History of Romford
Romford is a suburban market town situated in the County of Essex, in England. It was granted the privilege of holding a market in 1247 by Henry III. It is located some 20 miles to the east of the City of London (The Square Mile). It has excellent rail links into London Liverpool Street and is therefore an important commuter town. It is also close to the M25, the main motorway which encircles the whole of London.
The town apparently grew up on the Roman Road between London and Colchester, close to the Roman military station of Durolitum and possibly got its name from the Old English for 'broad (roomy) ford'.
One infamous previous resident of Romford was Thomas Blood, who in 1671 almost succeeded in stealing the Crown Jewels. He lived in an apothecary's shop in the Market Place.
Some other useless information. In the 1930's there was an air service between Romford and Paris, and The Beatles played Romford twice in 1963. Firstly at the ABC, then at the Odeon. I'm surprised they came back for seconds. The ABC cinema closed down around 5 years ago. This was the first cinema I ever visited, to see Moonraker, which I'm not too proud of, but I was about 9 at the time, so that's my excuse. I wasn't allowed to see Ghostbusters. The latest Odeon cinema closed down about 8 months ago.
Present day Romford
Romford has a large amount of shops and even a small CBD, which are all surrounded by a ringroad, about a couple of miles long, by one mile wide. The main shopping precinct is called Liberty 1 and is slap-bang in the middle of this ringroad. It must have been developed in the 60's or 70's judging by the amount of concrete used to construct it. In Liberty 1 we have all the big shops like Marks & Spencer, a big W H Smith, Littlewoods, Debenhams, BHS. It is currently in the process of being developed and looks like a building site at the moment. Apparently they are going to put a roof over the whole thing as well, as at the moment it is exposed to the elements. We used to have a huge water fountain here as well, which looked like a load of blue plastic boxes stacked on top of one another, another tribute to 70's architecture. It was turned off for the majority of it's life due to mischevious youngsters pouring Fairy Liquid into it. As a result I never actually saw it work and was under the impression it was only a sculpture up until not long ago. It has since been demolished.
The Market Place
To the north of Liberty 1 is the Market Place. In which you can buy an assortment of fruit and veg, skimpy underwear, electrical goods, and a bunch of counterfeit designer clothes. The market is held about four times a week, at other times it acts as a Pay & Display car park.
I don't particularly like the Market, simply because to me it seems that all the stalls sell complete shit, and I don't understand why anyone would want to buy anything from them. When it's busy, walking through the market is a nightmare. I'm not a really quick walker, but I don’t stroll along either and people just get in my way.
Old people shuffle along stopping occasionally to admire the latest cardigans on sale. Overweight people take up way too much space and I have to take a huge detour to get past them. Single mothers, who usually operate in pairs, push their double buggies along at a snails pace, deciding what to spend their Giro on this week, and kids in Adidas everything and baseball caps just piss me off. Hey here's an idea, you don’t have to buy all your clothes in JJB Sports, JD Sports, First Sport or any of the other crappy sports shops that have sprung up to exploit this new trend. The only thing I've ever bought in the market is 10 mini-donuts, for a £1. And my mate lofidan encouraged me to buy them, so this purchase wasn't completely down to me.
The High Street
To the left of Liberty 1 is the high street which is named South Street. Over the past few years this has been extensively developed in the aim of making it the club and pub capital of Essex. The council also pedestrianised most of it, although there is a crappy one way system down part of it which only buses and taxis can go down. In the clubby pubby part of South Street we have Edwards, a Hogs Head, Lips, Time & Envy, and a Moon & Stars. Further down the high street we have all your bog standard shops, banks and building societies. I haven't got a major problem with South Street, although it seems the underbelly of society always ends up there on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. I mean, drunken girls, shouting loudly, falling over in their high heels, honking up in the gutter, give me a break! And if you maintain eye contact with a bloke for longer then 3 seconds you're in trouble.
South Street has also become over-run with market researchers clutching their precious clipboards, street evangelists, and charity collectors who are devious little characters. lofidan was sucked into handing over his bank details by a far too flirty girl, collecting for blind kids. Luckily I was unemployed so she focused all her powers onto lofi, and in the hope that she was single he folded quicker then...erm...something that folds in about 3 minutes. As soon as we got away from her we went into his bank and told them to reject the direct debit request, but we had to wait a week for them to set it up, and then cancel it, all because Lofi couldn't say no to a pretty face who touched his thigh way too much.
