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Burn, Bracknell, Burn
Jess Wynne

“I love setting fire to things”.

Everyone has a pyromaniac stalker of a boyfriend lurking amongst the clutter of ex-careers; friends, pets and all that life related stuff. We all recognise that moment of clarity within a relationship when you realise that he/she is not on your level, does not understand you, share common interests, can not fulfil your emotional and/or sexual needs or perhaps simply engages in one to many acts of arson*. Ex relationships are obvious targets for vitriol but I prefer obscurity anyday – which is why I’m trying to earn a living as a writer. Dredging up my past is definitely unhealthy (although a little rewriting and prevarication allows me to emerge with added qualities of greatness) and if history has taught us anything it is that no one learns from history. And since I’m infinitely more emotionally scarred by the heartless actions of my parents in throwing away my collection of toy horses, if I’m going to get vicious I think I should take a wider angle. *Delete where applicable.

“This is a public service announcement. Listen carefully for the prevention of irrecoverable psychological harm”. Are you currently thinking of moving to the Southeast area? Think again.”

What is the precedent for a town and all its inhabitants prosecuting for libel? Well never mind; let them prove in court that their dreary little dwelling is anything but utterly soul – destroying. Ok, ok this is clearly shaping out to be a malicious attack for purely personal motives. So now that I’ve got your attention… Come friendly bombs, fall on Bracknell. For anyone who actually reads poetry then I will admit Betjeman is calling for the destruction of Slough, but Bracknell would have been included (alongside Maidenhead) in his verses if it had been built in 1937. Hey why not have a three for one and bomb them all. Of course it is its “new townness” which is basically its problem, that and its tendency to be full of Londoners. Its layout has been planned with an over zealous militaristic efficiency and no idea of what constitutes a good place to reside. The monotony of the homogeneity is both sinister and deeply dull – separate living areas comprised of a mass of conveniently sized (small but with the expected quota of rooms) 50s built houses and flats all situated within alphabetically named streets. It is disarming to visit someone’s house down the road and spend all your time looking around you in bewilderment thinking “but this is my house”.

I’m informed by defensive, and frankly shifty, looking residents that Bracknell is “a great place to live”. Its conveniently located for commuting to London, brimming with industrial sites providing employment, and has all the amenities for leisure and shopping that a city like, say Truro in Cornwall for example, can only dream of. But who am I kidding with this propaganda. When the best word to sum up location is “convenient” and the name itself conjures up an impression of mundane reality, you know that the tourist board aren’t going to bother with a brochure.

So if this is hell on Earth, why has there not been a mass exodus to …well anywhere else really? The true evil of the town relies on its Twilight Zone–like capacity for muddling the brains of otherwise intelligent individuals, thereby imprisoning them within its boundaries for all eternity. My family and I moved to Bracknell due to its proximity to Southampton. My father was to finish his sailing tuition and we were going to sell up, buy a yacht and travel the world. Another fantastic plan foiled by my parents’ General Untogetherness Syndrome (G.U.S) – an unfortunate disorder which appears to be hereditary. Instead we were trapped in Bracknell for six years! An existence of constant déjà vu, turning down the wrong street every time, and wondering about all the possibilities for fun and leisure that in reality where only economically viable if a second mortgage was taken on. The ice rink, the state of the art sports centre, the cinema with its multi screens and multitude of opportunities for filling your stomach with a sickening array of junk food, the Coral Reef swimming pool (known as Good Grief by those shell-shocked by its prices) with its many slides, flumes and, yes you guessed it, many provisions for increasing your cholesterol to dangerous levels. Choice, choice, choice. Funny then, that the youth of Bracknell seem to prefer to frequent the outside rather than the inside of these establishments swigging cheap cider. The town planning officials must have got to then too as they all wear identical Adidas trainers and baseball caps.

For those who do not escape the only why is down. The disintegrating effects on intelligence and perception of reality were clearly illustrated by Bracknell Forest Borough Council’s attempts to enliven the town centre. They spent an outrageous amount of money importing sand to create a beach. In the middle of Southeast England. And for two weeks only. Predictably it was a washout – although the meteorological centre (located in Bracknell) didn’t manage to foresee the constant downpour. A news item last night told of a Bracknell couple who had spent £10,000 fitting a turntable so that they no longer needed to back into their drive. Obviously living too long in Bracknell has warped their brains and sense of priorities. Surely a few quid on extra driving lessons might have been a brighter alternative.

None of this will make much sense to overseas readers. Nevertheless, beware – study the map and do not go within a twenty-mile radius of this “Stepford City”. Unless you own a tank. I suppose certain inhabitants will be enraged (narrow-minded and humourless as usual) but they should be warned; I know a certain someone who would kill for the chance to run riot with a few cans of petrol and a lighter.

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