I am occasionally reminded where I come from: a drowsy little country town in the East Midlands of England.
It was a lot drowsier when I was growing up there fifty-odd years ago. The only direct connection to the outside world was the railway, and that was a branch line ─ an afterthought on the main London-to-Birmingham route. The A5 trunk road ─ the old Roman road from London to Wroxeter ─ passed a few miles away, but didn`t much disturb the town`s tranquillity.
The last event of any national importance to happen in Northampton had been the flight of Thomas à Becket from the town`s castle in A.D. 1164. Locals were still arguing about which route Becket had taken out of the town. The main annual event in mid-20th century Northampton was the ram fair. Try getting into town on a road you`re sharing with 300 sheep.
Those locals were quiet, diffident people who accepted their mediocrity with a wry style of self-deprecating humor. You could (and for all I know, still can) buy bumper stickers saying SORRY! I`M FROM NORTHAMPTON. The town`s soccer team was stuck resolutely in the Fourth Division.
Naturally I couldn`t wait to get out of the place, though I look back on it now with fond nostalgia. My very occasional visits home always leave me sad. Northampton was systematically wrecked from the 1960s on by rapacious “developers” and mass immigration. It is now just a characterless multicultural blur.
I suppose it`s fogeyish to grumble, and no doubt today`s Northamptonians pursue happiness in their own way. Still, since the reigning narrative tells us that the past was a hell of patriarchy, colonialism, homophobia, racism, and social injustice, it does no harm to point out now and again that it really wasn`t so bad.
Well, here is the most recent of Northampton`s rare appearances in the headlines. The town beauty queen has figured out how to lose weight: Eat less and more selectively, do regular exercise. By Northampton standards of intellection, this is up there with the General Theory of Relativity.
I note by the way while browsing the town newspaper that crime-reporting protocols are now the same there as here.