More Musings from a Summer Patio
It was Noel Coward, wasn’t it? Who said, ‘Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.’ Even I’m being sensible enough to sit under the parasol, but Marley is sprawled in the direct sunlight on a patio, that is a suntrap, that is currently sitting at 32 degrees ambient. It is absolutely wonderful; it’s just a shame I’m not by a beach, in a bar, that sells Inferno or Kingston Topaz. Jesus, that would be bliss at the moment.
I’ve set my stall out, so to speak. I am not going to be stymied by my own reluctance, I’m going to get out there and do stuff. So, this morning, I did just that. I went over to Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) to see my niece who has just started a tattooing business and while I don’t like tattoos, I’m dead proud of her. If you need a tattoo in the Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) area – ooh-er missus – then look out for Dist-Ink-Tion (I preferred Inky & Scratchy, but what do I know, I had a shop called Squonk, etc etc etc.). Where she lives doesn’t have a back garden; it has a small leisure village.
I like the drive to and from Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice), it reminds me of when I was a kid, having lived there between 1969 and 1974 and having nieces, great nieces and nephews, an ex-sister-in-law and some friends living there. On a day like today it was the sole reason why anyone would want to live in this country; it’s sometimes overwhelming natural beauty. The back road to Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) isn’t spectacular, it just shows you why Northamptonshire is such a lovely place, especially if you could get rid of the towns.
Which reminds me; while I was driving over to Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) I thought about ill and Andy’s visit at the weekend; they’ve been here before I think, even if it was just passing through, but I wonder what some people who have never been here would think of Shoesville or Pubtown as it has recently become known as; or for that matter the other (heh) major towns in this county that generally scores low on county questions on Pointless. So, here’s my guide to Northants (I warn you it is purely subjective and unless you are me some of it will undoubtedly go so far over your head someone on a Jumbo jet will wonder what hit them):
Brackley: Yes, Brackley is in Northants and it does exist. I’ve been there three times in 50 years. It wasn’t a bit like I remembered it, so perhaps I was somewhere else and have only been there once. Brackley, I can tell you with confidence, didn’t even register on the county’s youth crime figures, but I’m not sure if that was because they didn’t include it in results. It has a really impressive by-pass, possibly one of the few I’ve ever been on that is shorter than the original route.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: If you should find yourself here, it’s really easy to get out. Maudlin College is an academy, not some posh private school, don’t be tempted to find it.
Towcester: Roman. Long and thin. Old. Dull. It gives the impression it has more to offer, but it doesn’t. It’s not far from a place called Foster’s Booth, which makes me chuckle, but not for the reasons you think. It has obvious connections to Silverstone and therefore suffers every time the British GP is on. There’s money in this town all the same, even if you wouldn’t want someone you don’t like to die there.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: It has a racecourse, which probably won’t be on while you’re lost.
Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice): says it all really. However, if you think Corby is going to be Neanderthal, Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) is prehistoric, especially because it is now officially a mongrel town and worse still, of all Northants towns, it and the aforementioned Corby are likely to be places lost Olympic tourists might venture to either out of choice or because of weird rail connections. Of course, they might find Long Buckby, which I believe could die in the next 100 years, like Flaxwell did at the end of the 18th century. Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice) is a heady mix of Birmingham overspill, Northants yokels who baint be quite sure if they’re in Thamptonshire or Warkshire. It was, once upon a time, just a place that wasn’t too far from the A5; now it’s this fucking awful town that isn’t far from a road that isn’t that important any more.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: um… it used to have a cinema called the Regal that was so small my mum used to call it the wriggle. I learned how to scrump in this place, but the orchards have all disappeared. It has a country park, but even that’s wanky compared to others in the county.
Market Harborough: isn’t in the county, honest. But I wish it was because people from Market Harborough call it Markey Tar Bra and that is dead funny.
Corby: has an Olympic training camp for swimmists. Has a brand new town centre that hasn’t been blighted by waste needles, yet. It is quite an ugly place (I’m being careful, I have friends who are fiercely loyal to this shit stain on the north of the county). I’ve had to work there several times in the last 30 years and frankly I love it, but only in an anthropological kind of way. It is changing again and in a few years it will no longer have any stigma attached to it; it will become just this oddly Scottish part of the most remote part of the county; which seems fitting.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: swimmists. But, honestly, Mr and Mrs Japanese Tourist, don’t think, ‘ah Corby, we’ll go there and see the pool’, it would be really nice if the pool was in, I dunno, Damascus.
Oundle: Woof. Woof woof. You want sexy Northants town, oozing with history, grand architecture and a couple of splendid pubs. You are looking at my favourite town in the county and even it’s a bit shit. You see the area is jam-packed with colloquial Conservatives; it is obscenely expensive once you get out of certain places we’re getting to and the people who live there know it. But, I’d fucking rather live there if I could live anywhere in the county.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: Just go and look; it won’t take you all day, but it will give you an idea why this country is pretty special, especially with its architecture and stonemasonry.
Thrapston: the upstart town, the place that probably isn’t a town, but they’re going to call it a town and they’ll punch you if you argue (but not as much as the people in Raunds village) and it has the East Northants Council based there, so it must be a town, Towcester has a council area it runs, so fuck you matey, Thrapston is a town. Thrapston is twinned with Daventry, Daventry, Daventry (so good they named it thrice); that’s how exciting it is!!! It is also the first place I’ve ever been to that sort of peters out rather than end; you think you’ve left the place about a mile before you actually have because there was once this shanty town of Morlocks living along the edges, scratching a living eating bored locals; but they’ve since gone back to the future and there’s an engineering company there now.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: you can see it from the A14, don’t stop.
