Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Whispering Grass

Or maybe, Theme for Not-So Great Cities...

In the last week I have done 4 cities, all of which make Northampton look like a small town with a lot of housing. To be fair, none of the cities that I've been to, with the exception possibly of Leicester, are real cities, although, at least, Wolverhampton isn't an amalgamation of everywhere in a radius. I'm sure Leicester was nothing more than a place with a lot of other places tagged on, but today it at least feels like a city when you drive around it. It seems to take an age to get from the signpost on the A6, north of Market Harborough, which says 'Welcome to Leicester City' and the corresponding sign on the same road as you head towards Nottingham and Derby. Leicester has districts that merge seamlessly. Steer clear if you don't understand multi-cultural or cosmopolitan.

Peterborough is a big town with a lot of smaller places linked together by new development and roads. Peterborough is, on the face of it, a new city and while its city centre puts Northampton's to shame and the general expanse of the place seemingly dwarfs my town; it only feels like a city because they make a big deal out of it. Unlike Leicester, Peterborough doesn't have an imposing skyline. Beware if you have a fear of the word 'Orton'.

Stoke on Trent is actually 3 towns - Newcastle, Hanley and Stoke. It's a shit hole and every time I've ever been there its pissed down with rain. It's industrial and grubby; it feels like 3 towns stuck together with higher rates. I'm amazed its there. People say 'Macar' as opposed to 'My car' far more pronounced than people from Nottingham.

Wolverhampton still has signs up all over the place with the legend 'Town Centre' on them. It feels like a mini-city. Some of the architecture is impressive, and it feels like a big town that's made the step up. It has a city centre that, while not in Leicester's league, makes Northampton look like a big village. It might be apocryphal that people are called 'Moxy' there.

And then there's the great pretender... Northampton. Forget all the historical reasons why Northampton could never be a city and just try to imagine it if you've never been here. It feels like a city when you approach it, yet, it doesn't. It is, in fact, the largest town in the UK, yet it has an infrastructure that could quite easily collapse if there was a major problem. You drive into any of the major cities in this country and there's at least half a dozen major roads taking you to the centre; Northampton's most major road actually manages to miss the town centre by about a mile and a half; the feeder roads into the centre are all single carriageway; congestion is a given; parking is a nightmare; shopping is limited. In fact, unless you are a chav, have a drink problem or are like many of the inhabitants of this town, completely fucking stupid, you'd want to avoid the place like a neighbour with swine flu. It has a small town mentality and it doesn't matter how big it spreads and how much it engulfs in its quest to become a new city, this will never change.

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I'm suddenly devoid of inspiration...

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