Oh Milton Keynes, Milton Keynes…what have you done to yourself?
A long standing national joke about Concrete Cows, the gridded roads and a bought in Football team. That’s most people’s sum knowledge about MK, and to be honest, it was mine until i had the dire misfortune to think that moving here would be a viable choice. I’ve been here six months and i have come to loathe the place with a fiery passion.
I’m not here to pull apart the Chavs, as i live in social housing and there are many good people trying to make the best of a very bad situation, or criticize the cows, as hand on heart…i think they are ace.
No, my hatred comes from the fact that many of it’s citizens are blinkered as to what good old “Milk n’ Beans” really is: A dismal London commuter belt town/city/(your choice), a symphony in the superficial and a concerto of concrete, eleventy square miles of fetid shitty failed social housing surrounded by dual carriageways where to be cut up if you’re not in the fastest VW/Audi/BMW/Vauxhall Vivaro van going is de rigueur. Retail parks, retail parks as far as the eye can see. A Starbucks, a Costa, this place is not for me.
It all started off with good intentions: the Daddy of all new towns springing out of prime Buckinghamshire countryside, and for years it grew progessively, the Development Corporation bringing businesses here, the famous “Red Balloon” marketing campaign, the pictures of which still adorn the walls of MK Council’s Saxon Gate offices, but somewhere…it lost it’s way. What caused it? was it the lack of any history or shared culture? was it the dire lack of facilities that still plagues some areas? was it the Socialist dream that MK was started up in slowly turning into a Capitalist nightmare?. We could theorize it for ages, but MK will still be s**t.
Modern Milton Keynes is basically having a delicious cake, filled with razor blades. The attitude of a lot of the locals would be: “yeah, but it’s still a delicious cake!”. Criticism of MK is hushed, almost as if it’s a thought crime, for every one person with a genuine gripe such as The Point on the point of demolition (the UK’s first multiplex) there will be two naysayers that will say that it’s outdated, and isn’t the Odeon Imax in Bletchley (next door to the Domino’s Pizza warehouse) so much better?
You find that generally speaking, MK is almost a laboratory of some sort of social engineering project. The poor and the rich are only separated by a few “H” or “V” roads and a few roundabouts. The estates in general are desperate. Those who say “It’s grim up North” have clearly never been to Netherfield, Conniburrow, Coffee Hall, Lakes Estate, etc. In fact, MK-ers will regularly debate which estate is “not as bad as it used to be” whilst missing the point that they are all s**t. On the other flip side of the coin, those that do do well generally do very well thank you and are quite proud of their Barratt/Persimmon style housing box unit with plasterboard walls and two car garage with heavily financed huge wheeled pieces of tin that have to be driven flat out everywhere, for in MK…you snooze, you lose.
The poor of MK don’t have a lot of choice or hope…you pretty much need a car to get everywhere despite the Redways (those who use them and say they are any good are generally weekend cyclists) The public transport is expensive and crap, there’s a real lack of affordable or cheap shops, and the jobs, whilst plentiful in the low-no skill category, are usually mind numbing, back breaking “McJobs” which local agencies sometimes really struggle to get victims, i mean candidates for. Is fifty hours a week sorting out filthy recyclables whilst getting a lift with a mate in a 51-plate Vectra with mismatched wheels from Stacey Bushes for £6.70 a hour a life or an existence?
Those who have done well from MK, will not stop talking about this fact. To disagree is dissent, the dissenters disbelievers, people who have not subscribed to the dream…They just haven’t given it enough chance…what about the INTU…what about the Xscape? Aren’t MK’s man-made lakes just a fantastic idea?
The one thing i will say about the locals is that they are for the most part, pretty freindly. I lived near Northampton for a couple of years and there is a marked difference in the attitudes of your average Northamptonian and your MK dweller. In Northampton, it’s a literal ant’s nest of humanity, but in MK, it can actually be quite surprisingly pleasant. I’m a Northerner and i admit to liking a stroll round Wolverton and Bletchley and listening to real human interaction that dosent involve screeching. Or growls. Unless you count that poor guy with mental health issues that sets up court in Bletchley public toilets on a Saturday and primal screams the soap out of the dispensers, but that’s only a minor criticism.
There’s a lot of words to be said about MK, but I’ve said enough: Milton Keynes IS dismal: a huge sprawling “Sim City” of buildings that are lucky if they see 40 years use. A place where excuses are frequently made for it’s obvious flaws. A place with a huge poor-rich divide, a place where a concrete monstrosity of a former Bus Station that would have been levelled anywhere else is actually a listed building, a place where Queen once played of the best ever gigs of their long career is reduced to hosting Car Boot Sales on a Sunday morning, a place where your local shop is a River Island, a place where you can get your car taken out by another driver because nobody knows which lane to be in on the roundabout, a place where history is erased before it has the chance to actually BE history, If only…if only all places were like Milton Keynes. Thankfully they’re not. They have soul. Even Peterborough.