Harpenden – the smuggest town in the smuggest county

Living in Harpenden, Hertfordshire
Living in Harpenden, Hertfordshire

In one of the “boutique shops” on the High Street (between a Costa and a charity shop), they sell mugs that say “I’m terribly posh, I’m from Harpenden”. Clearly intended to be slightly tongue in cheek but in practice bought by people whose tongues are less in their cheeks and more worming into their own self-entitled arseholes.

There is a distinct Harpenden type – grew up somewhere slightly sh*ttier (maybe Kent or Suffolk – but definitely not somewhere where you developed a local accent – that wouldn’t work), probably bullied at school, went to a good university but not the best (think 2:1 in Geography from Exeter), went to work for a bank or law firm in London, progressed so far in a moderately successful career (but unlikely to be much higher than middle management), got married to a clone of the above, moved to Harpenden and squeezed out a couple of babies with names like Arthur and Florence. People like me.

It’s strange that in somewhere as seemingly pleasant and affluent that there are absolutely no good restaurants. The only good ones to have opened end up closing soon afterwards through lack of custom. You’d like to think this is because people are too busy doing coke and going to swingers parties. But in reality it’s because everyone works in their middle management job until 10PM every night and at the weekend it’s just too much of a hassle to arrange a babysitter for Arthur and Florence. As such, they end up on the sofa at home, watching something like Call The Midwife, drinking a herbal tea from an “I’m terribly posh, I’m from Harpenden” mug and wondering why, despite having “made it”, they’re really not very happy.

How grim is your Postcode?

Meanwhile, taxis full of people from Luton descend on the town centre, pile into the pubs that on a Wednesday lunchtime would be selling vegan mezze platters to groups of breast-feeding, Sweaty Betty clad mothers – and then later in the night throw bricks through the windows of the boutique shop.

In the morning, herds of Dads (doing a bit of Sunday morning “parenting”) walk past and bemoan the youth of today. This is supposed to be a nice place. Why isn’t there more CCTV – we pay some of the highest Council Tax in the country. And why the **** did we spend £1.5m on a semi-detached 1980s house in this mundane town instead of being bold enough to go slightly further afield, enjoy the fruits of our labours and risk living somewhere with some actual character. But then you wouldn’t get to mix with Saracens players in the park and the mug would have to go in the bin.


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