This is going to sound very snobby and judgemental but if it saves you from making a bad decision then eventually you’ll thank me. Until very recently I had only associated Hatfield with Hatfield House; a big old Tudory place off the A1. I vaguely recall going round it on a school day trip though to be honest I can’t remember anything else beyond red bricks and wood. ‘The wife’ and I have been to the gates a couple of times but are always put off by the astronomical price of entry. Hatfield House makes The National Trust’s pricing policy look like ASDA’s value range.
I mention ASDA because I’ve recently been exposed to the singular charm of Hatfield’s town centre. I say singular charm because I’m assuming Hatfield town centre has at least one of those, though if it does then it keeps it very well hidden. I once got chatting to a trainer at the gym (no really, I did) and he asked me where I lived. I told him and out of politeness and then asked the same question. He replied that he lived in Hatfield and I said that I had thought about moving to Hatfield and then mildly enquired what it was like. His response was as sincere as it was damning as it was resigned as it was brief – ‘it’s a shithole’. True story.
And he wasn’t wrong; Hatfield is a shithole. In fact if anything Hatfield is actually a worse place to be in than an actual hole that has been filled with shit. The kind of shit you’d expect to find coming out of a very ill gorilla. I went there yesterday for a medical appointment and foolishly followed the signs to the town centre and then had to rub my eyes, scoop up my jaw and remind myself with a pinch that Hatfield is in a developed country.
Of course you can’t blame the people of Hatfield, somebody has to live there (though the idea of really ‘living’ in Hatfield is a touch over-optimistic; perhaps ‘exist’ or ‘endure’ might be closer to the mark). I suppose you have to blame the silly sod who designed it to look like some kind of high security prison exercise yard and then the other silly sod who surrounded it with council blocks. It has the crappiest range of shops of any town I can remember visiting. Interestingly (only applies if you’re interested) it seems to have a strangely high number of bank branches; almost as many as there are charity shops, which are the solid plastic guarantee of a town’s toilet status.
Another good indicator of a town’s stamp of quality is the parking. The more people that want to come to a place the busier it is and the higher the council charges to park there. As an utter twat might say – simples. The car park right next to the thick of it all in Hatfield is free for 3 hours. It also laughably suggests that you cannot return for at least a further 3 hours. It is unlikely that the parking warden would be too troubled by repeat offenders. Besides 3 hours is 2 hours and 59 minutes longer than is needed to soak up all Hatfield has to offer.
And finally Hatfield has an ASDA. I may be wrong, of course I almost certainly am, but in my experience the appearance of a whopping great ASDA is always a pretty good sign that a town has gone totally to the dogs. The hierarchy of supermarket chains is surprisingly complex so I’ll condense it down to basics. Waitrose and M&S sit at the top but to some people there is only one or the other. Tesco and Sainsbury’s seem to own the middle ground and prove it by having some of the worst, middle class baiting crappy, advertising campaigns ever. Please go and have a look and tell me you don’t want to punch every grinning, coriander chopping, icing sugar coated idiot in them.
Morrison’s come next, perhaps only one rung lower (though I’m not sure why other than because I say so) and then you would think ASDA would be just before or just after but it’s not. Before ASDA (this is a personal, not scientific opinion) comes LIDL and ALDI. Even Iceland. To me those last 3 are higher up because they make no pretentions about their market or their ethos. Two of them sell and operate as cheaply as possible and the other is for people with chest freezers. And you know what people with chest freezers are like, don’t you?
I’ve never been to an ASDA without feeling slightly threatened. Without feeling like someone is about to bite me. Without feeling that I’m inside some kind of enormous cheap Christmas cracker with someone who can’t write properly. Without feeling that I don’t belong. And that’s also a bit like going to Hatfield. I suppose Hatfield is like hundreds of other towns across Britain, probably the town where I live too, and it’s places just like it that make you wonder where it’s all gone wrong. I could have told you at least two dozen more reasons why you should give Hatfield a miss but that would be getting silly and why should you believe a little snob like me anyway? Mind you my medical appointment was in Hatfield and I’m still alive, so it can’t be that bad.
G B Hewitt. 02.6.2017