My positive-mindset voice considers the title of this blog and would say give it some space Mr B. How about this? Now here.
Sorry, not today: Nowhere, Middle England.
September 2019 saw a flurry of splendid locations and Nowhere wasn’t one of them. Not in the top 100 of the seven places I’ve went to. I say Nowhere as the if-you-can’t-say-anything-good etiquette means the real name of the town is deliberately withheld. Although I might change my mind. Read on.
Work takes me to this place with regularity for the duration of a project. So, here we are again, pitching up on a Tuesday evening ready for the next working day. It’s taken several visits and conversations with fellow nomads to source reasonable nearby accommodation. (My word, in some of England’s crappest towns the cost of a bed can be wallet-melting. Bracknell from yesteryear had ewww hotels that were all priced at kerrrr-ching! How so? Simply because the corporate folk needed beds to sob in after their day of godawful meetings.)
On this occasion, the digs of choice were unavailable. Bother. So we’re in an eatery with (brand new) rooms. The web show that geography and B&B rate are attractive. I apply a little optimism. What a fool. When I arrive at eight pm the bar is positively bumping. Only not in a funky, fun, positive way. Two TVs and the music system blare simultaneously. Industrial florescent bleached white lighting. Burly men hogging the bar in noisy angry faced, world weary, cynical conversation about welding. Two people jeering at a football team on one TV. The other entertains itself with a day-in-the-life of a regional airport documentary. A Mum is yelling at her kid – even though he is within arms reach – to “FINISH Y’FOOD.” He doesn’t. Mum goes outside to smoke, his sullen response being to add to the cacophony by forcefully strumming a three-quarters acoustic guitar which has – I can’t help noticing – not been tuned. He’s wearing PJs and a dressing gown (of a style that has its own Facebook following I later discover). His sibling gaps at a hand-help screen. A party of nine local ladies are shown to the table next to me. They order a pallet of weapons grade alcohol and get stuck in. I note that the book I am failing to read is shaking slightly. Popping downstairs for a bite before an early night has not been a good option. Usually a book in a food joint is a quiet disguise. Here it feels like a neon spot-the-nerd sign.
I remain for the time it takes for a plate of tuck to arrive, be shovelled into my pie hole – it’s delicious, unfussy and copious – pay the bill and scarper back upstairs. Resisting the impulse to barricade the door, the book gets some close attention. At least until the noisy barflies continue their now plastered conversation beneath my window before getting in their large 4X4s and driving, driving off. Presently the nine ladies take the evening air, only to be drowned out by a hot-hatch-rev-limiter driveby and a screechy-loud siren of – I presume – the local constabulary giving chase.
Early-night slumber is punctuated by noisy cars and the locals yelling in the car park. [Can anybody tell me why (some) people SHOUT conversations at each other when they are not competing against background noise? The working assumption is that they spend all day in the heavy-metal-drum-solo factory and this volume of conversation is their default.] At least the new bed is okay.
In the morning the breakfast options are all fried. My breakfast cob is 125% filled with the cheapest ingredients cash and carry can provide. I quite enjoy it. I ask for apple juice at the bar and get poured orange: over half a pint of deffo-from-concentrate-taste-the-gritty-powder stuff. It does something strange to my teeth so I discard it and head to work with a really minor case of sub-sub-sub-PTSD.
Wednesday after work? Not a soul in the place. The proprietor calls me mate and says he loves m’name. I go jogging to help rid me of the day’s tension. It has the opposite effect; mood dragged lower by the soul-sapping greyness, scowling faces, dogshit pavements. I run down run-down roads clogged with parked cars. I turn the corner onto the main street in broad daylight and a portly rat scuttles ahead of me passing a vacant shop which is [insert metaphor for something downright depressing here].
I’ve been back to the client this week. Guess what? I stayed outside the sad town: my soul couldn’t take any more exposure.
Next week Stuttgart & Leipzig. I wonder…