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When Will I Be Famous?

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By Martin Kelner on Feb 27, 2003 - 2:02:00 PM

When Will I Be Famous
Article dated: Thursday 27 February 2003
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"....I took an hour or so off one afternoon for a walk round the nearby small town of Ashby De La Zouch which, if it is ever written of at all, will be in conjunction with the adjective "sleepy."

Having said which, there are one or two pubs on Market Street where I expect you could find a fight on a Saturday night if you were that way inclined. Small market towns like Ashby, where nothing much happens, are no picnic to police these days. Clearly, compared to somewhere like Bradford or Liverpool or Tower Hamlets, it is a peaceful, prosperous community, but there will be pockets of deprivation (there is a garish so-called "pound shop" on the olde worlde main street which is usually a sign).

Also, in common with the rest of Britain there will be young people with an appetite for recreational drugs. As long as those remain illegal, the criminal sub-culture connected with them will flourish, and the people who move into the 400,000 executive-style homes which have gone up because of the town's proximity to the motorway network, will do well to make sure they have the latest security systems in place.

Then there are the freelance punch-ups, if you like, that will start over someone nicking a mobile 'phone, or making an off colour remark about someone else's girlfriend, in which, of course drink will probably play a part.

There are lots of pubs on Ashby's main street - enough for a fairly incapacitating pub crawl - but as a bustling shopping street it has been pretty comprehensively fucked over by the big Tesco. That is where people will buy the necessities of life, abandoning Market Street to a charity shop, a Boots, a Woolworths, one of those cheapo book shops - who buys all the jigsaws? - and the odd butcher and greengrocer.

Somebody loves the town, though. Alongside the ridiculous gardening books and military histories in the cheapo book shop, I find The Book of Ashby-De-La-Zouch by Kenneth Hillier, which begins with the author whinging on about having only 30,000 words to tell the story of this fascinating town. He starts with the Wars of the Roses in 1461 before which, he writes, "Ashby seemed destined to remain a quiet backwater." As opposed, I suppose, to the throbbing metropolis it has since become.

I was however interested to discover that the Meredith and Drew biscuit company was founded in Ashby. I seem to remember eating Meredith and Drew crisps when I was a child, because they were a halfpenny cheaper than Smith's, the more popular brand. In those days, of course, the only flavour you could get was salted. Tell the kids that nowadays and they'll run over you in their sports cars.

I had planned to visit the city of Leicester, the current potato crisp capital of Britain, before leaving the area, but given the town's motto of Semper Eadem, which translates as "always the same" (one of Elizabeth the First's gags, apparently), I thought I could leave that trip to a future occasion secure in the knowledge that nothing important would have changed much."

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