I fear I maybe about to break some rules….. Actually, that’s a big lie, I have no fear about rule breaking and I’m not sure such rules exist anyway, so here goes. I am about to have a little moan about Basingstoke. Basingstoke, aka; Boringstoke, Amazingstoke (lmfao), Blazingsmoke, Bayo and my personal favourite, Bumstoke. And this is why;
I used to live there and now I don’t. This is not a ‘reason’ it’s a statement, which I feel gives me even more right to bitch about it.
A lot of the people are horrible.Lots of my family live there too, they obvs are not in the ‘horrible’ bracket.
Everyone is always drunk. Ok, so I was at a beer festival, even so, people should be ashamed of themselves.
There is a concrete ‘statue’ in Wote Street which is a big penis, it is known as the Wote Street Willy. It’s not actually a penis, but it looks like a giant cock missing its balls and even the local paper refers to it as the Wote Street Willy.
But my big gripe really, is about how Basingstoke never actually manages to get things right. Firstly, they advertised a beer festival with a Victorian Fair that clearly included a Helter Skelter, yet no Helter Skelter was there. Then there are all the other little idiosyncracies that make it an unlovable town, from its traffic congestion and insane number of roundabouts to the Park & Ride scheme I have never managed to locate, it has a huge number of unoccupied, over-priced, unaffordable housing, ridiculous ‘art’ on random islands and ugly bright yellow and blue high-rise flats, this town is seriously uncool.
Bumstoke is a really big place with a fairly affluent population. The shopping centre is quite plush, it has had a serious upgrade over the past decade, but you cannot find a bloody parking space. I was lost in the multi-storey car park once for almost two hours. This is completely unacceptable. It is not the only time I have been lost in there but that was my record for the longest period. In summary, to go shopping there, you must allow at least an hour to queue to get in the car park, another hour to find the elusive one space to park in and please ensure you have a generous amount of time to negotiate your way out again once shopping is complete. (I am not even going to mention the hideous crowds, the stupendously small Costa with about 2 chairs in it or the bewildering old town/ top of town/ ground floor and mezzanine level business).
The pubs, which used to be packed when I was younger, you even had to queue to get in them, are now empty. They are all the same. The toilets are awash with urine. A bottle of Smirnoff ice once floated past me in the loos, I had strappy heels on, I was traumatized. Nothing offers anything different so no-one wants to go out. Basingstoke is crying out for a decent nightclub. It would be hugely welcome but it’s piss-poor offering is Liquids. People have died in there. I think that says it all.
If you do decide to go out, in this affluent town, and you do not want to drive, bloody good luck to you. You will risk being attacked if you walk; I know people who have been raped, mugged, beaten up, punched in the face, hit with a scaffolding pole (these were all different people, not one unlucky soul) and you cannot get a taxi for love nor money. Seriously. The taxi situation is a JOKE. And not a funny one. If you want a taxi to take you out, you need to ring before 4pm in the afternoon, this is then followed by a nail-biting wait to see if it turns up. Often it wont. If you phone to book a taxi at 4.01pm and want to book it for say, 7pm, a terribly common accent will say “tonight luv? You gotta be kiddin aintcha? Nuffin ’til abart arf nine”. Everywhere else in the country, you do not need to ring ahead to book taxi’s, you just ring and say ‘can I get a cab now please’, and one arrives, like magic. When I first discovered this phenomenon, I used to call them all the time, just to test it would actually happen.
To get a taxi home, you run the gauntlet of the kebab vans and chicken shops, which always run out of chicken, then stand in one of two queues for a taxi for around an hour and a half, at least. Neither queue is better than the other, they both have their pro’s and con’s. One queue is conveniently placed next to a Dominoes Pizza, so you can get a snack if it is still open. The queue forms in an alleyway, which gives people the impression it is also a toilet, so it stinks of wee and you have to be careful you are not actually peed on by other revellers whilst your back is turned. This taxi firm also has a giant window which the wenches in the taxi office have to sit in front of and face out. Obviously it is just asking for trouble, so you will often witness people in the queue placing their naked ass against the window (my friend Andy is a regular offender). The other queue is next to a Chinese takeaway, which is always open. The taxi office is set back from the road and it’s windows are caged. You must only approach the office with great caution or you will be karate-chopped to death by the people who work there. They do not like to engage in any conversation with the customers although they will occasionally shout “d-ya need ambulance ahht there luv” when someone collapses in the taxi rank.
Which brings me back to the Beer Festival. Two years ago they ran out of beer by 7pm on the first day. The festival is supposed to be open until 11pm, for two days, this was not a good start, so people were quite rightly cautious about going back last year. This year, they ran out of glasses by 5pm on the first day. You get issued with a commemorative glass with your ticket with the place and year printed on it which you can either keep or return for £1. So they had to re-issue 2009 glasses. Which makes me think they had clearly anticipated running out of glasses long before they actually did….. But the weather was absolutely glorious, so the festival was packed, the numbers must have far-exceeded their hopes, good for them.
Inside the enormous beer tent, a band played at one end and along one length of the tent was a strip of low tables which served as the bar, beer barrels full of exciting ales and ciders, stacked behind this. The queue for the bar was about six-men deep, the average wait to be served about 30 minutes, so it was best to always have a man on standby in the queue. The band played jolly songs everyone knew, the tent was heaving with people, the queue for the bar politely upright and absolutely no atmosphere whatsoever. Because, despite the beautiful day and the sun setting, the children and mums going home, and despite the great bringer-togetherer of beer, the tent was so brightly lit you needed to wear sun-glasses. It was like the Starship Enterprise in there, a SAD lamp of the highest voltage beating relentlessly down, showing up bad make up and sweaty foreheads. No corner of the tent was unlit. Every square centimeter was beamed upon like a spotlight from space. The dance floor stayed bare. The band were giving it their all. There was a rumour that someone in the crowd tapped a foot in time to the music, but no-one dared admit it. People clung rigidly to their 2009 issue pint glasses, staring straight ahead. How can you possibly enjoy yourself when the usual low-lighting ambience which softly lets you glow, is taken away. Every open pore, each forgotten upper-lip hair, every ring of sweat patch under the arm was highlighted a thousand times. No cheeky groping or sneaky whispering to someone went unnoticed, no quiet word or exchange of secret smiles could take place, no testing out your dance moves or warming up discreetly before chucking some shapes out there. There was nowhere to hide, no place to stand that allowed you to relax. It was such a shame, everyone was itching to get things going, people were desperate to have a good time but felt like they were ants under a microscope. The feeling was palpable. So despite having all the ingredients (almost) of a great evening, Basingstoke still failed miserably in its attempt to get things right.
Until next time Bumstoke, Adios Amigo.