This weekend was my birthday weekend. The big 30. I went back to Amsterdam (my home away from home) to spend it with my nearest and dearest girl friends. Despite a rather shaky start (my best friend accidentally booking to come over the weekend er, after my birthday (have fun this weekend babe!) a vomiting child and my stolen mobile, waaaaah) we had a brilliant 48 hours in the city we used to call home… and what an amazing, vibrant city it is. I love Amsterdam. I started feeling rather homesick for the buzz, the activity, the cutting edge design, the inspiration, the choice of restaurants (check out Bo5 next time you are in Amsterdam – incredible food with a French / Arabic influence and lush cocktails), bars, museums.

We moved around a year ago to a sleepy village in rural England. It wasn’t a hard decision, I’d been wanting to move back to England for ages. Having a small child in a foreign country made me miss my family, my roots. I wanted her to know the childhood I had known too. I wanted her to be English! Not that the Dutch aren’t rather fabulous too :)

Moving from a capital city to the place we now call home was somewhat of a culture shock to say the least. There are a lot of differences, not being able to cycle everywhere being one, er have you seen the hills! But the main difference is that we live a very simple life here, almost as if in times gone by. The folk round these parts (of which I am of course one) like to preserve the historic; old fashioned houses and public houses, traditional styles, countryside and English heritage. We have castles, old churches and reams and reams of countryside, farmland and woodland on our doorstep. The life is quiet, laid back, peaceful. A country walk here, a pub lunch there, a cozy snuggle by the fire. And it is lovely.

It’s like comparing chalk and cheese. Of course some people will always like chalk, some cheese and there are pluses and minuses for both. (I’m not sure how good cheese is for drawing). Anyway I digress.

My thoughts led me on to what is best for a small child, or should I say my small child, growing up.¬† It must be great to be surrounded by so much to do, all the people buzzing round, ice-skating on the square, giant libraries with every book¬† you could ever imagine, cafe’s and playgrounds galore and a beach close by. But along with that comes a faster pace of life (and even then Amsterdam is more laid back that most capital cities I know!)… and I guess we kind of like our relaxed life here. We keep busy enough, lots of time outside, playgroups, doing craft and activities and visiting friends and family (who are of course irreplaceable). Whats more I think that for a child it’s the parents and the exposure, stimulation and influence they bring that matter.

Not living in a big city, surrounded by the awesome array of shops stocking all the latest clothes, technology, stuff and things does have another advantage. The calm and peace are good for the soul. And interestingly I also find that I am no longer triggered in the way I used to be to buy buy buy. “Ooooh I need this, Oooooh I want this.” I’m not engulfed by it. We are surrounded by trees who shout “come and climb me!” I read somewhere recently that your best memories of childhood are often spent outdoors in nature. Thinking back over my 30 years I realised just how true this statement is.

Perhaps this is a real benefit to living where we do. Wow I sound old ;) And when I do need my culture or shopping fix, thank god for the internet is all I can say.