“Home is where the Heart is.” Pliny the Elder.
Northamptonshire is a county in England situated in the midlands and landlocked between eight other counties. Therefore, it is a great place for industrial estates and haulage companies as it is almost in the middle of England and right next to the M1. London is 67 miles to the south, Birmingham is 55 miles to the west, Nottingham and Derby ( hubby is from Derby so I had to include it) are approximately 64 miles to the north and Oxford is 45 miles to the east.
However, it is not such as good place to live if you want to take a spur of the moment trip to the seaside on a sunny day as the nearest beach is 2 hours away.
From the moment my parents decided to up sticks and move from our little house on Dunstable Downs to a housing estate in Northampton I have been trying to escape it including taking a gap year (it was only 7 months in actual fact) around Asia, Australia and New Zealand but time and time again Northamptonshire drew me back like a little boat floating out to sea, free of its anchor and rejoicing that it had finally escaped only to realise that the tide had brought it back to the shore again.
I was not alone in my feelings towards Northamptonshire. A study carried out in 2015 found that Northamptonshire ranked the “second worst place to live in the UK” and another study in 2016 found that it was the worst place for misogyny online.
Northampton town in the 1990’s did use to be a pretty decent place to go shopping and back then the Grosvenor Centre was clean and shiny. Every Saturday morning my nan, my mum and myself would be dropped off by my granddad at the back door of Beatties department store. Prior to shopping we would stop at the café in Beatties for elevenses consisting of a cup of boiled water and a Chelsea bun for my Nan, a coffee for my mum and an iced bun for me (pink or white but not chocolate). Once the cakes had been devoured and the coffee and boiled water had been drunk we would then have a leisurely look around the bone china section of Beatties. Whilst my nan and my mum pottered around looking for more Royal Albert cups and plates to fill their cabinets with, I would spend my time looking at the Royal Doulton figurines of ladies desperately searching for one called Louise. I remember, after months and months of searching, my patience finally paid off but I was left thoroughly disappointed as she had short blonde hair and funny little eyes unlike my mum’s namesake Karen who had lovely long brown hair and was wearing the most fabulous white and red dress with a black corset.
The rest of the day would be spent strolling round Marks and Spencers, British Home Stores, the local shoe factories and finally Debenhams where we would have lunch. Debenhams was so nice back then that it even featured in an episode of “Keeping up Appearances”.
The ” Mouth of Hell” bus station, although not pretty, was great if it was raining as it was joined to the Grosvenor Shopping Centre. Once you had finished your shopping you could pop into Sainsburys, which was at (and still is) the top of the Grosvenor Centre, prior to catching your bus and walk a short distance straight into the bus station. If your bus wasn’t due for a while you could always grab a bite to eat at the café ( if you were desperately hungry of course, as I recall even back in the 1990’s it wasn’t that nice) or even get your passport photo done at the machines located round the back.
The bus station was demolished on 15th March 2015 as the Council thought it would be a good idea to knock it down and spend millions of pounds on building another one just down the road, and so now the people of Northamptonshire have to walk miles with their shopping in the pouring rain and also creates havoc with the traffic.
So here I am, twenty eight years later and still in Northamptonshire…..
However, in the last couple of years or so I have found myself not wanting to escape its clutches and although Northampton town centre is a shell of its former self, like a lot of towns in the United Kingdom with charity shops, pound stores and boarded up department stores lining the streets, I have discovered that there is so much more to the county than just the town centre. I do admit that it is my own fault for not venturing out more when I was younger. However, since having children, I have been able to explore more of Northamptonshire and have discovered that it is a wonderful, friendly county full of beautiful parks, pretty villages and stately homes full of history.
After living here for nearly three decades I have finally come to realise that I love it after all, like the boy friend you have when you are younger, he didn’t care how awful you were to him, he was always there for you no matter what, but you never gave him a second glance as he was not even on your radar as actual boyfriend material.
The one day something changes…. but not him, he’s always been the same, but the way you see him changes and then you realise how much you are in love with him and have always been, you just didn’t see it until now.
And that’s exactly how I feel about Northamptonshire!