Hometown Glory (And Article-History Shame)

There appears to be a glaring error within the shiny world of online media, more specifically within news publications’ websites which have a ‘Most Read/Most Commented/Most Shared’ (this is updated automatically according to the number of hits it receives), because it inadvertently brings old stories back from the grave.

This is causing major confusion for us instant-gratification readers of the digital era who are used to clicking on a story, skimming it and getting the basic gist before clicking onto something else. What starts out as some late-night surfer delving into the vaults of a site’s internet history before stumbling upon a catchy article and inadvertently propelling it onto other readers’ periphery soon snowballs into the Number One Most Read Article on [insert national publication title here]’s website.

Today I had the misfortune of catching the headline ‘Ireland mourns comic talent as “Father Ted” actor dies, aged 45’ on The Independent, screaming inside my head ‘Nooooo! Not Dougal!’ and thinking Ardal O’Hanlon had tragically kicked the bucket at roughly the same age as poor Dermot Morgan, only to check the date and realise that the article was written in 1998. I’ve also been hoodwinked by these trending articles this week into believing that Luton, my hometown, had once more been crowned ‘Britain’s Crappiest Town’, after not only reading it on The Independentand The Guardian within the space of a couple of days but also after seeing that friends had read it on Facebook. I’m sure you can forgive me for not checking the date of the article after seeing so many verifications that this was actually ‘news’.

So, with my best blogging head on, I decided to write a post about hometown pride and living in a crappy town, only to discover that the articles I was basing are actually very much old news. However, I’ve already written an outline instead of doing any work at all for my course, and I need to justify the morning spent on some near-fruitless ‘internet research’, so I’m going to bloody well go ahead with it anyway. Just pretend it isn’t entirely based on some articles published circa 2004…

It appears that Luton has once again been crowned ‘Britain’s Crappiest Town’, as reported in The Independent here and The Guardian here [in, ahem, 2004]. The title was awarded after Sam Jordison, author of ‘Crap Towns’ decided to write a sequel after “people kept asking why, for instance, Luton had not been included”. I have to say, I’m not surprised at Luton topping the chart, not because I feel it is actually particularly crappy but because it serves the purpose of the butt of the country’s jokes. It’s great to have a communal joke among the nation, someone that everyone can laugh at, someone that garners an instant easy laugh: Luton is to the rest of the country what John Prescott is to the House of Commons, and it’s not very nice being the appointed laughing stock.

I am by now perfectly hardened to the Luton jibes I get when out and about, and to be honest I actually prefer them to the moronic exclamations of excitement that follow my admissions of living in Luton with ‘LUTON AIRPORT!!!’, a reference to the long-running, banal and unfathomably popular fly-on-the-wall series entitled, you guessed it, ‘Luton Airport’. (I used to stare with bewilderment at these declarations but have now feigned similar enthusiasm, for convenience and brevity of conversation purposes.)

So, I know you’re on the edge of your seat, wondering just exactly what it’s like to actually live in Britain’s crappiest town (perish the thought). For a start, as I mentioned above, it isn’t exactly that crappy. And obviously it all depends on what you define as crappy (oh, that marvelously punctilious terminology). If it comes down to crime, then Luton is out of the running, as any major inner-city area dwarfs it. If it comes down to lack of recreation, facilities and general things to do, then Luton is a veritable megadome compared to all the villages and smaller towns which offer even less. And if it comes down to happiness; I can honestly say that yes, there are tramps and general miserable-looking people who loiter around the shopping mall, but in general everyone I know in Luton is no more or less happy than anyone else I know in other parts of the country.

One benefit of living in a ‘crappy town’ is that when you do get to live in a genuinely decent city -such as Nottingham- you appreciate it all the more so. I have friends who were born and bred in Nottingham and view it as ‘boring’ and ‘uneventful’, whereas I was blown away by what the city has to offer from day one. I love going to different cities and exploring them, and by the end of the year I will have been to Manchester, London, Birmingham, Leicester, Brighton and Bristol in the space of a couple of months, with Newcastle, Edinburgh, Liverpool and Leeds next on my hit list. The good thing about Britain is that because of its size, no matter how ‘crappy’ your town is, you’re never too far away from a really cool city.

In any case, the bad rep has actually helped Luton. Someone in charge must have been listening to all the Luton-bashing, because in the past couple of years there has been a £4 billion renovation throughout the town centre, improving aesthetics and facilities overall and contributing to its ‘Love Luton’ campaign for city-status bid which celebrates Luton’s ‘History, Diversity, Future’.

Incidentally, no matter how crappy or otherwise the town is perceived, I have a friend who will defend Luton to the hilt against any snubs or insults from those only familiar with its bad reputation, citing that “you should always be proud of your roots”. It got me thinking that surely even the biggest ‘scumbag’ from the crappiest town in Britain is more admirable than the person who is ashamed of their hometown, and slinks away from their history. No matter how ‘crappy’, ‘bad’ or ‘boring’ your hometown is, it’s the place where you grew up, first made friends and where all your oldest memories originate from. As one astute reader commented on The Independent’s website: “I don’t care what anyone says, to me the best town is the one I grew up in. It’s the one with all the good memories, the family and the old childhood friends. People often talk it down, but it’s only when they’ve gone that they realise it’s home.”

Moral of the story: be proud of your crappy town. Oh, and always check the article history date.


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