I OFTEN get roundly mocked by my colleagues in The Northern Echo newsroom for my country mouse mentality. I live on a farm in a tiny village, and the nearest town, Northallerton, seems like a metropolis in comparison. Whenever I’m through on a market day, it’s so busy I’m soon desperate to scuttle back to the countryside, away from the hustle and bustle.

When I was a child, for a family day out we’d often head to the bright lights of Darlington to go shopping or for a swim in the Dolphin Centre. It was a treat, and even though I’ve now worked in Darlington for more than ten years, driving in each day still feels like coming to a big, happening place.

This attitude, combined with my inability to develop town skills (such as confidently crossing roads), are what make me so open to ridicule.

Of course, I have been to actual cities, and quite a few at that. Newcastle, Sunderland, Durham, Leeds, London, Berlin, Barcelona, Sydney and Geneva (but not in that particular order). I survived them all more by luck than judgement. On a recent work trip to London I was saved by a colleague after stepping out in front of a black cab. I was looking for traffic the wrong way on a one way street.

The travails of the retail sector have quite rightly led to serious soul searching in places like Darlington, and while Marks & Spencer is gone from the town centre, the 18-month stay of execution for Binns can be the positive springboard the town needs.

Maybe I just lead a very sheltered life, but I really like being able to hop round town in half an hour at lunchtime and do all my mini shopping jobs that I don’t have time for elsewhere – presents for family birthdays, dry cleaning, new sports kit, sandwich, raffle tickets, fancy dress accessories – whatever random items I need, I can almost always find them in Darlington.

Clearly, what is on offer in the town centre has changed over the years, and the shift now is to making sure the leisure and night-time economy is catered for.

Again, coming from a village where our only pub is shut and the nearest cinema is ten miles away, a night out in Northallerton is a big deal, never mind the riches – and variety – on offer somewhere like Darlington.

WHENEVER I hear people complain about how a particular town “isn’t what it used to be” or “has gone to the dogs” I’m intrigued.

Every town has its problems, and since the financial crash of 2008, these have been magnified in many places. National austerity and the resulting council cutbacks have taken their toll, while the multitude of foodbanks tell their own depressing story – 64,209 three-day emergency food supplies for people in crisis were handed out by the Trussell Trust in the North-East in 2017-18.

I’m not for one second suggesting these type of issues should be glossed over – The Northern Echo has always campaigned on behalf of people in need in the North-East and North Yorkshire, and always will. But maybe we could appreciate what we do have here in our towns and cities a bit more. I might be a simple country mouse on the inside, but there is a proud town mouse on the outside.