cities. London is an exciting city, but it can be stressful.
We wanted somewhere we would feel safe as well as welcome, and where the stresses of modern living would not be so acutely felt. We have found this living in the country.
- 英文近年處處有演進。「劍橋是一個水道縱橫的地方」（This is a river country），Country 不一定是國家，這是許多中國人學英文的盲點。
- 「我是一個城市人」，英文可以說成 “I am a city person”。
- 介紹了水域的地理，作者把讀者的眼光引回陸地。英國鄉間的房屋，用橡木為樑構，用乾草桿（thatch）搭屋頂。前英國首相戴卓爾夫人（Mrs Thatcher）從夫姓，她丈夫的祖先就是「修築禾稈屋頂的工匠」。作者發現，英國鄉間的那種寧靜，有一種「尊嚴感」（dignified）。這個字有「遺世獨立」的意思，也有超凡脫俗的高度，不一定是「尊嚴」。
- 「綠丘記」（Green Knowe）是女作家露茜波士頓（Lucy Boston）寫的一套兒童故事叢書，50 年代出版。在小說世界裡，一個綠色的小山丘中有一間古屋，一個叫做托斯蘭（Toseland）的小孩，在古屋探究幾百年間在此住過的屋主和房客的故事。書中有飛馬、巨人，有一個叫做「阿平」（Ping）的中國小孩，還有一隻黑猩猩。書中的幻想世界早於「哈利波特」，是一代英國兒童的恩物。