And we are self-supporting for every kind of food excepting tea, coffee, flour, sugar and salt. We have no car- we drive about with a pony and cart.”
He tells the story of how he rented an unused thatched cottage from a wealthy landowner in a remote part of Suffolk. His landlord said: “I’ll let you have the two cottages, the out-houses, the field, in all about five acres, for ten pounds a year- provided that you keep it in repair”.
The rent of ten pounds a year reveals that this wasn’t yesterday- in fact it was 1957. At that time there were lots of half abandoned houses all over the countryside which weren’t worth the cost of doing up. Everyone wanted to live in towns.
It’s all different now of course- cottages in the country can’t be had for £10 a year or at any price which anyone can afford. However, I was struck by the parallels between 1950’s England and present day Japan. In Japan the countryside is being abandoned for the towns and there are lots of remote houses, with land, that can be had for a song. There is a video currently on Youtube, aptly entitled “The Slow Life in Japan” about an Australian man and his Japanese wife who were given a farmhouse and land rent-free in return for their cultivating the land. So the dream may be possible after all, if not in rural Suffolk any more.