News From The Old Country

I spent the first 18 years of my life in Northampton, a sleepy town in the East Midlands of England.  (English people mentally divide their country into The North, The Midlands, and The South, then further subdivide East-West; e.g. London is in the Southeast, Liverpool in the Northwest, Birmingham in the West Midlands.)

Northampton’s a sleepy little backwater where newsworthy events happen at intervals of centuries.  Newsworthiest of all was the flight of Thomas à Becket from Northampton Castle in October of A.D. 1164.  The locals still argue about which route Becket took out of the town. 

Then things were pretty quiet until the Battle of Northampton in the Wars of the Roses (July 1460), when Yorkist rebels defeated the army of King Henry VI and took the king prisoner.  Northampton is the “N” in the standard schoolboy mnemonic for remembering the sequence of battles in those wars: “A Black Negress Was My Aunt. That’s Her House Behind The Barn.”  (“A” is First St. Alban’s, “B” is Blore Heath, etc.)

Nothing much else happened until a sensational murder in November 1930, and that was outside the municipal boundaries.  As, come to think of it, was the Battle.  I tell you, it’s a stretch to get anything newsy out of Northampton.

The quiet mediocrity of the place was enhanced by the nature of its main manufactured product: shoes.  Making shoes is a business that easily lends itself to division of labor, so that a shoe worker can spend his entire life stitching first sole onto upper.  Perhaps in consequence of this, Northamptonians have a reputation as being a bit dim.  You used to be able to—and probably still can—buy an automobile bumper sticker saying:  SORRY!  I’M FROM NORTHAMPTON.

Well, Northampton’s hour has come round again.

A man dressed as a clown bearing a striking resemblance to the notorious film monster Pennywise is spooking residents by posing late at night around a town and waving at passers-by.

The figure has been spotted in full clown attire around Northampton—and one woman claimed he offered to paint her windowsills after knocking on her front door, despite having no equipment on him.

There is no explanation for the appearances by the clown—who bears a striking resemblance to the demonic character played by British actor Tim Curry in the 1990 horror film Stephen King’s It.

This must be very disturbing for the Northamptonians.  I bet they can’t wait to lapse back into obscurity for another few hundred years.

And not to get too egotistical about this, but if you look carefully at the fifth picture in that news story you’ll see that the clown is standing under a street name plate saying OAKWOOD ROAD and an old painted wall advertisement for PHIPPS ALES AND STOUT.  I was born in a small maternity facility in Oakwood Road.  I had my first paid employment at Phipps brewery in Bridge Street.  (Sigh.)

A street name plate saying OAKWOOD ROAD and an old painted wall advertisement for PHIPPS ALES AND STOUT.