A Brazilian's Devon Diary
OPINION: VINICIUS SERAPHIM
Sometimes it's hard for us Brits to adjust to English country life, so how does a city boy from Brazil cope? Taking a break from his art degree course in London to live in rural Devon, Vinicius Seraphim tells Q&C how it's going.
I’m a typical city boy. I grew up in São Paulo in Brazil, and would seldom visit the countryside, apart from when I’d go to my aunt and uncle’s place for the holidays. The idea of rural living never really appealed to me if I’m honest. The countryside in Brazil is too hot and sticky for me. The forests are very dense and you never really know when you’re going to come across a snake or a giant spider. I hated the profuse sweating and the mosquitoes drove me mad.
The English countryside, however, is much more human-friendly in my opinion. One can happily go for a stroll in the woods without having to worry about death by anaconda constriction. I get to wear nice warm clothes and not get drenched in sweat whilst outdoors. How lovely is that? Not to mention getting into a fine pair of Hunter wellies, part of the typical British country attire. What can I say, I think there’s certainly an elegance to the way of life in the English countryside. Going for a walk with the hunting dogs makes me feel as if I’m the Queen off duty. I’m even considering purchasing a nice silk headscarf and a cardy to make the experience more real. Yes, I am living the dream.
I’m spending some time away from London while I have a sabbatical from my art degree course. And while not working, what better, and calmer place than Devon to reflect on my life, until I have to go back to the mayhem and chaos of the big city?
My friend Richard is having me stay at his place near Salcombe. He lives in a gorgeous house by the Kingsbridge Estuary, and before you make any assumptions, he is not my sugar daddy. He’s definitely straight and not particularly my cup of tea - sorry, Richard!
Richard grew up on a country estate here in Devon. The house is now a hotel, where we recently visited for afternoon tea. It was just like something out of Pride and Prejudice - I even ‘accidentally’ dropped my handkerchief on the floor a couple times in an attempt to attract the attention of the handsome waiter but silly old Richard picked it up instead. The afternoon tea was nice enough, though being a boy from Brazil, tea and scones aren’t really my thing - though the experience of dining in such luxurious surroundings was wonderful.
Over the summer I had the opportunity to go sailing on the estuary. The view from on the river is nothing like I had seen in England before. It was absolutely stunning; dazzling colours abound, beautiful tones of emerald green on the waters, lush and verdant trees on the shore and hills, and we were witness to an array of different and unique bird species. The atmosphere was electric with boats, people swimming in the pellucid waters and kayakers aplenty.
Richard is a falconer and has a hawk and two falcons. I was a novice when it came to falconry so over the summer we visited Dartmoor to fly one of his birds. Being the city guy that I am, my first thought when we got there was: “What the hell is there to see in a place like this? Can we go home, I wanna watch Netflix!” But Dartmoor turned out to be a very unique experience.
Seeing Twister the merlin and Poppy the pointer dog in action was quite impressive, particularly in a landscape that is hugely cinematic. There was not a single human being in sight, and I’ve never seen anywhere quite so desolate and isolated. There is definitely something sublime and apocalyptic about that place. Later in the day we came across some wild ponies and the ruins of an ancient bronze age up there. It was such a magical day.
Sometimes my friend goes shooting which I’ve not partaken in. Now here’s a peculiar British custom to a foreigner living in the countryside. It involves a dozen or more men called beaters who open the way through the tall grass, a bunch of other guys with guns in smart tweed and ties and also dogs to retrieve the dead birds. Alcohol is also consumed at the end of the day. All that just to go hunting? Apparently the dress code is a sign of respect to the gentleman who hosts the event. I was told those guys raise thousands of free range pheasants just to shoot them afterwards. At first I thought that was animal cruelty but on second thoughts, the wild pheasants live a much better life than the chicken that ends up on my plate so who am I to say anything. Plus it’s a long-standing English tradition in the countryside.
I’m very lucky living here for now. Spending this period of time in this wonderful place and connecting with nature is an absolute gift. I enjoy going for walks in the morning and meditating in the fields or by the river and become at one with nature. Being here has also given me the opportunity to reconnect with my artwork, which I had been detached from for quite some time, partly because of the stresses of city life. I’ve had the time to research a lot of subject matter for my work and do some new drawing and painting.
Until recently I thought the city life was the only option for me but thanks to chance and a dear friend, I have been introduced to an alternative way of life. Lighting the fire in the evening, AGA cooking, bird watching, sailing and a few other customs that still don’t make much sense to me, but are enjoyable nonetheless, have created a world of new possibilities.
I am loving my English country experience. It has opened up my mind about country life and long may it last. And someday, who knows, I might even give the countryside in Brazil another chance.