Title

Crap Towns Returns!

Christopher Fowler
Hurrah! The bible of God-awful places to live in Britain, 'Crap Towns', was produced by the creators of 'Modern Toss', and is now back for a second go-around in the latest volume, 'Crap Towns Returns'. Shockingly in at Number One is London, for its hopeless late night transport system consisting of minicabs, rickshaws and night buses, but it could equally have won for its litter and retina-searing adverts in tourist hot-spots, its sleep-shattering night-time police helicopters (why not put cops on the streets where they're needed?) its ubiquitous chain-stores, and the fact that the only people who can still afford to live in the middle of the city are politicians, criminals and bankers. You know when a book has a thumbs-up from Gary Barlow it's worth reading. Featuring quite high on the Crap Towns list is Camberley, Surrey, for this glimpse of its live entertainment... IMG_6817-300x200And a surprise entry is Chipping Norton, the ghastly fake village where David Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson raise their prosecco glasses to each other across their local branch of Giraffe. Hemel Hempstead also cops it for its limited attractions, including this grand beauty spot... hemel12-300x195   The towns are nominated by experts, ie. people who have to live there. I'm surprised the whole of Middlesex didn't make the Top Ten list!  

Comments

keith page (not verified) Mon, 07/10/2013 - 10:06

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Fake village? Surely you must mean the tourist trap Bourton-on-the-Water.

Janet Wilson (not verified) Mon, 07/10/2013 - 10:36

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

No, Cotswold water park. ( ? Not sure if that's proper name.) A good walk spoilt. There's one near us, at Portishead, trying desparately to pretend it's a Cornish village, despite being just round the corner frm Avonmouth docks. I usually say nice things about such places for the sake of my friend, a city boy who's nervous of real countryside, so I'm just letting off steam briefly. Tho even he's finally gone off Clark's Village, Street.

Alan Morgan (not verified) Mon, 07/10/2013 - 14:15

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I'm not surprised that Camberley is in there. It's part of that redeveloped clot of land in the eastern side of the M3/M4 corridor. Places such as Wokingham, Staines, and... Camberley. Places that took a good look at the promise of the new world as demonstrated by nearby Bracknell in the 60s and thought yes, this is what we want to be, a f*cking toilet made by commmitte drawing on the Soviet design aesthetic but without the capacity to flush.

My parents (who grew up in London) came out here when they were married and never went closer to the capital again than Heathrow. Actually not even to this hub of bright light and promise, but a rural bit further out for which Camberley was 'big town'. It's the way Broadmoor sounds its escape siren at 10am every Monday that gives you the warm glow of not-even-suburban delight. For those of you to whom this might be unknown imagine if you will seeing someone with their feet up, on your sofa, with dog shit ground into the cleats of their shoe - only all the time, and then you realise that that it's you, and your shoes. That's Camberley and everywhere just like it. I'm not surprised that the Royal Military Academy is there. It gets the sheltered young prospective officers used to the sight of a previously unknown Balkan state* six months after an especially depressing, albeit lacklustre civil war, over a cow.

It did have a lovely sticky cinema to be fair. They've knocked that down now. Not replaced it with anything. Just knocked it down. And they put a roof on the shopping streets in the late 80s and called it a mall. And it's just, just awful. Which is all why I went to my relatives in London most weekends as both a boy and a youth until I moved there. Because if you're going to spend precious days off in a urinal, at least do it in one with museums.

Aldershot is worse.

*Probably called Vulgaria.

Dan Terrell (not verified) Mon, 07/10/2013 - 20:12

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

With most of these deeply - dare I say British - posts, I feel like I'm on the outside listening in. But with this one, I feel like it's good not to be and there experiencing odious Crap Towns. My take away - as of now - is outside London: Crap Towns, inside London: Crap Towers. Or am I wrong? Yes, certainly I'm exaggerating things by simplifying, still feel free to throw chips at me should you feel like it. The bacony w. oniony ones will do fine.

snowy (not verified) Mon, 07/10/2013 - 21:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

These books and surveys appear from time to and they all take a half truth and exaggerate it for comic effect.

It is a form of hypocrisy that is very British, half those that live in cities look down on the suburbs but they all want to retire there, or in the countryside. Those that grow up in the suburbs or the country yearn for the excitement of the city. The grass is always greener on the other side.

Being bothered by the 'parafin budgie' must be one of the downsides of living in a glass house. The 20% budget cuts and a shift in pursuit policy means they are not going away soon. But looking on the bright side they will be replaced with smaller, quieter drones in a few years, just on economic grounds.

[Dan, chips is chips, salt, vinegar, red sauce, curry sauce or plain. If you're very lucky you might be able to snag a pickled wally on the sly :-) ]

Dan Terrell (not verified) Tue, 08/10/2013 - 00:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy: Two years ago I attended a EC celebration in the French Embassy and there were tables set up for every member of the EU to share out they national treats. The British table had a basket of packets of chips and I choose one with bacon and onions flavors. I was supposedly baked/fried by a old English manufacturer. You mean I was passed a ringer? Or was it a new product and didn't Rebus eat such a treat?
Anyway, no chip on my shoulder. :)

Dan Terrell (not verified) Tue, 08/10/2013 - 00:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Snowy: Two years ago I attended a EU celebration in the French Embassy and there were tables set up for every member of the EU to share out they national treats. The British table had a basket of packets of chips and I choose one with bacon and onions flavors. I was supposedly baked/fried by a old English manufacturer. You mean I was passed a ringer? Or was it a new product and didn't Rebus eat such a treat?
Anyway, no chip on my shoulder. :)

