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The Great Outdoors: City Boys in the Country

We're city boys; it's official. Hey, our Smythson printed business card proudly attests this, proclaiming -- in raised 'Bookman Old Style' font -- 'Colin & Justin; Glasgow, London, Toronto.' Yup, we have metropolis, God damn it, coursing through our veins faster than Kim Kardashian heading to a photo opp' with rabid pap's in hot pursuit.

Ahead of their 1:30 p.m. appearance at The Spring Cottage Life Show on Saturday the 6th April, Scottish interior decorators and television hosts Colin and Justin take a little time out to discuss their new found love of rural living. And their detachment from the World Wide Web...

We're city boys; it's official. Hey, our Smythson printed business card proudly attests this, proclaiming -- in raised 'Bookman Old Style' font -- 'Colin & Justin; Glasgow, London, Toronto.' Yup, we have metropolis, God damn it, coursing through our veins faster than Kim Kardashian heading to a photo opp' with rabid pap's in hot pursuit.

Indeed the urban rush makes our hearts pump faster; we actually like noise and are buoyed by clanging street cars, honking horns and Toronto's whirring construction battlefield, all of which remind us that Canada remains less bruised by the economic downturn as witnessed by our American cousins.

Listening to noise, in fact, makes us feel we belong. We bend our ear to the pulse of industry and, for the most part, it helps us focus. The same can be said of our watches, timely devices that help hone our schedule, thereby allowing us to cram in as much as possible. Aye, we're time obsessed and scan our wrists on an almost non stop basis.

The internet, too, is our master; we jump on line at least every fifteen minutes to check what's going down. Whether answering or sending emails, googling, tweeting or facebooking we are, by our own admission, information addicts. But something is happening. There are rumblings that whisper 'plus ca change'. Yes, dear readers. We're on the turn.

Yup, our city boy status is no longer quite as official as it was, being that we've just bought a cottage and unearthed a new emotional layer contained deep within. Blimey; a layer we hardly knew existed.

To keep our story clean, however, let's avoid the confusion that ensued when we used the term 'cottaging' to describe our new adventure to pals back home in blighty. In Britain, you see, the term has ENTIRELY different connotations; we still blush when we relate the tale. Google it... then let's speak of it no more.

Anyway, back to business. All hail our stretch of Muskokan paradise, a verdant patch on the fringes of a small private lake. And get this; as new cottagers we're slowly learning to detach from our iPads, MacBooks and iPhones. Guess it's fair to say the only 'apples' chez - lakeside -- nous are the ones that will grow on trees as the mercury's vertiginous ascent finally begins. In fact our daily northern routine is already much less frantic than our city life and goes something like this; iEat, iDrink, iWalk... and iSleep.

Hell mend us, we're smitten. We remember the very first time we arrived, thoroughly addled after the long drive up the 400. Seeing the frozen lake twinkling through the arbery, our first reaction was to grab a snap and tweet it so our friends could enjoy a little of the magic unraveling before our eyes. Frustratingly, however, the tweet wouldn't send. But more of that later.

Unsullied by the passage of time, our cottage (previously a rental) had been maintained in immaculate (but unfussy) order by its former owners, a couple who clearly understood that which their tenants wanted most; tradition.

Something else that's steeped in in tradition is the idea that every vestige of city fashion sense should be left on the Trans-Canadian Highway. Aye, there are no catwalks in cottage country, apart, that is, from the path upon which we actually saw a real life Cougar just last week. We kid you not! And we're talking the feline variety; that which is even scarier than the Botox pumped Yorkville divorcee equivalent...

On the subject of wild animals there are plenty; we've also seen squirrels, chipmunks and raccoons, yet bears, for the moment certainly, are noticeable by their absence. Mind you we'll give any wild beast a run for its money. Aye, the sight of us scuttling around in forest floor length faux fur (essential for the cold) and 'Hunter' wellingtons would probably be enough to incite a riot in the animal kingdom. Sorry Mr Bear. Sorry Ms Wild Turkey. And sorry Masters Chip and Dale. You have been warned...

But anyway; let's go back to our first day, as owners, post highway drive. Settling in during that hallowed, inaugural afternoon, we were mindful of a celebratory dinner reso we'd made at Crossroads, in Roseau, just ten minutes from our cottage. But we weren't in a rush. Dinner was booked, sure, but there was time to chill, n'est pas? Hmm; 'chill'. We'd brought champagne and throwing it onto ice sounded like the perfect starting point for a great evening. Our friends, who were picking us up, weren't due for some time...

An hour or so later, as we settled into the cottage vibe, a neighbour called by to introduce herself and talk soon turned to communication. "You might as well forget social networking", she smiled, "because your signal will be patchy at best." As it turns out, phone signal comes and goes but we've become adept at chasing signal around the garden. And besides; there's a certain liberation to the whole 'manana' vibe. We just have to keep reminding ourselves of that. What's so urgent? Stuff can wait, huh? Yes of course it can.

Later, our posse safely arrived and nestled in front of our log fire, we excuse for a moment to dress for the evening ahead. Hair gel? Nah; forget it, we're on holiday. Ironing, too, takes a back seat; we slip out of our onesies and into combats and T shirts, the kind of kit we wouldn't generally wear when heading for dinner. Jackets? Nope. Shiny shoes? Nah; snow boots. They're so de rigueur by the lake...

Lured by our iPhones, we try sending a quick email but our lines of communication stumble... again. Panic rises. What if someone needs to send us a schedule change? Or alter the venue of a business meeting? Flustered, we try and calm down. A friend says; "Let it go. You're on vacation". We know we shouldn't be uncomfortable with communication cessation but it's an alien concept. Realising we're glancing at our J12's every ten seconds we take a deep breath, remove them and place them gently in our pockets. We no longer have time on our hands...

Dinner at Crossroads turns out to be a gastronomic delight and, as the sun sets in an explosion of vibrant, burning orange, we watch a languid life tick gently by. A woman walks past attached to a Golden Retriever which slides on the ice eventually crashing - unharmed - to the ground. The woman laughs and waves as we capture the scene on our iPhone before trying to tweet the debacle to our international posse. When the missive doesn't send we're initially frustrated but at the same time comforted by the fact that if we slip on our pale Scottish asses, it'll be within the privacy of a hidden world without technology.

Later, back at the cottage, we're fully relaxed. Against an inky sky peppered with tiny silver stars, we head down to the frozen lake and dispose of a bottle of Norton; our favourite unfiltered Argentinean red. It's cold outside, sure but the warming tincture heats us to the quick. Falling into a trance like state, we watch a candle flicker in a storm lamp and realise, once again, that we've absolutely no idea what time it is. Watches and signal dependent devices seem things of the past. We could get very used to this.

The next morning, as we prepare for the drive back to Toronto, we bid farewell to paradise and realise we've been out of touch with our regular life for more than twenty four hours. Whether or not we could live without our beloved communication tools for any longer is another story, but this temporary purge has done us the power of good.

Now safely back in our office, virtual quills dipping frantically in virtual ink, we're in our element. Just for the record we're still not wearing our watches though we have reverted to email and phone. And we've tamed our social network addiction by visiting twitter and Facebook, well, at least a little less frequently. We definitely don't intend giving up our blogs and podcasts (or, for that matter, our punctual timekeeping) but for now we realise it isn't necessary to push ourselves quite so hard. For the 'time' being certainly, we're staying just where we're happiest. In cottage mode.

For more info on cottaging visit the Spring Cottage Life Show -

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