Before you read


Think about and answer the following questions:

  1. What is the difference between urban and rural lifestyle?
  2. What are some of the reasons why people choose to change their lifestyle?
  3. What kind of a lifestyle do you lead?

I’ve left London for rural Ireland. So long fancy bars and shoe shops. Hello optimism


The move to Kilkenny means remaining in the EU and popping in to the local shebeen.


The day we left London, torrential rain battered our belongings that waited forlornly beside an 18-tonne truck. The removal men fashioned waterproof capes from bubble wrap, squeezed the last bit of decades of accumulated crap on board, and then set off damply to catch the ferry. They didn’t, of course; “conditions” on the M4 saw to that. So we arrived in Co Kilkenny 12 hours ahead of them, and sat on some borrowed plastic garden chairs, waiting.


“Stop telling people we’ve bought a farm,” my bloke keeps saying. “It’s a farmhouse. We haven’t got a tractor or any livestock and you don’t even know what arable means.” Pfff. Whatever. I haven’t moved from a main road in central London to a lane in the back of beyond not to indulge my fantasy of playing Marie Antoinette at the Petit Trianon (Kirsten Dunst version). There’s hay. I can hear cows. It’s a farm.


Not only have I never lived in the countryside, I’ve barely been there; if you grow up in home counties suburbia with an internal drumbeat thudding “get-to-London”, you try not to go via the Lake District. Everything that has been good about my life – my friends, libraries, newspapers, bars, restaurants, train stations, shoe shops – has been urban. I am a person who once had Amazon Prime Now deliver extra provisions in the middle of a dinner party – so sue me.


But then we got older, and so did our loved ones, and many of them are in the Republic of Ireland. And then, the killer blow: the Republic of Ireland is in the European Union, and our country, through a combination of hilarious mishaps and outright swindles, is about not to be. In the words of the old commercial for the Irish lager Harp, time for a sharp exit.


Actually, it was anything but sharp: several years of waiting for circumstances to align perfectly, then the realisation that they never would and that we just had to make the leap. Thus, we find ourselves engaged in a little light commuting, which itself tees up an interesting process of compare-and-contrast. In Ireland, things that I had no reason to notice throughout years of visiting suddenly present themselves as unromantic daily facts: privatised rubbish collection, more limited booze-buying hours in supermarkets, a marked absence of public transport.


But they are as nothing to the delights of small-town and rural life. The shebeen – put simply, a pub in someone’s house – at the end of the road, the only place of entertainment within walking distance, is open four nights a week. And when I say “nights”: it starts up around 10pm and serves until 3am. If the owners aren’t about, they leave an outside light on to let you know it’s fine to go in and help yourself. In the proper pubs in town (use of the word “village” is a very specific business here, and quite unlike the Cotswolds definition), you can buy shotgun cartridges and rat poison along with your pint.


Check out the complete article this lesson is based on and has been adapted from:



Vocabulary builder:



So long – goodbye, farewell; the opposite of “hello”

Shebeen – a tavern or house where alcohol is sold illegally, especially in Ireland, Scotland and South Africa. Similar to a pub.

Pop in (to) – go to;  usually used in combination with a place where you go to buy something, like a store or a pub or shebeen  ( for eg. She often pops in to the local pub after work to meet her friends)



Torrential rain – heavy rain

Forlornly – abandoned, deserted and sad

To fashion – to give shape or form to; make

To see to something – to attend to; to make sure something happens, take care of


Can you answer the following questions based on the paragraph?


  1. What was the weather like on the day of the departure?
  2. How did the removal men protect themselves against the weather?
  3. Who arrived in Kilkenny first?
  4. Why were the removal men delayed?


Vocabulary builder:



Bloke – man, fellow, guy, boyfriend (British, informal)

Arable – used in agriculture, often followed by “land”; fit for cultivating crops

In the back of beyond – expression, also “at the back of beyond”; at a very distant, remote location


Grammar builder:



Can you answer the following questions based on the paragraph?


  1. How many times has the writer visited the countryside?
  2. What kind of a lifestyle has the writer led so far?
  3. What does the writer mean by “so sue me” at the end of the paragraph?
  4. Which sentence is more emphatic than the rest? How is this achieved?


Compare these two sentences!


I have not only never lived in the countryside, I’ve barely been there.

Not only have I never lived in the countryside, I’ve barely been there.


What happens to the word order in the sentence when you place “not only” at the beginning of it?


This is called INVERSION in English and in this case, it is used for emphasis.

This also happens after “so” when we are agreeing with the previously mentioned positive statement.

Here’s an example:



The same sentence can go as follows, too:

But then we got older, and our loved ones did so, too.


Compare again!


But then we got older, and our loved ones did so, too.

But then we got older, and so did our loved ones.



Vocabulary builder:


anything but (sharp) – if something is anything but something it is the exact opposite.

To be about – to be present (“If the owners aren’t about,… = if they are not there, they’re absent)

pint – a drink of beer, especially in Britain


Now listen to the rest of the story and answer the questions!




  1. Was the decision to move:


  1. Rash and made without prior consideration?
  2. Very-well thought through but made quickly?
  3. Made after realising that there was no hope left for good living in the current place of residence?


  1. What is mentioned first considering the comparison between England and Ireland?


  1. The advantages of the irish countryside
  2. The disadvantages of the irish countryside


  1. What is a shebeen?


  1. A place like a house where drinks are sold
  2. A pub outside the town
  3. A house where you can stay the night


  1. Why do the owners of shebeen leave an outside light on?


  1. To protect their property against unwanted “guests”
  2. To signal that is is OK to get something to drink by yourself should they not be there themselves
  3. To light up the way to the place during the night


Now, listen again while following the text. Press PAUSE after each sentence and REPEAT what you hear. Pay special attention to the way sentences are pronounced and stressed. 





  • Can you make sentences using the following:


  1. See to sth
  2. Inversion starting with never
  3. A short dialogue exchange including anything but


  • Find synonyms of torrential rain


  • Write a short story or composition about living/choosing to live in a rural surrounding


  • Record yourself reading the 5th and 6th paragraphs after having practiced copying the listening sample