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The Royal County of Berks

The county of Berks.

Sounding like a retirement destination for your local village idiot, Berkshire is a long slither of a county which strikingly resembles a hamburger clamped betwixt the burger buns that constitute the shires of Oxford and Hamp. It is akin to a ham-less burger, but a gourmet meaty piece nonetheless.

As a side note: if one is unfamiliar with how ludicrous English place names can be pronounced, I ought to point out that it’s “Barkshire” as in ‘barking mad’, rather than “Berkshire”, as in ‘acting like a complete berk’.

Berkshire is said to mean birchy and hilly, and it can be said, at times, to be, very birchy and very hilly. In many parts, however, it is extensively arable and particularly stubbly now all the wheat has been harvested. This annual event of industry has left behind a gloriously flaxon hue to undercut the horizon. Moreover, I have recently learnt that Berkshire is famous for its long history of sheep-farming but I don’t recall seeing any four-legged clouds now that I’m writing this in Gloucestershire. Of course, potentially this may be the result of praedial larceny. J’accuse Hampshire, who probably just wanted a change from pork.

Who knows? I was not there and I did not see a thing. Regardless, Berkshire’s golden fields give the vista a true

This particular county is most famous for its stupendously glorious houses of the extortionate kind and takes its royalty very seriously, hence revelling in its title: The Royal County. Although this may change now in the coming weeks, I’ll not speculate as I’m not inclined to be an expert on constitutional law, or any kind of law, for that matter. It’s a miracle I’ve never been arrested for being dimwitted in charge of a computer or something equally as tragic.

Still, Berkshire is home to the most famous of stately houses: Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Its very first patient was a feeble-minded female. Go figure. And if you think I’m being rude about Berkshire, they do it to themselves:

A name which belies just how beautiful the hamlet is. Although its residents were inclined to fortify themselves behind tall hedges and strong wooden gates. It left me unable to ascertain their certifiability or pre-judge their delinquency. ‘Crazies’ in this instance is thought to mean “The fresh, clean water of the waterless place.” Yes. Baffling. Still, someone, somewhere, once upon a time, decreed “Crazies Hill” to describe the upper echelons of homes that are dotted along the single track road. This is opposed to the lower echelons of the very same lane who inhabit:

It was green, but there was an absence of cockpoles. I have since learnt that a cockpole is a gathering place for cocks. Much fighting occurred too - possibly until it was outlawed. Still, some fantastical trees remain upright and thriving.

Berkshire might come across to some as a terribly judgy place. One might wish to presume the locals are typically and tremendously British about any matter that does not meet their approval: by tutting. Whilst we all love a good whinge, it appears that Berkshire residents love nothing more than a gathering for a collective sigh, followed with a distinguished, and very contemptuous, tut about the state of England today. Best of all there is a time and a place for it, and yes, even the buildings join in to pour scorn:

It was quite a relief to depart the area and move on to the less salubrious-sounding Binfield. Apt that it should have a bin.

Annoying though, because on my way, I’d spotted a lay-by dotted with a trio of black litter receptacles of the type that are made available for public consumption. Not the kind best described as a private wheelie bin. Having a cat aboard, and there being a national shortage of compostable woodchip litter (I kid you not), I am having to rely on the less environmentally-friendly rubbish that is available in all supermarkets and pet stores. This has increased my bin consumption considerably. I have tutted loudly about this for four weeks now (and even joined in with another woman’s tuts at a well-known supermarket) but it has not made a jot of difference. There is still a dearth of woodchip litter. I could, possibly, blame Brexit. Or perhaps, someone, somewhere has pilfered our trees, or, maybe we’ve stopped importing from Norway for reasons that are political and beyond me. Again, who knows?

All I do know is that I have similarly hunted twice for a village called Popeswood but found no joy on either attempt. Not even a splinter nor a junior priest could be located. I shall put that down to the pandemic.

Anyway, I’ve digressed. Back to my journey to Binfield: en route I pulled into a lay-by full of bins and began the hideously smelly task of decontaminating Nelson’s litter tray. By the time I was done, mildly green in complexion, I turned around to find a similarly green car of the electric variety stationary and blocking the road. It was being driven by an absolute bin lid of a grey-haired bloke. Not only was he safely protected by his driver’s window, he felt it necessary to continue to stare at me in a manner most intimidating for a contemptuous amount of time.

If there’s one thing a-bout village idiots is that they don’t realise they are the village idiot. After a substantial period of time of my looking at him quizzically, and him glaring back, he felt it sensible to wind down his window.

“Where are you putting your rubbish?” He didn’t so much as enquire as demand.

“In the bin,” I said. “It is the responsible thing to do,” I added a little too glibly.

“The responsible thing to do?” His spittle splattered on his windscreen. “The responsible thing to do is take it home,” he barked. His apoplectic fit no longer safely contained.

“I am home.” I replied.

And so I left him to lose his shit further in the direction of his windscreen.

Never, ever pick a fight with a woman who has a bag full of used cat litter because it’s practically a nuclear weapon. Forgot ‘restraint of pen and tongue’, he’s lucky I didn’t dispose of it in his car - but that wouldn’t have been responsible thing to do either.

Love, and light, people. Love and light. Although I did tell him to piss off and after some more time he did. Then, I felt free to head off to Binfield. It was, incidentally, collection day so I could have got away with appropriating one of the towns folks’ bins. But I am a responsible litterer - I use the bins provided for public consumption. Always.

It’s not exactly the end of the world. Oh, sorry. It was.

I gave Hell Corner a swerve - largely because I’ve been there before and couldn’t be bothered going again. It’s only a farm. Probably a sheep farm. Possibly not. Instead I ventured off to the last on my list of awful places in Berkshire.

The village of crooks. There’s something terribly disconcerting about “Alexa” loudly pronouncing “You have arrived,” in her tinny voice and finding there is nothing to see but a long empty road. Apt though.

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