Raunds (Village): I like Raunds, but it’s a touch parochial and is like the retirement village for the county. I’m thinking it probably has the highest teenage suicide rate, especially if you take in the villages of Ringstead (where Thatcher’s ancestors came from), Stanwick and that other place that’s too scary to go near. Paint drying is an Olympian sport in this part of the county where the recreation tends to be fishing, walking and wanking. Incest was prevalent in the 60s, 70s and 80s so that is why you get the occasional Cyclops or people with the Christian name Genghis.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: there’s a MacDonalds on the roundabout on the way out.
Higham Ferrers: now, there’s one thing wrong with Higham that is obvious, but we’re coming to that next. It’s got the look of a chavvy Oundle in places but away from the exterior (or in this case the high street) it’s not terribly pleasant. There are three ways out of Higham, the fourth goes straight to hell.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: if you’re standing outside an Asda, you have gone too far and are in hell.
Rushden: the crime capital of the county and thoroughly unpleasant place to live, unless of course you live there then it’s a case of ‘mustn’t grumble’. Well, why not? The place is fucking horrible and now it has the A6 by-pass there less reason to visit the place than there is Thrapston. It has a nice park. It is also stuck to Higham like a Siamese twin.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it has a nice park.
Wellingborough: or home as I called it for nearly 13 years. Lots of parks, taxis, pubs (mostly crap, bar 3) and closet Tories. Had a zoo once; not a good zoo, but a zoo all the same. I think they kept sheep, badgers, foxes, rats and an elephant, all indigenous species. Home to some strange people. A mate who grew up in a village called Wellingborough ‘the big city’. Residents are strangely loyal. There’s a house I’d quite happily take a shit in. Had a great shop once, but that was an age ago, yadda yadda yadda.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: Pooja, but don’t expect good service or hygiene, but the food, oh god the food…
Kettering: most famous for the being the word to describe the pattern a wicker chair leaves on your bottom after you’ve sat on it for too long. If you were transported into the centre of Kettering you’d think, ‘hm, this is nice,’ but then you’d notice that every other shop is closed and the yoofs only come out after dark. It’s a pleasant town that has Wickstead Park, nuff said.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: the hospital is really considerably better than NGH so if you get ill while in the county, go there, you might live.
Rothwell: scraping the bottom of the barrel a bit here, but it has bones.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it has bones, go look.
Brixworth: not quite within the confines of the town like Moulton, this is another large village now by-passed by a nice road. It does have Pitsford reservoir nearby, so you’ll never run out of water or naughty couples shagging in the long grass.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: pate.
Flore: like weedon but smaller.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: the bend.
Irchester: the thing is, it’s like Long Buckby in that you actually have to go and look for it, it doesn’t just pop out and grab you and once you’re there, you wondered why you bothered.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it isn’t going to happen; you’d have to be blind, deaf and retarded to find your way down the maze of B roads that lead to it.
Irthlingborough: or Artleknott as the locals claim it was once called. You can see it from a trunk road, that’s more than enough.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: you can see it from a trunk road, there’s swamps.
Braunstone: thought it was in Warwickshire for centuries, therefore there’s a general feeling of despondency about the place; nice bit of canal though.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it’s not far from 3 prisons.
Wollaston: banished from Birmingham in the 17th century it has a water tower and a road called Bell End.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: Bell End. Honest.
Kislingbury: odd place, possibly far chavvier than you would think. Dodgy pubs.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: a brewery.
Byfield: played football there once in the snow. Seemed big enough to count at the time. I was 11.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it’s not far from Banbury, which is famous for naked horse riding.
Blisworth: doesn’t do pate and it sort of like expensive without being anything too impressive. Close to Milton Malsor and Collingtree, both considerably more upmarket. Tiffield is nearby; that would have worried you 25 years ago.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: don’t be too underwhelmed.
Guilsborough: scored 4 goals there once, in one match. There’s an interesting pub/brewery and it isn’t far from Naseby which is worth visiting for the pub alone.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: Twinned with Long Buckby.
Bugbrooke: is literally full of Jesus cult freaks – avoid unless you are devoutly religious.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: is devoutly religious.
The Bramptons: yeah.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: money.
The Bringtons: okay yar.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: royalty.
The Heyfords: ‘ou gotta loight boi?
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: grain.
The Benefields: och aye the noo.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it’s also not Corby.
Desborough: doesn’t have bones. It doesn’t have much else. A sports centre, but that might not be there now. I could tell you a funny story about Desborough ports Centre, but I won’t.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: is quite close to markey tar bra.
Yardley Hastings: isn’t a cologne or a spy but held a campaign not to build the 7th London airport there an eternity ago.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: nice garden centre, but it closes on a Thursday; apparently the fish and chip shop is run by an Italian. Could be the cosmopolitan village in the county and it’s close to Olney, which isn’t in the county, but is worth visiting.
Roade: has one, well several, but only one that leads out of it. Had a pub once, that’s a pile of rubble now and the train line goes through the middle making a lot of noise.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: not far from Stoke Bruerne, but that’s a bit overhyped.
Gretton: dunno, went through it once and thought it was too small to mention.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: it’s not Corby.
Weedon: look, if I’m including Gretton and not Long Buckby, which is bigger than both, then I’ll include Weedon because there’s more to do there than the other two and it’s not far from Dav…
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: antiques, canals, nice looking one horse village.
Lost Olympic Tourist tip: the train to Birmingham goes through it, so you might see a bit of it.
Then you start getting into the little villages and nice places; anything not on this list is probably worth visiting. Although I’d stear clear of Scaldwell, Maidwell, Wooton, Hardingstone, Harpole and Crow Hill, which might be part of Irthlingborough, but might have declared UDI several years ago.
Then, of course, there’s Northampton.