This is a weird thought I had, not on the toilet, but in Telford today.
Every six weeks my middle son attends a writers’ workshop co-run by author Kate Long in a small settlement in Shropshire called Oakengates. This workshop lasts 2 hours. Oakengates is 20 minutes from our house so it isn’t really worth me coming back home again before I have to fetch him. The first time I took him, I tried to hang around Oakengates for 2 hours. I failed as I couldn’t find enough to amuse me in that time (I had two coffees in two cafes). Oakengates, in case you don’t know, consists of a theatre (where my son was), a scattering of sad-looking charity shops and two cafes.
The second time I took him, I went to Telford shopping centre to find amusement, which is 7 minutes away. There is indeed enough to amuse me there (at the very least, a Zara, two Costas and a Waterstones) but I don’t like Telford. I go there with a heavy heart and a cross brow. So my weird thought is: why don’t I like Telford? Plenty of people do like Telford. People even live there. Why does the thought of going to Telford make me feel cross? Why do I profess to hate it so much? What has Telford ever done to me?
There are a number of reasons for my antipathy towards Telford:
- I always get lost in Telford as it seems to consist solely of roundabouts and ring roads and all lead to each other. There is no logical way out.
- I always get lost in Telford because my sat nav thinks it is mostly fields.
- There is no middle of Telford. It is just roundabouts (yes I know I should love these as I love roundabouts) and a shopping centre.
- Telford has no soul (not having a middle).
- The Waterstones, although a highlight of a visit to Telford, is fairly crappily stocked (it only has one floor).
- Telford has no black-and-white buildings. I like black-and-white buildings.
- The people don’t look happy. They must be, they are in Telford. They don’t look it though. They drag themselves around the shops as if searching, yearning, for something indescribable. I don’t think they will find it in Telford. I feel as if I ought to tell them to go to Shrewbsury instead.
- I always get lost in the shopping centre. It is quite big and it all looks the same.
- All the houses in Telford are new. I don’t like new houses.
- The sun always shines in Telford. That can’t be real. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Telford in the rain.
- Telford reminds me of Seahaven from The Truman Show. Everyone looks as if they are acting (they couldn’t possibly be there by choice, could they?) and the buildings look artificial. Is Telford a reality TV show?
I hope I haven’t upset anyone who lives in Telford with my disparaging words. I’d be happy to engage in some lively debate with a Telfordian and be convinced that Telford is actually a nice place. Please do feel free to try if that is you. It has an ice rink, after all. So it isn’t all bad. I think the main reason I don’t like it is because it isn’t very old and I live in Shrewsbury which is very old (we have a lane called ‘grope lane’ where the ladies of the night used to hang out in medieval times – and a very interesting history is attached to such streets).
I keep thinking I need to learn to love Telford and perhaps I should start an art project about the town so I can grow to love something about it. I suspect that there is something about it that part of me loves (like when you fancy someone and you are mean to them). I have a love-hate relationship with Telford. It just seems such a sad place where the only leisure pursuit is to shop in the search for happiness or a meaning to life. Shopping is just not the path to happiness though, or is it?