Barton is now a total s**t-hole, which is a real shame as it hasn’t always been like this. Although it has never exactly been one Oxford’s more desirable areas, and has always been rigidly working class (as am I and proud of it!), I remember it as being a good place to grow up. The first 19 of my 29 years were spent there, and I never had a single problem anywhere on the estate (although it was getting iffy towards the end). There was a good community spirit, most people knew each other, and I enjoyed my childhood and teenage years there. In the eartly 90’s however, things started to change.
Sadly, as more and more problem families have been moved in, more and more decent people have been forced out. Living next door to a drug dealing alcoholic with three delinquent chav kids was certainly enough for my parents to up and leave (at a huge cost). The private homeowners who want to leave either have to sell up for rock bottom prices (a good-sized 3 bed house in Oxford for <£100k anyone?) or rent/sell the house to the Housing Association and move out, whereby a bunch of scumbags who have been kicked out of a council house elsewhere in the county get moved in. You don't need a sociology degree to work out what effect that has on the overall area over a decade or so.
I took a drive along my old street last Summer for nostalgic reasons (last went there more than a decade ago) and I hardly recognised it. What was once a fairly neat and tidy street was now a collection of broken glass, overgrown gardens, flaking paint, graffiti, vandalised cars and half bricks lying in the middle of the street. No word of exaggeration, it reminded me of the news footage of downtown Baghdad, or Beirut. Oh and the chabs hanging round the manky Escort who were staring somewhat threateningly as I drove past. It’s somehow depressing when you feel unwelcome and intimidated in the neighbourhood you’ve spent most of your life in.
Oh yes, the chavs. In short, they’re everywhere. These malnourished, burberry and bling clad arse bandits are to be found hanging around the shops on Underhill Circus where their favourite pastime is the usual delightful cocktail of positive contributions to the community including abusing passers by, shouting and swearing as loudly as possible, drinking cheap cider by the gallon, starting on anyone who doesn’t look just like them, and generally actin’ ‘ard innit.
These kids anti-social behaviour CV goes further however. Barton has a proud tradition going back to the early 90’s of being the place, alongside Blackbird Leys, where every car stolen in Oxford tends to end up. Although a bit less prevalent these days (although still happens), the craze when I left was to put on “displays” on the wide bit of tarmac outside the Fox pub with whatever car (or cars on some occasions) you’d helped yourselves to out of the Westgate car park in the city centre that day.
To see a display is something else. Take a powerful hot hatch, a pissed up/stoned “driver” of about 16 with a) no driving skills and b) no mechanical sympathy. Add 50 or so of his pissed up/stoned chav mates lining the kerbside and cheering him on. Start the engine using the screwdriver you nicked from Halfords last week and as the inimitable Murray Walker might say, it’s GO GO GO!!!
To walk along North Way many mornings on the way home from the pub at 2am, I literally couldn’t see the other side of the street through the tyre smoke as some poor bastards Astra or similar was thrashed mercilessly until it blew up, crashed, or ran out of fuel. Depending on the mood of the crowd / proximity of the police (not usually within 10 miles of the place to be honest), it was either just abandoned, or the crowd would roll the car over, remove any saleable bits (wheels etc) and set light to the rest. Occasionally the car would make it out to the lanes towards Beckley where it would be pushed into a ditch and set alight. At one time there were six burnt out cars on the mile of road between the crem and the T-junction at Beckley. All done by w*****s from Barton.
In short, this place is a classic example of what happens when you combine an unbelievably incompetent legal system, politically correct, “softly softly” social housing policies, and a police force that, to put it bluntly, decided that everyone on Barton has the same mentality as the chavs and as a result, couldn’t give a f**k about the place. For the poor decent people who doubtless still live on Barton (in a shrinking minority), you have my deepest sympathies.