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No Sex Please, We’re Herefordshire

Herefordshire is the filthiest county I have visited thus far, not that this is the fault of Herefordians, some of whom claim that nothing ever happens around these parts, but it is January and everything is smothered in thick brown sludge. Verges, brand new cars, hedgerows and roadkill all defy this county’s claim to black & white fame.

If the internet is to be believed, living in England means one is never far from sexual proclivity. I've read (once, possibly twice) that men’s toilets are a hot-bed of criminal activity but I am clean-ignorant on such matters.

Outside of such places, the proliferation of wet wipes and used condoms are the usual tells when one parks up in the middle of nowhere, and Herefordshire’s scenic destinations are certainly no strangers to loiterers despite outdoor sex being a bona fide crime. In the last six months, I have become quite accustomed to turning a blind...

by snapping shut a curtain between me and the cab, and placing a screen on the kitchen window. Not once have I been bothered or harassed. What does abduct my goat, however, is vanlifers being blamed for the littering! Park4Night contributors are pretty good at recognising the conflict existing between the three types of outdoor hobbyists: Dog Walkers, Doggers and Van Lifers, but keeping these fair isles clean is a job for all of us.

It is fair to say that issues surrounding the use of public spaces are far from black and white. And Herefordshire is no exception to the wider issues facing England.

Particularly given the wibbly-wobbly, oak-timber-painted-black-framed and white-lathed (traditionally a concoction of straw and dung) buildings which dominate this county. They certainly bring an eye-watering enchantment and tranquillity to this otherwise sleepy rural community of brown and white Hereford beef cattle and mud-splattered sheep, where nothing is said to happen.

Even my spell-checker fails to recognise Herefordshire is an actual place in existence.

By googling “Interesting facts about Herefordshire” I happened upon what may well be Britain’s best tonic to insomnia. Top fact: Yoda’s voice was supplied by a man who was born in Herefordshire. He didn’t remain in the county long though, did he? Buggered off to Hollywood at the first opportunity.

Second Fact of Interest: The storyline of “Jesus Christ Superstar” was thrashed out in a Herefordshire Hotel. Then its writers high-tailed back to London to actually undertake some melody-making. Prior to these, it seems that Herefordshire's most famous ‘celebrity’ was the Bishop of Hereford. He was one of Robin Hood’s victims in a story written in 1791.

Thank God for Ellie Goulding! Back in 1986 she was born in Herefordshire. Despite a trotting out a string of songs including “All By Myself”, “Don’t Need Nobody” and “Worry About Me”, Ms Goulding is probably best known for singing “Love Me Like You Do”. For the unfamiliar: it was the soundtrack to the film “Fifty Shades of Grey”.

If you have been asleep for the last century, or possibly confined to Herefordshire, Fifty Shades of Grey was the fastest-selling paperback of all time, probably because it made mainstream the practice of BDSM: bondage, domination, sadism and masochism.

I should make clear that none of 50 shades series were written or filmed in Herefordshire. In fact, as far as I can adduce, not one member of its production has any association with Herefordshire whatsoever. To be honest, though, I’ve not fact-checked this assertion very thoroughly.

These days, Ellie Goulding lives in Oxfordshire or London depending on what one reads and believes. Mind you, she’s probably well-off enough to have homes in both. Herefordshire, I can only conclude, is a place that one rushes away from. This, I think, is a travesty because when not being brown and slushy, it is truly a beguiling county, and one I’d love to spend more time in.

Given the lack of interesting facts, it came as quite the surprise to discover that it was Herefordshire that supplied the nation with its sex scandal of 2021. England, after all, is a country that can just about cope with one act of sexual impropriety per annum, but any more than that might be a bit much.

Herefordshire’s best state school for the last decade, one with an “outstanding” Ofsted rating, is, like every other school nationally, required to be LGBT-inclusive and teach pupils about the protected characteristics of the Equality Act and adult relationships. Schools in Britain are not usually secular, but this particular school selected the programme “A Fertile Mind” as their sex-educational curriculum. This resource imparts the belief that marriage can only take place between a man and a woman, and that women should remain chaste until they can ‘gift’ their body to their husband. Men, after all, were created to initiate sexual relationships, while women are “receiver-responders”. All this is somewhat at odds with the intentions of the Equality Act of 2010, but bear with me…

The last time knickers were twisted about children’s sex education took place back in 1988, when Section 28 of the Local Government Act expressly forbade councils, and therefore educational establishments, to promote homosexuality. Originating from a Private Members Bill which positioned “responsible homosexuals” against “sick homosexuals”; the latter was supposed to be suffering "symptoms" of promiscuity, exhibitionism and acting as “reservoirs for venereal disease”. The bill was ultimately incorporated into the Local Government Act. As a result, boroughs were hogtied when it came to supplying information-based services to the LGBT communities.

Regardless of the MPs' intentions, it had dire implications for anyone gay, fuelling rampant homophobia and an unfair wealth of mental violence which echoes to this day. It unleashed suffering where no suffering needed to be unleashed.

[Incidentally, whilst they are “out there”, I won’t be visiting any places of the gay slur variety, simply because I believe unless one is in “the club”, one doesn’t have the privilege of using specific terms.]

No one thought to stipulate how one should discern whether one was ‘sick’ or ‘responsible’ so one and all were branded by the same reductive stereotype. Nonetheless, one positive consequence of this deplorable Act was it galvanised the gay rights community. Their concerted effort to be seen, heard, recognised and respected led to the Act being repealed in 2003, which in turn led to the invocation of the Equality Act of 2010. Bravo!

Interestingly, as is the bizarrely unfathomably British way, only men could be gay.

Being lesbian (to use the old-fashioned vernacular) has never been illegal in England. A banning was considered in 1921 but the MPs and peers of the day rescinded from making it an prohibited act on the grounds that it would encourage women to try it.

Thus, what the authors of “A Fertile Mind” fail to recognise is: if there’s one way of guaranteeing teenagers try something, it is to try to deter from doing so in the first instance!

Alas, I arrived in Herefordshire just as the Church of England rejected demands to conduct same-sex marriages. Once again Britain and its many component parts are having to examine their beliefs and question their authorities. In the meantime, let us remember....

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger.

Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering…”

Yoda (1999)

“Those fears we’ll blow them all away, we’ll blow them all away.”

Golding, E (2019)

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