To the right of Liberty 1 is Liberty 2. This is a mini-sized shopping mall with 3 levels on the other side of the ringroad. The two Liberty's are linked by a passageway with more shops under the road. Liberty 2 was developed in about 1990. Its main attraction was a Sainsbury's which has now been replaced by a bargain shop named Wilkinsons.
The Odeon cinema I mentioned earlier used to take up the whole of the third floor, this is all but vacant now, apart from a club named Pulse. Lofi and myself debate with each other what should replace the Odeon. I think we agreed on either a Kart track, or Quasar.
Liberty 2 has been the setting for a couple of adverts on TV lately. Firstly in the Bellies gonna get you advert for Reebok, in which a giant belly chases some guy. Secondly, a bit part for Admiral car insurance, where a guy looking like Lord Admiral Nelson goes down the escalator saying how we could save Pounds with him.
From the outside Liberty 2 is beginning to show it's age, the green plastic panels which used to house the Sainsbury are in need of a wash down as is the glass dome which tops the thing. It's not really the type of mall you could hang out in because of its small size. Not much is ever really going on in it, or in Romford as a whole for that matter.
The latest large development in Romford is called The Brewery, thus named due to it being built on the old Romford Brewery site, nice original thinking there by the developers. This is mainly a car park, but is surrounded by a row of large shops including Dixons (which moved from Liberty 1), TK Maxx, Boots, JJB Sports, and Powerhouse. The main development houses the new cinema, named Ster Century, ten-pin bowling, a gym, and a range of other shops and restaurants.
There were also a couple of blocks of flats built on the site. These have tiny windows and look more like prison cells to me. The whole development was built in a remarkably short space of time, and it shows. There is no originality in the architecture and is so boring and uninspiring to look at and walk around. It is basically a group of warehouse style buildings providing the maximum amount of floor space. The only attempt by the developers to liven it up are large sections of pointless metal protrusions painted either blue, yellow or red, nice work guys. The council could have chosen development plans that would have added to the community in more ways then just more shop space, but that would have been a lot of trouble wouldn't it. Goddamn pen pushers.
These main sections of the town centre are connected via several covered walkways which all provide even more shop space.
What do I think of Romford?
Even though there is shop, upon shop, upon shop in Romford there is nowhere you can get stylish men's clothes. Forget the large department stores like Marks & Spencer or Debenhams, they all seem to aim themselves at the over 30's. Then you think you might be saved with the likes of Next or Burtons, but no. They all have mainstream clotheslines which again seem to be aimed at the older person. There are a couple of small men’s clothes stores, but these stock the usual designer clothes which look the same as the stuff in Next but just have a different name and a more expensive price label on them. There used to be a Topman in Romford but it closed down long ago. I really like the stuff Topman have, well some of it, and so I have to go all the way up to Oxford Street when I feel like I need a change of clothes. It just pisses me off that there's so many shops, selling so much shit. No wonder we're in a recession, well a slow down.
Overall, I don't loathe Romford completely. If I've been away from it, it's always nice to come back to familiar surroundings. It's more like the Uncle I don't really talk to at family gatherings, and only exchange pleasantries with. I've lived in Romford all my life but don't feel like it's my hometown. When I'm walking around I look at everyone else and they're all different from me. They don’t mind wearing tracksuit bottoms out in public, whereas I would only wear them in the gym. They don't mind that what they wear just doesn't go. I mean I saw a girl wearing a black leather jacket with grey tracksuit bottoms and white trainers the other day. I'm colour blind and even I can see that combination is wrong. They don’t mind that their hair is fucked up and all over the place. They don't mind doing their shopping in the Market or in the huge amount of shitty discount shops we have now. They don’t care that they're hugely overweight, and I can tell they don't care otherwise they wouldn't be wearing leggings for Christ's sake.
It makes me think that these people have no dignity, no self-respect. I can see I sound like a snob or something, but I live in a 3 bedroom semi-detached house with my parents, I'm not rich, I should be the same as everyone else, I should be wearing a tracksuit right now, but I'm not and I don't know why. Somewhere along the line I took a different route, and in some ways I'm happy I did. But then if I had grown up to be like everyone else I would be ignorant of any other way of life, and I'd be more then happy with 3 white stripes going down my arms, the outside of my legs, and onto my trainers.