Monday, 17 January 2011


My birthplace is Slough.  A town that has become the butt of many a joke and the comedic setting for Ricky Gervais's "The Office".  But long before David Brent pushed paper in Wernham Hogg's offices, Slough was the subject of Sir John Betjeman's famous poem.  Written in 1937 as a protest to the building of 850 factories, Betjeman later voiced regret at ever penning his piece...but the fact he had felt so inclined to write it in the first place speaks volumes.

"Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn't fit for humans now."
80's Slough and teen me!

Slough's image of industrialisation; tired, grey concrete buildings and a population to match is a damming one.  Sprawling housing estates covering every once green expanse served only to suck the life out of the town and its residents.  Electricity pylons and sub-stations, concrete bridges and building sites became the playground of my generation. 
Once upon a time our home was opposite open fields where horses roamed.  We had a clear view of Windsor Castle from our bedroom.  The speed at which the ruralness was stolen away was incredible.  A housing estate with a road proudly bearing the name of Concorde Way soon appeared.  This was an apt name given that we were on the flight path from Heathrow whereby at regular intervals the supersonic jet would roar over our house.  This noise was a signal for my parents to rush into our garden and for my mother to remark with gushing sincerity at how marvellous it was to see the sun glistening off its wings.

By the time I left Slough for good, the semi-detached and detached houses that made up the road that I lived on, were being systematically bought up, demolished and having space saving flats built in their place.  My parents sold-up following their second burglary.  No longer feeling safe in the house they had lived in since before I was born, they resorted to constructing DIY burglar 'alarms' consisting of an ironing board propped up against the back door which would alert them in the instance of a would-be robber gaining entry to their home.  God knows what they would have done in that eventuality...thankfully it didn't happen and they are now safely ensconced in a bungalow in North Wales.  My childhood home is now no more.  Number 151 is now just a dim and distant memory.

The last time I returned to my childhood home.

Following the death of my Nan in 2008, the only reason for me to visit Slough died along with her.  I have no desire to return to the place of my birth.  The only really good thing to come out of living in Slough was going to school with the boy who would later become my husband.  Our grammar school was named after Sir William Herschel who himself came from Slough...the astronomer who discovered Uranus.  (I always felt there was a joke in there somewhere!)

Sometimes I wish I had a more positive attachment to my roots.  However, I did always have a little smile to myself at the opening titles of "The Office" seeing the familiar Slough sights and chuckled upon hearing the occasional reference to a place I once knew in the script...maybe there is a deep seated fondness after all!!


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  2. And that's where we met! At age five, in Chalvey Infant School. Don't worry - I shan't tell the full recollection here!

    I have no reason to return to Slough either, although I have been back recently. It is indeed a particularly grim place but London has many such satellite towns that have a similar drab hopelessness and sense of unease. I've tried to find a little fondness for the place itself, beyond memories of friends or events, but I always fail.

    I usually steal a couple of old Victoria Wood lines when describing the place...

    "They say See 'Naples and Die!' See Slough and wish you already had."

    "Its twin town is Auschwitz."

    (Love the photos, by the way).


  3. Indeed your quotes :) At least all us disaffected Slough dwellers can take some comfort in the fact that we all found each other at some point in our childhoods. xxx

  4. Oh god I thought that poem was invented by Ricky Gervais! Suspect am a cultural philistine. Oops.

  5. Haha...all Slough dwellers were brought up reciting the Betjeman poem. Our mantra of choice :)

  6. Hiya, I have tagged you for a meme/ award at my blog -

    Mich x

  7. Hate to make you envious.....but towns like Slough don't exist here in the land of Oz (Australia).

    Mind you, we have just been wiped out with flooding. Next month it will probably be bushfires. We also have more deadly animals than any other country on earth.

    I think Slough is sounding better all the time (and at least you met your husband there! Can't beat that!)


  8. Hiya, I have tagged you for a meme/ award at my blog -

    Mich x



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