The Great American Reach Around - The Northeast & The UK
Nuneaton, like America, is a place which can look deceptive if one looks at it from a certain angle. A quick google image search might give you the impression that it is the sort of gentile English country town that often features in whatever twee politically correct masturbatory gran-flick, Richard Curtis is releasing this year in order to keep himself, Hugh Grant, and which ever over the hill ex-boyband member sucked off one of the film executives in order to sing the smoochy theme song, in the filthy lucre.
The sad thing is, all those lovely country inns and stately homes are in the countryside surrounding Nuneaton, and those that aren't have had their photos taken from the architectural equivalent of Myspace angles, to block the abandoned factory on one side and the rusting Ford Escort on the other. A search in the BBC news search engine shows another side of Nuneaton. It's hard to think which would be the worst news story on there; the 11 year old who had his hands set on fire, the man whose ear was chopped just for hell of it, or the fact the mayor's wife was arrested for benefits fraud.
Probably the worst thing about Nuneaton is the racism that exists amongst certain segments of the population. Large racial disturbances seemingly happen every summer. A quick check on our friend google, shows they've been going on since at least 1995. It usually kicks off for two reasons. Edwards Street is the centre of Nuneaton's muslim population and according to a local legend, the longest street in England without a pub.
Bearing those facts in mind, it boggles the mind why the government opened up a bail hostel and a court mandated drug rehab centre on that street. Its kind of like opening a furry rave club next to a pet shop and wondering why the pet shop owner complains when your regulars start interfering with his stock. The analogy stop there as I doubt a mob of pets would lynch the lusty furry to the point of hospital treatment (well outside certain geocitie fanfic sites), whereas the losers in the battles for Edward street are usually those just released from her majesties pleasure and soon to be thrown back into her loving arms.
The second reason is when the anglo-saxon locals decide to kick off. It's usually over something petty, like someone's 11 year old brother got detention for beating up a classmate, a white girl going out with an asian guy (ley be takin' our wimmin!), or influenced by current affairs (the Sunni inhabitants of Edward Street are probably having a hard time of late due to Shiite Iran locking up a few British marines in order to prove they're still hip and with it despite a few grey hairs and a sudden fondness for repeats of Murder She Wrote) and usually ends up with the same results; with the white and proud of it crew getting beaten black and blue and deservedly so.
Nuneaton's main claim to fame is it is the nominal home to transvestite author George Elliot AKA Mary Anne Evans. George lived back in the days of yore, when Nuneaton was a mainly rural area, and the mining industry hadn't moved in and imploded (and left a large man made mountain in the process) and made the town what it is today. Most schools in Nuneaton force its inmates to learn one of Georges many tedious novels, with the end result that most of those who read her works in schools end up hating them with a passion due to the fact her novels bare as much resemblance to modern day Nuneaton life as Hamlet does to the current state of politics in Denmark.
The inhabitants of Nuneaton have a very unusual relationship with America in the fact they adopt American culture as a form of escapism from Nuneaton and the UK in general. Most people aged between 13-30 latch onto some form of cultural stereotype that originated from the other side of the Atlantic, whether its that of a pimped out hip hop playa, a Paris Hilton/Laguna Beach esque princess, a black clad and paler than thou goth or a New England style hardcore punk tough guy. America is what we in Nuneaton would like to be. Different parts of it appeal to different people, but it kind of seems that a lot of us if not all of us at some points in our lives symbolised America in our minds as representing exactly what we wanted to be. This does bring up a lot of unintentional comedy with anti asian racists blasting out 2 Pac on their way to Edward streets to put forward the supremacy of the Aryan race or a bunch of 16 year olds staggering around the town park with Confederate flags draped around their shoulders whilst high on coke on December the 8th "as that's what Dimebag would have wanted".
Despite the fact that we in Nuneaton want to be the Jennifer Jason Leigh to America's Bridget Fonda, we like to blame you (when it's not the EUs turn) for various international events. Iraq war: your fault, flight restrictions on transatlantic flights: your fault, Iran kidnapping some of our marines to assuage fears about its receding hairline: your fault. It doesn't matter if there's no logic behind these allocations of blame, as long as we somehow pin it on you by ranting about Blair being Bush's poodle down the pub after a few pints or so.
We can't decide whether we love you or hate you, just like the rest of the world really.
I hope you've enjoyed this edition of the Great American Reach Around. As usual, if you have any comments, suggestions, compliments, or criticism, feel free to email me.
Next week we will return with what some believe is the greatest city in the world and many believe is the greatest city in the United States: New York City. There's also a whole state hiding behind it somewhere. I'll look into that.
Counterbalancing the big apple is a little bit of red-headed mirth from the Emerald Isle. Representatives from Belfast and Bray will offer up their respective views of the two halves of Ireland.