Harlow is easily one of the worst chav-hotspots in Britain bar-none and is the ideal place to go if you’re borderline suicidal and need that tiny bit of incentive to get you reaching for the kitchen-knife and carving your wrists up with fevered urgency.
There are two sculptures in the centre of Harlow that are of particular note (there are actually loads of the bastards but most are gargoyles, strategically placed to take your attention away from the dog s**t and gangs of rat-faced yobs that litter the place). The first of these, by Elisabeth Frink, is a sculpture of a barefooted woman dressed entirely in cheap clothes which look like they’ve been stolen straight from the bargain basket in Poundstretcher. She has a haircut that only a particularly deranged bag-lady could like and is poised in a overly cautious stance that suggests she is being approached by hooligans and is just about to be mugged and beaten, which going on Harlow’s track-record, she probably is. Overall she just looks miserable, lost and has the unmistakeable air of a person who is about to sling themselves under the Stansted Express at the first available opportunity. This captures Harlow in a nutshell. Curiously, it was created in 1957 but looks as relevant today as it was half a century ago.
The second sculpture, ‘Meat Porters’ by Ralph Brown, is a bronze cast of two burly chaps carrying a butchered cow. It is positioned slap-bang in the middle of the market square and is rather a peculiar centrepiece for a town that has virtually nothing to do with cattle or farming. I have no idea what Brown was actually intending to say with his creation but visit any one of Harlow’s potentially lethal nightspots on a Friday or Saturday and you’ll see a common theme emerging: Poor, unfortunate cows being man-handled and pulled about.
The main shopping precinct known as ‘The Harvey Centre’ is nightmarish construction with a lopsided carpark and a logo that looks exactly like Lou Bega of ‘Mambo Number Five’ fame. It houses the usual high-street stores but is notable mainly for the Wilkinsons there which is quite probably the most soul-destroying place on the face of the Earth, manned by mishapen ghouls with little or no brain and populated entirely by the extremely elderly, the extremely disabled and people in the most extremely unsightly, velour tracksuits. I once went in there to buy some lightbulbs and the ‘person’ that served me actually drooled on the till and then gave me twenty five pounds too much change. I didn’t consider this lucky however; just compensation.
To be fair to the place, shopping in the town is better than is was three years ago but this is largely due to the construction of ‘The Water Gardens’, a shopping complex constructed around a God-forsaken water feature that looks suspiciously like a skillfully-crafted sewer run-off.
Take a wander round the corner to the Little Walk precinct and you’ll find yourself being transported back in time to the early 1970s. Half of the entire concourse is taken up by a cafe which is perpetually full of chain-smoking, biologically ravaged derelicts, their features permanently contorted from wincing at one another through a thick fog of Embassy No 1. It is a meeting place for many. The young mothers can gather to try and guess the identity of the father of each other’s babies. The elderly can come to die. The mad and unemployable can come and sit stone-facedly on one of the benches, obviously masturbating through their ketchup-stained jogging bottoms. And the chronically obese can come to gorge on cream-cakes before staggering across to Biggerland where they can buy T-shirts of such enormity that you could hide a f*****g jumbo jet inside them.
Biggerland is a truly wondrous place. It is a clothes shop that caters exclusively for people who are unable to refuse that forty-third helping of cake and has a very wide door. The smallest size they do is XL and the biggest is XXXXXXXXL. What the f**k? How do you know if you’re an XXXXXXXL or an XXXXXXXXL and would you even bother celebrating if you’d gone down a size. All those X’s must be confusing though; why don’t they simply reclassify into something more meaningful, for example:
XL – Fat
XXL – F*****g Fat
XXXL – Offensively Fat
XXXXL – Grotesque
XXXXXL – Vomit-Inducing
XXXXXXL – Seriously… Stop F*****g Eating
XXXXXXXL – Bedridden
XXXXXXXXL – Dead In A Week
Then you’d know where you stood and you’d get a well deserved sting of concious every time you said, “No, I’m not Grotesque anymore. I’ve gone up to Vomit-Inducing” and so on and so forth.
Interestingly the shop next door sells mobility carts but in a cruel twist of fate, they can only handle people weighing less than a metric tonne.
Other places in Harlow that will make you despair include:
Harlow Swimming Pool – Full of pus-soaked plasters, piss and ten-year olds doing slow-motion kung-fu in the shallow end.
Harlow Town Park – A place of tranquility, peace and violently shaking bushes as drunken juvenile-delinquents experimentally f**k each other in their depths.
Money-Go-Round – Your first stop for unwatchable, fuzzy VHS cassettes and broken electrical goods.
Chicago Rock Cafe – Fancy a punch-up? Then come to Chicago’s and strike up a conversation with any of the ladies in here and you will be set upon instantly by her bellowing husband / boyfriend / random alpha-male who has been eyeing her up himself with a view to fornicating angrily on top of her.
Nando’s – Amoebic dyssentery, Sir? Or just a mild stomach pump?
Harlow Post-Office – Tapping hitherto unreachable depths in queuing hell, this place has got the lot. Defaecating pensioners, screeching kids and the horrifyingly deformed. Not for the short of time or the terminally ill.
So that’s Harlow
Still…. it’s better than Telford-