I, like quite a few people am fortunate enough not to have to live in Borehamwood. However, I do have to work there, and just a few hundred yards away from the relatively pleasant business quarter near the station, the nightmare of urban chavdom begins. Borehamwood’s main street, Shenley Road is an ugly, run down monument to struggling small businesses and fast food.
This kind of environment attracts the locality’s natural chav consitituency in droves, for the deadly mix of low rent pizza, fried chicken and Chinese takeaways next to shabby off licences, makes it an ideal breeding ground for the underclass. A short stroll along this unremarkable thoroughfare will acquaint the visitor with many of Borehamwood’s most “colourful” folk, such as the legion of 16 year old chavettes who congregate on the benches outside Clinton Cards dressed (unwittingly) like budget prostitutes. The favoured microscopic denim skirt is complemented by the inevitable tight Von Dutch top, stretched over a tarty market purchased Wonderbra imitation.
An intriguing question may trouble the male observer at this point; why is it that these girls, despite being slim and tanned, despite wearing provocative short hemmed and low cut clothing, and despite having hair, make up and nails that most women would ache for, are for the most part revolting to the right thinking heterosexual man? Maybe it is the sheer lack of class that they possess, and it is hardly surprising when they appear to think of Katie Price, Kim Kardashian and the usual array of female R&B singers in semi pornographic music videos, as their role models. Borehamwood is where feminism wept quietly to itself and died. An attractive girl in a low cut top is one thing; a chavette squealing loudly about “Me and Darren wanna have loadsa babies” while her gold hoop earrings swing wildly in the breeze, is quite another.
Onward then to the local Post Office, past the never ending convoy of souped up W-reg cars with twin exhauts, piloted exclusively by baseball capped ne’er do wells who delight in nothing greater than revving their engines menacingly at pedestrians who have the temerity to cross the road in front of their monstrous modified Vauxhall Corsas, and spit chewing gum at the visitor’s feet as they cruise past. One does not have to listen too carefully for the deep boom of “techno” emanating from the interiors of these moving junk heaps, for a chav’s in car entertainment system in Borehamwood can be heard as far away as Luton!
The usual chav commercial concerns are mostly represented: Poundland, Netto, a range of pawnbrokers and low cost jewellery shops, where the browser is offered a comprehensive range of 9 carat tat on credit. Tuesdays are a particularly strong day for the chav retail sector. The market springs up almost as if by magic, blocking the pavements and half of the road itself, and populated almost exclusively by shifty looking characters who peddle everything from fake handbags to that old favourite “Five for £1 cigarette lighters.” Of special interest is the “towel stall” where a chain jangling chav proudly hands Arsenal football club bath towels on metal struts. Official merchandise? You’re joking. The towels are over-dyed imitations that will quite obviously disintegrate after one wash, yet the chavs point and jabber excitedly at them, wondering if they can scrape enough from their giro’s to afford both this masterful example of bathroom accessory AND another packet of Benson & Hedges. Other highlights include the “electrical” stall where chavs can purchase knocked off toasters and (if they want to) stacks of CDRs, and of course the stall that offers pirated DVD’s. Many an awestruck chav has rifled through the racks of martial art and soft porn films, pleasingly presented in flimsy plastic wallets with badly cut photocopied inlays, unable to quite believe the hours of entertainment available for £3 a throw.
Quite rightly, the pubs of Borehamwood cater fastidiously for their chav clientele. Fruit machines, alcopops and fake mahogany tables? The Enigma, right at the top of the road will do you nicely. This hotbed of mass brawls and drunken rows between chav couples (“I know yer slept wiv ‘er, Sharon SAW YER!”) offers a frequent police presence, so you will at least not have to wait too long for attention while picking splinters of glass from your face for “looking funny” at one of the chav regulars. Further down, The Woods pub invites patrons to enjoy one of its “theme” evenings, where “local DJ’s” spin the latest chavvy hits. Fuelled by Reef and Bacardi Breezers, it is not entirely unusual to see a full on hair pulling, nail gouging altercation between chavettes in The Woods. The Royal Oak, a Wetherspoons style chain pub, at least makes an effort to raise itself above the general level by including a small plaque informing the inquisitive of the town’s history, and origin of the name “Borehamwood.” This otherwise rather endearing effort is of course completely wasted on the procession of tracksuited and baseball capped scallies who wait ten deep at the bar to purchase Stella Artois and WKD. Bottles are preferred if possible; they are usful weapons for the post pub fighting at midnight.
Other points of interest are the occasional appearance of “Eastenders” actors who venture out of the nearby Elstree studios to buy newspapers or pop into the bank. The chavs who witness these sudden manifestations of people they have only ever seen on the television, are struck by a peculiar seizure. on the one hand, these people are icons, stars, role models for every chav and chavette with a TV. On the other, they are famous, easily identifiable and obviously ripe for streams of abuse and catcalls. Eventually they settle on a compromise, loudly tooting their horns and calling out some witty remark about their character’s conduct in a current storyline. There is of course little reason to believe that the chavs are in any way capable of coming to terms with the fact the actor and the character are in any way separate entities. If they see Den Watts in Borehamwood, then Den Watts is who they have just seen.
There is little else to recommend in Borehamwood. Venture off Shenley Road and one is soon in a grey and menacing world of 1960’s tower blocks and sink estates, roamed by packs of chav youths with knives and the ever present aroma of skunk cannabis. The visitor is therefore left to ponder the feasibility of making a hoax call to the bomb squad, causing them to destroy Borehamwood in a “controlled explosion.” It is, one can reflect, a nice fantasy..