As we age, we aspire to the simple life. Those pleasures that have always been in reach, yet out of touch, become a semi epitaph of a life well lived: Of sitting in silence, reading a book, forest bathing, or even a walk to the local shop to purchase some essentials that aren’t pandering to some pan seared ‘foodie’ craze: these are but basic pleasures.

We are always being told that if improvements are not made we will reach a tipping point, be it with crime, the NHS or any other societal mainstay, yet the truth is we have reached that point of no return as we sit here now, in denial, for yet another year.

Now I am not the world’s best travelled man, but going abroad and sampling other cultures is not unheard of and, having returned from Ireland recently (again, not my first rodeo) I could see the differences in stark contrast.

Epping Forest Guardian: Brett Ellis has been enjoying the simpler pleasures of rural IrelandBrett Ellis has been enjoying the simpler pleasures of rural Ireland (Image: Brett Ellis)

It comes down to simplicity and not over engineering things, as we are wont to do here in England. When things then go wrong here, as they inevitably do, to save face or the admittance of wrong doing, we instead tie ourselves up in such a muddle, that there is no escape.

In rural Ireland, most drive well maintained bangers with scratches and scars from prangs with farmers fences or parked tractors, yet there are no potholes. In lieu of any speed cameras, folk drive confidently but not recklessly. Parking is as it should be, and not used as a cash cow, allowing small independent shops, if not to thrive, the opportunity to survive as locals can park at the door. Shops have that rare creature known as checkout staff, who stop and say ‘top of the morning to you’ as they seemingly have no targets to achieve or quotas to fill.

Breakfast is not delivered by M&S but involves a groggy walk to the local shop to buy half a dozen freshly laid eggs, some back bacon and a home baked loaf. Doors are kept unlocked and locals pride themselves on an open door policy where, should labour be sought, the first port of call is the man up yonder’s cousin.

Red tape, if it exists, is not instantly visible, should you wish to complete any undertaking. A phone call or a visit to the local bank or post office usually suffices without having to phone 26 people who all pass the buck as frustration builds and small surmountable problems become the complete opposite.

There’s a lot to be said for being Irish. Alas, unless we rip up the manual and start again, we will become even more marooned from such an existence which, thanks to its simplicity, is something we really ought to aspire to…

  • Brett Ellis is a school teacher.