A question from an angry young(ish) man.
The Plashing Vole asks…
“I have a question for Ben and Clare. Why does nobody ever sit next to me on buses and trains? I’m in Rotherham. Jesus what a dump. A”
I’m a little confused. Does nobody ever sit next to you on buses and trains, ever? Or does nobody ever sit next to you on buses and trains purely in Rotherham? If it’s the latter, it could well be down to the way in which you happily go about slagging the place off; try easing up on the public outpourings of grief when travelling in South Yorkshire.
If it’s not place specific, have you considered any bad habits you might exhibit or irritating behaviour you may develop when riding on a bus or train? Swigging White Lightening from a two-litre bottle can be offputting to potential bi-seat cohabitants, for example, while barking loudly at every stop can have a similar effect. Another no-no is dousing yourself in Denim before a trip on the transportation system, as is the polar opposite of foregoing the morning deodorisation routine then layering up in manmade fibres. Alternatively, it may be your utilisation of modern technology that is the problem: gesturing along to that gangsta rap playing out of your tinny iPod speakers or shouting “Sell! Sell! Close the deal NOW dammit, you cockshaft” into your mobile phone isn’t always appropriate in polite company; you may need to learn how to read the situation more clearly. Finally, it could be that your body language or facial expression is the reason other passengers gravitate away from you: try sitting still and not stroking your crotch region while making eye contact and licking your lips.
Then again, why are you worried? I would think getting a couple of pews to yourself would be a good thing. Is this really a problem in your life, or are you just wasting my time and Ben’s (he’s very busy at the moment, you know, what with glittering awards ceremonies to attend and novels to write) so you can get a bit of attention? Hmmm. I’ll be watching you.
Did you know that Rotherham Minster was described by Pevsner as “the best perpendicular church in the country”? No? Do you think that is because you were too busy making snap decisions about the place?
Did you know that the Catcliffe Glass Cone is the oldest surviving such structure in Western Europe? That Pulp played their first ever gig at Rotherham Arts Centre? That Sean Bean made his stage debut in Rotherham? The town may not be Oxford Mr Vole but it is, like most towns, trying its hardest.
The Chuckle Brothers live in Rotherham, Vole. Do you think you are better than the Chuckle Brothers? Do you? Do you?
I think Clare has hit the nail on the head by suggesting that you won’t make friends going around being rude about people’s homes. I can, from bitter experience, accept that you are equally rude about the town in which you live; but then I imagine you don’t get many people in Wolverhampton asking you if “that seat is taken” if you are staring out of the train window and lost in a cruel and violent monologue about the architecture of the West Midlands or how you can’t get decent foccacia in Tettenhall Wightwick.
You need to give to a town. You cannot just take.
Take Clare and me for example. While it may be an oversimplification to say that Manchester was a cultural wasteland before we started blogging about it, there is, as with all urban myths, an element of truth to the idea. We love Manchester, we help promote it, we get involved, and in return Manchester loves us. In short; people sit next to us on trains. We are liked.
When was the last time you did anything for Wolverhampton, let alone Rotherham? Manchester is only a better city than Wolverhampton (sorry Wolverhampton, but it is) because people have made it better. Make Wolverhampton better. Make Rotherham better if you want to. But do something. Actions speak louder than words and all that. Please, don’t expect to make friends with people by being nasty about where they live.
Oh dear. It seems that you have made us so cross that neither of us were prepared to play ‘good cop’. We don’t mean to upset you. We will send you some Party Rings in the post.