Distractions, reflections

David Ing, at large … Sometimes, my mind wanders

Crap towns: British humour?

On my usual pre-travel preparations to somewhere that I’ve never been before, I thought I’d search the Toronto Public Library for some tour books on the UK. I was intrigued by the title Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places To Live In The UK, published by The Idler.

I’m scheduled to fly from Helsinki into Manchester on the morning of May 6. My friend Martin will be flying from Madrid to Manchester on the evening before, and will stay overnight in an airport hotel. The plan is for Martin to meeting me in the airport arrivals area, and we’ll take the train down to his, in Nottingham. I haven’t been anywhere in the UK except for London, so I asked Martin if there was anything worth seeing in Manchester. His reply was that he thought Manchester was “pretty grim”.

Without a frame of reference, I note that Manchester is listed on the Crap Towns list. Moreover, the comments on Hull aren’t too positive, either. In fact, the publication of the book was noted by the BBC in 2003, provoking some response from Hull as the place selected at the worst on the list. It’s possible that impressions on Hull are outdated — there seems to have been a lot of progress over the past 10 years — or else the development has been localized to the tourist areas. In either case, an update of the list in 2004 moved Hull from the position as worst to become the 19th. Manchester wasn’t on the 2003 list, but made position 40 on the 2004 list.

I take these ratings with a grain of salt, because it seems that only the British would write a book where they would publicize the worst. I assume that this has something to do with their sense of humour. Browsing the list some more, I did note one other place that both Diana and I have been: Slough. We used some frequent stay points, some years ago, for a week at the Slough/Windsor Marriott, which was the nearest hotel available to London when we tried to book. Most days, we would take the shuttle bus from the hotel to Heathrow, and catch the tube for an hour to ride into central London. We did go into Slough one day, to catch a train for a day at Oxford. It wasn’t a bad experience, probably just unremarkable.
I’m visiting the UK to visit at the University of Hull Business School, not primarily for tourism. The university appears to be away from the Hull, i.e. away from the harbour, which may mean something or nothing at all. As an urbanist, I’m interested in cities, both good and bad. Of course, I don’t have to live permanently in any of these places!

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