Janet Wilson (not verified) Tue, 08/10/2013 - 11:29

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Dan, chips is crisps! For me, chips best v. hot, with lotsa vinegar on a cold autumn eve. I'll own up, Snowy, to the English dis-ease, inherited from my dear old dad- briefly, he was from Tottenham, met my mum when doing wartime training in Devon, went back and stayed after. I was born doing the splits, so to speak, and having stayed in England, have lived with the consequences all my life. Bristol was an uneasy compromise, but I've been here 25 years now. I feel 'hypocrisy' is a bit strong- if y're not a professional, there's more chance of getting by in a city- but I'm certainly guilty of living somewhere that it's easy to get away from, and of 'heimweh' for London, Devon, and Kent (where I lived for 10yrs when young). Go figure...

Dan Terrell (not verified) Tue, 08/10/2013 - 12:33

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

A la Snowy: slaps forehead with heal of palm. (*) "Chips is crisps." Well, what I tried were certainly what we call chips, because in this benighted - in Britain beknighted, yes? - what we call crisps (or puffs) are those Asian-derived and airy "chips" that pop, snap and crackle when you munch them. The original flavor was shrimp and they now come in a myriad of flavours. What a difference and an ocean make.
(*) Heal of palm is not to be confused with heart of palm.

Janet Wilson (not verified) Tue, 08/10/2013 - 13:16

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I know the ones Dan- not sure if we'd call them puffs or crackers, will check nxt time I'm near some. English chips not to be confounded with U.S. fries- bigger, rougher, juicier! ;-)

Helen Martin (not verified) Tue, 08/10/2013 - 19:28

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

And those shrimp flavoured puffs came as bingo markers. You dropped them into boiling oil and they puffed right up. Hmm, haven't done those in a long time.

snowy (not verified) Tue, 08/10/2013 - 22:00

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

The accusation of hypocrisy was not aimed at the general population who are mostly busy working to pay bills, but those that set themselves up as 'lifestyle commentators', 'fashion gurus', 'style icons', 'role models' etc. Who pronounce at great length how other should live, while completely ignoring their own advice.

Underlying this does seem to be an 'English ideal', to be born in the country and grow amongst rolling fields, as a teenager to dwell in the hub-bub of the city, then when young make enough money in commerce to move out to the suburbs to raise their own children, before a blissful retirement to a small unspoilt country village.

Not to everyones taste and even for those that it is, most find it not within their reach.

Ah! Prawn Crackers as they are known here abouts, given away to regular customers when you order a Chinese Takeaway. Deep fried tapioca mixed with the offcuts from preparing shrimps.

Helen Martin (not verified) Sun, 13/10/2013 - 01:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I didn't have "school dinners", Snowy, so not even deep fried tapioca would stop me from enjoying those crackers, except that they are so dry that they draw all the moisture in your mouth.

glasgow1975 (not verified) Sun, 13/10/2013 - 18:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Once again we are separated by a common language :) chips/fries crisps/chips puffs/crackers
I had a friend who was making a cheesecake but using an American recipe, so where it said Graham's crackers for the base, instead of using the more usual UK equivalent - sweet digestive biscuits - he used Jacob's cream crackers which are more like saltine's!
It actually tasted great tho :)

snowy (not verified) Sun, 13/10/2013 - 19:41

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I did have school dinners and they were quite palatable. All the ingredients were fresh, local and cooked in the school kitchen. That sadly is now considered an unattainable dream for most schools. There was even a choice element in the dining experience, namely eat it or don't eat it.

Only two dishes were dreaded, salad, perfectly wholesome and tasty, but carried the risk that he lettuce might contain some 'bonus' protein, a catapillar being the ususal find.

And Tapioca pudding, a bit bland to be truthful, but they would always use pearl tapioca. Which has an unpleasant 'mouth feel' and if you remind a small child that it looks like frogspawn, the image will stick in the mind.

If the crackers are a bit dry, I'd treat myself to a ramakin of dipping sauce, sweet chilli and ginger would do the job.

Helen Martin (not verified) Sun, 13/10/2013 - 21:59

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Again, thanks, Snowy. Dipping sauce it is. The best part, we felt, was dropping those coloured discs into the boiling oil and watching them turn into pale puffy clouds.

snowy (not verified) Sun, 13/10/2013 - 23:48

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

RamEkin, ramEkin, ramEkin *smotes forehead*.

It is still fun making them, and could form part of an interesting science lesson about starch and gas expansion, but the chances of having boiling oil in a classroom today is zero.

Though it has stirred a memory, the first experience of Chinese style cuisine for many people, who couldn't get to a takeaway, would have been a 'Vesta' meal. This was a range of boil in the bag concoctions, and the Chinese version 'Sweet and Sour Chicken' came with some translucent yellowish parallelograms in an hermetically sealed bag with instructions for frying. And they did miraculously puff up and form a sort of curly shape like nothing seen before.

And while at the time they might have seemed the 'cats pajamas' on mature reflection they did resemble massively overgrown and twisted toenail clippings.

[Apologies to anyone who is eating while reading that last bit.}

Helen Martin (not verified) Mon, 14/10/2013 - 18:35

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

In response to that last bit I will point out that while generously not commenting on ramekin I will insist on the present tense of your self abusive verb. It should read "smites" as in smite, smote, have smitten.