It’s now been over six months since my work office in Hammersmith closed - and we relocated to Slough. Hammersmith is in West London - and Slough is even further West - just past Heathrow Airport. The journey to work obviously takes longer for many of us - and despite the fact that we were disappointed about Slough (I mean - it has a reputation for being one of UK’s crappest towns) many of us approached the prospect with an open mind and a positive manner - and have tried to make the best of it.
Personally, I think that Slough and its people get a really rough time with all the criticism - especially from die-hard Londoners - I think it’s got a lot to do with the name “Slough” than the place itself - which in reality isn’t unlike many places we Londoners know and love so much - e.g. Stratford, Lewisham, Deptford, Woolwich etc. Slough is no more depressing than all the London towns in the East of the City - except it’s in the West. It has a shopping area that’s made of concrete that’s out of date - a bus station that should have been demolished years ago - undesirable council estates and a youth culture that is derided by the Guardian-reading classes - just like, say, Charlton, Stoke Newington and Bow.
Of course Slough isn’t helped by the fact that the famous British poet John Betjeman published the infamous poem about Slough in 1937 - where he proclaims “Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!” - and it also isn’t helped by the fact that the BBC’s most popular award-winning (and I mean Golden Globe Award Winning!) sitcom of recent years - The Office was set in Slough. I watched just one episode of that programme to kill time on a long-haul flight not long ago - and judging by the characters and manners portrayed - which admittedly are funny - it seems to make mockery of the types of people who live and work in Slough.
Now - having been working in Slough for only around six months - so it’s not really long enough to have explored it very thoroughly - but I have promised myself that I will in this journal right here - over the course of time - try to expose some interesting images of Slough. Try to correct some false perceptions - right some wrongs etc.
So I’m going to start with the street right outside the front door of my office - the street where I work - which is called Wellington Street. Presumably this street was named after the famous Arthur Wellesly - the Duke of Wellington - who after proving himself a great soldier during his mission to sort out Tippoo Sahib of Mysore in India in 1797 - returned home to later be put in command of the armed forces that defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. He became prime minister of UK in 1828 - and it must be a great honour to him that Slough Borough Council have chosen to immortalise his name on this one of the busiest thoroughfares in the centre of Slough. Wellington Street is actually a dual carriageway that forms an urban section of the A4 - which used to be known as the Great West Road between London and Bath/Bristol. Slough was the second stop for the horse-drawn carriages that ran that route Westward. (Uxbridge being the first.)
Modern day Wellington Street is bounded on one side by office blocks and the concrete-grey of the Queensmere Shopping Centre - and on the other side by the Brunel Bus station (the subject for a later posting) and a huge Tesco supermarket. Concentrating on the Tesco for a moment - it’s all happening here in Slough; this is the largest store in Tesco’s worldwide estate - it’s open 24 hours - and is about to be rebuilt to make it even bigger! The people of Slough obviously love their Tesco.
One thing I noticed about this supermarket is that the trolleys don’t have a coin-deposit feature on them. So without an incentive to return the trolley to the designated trolley-parks - you will find that there are shopping trolleys abandoned all over the massive car park.
This could be just like any other supermarket car park in any other East London town. Going some way to proving my point that Slough is no different.
(Ignore the error - the comment will still be added - I just haven’t got round to fixing the problem yet)