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Welcome, you are now entering The Dive State!

September 5, 2012

There are places in this world you just avoid, because someone tells you that they avoid it. In Brighton, nearly everyone I knew came up to me and said, by way of greeting: “Stay away from West Street!” and you don’t ask why, because you’re afraid of the answer. So everyone just trundles around under the impression that West Street is some kind of Death Street, where twelve incarnations of the Grim Reaper wait down murky alleyways for straying tourists.

Everywhere has its place to avoid, according to scale. West Street was the bit in Brighton, which is a town in a county called Sussex. But in the country as a whole, the The Only Place to Avoid is Essex, which is an entire county. Admittedly, counties here aren’t very big; street sizes typically range in anything from 200 houses down to two or three.

We have this confusing system of boroughs and boundaries which overlap ridiculously; I have a Kingston postcode, I am served by Sutton County council and am part of the Borough of Epsom and Ewell, both of which are just outside of Greater London, but where I am is included in greater London, and Ewell is an Oyster Card zone, which means it’s being held as part of Greater London for the convenience of train commuters. And I am on the borders of two towns which are none of those places. Wasn’t that interesting?

Essex is not the place where the trash of humanity collect. I went to a posh wedding with  falconry display, which took place in a golf club in Essex. My aunt and uncle have lived there ages and they’re so spruced and fashionable, they make the average ex-private school dad look like Worzel Gummidge.

I understand the American equivalent is even more ridiculous because it is state wide. State wide! An entire dive state! I doubt New Jersey is called the Garden State because it’s made of rusty old tin cans, unless the namer had a fantastically ironic sense of humour.

The way people compare central Manhattan to the more crusty urban elements of Jersey is about as fair as comparing the London Eye to a dirty old hubcap lying in an alleyway, just because they happen to be nearby and the same approximate shape – when the alleyway leads to a perfectly decent park in the background.

Oh I know, it’s so very fun to make fun of other places, as long as we do secretly know that every country, county, city, town or even tiniest village has something to offer (especially if you’re fascinated by all manner of bizarre things). When you turn your nose up on places, you miss out on stuff.

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From → British Culture

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