In summer, the land around Alresford, the rural market town in the south of England where I grew up, blooms in a way that seems almost terrible.
My parents’ house stands in the middle of a 1980s housing development of suburban ugliness, all detached red-brick blocks and generously proportioned driveways.
There is not supposed to be nature in the suburbs, but in Alresford (pronounced AWLS-fud) nature is still powerful — every year the grass at the top of the road will suddenly grow tall, and fill with wildflowers, hedgehogs, little birds of delirious and unusual colors. Every morning the birds wake you up at 4 with a chorus of hoots and trills.
But no sooner has nature started to assert itself than the grass gets cut back and the mornings return to being silent and still. Alresford becomes human again. Human in a normal, provincial English way, in a place where people own homes, save for pensions and vote to leave the European Union — as 55 percent of the population of Hampshire county did on Thursday….
Alresford is my personal hell.
[D]ig below the surface, and you will find the demons crawling. You can see them in the looks that residents give you when they pass; sneering snobs glaring down their noses with entitlement; small-minded townies, bullying you with eyes that you recognize from the primary school lunchroom; the old people, 80 and above, wearing blank stares. You can hear it in their bothered tutting at the bus stop (especially if they ever hear a visitor mispronouncing the name of the town), the shots that constantly ring out from across the countryside as they set about murdering as many of the local pheasants as they can.
Here is what that hellhole Alresford actually looks like (note the small-minded townies taking a break from murdering pheasants). Here's a photo of a red-brick detached suburban-development house with a generous driveway listed for sale in Alresford. I wouldn't be surprised if it belonged to Whyman's parents looking for a way to get rid of their obnoxious moocher of a 27-year-old son. For as Whyman writes:
And yet, I am an early-career academic and so I am forced to move back, every summer, to live with my parents because I cannot afford to pay rent elsewhere after my temporary teaching contract ends.
Whyman essentially wishes that Alresford didn't exist:
I have this fantasy image of how it once was, before Alresford was founded in the Middle Ages, when all of this was untouched: just the wild, untamed nature that it keeps wanting to turn itself back into. And sometimes, I think: I wish that would happen. Because all that humans have ever done here is ruin things.
Actually, as Wikipedia points out, although the town was officially founded around 1300, there is evidence of human settlements in the area dating back to the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, and even neolithic times. Stonehenge Dursleys.
Here's a sample of Whyman's philosophical thinking, in a 2014 op-ed for the U.K. Guardian titled "Beware of Cupcake Fascism"
The constellation of cultural tropes that most paradigmatically manifest in the form of the cupcake are associated in particular with infantilisation. Of course, looking back to a perfect past that never existed is nothing if not the pained howl of a child who never wanted to be forced to grow up, and the cupcake and its associates market themselves by catering to these never-?never-?land adults' tastes. These products, which treat their audience as children, and more specifically the children of the middle classes – perfect special snowflakes full of wide-?eyed wonder and possibility – succeed as expressions of a desire on behalf of consumers to always and forever be children, by telling consumers not only that this is OK, but also that it is, to a real degree, possible.
The most hilarious thing about Whyman was that he never did get to cast that "nay" vote on Brexit. Dr. Smarty-Pants made the mistake of registering to vote, not in Alresford, but in Wivenhoe, where the University of Essex, where he has his part-time teaching job, is located. A fierce electrical storm left him stranded in a train station in London on June 23, unable to complete the 137-mile rail journey.
My question is: Since he was already bunking at their house, why didn't he just borrow one of Mum and Dad's cars off that "generous driveway"?