Gloucestershire is going down the toilet...
My quest remains a simple one: to determine exactly what is the source of Britain’s lavatorial demise. With ironic timing, I arrived in Gloucestershire just as England’s elected and unelected leaders’ indulged in yet another scatalogical melee. Once again, we watched on as our ruling elite tried to navigate their way out of a water closet with an open door.
It sort of made sense to start at Ready Token. A place that most sounds like that particularly essential coin one must always carry in order to access public conveniences that are only convenient if one has the correct denomination. No penny? No spendy!
Aside from that, Ready Token is a ridiculously tiny hamlet of warm honey-coloured stone, albeit it is most famous for being the meeting place of six country roads and nine parish boundaries. Not the sort of place one wishes to encounter this sign….
One can only assume the local councillors scrummages over who isn’t going to take responsibility this week are legendary.
On the surface, Gloucestershire is the county most unlikely to stake the claim of being England’s lavatorial destination, given there is only Cockadilly, Ball’s Green and Lower Swell to get one’s immature inner-child sniggering. Oh, and Boxbush, which sounds like it should be obscene but isn’t, although curiously the bushless Box is.
In fact, it can safely be said that Gloucestershire is considerably more prim and proper than your average English county. It is only periodical acts of vandalism that has the village of Uckington made salacious but until it is temporarily returned to its otherwise straight-laced existence. This particular sign is said to be the most vandalised signpost in England, and on close inspection one can just about discern the white out.
Without the subtle art of graffiti, one could argue that Gloucester has all the hallmarks of a proper gentlemanly demesne.
Its stuffiness is best encapsulated in locations such as Tutshill, Old Sodbury and Miserden.
In fact, Miserden was once most famous for having the worst bandwidth in Britain. Well, I’d be quite miserly too, given I’d get neither entertainment nor income without the internet. That aside, it was quite the remarkable piece of Merrie England.
But Gloucestershire’s prudery is only true if one ignores the beauty of the Englishperson’s penchant for a good euphemism. A practice that is especially popular amongst the kind inclined to take offence to more precise terminology. For it is here, well below the surface, that Gloucestershire shines in all its degeneracy. This is, therefore, the first of several warnings about what is afoot...
The following tale of urban sewerage begins at Kemble. Back in 2006, a pseudonym going by the inspirational moniker of “Villager”, stated the place was, “a very shite village where nothing ever happens and nobody ever goes.”
Immediately, it struck me that the residents might be in urgent need of substantial doses of laxative. More pertinently, however, it was this assertion that piqued my curiosity before fully diverting my attention to the hitherto unexplored underworld better known as the Urban Dictionary.
With one click, I should have immediately been plunged into depths of depravity previously unplumbed. Except I also discovered that if I wanted to investigate Kemble further, I must first get myself disbarred from “top-shelf” content by proving my eligibility to peruse such sites with my phone provider. Being a credit-card owning, tax-paying, near quinquagenarian who had correctly filled in all the forms with said mobile company, this demand for telephone verification seemed a little, well, like excessive censorship. Moreover, it required two independent credit checks during the same phone call just to enable me to use my laptop for similarly nefarious literary purposes.
Apparently Britain’s adults cannot cope with access to www.urbandictionary.com, the content of which is probably conjured up by teenagers nationally. An assertion I can only make given that its founder, Aaran Peckham, was a mere fifteen years old when he built the site way back in the innocent days of the world wide web. Since then its contributors have conjured up all sorts of lewd and outlandish lexicography. Perhaps they all hail from this borough...
Some twenty-four hours passed before I was able to dive headlong into this unfamiliar den of interweb iniquity. And I warn you now, Gloucestershire ended becoming quite the grand tour, and one quite lascivious at times. I shall leave you with your own minds to litter with filth as a parent might say. For those of a sensitive disposition, please avert your eyes
Whatever you do, it is probably best you don’t research your own village names as it will probably devalue your properties faster than the current administration’s economic policies.
So with that dealt with, it just left me to defy “Villager’s” postulation that Kemble is a place where “no one ever goes” (for clarity that’s not a euphemism for my doing anything but visiting). Further research had me learning that it is a settlement from which one hundred people have seemingly vanished in between the last two censuses. An alarming ten percent of the population of Kemble has clearly gone somewhere but no one quite knows where.
Although there are clues littered all over the place. Gloucestershire, it transpires, is quite a violent county:
Thus, it was into Kemble, somewhat trepidatiously, I crept, stealth-like, in an oversized, diesel-engined-roaring ubiquitous white van. It was broad daylight and I was singing off-key to music that most ageing parents would dub ‘shit for turning off’.
There, I learnt that Kemble is the source of that most famous slow-moving cesspit of slurry: The River Thames. In 2016, Thames Water was fined £4m for discharging thirty-hours’ worth of gastrointestinal gloop. Four years later the “water” treatment works dumped a further two-thousand million litres of excrementum eruptio in just two days. Fine unknown. And on the day I arrived in Kemble, Thames Water was once again liquidating its assets, this time for a record-breaking two consecutive days.
Thankfully, but only for the residents of Gloucestershire, this all takes place downstream in Oxfordshire before heading into Westminister. Proving, if nothing else, that possibly Kemble is indeed a place where “nobody ever goes.”
So I can only speculate this all led to the following....
So with that little voyage of vulgarity necessarily came to its natural conclusion, and it was time for me to make my way out, drawing as little attention to myself as possible. But, of course, not before a quick diversion to the gloriously charming olde worlde site of Bibury. Bibury stakes the claim of being “the most beautiful village in England"; dubbed utterly "picturesque" on Fox News, and a “most charming town” by the Huffington Post.
The ultimate visual delight: Clusters of seventeenth century weavers cottages sitting across from a gentle, clear, river, upon which roam puritanically white ducks. It is the truly the best of Middle England.
Although that’s not quite what is contended in the Urban Dictionary.