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The International Writers Magazine: My Town

Bedford - Historic town of,
Laura Kerrigan

The only famous person to come form Bedford is Paula Radcliffe. And she hasn’t stopped running. Though I am doing Bedford an injustice if I am implying it is a town of grit and hardship. Oh how I wish it were. Nothing would be more inspiring than having something to rail against. But alas, what characterises Bedford is its distinct lack of character. It is no run down mess, nor a sweet little town filled with sweet little people. There is no rich history, no real sense of cultural identity. It is a place that few people seem to have heard of unless they have passed through or live nearby.
Of course like anywhere there are a few crazy characters; Mad Ricky, the homeless schizophrenic who will shout insults at you and then ask for your money. Rumour has it he was once in the band Aswad. The plus side or at least the more interesting side about living in a town with no overbearing cultural influences is the variety of people; there has been no such thing as a typical Bedfordian since the end of the Second World War, when there was an influx of immigrants - particularly Italian ones.

In a clichéd way, most of their descendants have ended owning restaurants or hairdressers; Bedford can modestly offer an excellent lasagne or a decent blow-dry. Then of course there is the large Polish population, the Slovakians, the Jamaicans, the Greeks, the Indians and of course the exotic race that are, ‘the commuters.’

Bedford attracts lots commuters. I cannot think why. Maybe to them the blandness is a plus; it’s nice enough to live but not so nice you’d want to give up a swanky London job. Perhaps it’s because it is like a smaller crappier version of London.

Like London there is no shop that’s not part of a chain, except some dubious kebab shops and bars that spring up one minute and are gone the next. It is multicultural, like London, but there is much segregation and prejudice. There are plenty of areas that as a white woman I wouldn’t feel safe going. I could go as far to say that Bedford is a microcosm of Modern Britain. Like my bland little town, there are many different cultures, but no real sense of an identity as a nation, something exacerbated by branding away any individual elements; there is not a single shop in Bedford that you couldn’t find in any other town.

Am I proud of being from Bedford? Not exactly. It would be hard to know what I’d be having pride in. The Tesco’s? The bus station? Though neither am I ashamed of it. Its bad points aren’t really that bad; it isn’t full of crime, there isn’t much culture but it’s a short train ride from London. I asked my sister before I began writing what she thought of Bedford, to which she shrugged, ‘I dunno, it’s alright I suppose.’ Hardly a poetic or astutely observed remark, but it’s certainly apt.

© Laura Kerrigan October 2007>

Laura is now on the Creative Writing degree in exotic Portsmouth

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