Rural life

Here’s the thing: locals don’t consider Chipping Norton posh

Is the Cotswolds over-rated?

Unless you grew up there, that is. For those of us who spent our formative years becalmed in the still waters of rural life, consumed by boredom and the fear of missing out, the Cotswolds is anything but idyllic.

This week sees the return of BBC comedy This Country, the painfully funny mockumentary… takes as its subject the grim reality of the Cotswolds underbelly, for those outside the exclusive Chipping Norton set.

The funny thing is that people from the area have always regarded Chipping Norton as a bit downmarket and scuzzy. And while it’s been glamorized in recent years with money moving in, it’s still quite a shitty place in many ways. I know someone who had to sell up and move from Chippy because he was living in a little flat on a street which all the drunks and junkies would walk past, and they’d piss on his flat, and throw rubbish into the tiny front garden, and sorts of things like that, which wasn’t nice when your living area was right right there near the front window. (This wasn’t a scuzzy back street, BTW, it was one of the main streets.)

So if you want posh in the Cotswolds, you don’t live in Chipping Norton. You live in one of the posh villages outside Chipping Norton. But certainly there are much grimmer places than Chipping Norton in the area, just as there are all over the country. But I can’t help thinking that the author of this article is over-egging it somewhat.

My social life was non-existent. During what should have been some of my most rebellious and exciting years

Why should you have been rebellious?

 I sat in my bedroom and listened to music alone.

Perhaps you should have got a bike. I know plenty of people who were brought up in rural Cotswolds, and they all rode bikes together, and had a great time. Didn’t you have any friends?

Travel – even to the bright lights of Cirencester, say – was prevented by the woeful public transport system and taxis that had to be booked weeks in advance. I was entirely reliant on my parents to have any semblance of a normal teenage life, so I gave up altogether. I barely touched alcohol or cigarettes until I’d reached the legal age.

Poor you. But I can’t help but wonder whether you have a somewhat skewed sense of a great childhood.

Others, however, turn to harder stuff. Last summer, Gloucestershire Constabulary announced that  “A high number of murders in Gloucestershire in recent years have had a drugs element and many of the knife crime incidents we see are related to drugs.”  In the last six months, the force also says thousands of pounds of crack cocaine and heroin have been transported into the Cheltenham area, a town better known for its glorious Regency architecture.

Hang on. If isolation and poor tranport links makes it impossible for Cotswolds kids to get hold of even cigarettes, how would these kids have got hold of hard drugs? Might it be that they are living a completely different, urban life, than the ‘slow’ rural life you had? In which case why is your completely different experience of any relevance here?

A few years ago, I had tea with an old teacher of mine at a hotel in a nearby village. It was just before Christmas, yet when I stepped out of the hotel at 5pm, the village lay in darkness, every shop shut and the streets all empty.

Rural life is slow. Hold the front page.

That was when I knew I could never move back. As Kerry and Kurtan put it in the first new episode of This Country: “Loads has happened since you last been here…You missed so much. You missed the duck race.” And that was about it.

You don’t even have your own anecdote here? You’ve got to rely on a piece of a fictional dialogue to make your point? Well, I suppose you wanted to end up talking about the show again, but this is very thin gruel.

I suspect what’s happened here is that an editor has said, ‘That comedy about the Cotswolds is back on. Any young people here from the Cotswolds?’ And an intern stuck her hand up. Or an older hand said ‘I am, so my daughter could do you a piece’. And so an article was ‘cobbled together’ — hey, it’s the Cotswolds, got to be a reference to cobblestones in there — out of very little. And then someone at The Telegraph decided that this ghost of an article, which even a student newspaper would be reluctant to accept, should go near the top of the web page.

But hey, at least it didn’t involve any quoting of Twitter posts.

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