Multiple roundabouts and enthusiastic roadworks aside, Roo Green has developed a bit of a thing for her adopted hometown.
Oh Swindon – how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
This month sees me celebrating a decade of living in you; I came to you for work and stayed for my hot husband.
Before we got together, I’d lived all over the country, working where my radio career took me. I was like the Littlest Hobo in headphones: “Maybe tomorrow I’d want to settle down, but until tomorrow the whole radio dial was my home.”
It was a continuing motif of my career that I’d finish a job on the Friday and the removal van (my dad and brothers slinging Billy bookcases into a transit) would arrive the next day.
I’d known you for 18 months, dear Swindon, when I met my husband. He too had made a move for work and on our second date took me to see his new house, as he’d just got the keys. Little did I know that it would end up being our marital home and an anchor in employment bay.
It wasn’t until he carried me over its threshold after we got married, that it struck me I was no longer the free agent I once was, and I was going to have to learn to love where I lived.
Up until that point – like so many places that I’d lived before – you were a temporary measure, Swindon. I held you at arm’s length like a surly commitment-phobe forced on a blind date by Anne in the office, who’s decided she’s a relationship guru after seeing one episode of Dr Phil.
One of the first things people do when you mention you live in Swindon is either laugh, wince or hit you with the pity party. I’ve yet to meet anyone who says it’s on their list of dream destinations, which is a shame because the designer outlet’s had a revamp and there’s a huge TK Maxx that my mum has endorsed as ‘one of the best’.
I knew you had got under my skin, Swindon dearest, when I found myself vigorously defending you at a chichi party at a members club in London, as people did a sympathetic head tilt while sloshing back cocktails.
“Darling Swindon, why must you have so many roundabouts? It’s like you’re in a competition with Milton Keynes to give me car sickness on a commute.”
I started listing the reasons I enjoy living here: some of the friendliest people I’ve ever encountered, incredible customer service (I do my Christmas shopping every year in Swindon city centre – partly because I believe in contributing to the economy where you live and work, but mainly because it’s a breeze with friendly staff), and the fact that it is actually a lot leafier than you ever imagine before you rock up and make a life here.
I also love an underdog. Your shopping centre is not a looker – although it has definitely improved in the time I’ve lived here – but there are many parts of you that are pretty (hello Lydiard Park) or at the very least not offensive. I once lived in a part of Coventry I affectionately called The Bronx, so I know gritty when I see it.
And while there’s much to love about you, there are some things about you that make me wonder what I ever see in you. Darling Swindon, why must you have so many roundabouts? It’s like you’re in a competition with Milton Keynes to give me car sickness on a commute. There’s even a motherlode: The Magic Roundabout, which is five mini-roundabouts around a sixth central one.
For the first year of living with you I avoided it, and when I finally braved its swirling kaleidoscope I had an adrenalin rush not experienced since I got forced onto a log flume after a spritzer.
I’m pleased to say there’s no water element to the Magic Roundabout, but you, Swins, my darling, are always looking for an excuse to shut a lane and stick up some roadworks for months, so never say never.
Anyway, back to the roundabouts. With these huge numbers, you’d imagine that all your people – the Swindonians – are shit-hot at navigating them. Er, no. There’s a healthy proportion of people who only signal when there’s a car behind them (forgetting those of us who approach the roundabout would quite like to know what is going on) and, to add insult to injury, simply proceed when there’s a space, leading me to yell, “YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO GIVE WAY TO THE RIGHT!” like a demented banshee, at least 10 times a day.
How is everyone not the Stig of cyclical driving when they get SO MUCH PRACTICE? With everyone blatantly disregarding the rules, I can only assume everyone thinks that The Highway Code is fiction; Dan Brown’s less successful follow-up to his plot involving Da Vinci.
My other bugbear is your dog doo-doo and litter. As I’ve lived here a decade I’m not sure if this has become a rising problem elsewhere, but I feel you need to get on top of it. If you’re already fighting negativity, let’s not add to the melee. What we have that is lovely needs to be cherished and preserved – it’s of benefit to all of us to make sure you are always looking your best.
So my sweet Swins, I’ll close this letter with a big thank you. Thanks for giving me a husband, amazing friends and a chance to unevenly wear out my tyres twirling round your roundabouts.
PS: Seriously, enough with the roadworks now.
Read our writers’ other letters to their hometowns here.
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Roo Green has worked in radio since all this was fields. She loves reading, eating and writing, and blogs at www.roogreen.co.uk. Paisley Park is in her heart.