Friends from London, or some other metropolis, often ask me what it is like living in a small town. I think they wonder what on earth we do to entertain ourselves in such a place. When I first lived in Arenas, I used to answer that there was a trade off (one I was quite happy to accept) but a trade off nonetheless, between the spectacular natural landscape and the human landscape which was, so I thought, pretty limited.
I see it a bit differently now.
I have a more varied group of friends in Arenas than I ever expected. This includes a blues singing vet from Arizona, a Galician producer who grew up in Germany and a locally born, half Brazilian guitarist who spent a decade in Nashville. There is a surprisingly wide variety of people here.
Those interesting people do interesting things. Our Venetian chef started a thriving branch of the Slow Food Society. There is a farmers market, ecological consumer group, a cooperative gallery for local artists, workshops on body percussion and movement therapy, groups that meet to star gaze.
Obviously this isn’t a patch on what any big city offers, but the human scale changes things. You hear about everything interesting that happens. It is all close – you can go to a yoga class and the film club in the same evening and still have time to meet someone for a drink. The grapevine is powerful. You can reach anyone you want to, whether it’s a percussionist or a photographer, even if you don’t know them yourself.
This has made me realise that wherever you live, what there is to do is a function of two things. It doesn’t just depend upon what is available, but upon how accessible it is. In big cities there is a collosal amount to do. But it isn’t very accessible. It may be hard to get to, over-subscribed or simply expensive. Much of what you see in Time Out only serves as a backdrop. In a small place there isn’t anything like as much going on, but everything there is, is incredibly accessible. I suspect that we over value the amount of stuff that is happening, and under estimate the importance of accessibility.
It made me wonder about whether we misread things in a similar way in other contexts, work maybe? Perhaps the content, the stuff, that we have available is less important that the access, via easy, human channels that we have to it?