What to say about Harlow…a place that new town planners had taken their primordial scalpel to and butchered leaving characterless housing estates and banal shrines of grey concrete that for some reason were supposed to represent progression, prosperity and modernism.
For example Terminus House, a huge monstrosity at the epicentre of the town that both astounds and revolts those confronted with it in turns. Even from the leafy suburbs in Hertfordshire, this ugly mass sits on the horizon like a grey benign tumour. With the exception of Old Harlow, each area of the town blends together to form a tapestry of despair and dereliction complete with its own soulless precinct adorned with newsagents that sell warm beer, stale crisps and cottage cheese in milk cartons.
One can choose to enjoy a pint of substandard, emasculated reject lager from the continent that wouldnt intoxicate a minor in the dingy, musty Yates pub. Or perhaps a myriad of special offers for cheap nasty shots or alco-pops in Liquid or Jumpin’ Jacks where getting lucky that night would warrant either Chlamydia, Syphilis or your name on the sex offenders register by the next morning. Or mingle with peers half your age, when you’re 18, in the local Wetherspoons only to be thrown out by a lumbering neanderthal with a speech impediment three hours later because you look to old. Then there is the cuisine, while most people would ideally venture to an Italian restaurant for a Calzone and a bottle of wine, those in Harlow are forced to sit around a KFC bargain bucket. I rapidly learnt that my evenings out would be spent elsewhere.
And the there are its inhabitants, by inhabitants I mean the chavs and chavettes that provide the crime statistics. The kind of chavs that labour under the misapprehension that they are ‘gangsta’ but would s**t themselves in South Central Los Angeles or Johannesburg. The kind of chavettes that glow like an amber traffic light with a superking resting precariously on their bottom lip pushing screaming quintuplets around in a buggy as they consider what to steal out of Primark when the sale is on. The attire of these people is comical, single coloured tracksuits, any cap worn by any god awful rapper or slicked rigid hairstyles, designer high top trainers and cheap gold purchased from Argos. The male uniform is fairly similar.
The only decent characteristic that Harlow boasted was its college, of which I attended. It stood as a resilient beacon among the woes of the town and by the time the first term ended all the chavs and chavettes that took mechanics and hair and beauty courses to avoid getting a job had long since dropped out due to drug problems, pregnancy or community service orders. Thus leaving the towns best and brightest desperately craving a decent education with a view to eventually flee. Unfortunately in Harlow one cannot have too much of a good thing, by the time I had left, the college was in freefall thanks to an overzealous and dictatorial principle who forced 120 of 180 of the lecturers out of their jobs, taking all what was honourable about the place with them.
And now, even if a nuclear warhead was detonated over the town or if it was the site of a core reactor meltdown, its landscape and assorted mixture of wanton chavs would remain unchanged.