Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Weakest Linc...(sorry!)

Today I blog from the comfort of an East Coast Train, heading back to London after a weekend in Lincolnshire. And as I speed across the flat plains of the Midlands, I feel relieved. But I also have a sense of panic.
You see, this weekend I went to stay with a friend who has recently moved to a small town just outside of Grantham – I’m not going to mention it’s name as I certainly don’t want to offend anyone who hails from it, so I’ll call it Town A. Part of me was looking forward to getting out of London for a weekend and to enjoy a laid-back, semi-rural ambience.
On Saturday my friend suggested we pop into town. She explained that there wasn’t a lot there, but I agreed, figuring there would at least be a Dotty P’s to look around. But no. The nearest to High Street fashion was M&Co., closely followed by a Cancer Research Charity Shop. There was a Boots and a Superdrug, suggesting to me that the women of Town A make up for their lack of decent clothes with cosmetics. However, with an impressive array of cheap hardware stores and factory shops, it isn’t a bad place to live if you are in need of some reasonably priced Tupperware. My friend apologetically said that she was within half an hour of Lincoln which is much better for shopping. I agreed this was a good thing.
There are two things that worry about what I have just written about Town A. One of them is that it makes me sound like an awful snob. I’m sure a lot of people who have grown up in the Midlands where I spent most of my childhood would say this. Maybe they are right, maybe I am a snob. But quite honestly, if it means that I get a decent top without having to drive anywhere, I don’t care.
It doesn’t stop with fashion. My friend suggested we go to a cafe for a coffee and cake. She took us to a little independent spot, saying that she much preferred to go to places where the food was homemade than coffee shops that mass produced their over-priced skinny muffins. I agreed whole-heartedly. When we arrived she told me that a friend of hers who had lived in Town A all her life had told her that the place hadn’t changed in thirty years. I nodded, checking out the wooden panelling and plastic tables. Then my coffee and cookie came. The coffee was passable. The cookie? Well, I’m sorry, but if you put cheap chocolate in a biscuit it will taste, well, cheap.
Again, I am cringing at myself. But I can’t help but think that places like that only survive in towns where Starbucks haven’t bothered going to because the population is so small and, dare I say it, set in its ways that it isn’t worth its while. And if I had a choice between said coffee chain and the place I went to on Saturday, I’m afraid my pound wouldn’t be supporting the local business. I’m sorry, I have standards.
The second thing that frightens me is that if we move out to the commuter belt I will end up living somewhere like Town A. This would be worse than moving back to the town where I grew up, which has numerous quality cafes (including a Starbucks and a Costa), not to mention a Dotty P’s, Monsoon, Next and a New Look, to name just a few. Town A makes it look positively cosmopolitan.
Another friend of mine has recently moved to Town B, which is 30 minutes from Town A. My friend from Town A used to live there and we drove over this afternoon to meet my other friend for Sunday lunch.
“I don’t miss this place at all.” My friend scoffed. I nodded, mentally deciding there and then where I would rather live. Yes, so Town B is very similar to the place that I grew up, and although it isn’t quite up to speed in the shopping stakes, it does have a smattering of high street shops to keep your average woman satisfied. I mean, how does one survive without M&S?
So as I get closer and closer to London and Him Indoors, my resolve has been set. I have standards, and refuse to move anywhere so small that you can’t even see the Golden Arches within a five mile radius. I need shops, I need cafes, and I need pubs. And I need them to be of a certain quality as well as quantity. And if that makes me a snob, I can live with that.

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