Basingstoke – even the name speaks of drudgery, greyness and pollution. I went to 6th form (and worked Saturdays) in the place for several years, and although they’ve tarted up the centre a bit recently, the chavs are still very much alive.
It’s a town that has been designed around, and utterly sacrificed on the altar of, the private car. On the plus side, this means it doesn’t get jammed up as badly as, say, Swindon, if you actually have business in the place, and there are remarkably few pedestrian-friendly cruising strips for the Nova-boys to show off their crappy Max Power wheels to impressionable jailbait. The flipside is that the populace are hemmed in by roaring ring roads and forced into dank subways and concrete labyrinths when on foot. Given the sewer-like surroundings, it’s not surprising that the dominant bipedal species is Homo Rattus Norvegicus (Ratboy).
The north of the town is made up of residential estates such as Oakridge (fairly chavvy), Chineham (very chavvy, with a big Tescos) and Popley (uber-chavvy). Some of the Popley houses have little slits for windows, presumably because these are a much harder target for a stoned chav to take out with a brick. The leafy south of the town, with the cricket ground and nicer houses, is a little more civilised, but the graffiti artists there still spell their favourite phrase “Fuc Off”.
There are remarkably few famous people from Basingstoke, but a definite chavvy trend emerges. Falcon from Gladiators, Fergie (the semi-royal slapper, not the Man U one) and Liz Hurley all hail from these parts. You don’t think Liz Hurley is a chav? Well she was when she was at Queen Mary’s College – pink hair, piercings, the lot. I actually went to QMC at the same time as Tanita Tikaram, who wasn’t chavvy at all, but the daily sight of all the chavs made her write some very depressing music.
The sad thing about Basingstoke is that it really fancies itself as a top place to live. Pour enough money into a town and it starts to get ambitions well above its station. It likes to think it’s another Maidenhead, when it’s really just a Bedford with a few quid in its back pocket.
Top chav hangouts are the bus station (never!), anywhere in the town centre but especially near Woolworths, most of the public parks – ideal for al fresco glue sniffing – and outside The Other College (Basingstoke Tech). Any town centre pub will be packed full of chavdom, so it’s not worth going into specifics.
Basingstoke also has a thriving (OK, maybe that’s the wrong word) population of tramps, which as we all know are grown-up chavs whose girlfriends have left them and whom the CSA have bled dry. Once when I worked at Sainsbury’s in the town centre, a tramp came in and tried to smuggle out a bottle of Scotch by laboriously trying to stuff it down the front of his urine-soaked trousers. The manager that eventually carried out a citizen’s arrest nearly had urine-soaked trousers himself, he was laughing that much.