Thursday, December 18, 2008

Basingstoke, home of the 'chavs'

Apparently. 'Chavs' is technically a British word for street kids, but it seems to generally connotate people of low class/ intellect, who are 'trashy' and wear baseball caps and sweatsuits. Or something like that. Think the character 'Vicky Pollard' ("Yeahbutnahbutyeah") of the TV Show 'Little Britain' or groups of Cockney 'lads' ("innit?").

Popular consensus is that there are a lot of 'chavs' in Basingstoke, according to this Hampshire Chronicle article about the wonders of a Primark (cheap clothing shop) coming to Basingstoke. (The comments section is priceless, and fascinating from a cultural point of view. It very clearly shows British class distinctions - here, where you shop and what you buy is far more important than NZ, or even than the US!)

Anyway, we are very pleased to have moved back into civilisation last Sunday, chavs or no chavs. To a place with streetlights. Public transport. Being able to walk 10 minutes to shops. And most importantly, *warmness*. I was permanently cold at the last house. Especially so before our clothing arrived from the US, as we assumed we'd retrieve it the same month (summer). So I'd brought just one pair of jeans and one jersey/sweater. The house was heated only late at night and early morning, and was often colder inside than out. My hands swelled up so much from chillblains I couldn't wear rings. Within about 3 days here, in a warm room, the swelling had gone down.

Basingstoke itself is boring, but has been 'prettied up' by the local council. (Reminds us of Milton Keynes, actually.) It won 9th in the "Crap towns" survey in 2003. Probably the NZ equivalent would be Palmerston North.

While it doesn't have the charm of nearby Winchester or other 'market towns', Basingstoke does have a cute "Top of town" market area of shops in the original village style, and a nice railway station. The park by our house has also been improved with fountains in the ponds, and it has great running/walking tracks similar to the MK 'redways'. The large mall is the key feature (Top Gear apparently spent a day a few weeks ago, racing cars inside it!) and has obviously had a lot of money spent on it.

However, the houses in the suburbs are ugly, with a same-ness of white walls, a flat roof and golden bricks. Or red bricks. Entertainment options are about average for a city like this: we don't care to experience the nightlife in Basingstoke's four clubs, or check out the local neighbourhood pub, called 'Skewers', or visit the Vue movie theatre. (We're incredibly boring by most people's standards, aren't we?!)

So while I'm honest about Basingstoke's flaws, it's not a bad city, contrary to the 2003 "Crap Towns" survey. And I'm sure it's improved a lot since then. It has low unemployment, and seems to be OK for safety, as long as you're not in Popley. It's 45 minutes to central London by express train, and has lots of good points. The supermarkets are only 10 mins walk away, parking in our area is not an issue (although you do have to pay in the downtown area - hence why supermarket proximity is important) and there are plenty of places for me to run which don't involve narrow,unlit roads with hedges on either side,with cars doing 60mph along them. And we're not 4 miles from civilisation. We're looking forward to exploring Basingstoke more.

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