I grew up in “Chip-nerm”, before it exploded into its current sprawl of field-obliterating estates. It was actually quite a pleasant town, which ended at the Pheasant Pub to the west and at the cemetery/ Hardens Mead to the east. This was when Westinghouse was still going strong (I worked in the foundry), Westmead Junior school was still open, there were two Cavasciutti cafés in the town. When the swimming pool in Monkton park was open-air.
It was no paradise then. Bikers from rival towns like Calne, Melksham etc would regularly roar around to each others’ pub hangouts on Saturday nights. They’d batter or glass each other to settle whatever primitive tribal disputes bikers had back then. In fact it’s always been a bit of a redneck town. Getting beaten up by someone “strong in the arm and thick in the head” was always on the cards if you happened to be out on the streets late on a Friday or Saturday night after chucking out time.
Depressing spiral of Decline
Coming back regularly to visit over the years I have seen a depressing spiral of aesthetic and social decline. This is not unique in Wiltshire, as most of the county’s towns have suffered a similar fate. Just walk down the High Street on a Saturday morning or on market day. You will think you’ve strayed onto the set of a movie about a mass genetics experiment gone wrong. Everyone looks either terminally ill, insane, drunk, tranquilized or desperate. Obesity and deformity dominate. Dress sense, poise and elegance are completely absent. Many people appear to be smoking, eating and drinking all at the same time.
Wobbly and Vulgar
There are acres of wobbling badly-tattooed, blotchy, unhealthy flesh on display. Unbelievably fat ugly vulgar young women smoke, holler and swear loudly to each other as their hideous, hyperactive and out-of-control brats with expensive trendy haircuts run amok clutching high-sugar drinks and stuffing high-salt junk into their brutish little faces. Fat guys schlep around in tracksuits with their **** cracks showing and oh dear when the sun comes out and it gets hot they do the worst thing: they take walk around bare chested with massive white guts on display. Not for the faint-hearted or anyone of a sensitive disposition. Clearly there is a lot of alcohol, fast-food and drug-related damage here.
Monkey see, Monkey do
There is also damage from watching too much “reality” TV whose “stars” many people are clearly keen to emulate both in appearance and mannerisms. It would appear that many young people have decided that self-mutilation with extreme piercings, weird hair-dyes, and job-stopper tattoos is the only way to define their identity, with predictably tragic, often catastrophic results. It really is a post-apocalyptic movie caster’s paradise. Catch snatches of conversation and you will hear nothing but banality and vulgarity. In the shops you will be greeted by “allo mate” instead of “can I help you”, unless you go into for example the Vodafone shop where they’ve been brainwashed to say “are you all right there?”
Snapbacks and Subarus
Meanwhile, boy racers (driving Subaru WRXs, daft little Saxos with burbling exhausts and other rice burners with sneezing dump valves) with rapper-style baseball caps and booming sub-woofers cruise the one-way system glaring out at the world with their tattooed steroid biceps on display. In fact, a lot of people drive way too fast and aggressively in Chippenham (on their way to or back from the supermarket with their massive payloads of alcohol, red meat, cakes and chocolate).
Lowest Common Denominator
In every recess of the park river walks, you can see dense deposits of plastic bottles, cans and takeaway wrappers. But a lot of the above is a pattern repeated all over the UK; the Lowest Common Denominator rules; morons roam freely gazing dumbly at their phones checking out the social media banality comments of other idiots.
Chippenham has very little culture or refinement to offer. It’s a tragic dump populated by people of low education, low aspiration and low IQ, which is a shame, as it could be such a nice place if it weren’t for its inhabitants.