Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Rainy Northamptonshire

The weather was horrible in Northampton today, although according to Nathan, it was a lot worse in London. When we returned this evening, the garden was full of twigs which had been blown down from the trees by heavy winds.

Northampton was a rainy, murky place, which was not inappropriate for the day of a funeral. We were saying goodbye to my old drama teacher, Ursula, who was such an important figure in my teenage years. Judging by the large numbers of people who were at the funeral, I'd say she was a pretty important figure in a lot of people's lives. There were representatives from her days at Oxford University in the 1950s all the way up to her post-retirement adventures with theatre groups in Northampton. She was loved at every stage along the journey by young and old alike. I have seldom been to a funeral where so many people seemed to want to talk at such length and so effusively about the person who's gone.

The turn out from my old school was fairly impressive. At least two of Ursula's former pupils were there, including Chris, from the year below me, who is now a playwright, and Tim, who was actually in my form, and stayed very close to Ursula over the years, often acting in her productions. She was plainly much-loved by her fellow teachers as well, judging by the fact that at least eight staff members from the Ferrers School were present including the lovely Miss Hull who taught me A-level Georgraphy, Miss Holloway, who coaxed me through A-level music (and in the process taught me the rules of musical suspensions, which have become perhaps the most identifiable aspect of my composition style) and my absolute guru, Miss Stratford, who tutored me through GCSE history - a job she shared with my own father! Miss Stratford, was actually the woman who encouraged me to go to York University. She was also the person who ripped up the syllabus when we were studying Chinese History in 1989 at the exact time that the Tiananmen Square massacre happened. It was, without doubt, one of the most exciting educational periods of my life. Catherine had come all the way from Edinburgh to the funeral. That's how loved Ursula was.

Northampton, on the other hand, felt a little unloved. It's in a desperate state these days. The place is plainly falling apart. All the old car parks have been built over, so even if they wanted to, people couldn't visit the place. I spoke to one bloke today whose offices have recently been moved into central Northampton. Apparently there are 2000 staff members in the new building with only sixty allocated parking spaces! The situation is grim, but not as grim as the shopping centre which is full of boarded-over premises. Even Oliver Adams, the much-loved bakers on St Giles Street, has closed. The town centre used to feel so bustling and, I suppose, glamorous for a hick from the East Northamptonshire sticks like me. These days, it's empty and tragic.

We did have a rather lovely lunch down at Nanna's Kitchen opposite the Jaguar Place on the Kettering Road, however. It's a sort of New York-village-style bric-a-brac cavern filled with amazing second hand clothes, records and piles of intriguing nicknacks which may or may not have been actual antiques. In the heart of the place is a cafe which sells lots of delicious healthy, gluten free, vegan and vegetarian food. It was a real highlight of the day, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone who likes that sort of boho vibe.

I'm rather sad to report that I missed seeing that prize clunge, Nigel Farage by a matter of minutes as I passed through the market square on my way to the funeral. He had commandeered a stall and was due to do a meet and greet in the driving rain at 2.30pm. Had I not had far more important things to do, I would have happily turned up to throw rotten fruit at the bastard. As I passed, a series of ghastly, young, gurning, chinless, UKIP acolytes were setting up his stand. Gosh, I felt proud to be voting to stay in Europe. I hope the rain has made them all go mouldy. Stupid little tits.

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