Thursday, 26 November 2015

George Osborne and Radio 4 channel Essex Man

Osborne in Ockendon
The political classes remain as fixated with Essex as ever. In response to the government's spending review, Radio 4's Today sent a reporter to Harlow, where they've been monitoring the reactions of a street of residents to the tax credit cuts debate. No-one was watching the debate live, though they did find a man watching paint dry who was relieved that the tax credit cuts had been postponed. Then Today went into a live interview with Chancellor George Osborne at a building site in South Ockendon. Geezer Gideon was there meeting apprentices at Persimonn Homes with Thurrock MP Jackie Doyle-Price. Is aspirational Essex really central to the voting culture of the nation? Or is it just a convenient distance from London for a good soundbite or photo opportunity? I wrote about the subject in the New Statesman last year, and it seems little has changed, with Essex symbolism still beloved by all politicos.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Dracula bites into Purfleet

Came across this reference to Dracula while visiting Purfleet. It's on a plaque by the site of St Stephen's Church. Possibly attracted by Essex Girls, Dracula arrived at Carfax House in Purfleet, built on a bye-road to London, according to Bram Stoker's Dracula novel, written in 1897. He arrived with 50 boxes of earth, as you do. Carfax House was possibly based on Purfleet House, built by the brewer Samuel Whitbread. Essex seems to have quite a monopoly of horror, since Tilbury also gets a brief reference in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Frinton meets The Wire

The residents of genteel Frinton have clubbed together to hire their own private security force, revealed yesterday's Guardian. Frinton's police station closed 20 years ago and now Walton-on-the-Naze's cop shop is to close too. This means that the only police force covering Frinton is based in Clacton, eight miles away, which has a much higher crime rate. Worried about possible slow response times, 300 residents are now paying £100 a year to AGS to patrol at nights.Though as the Guardian's Stuart Heritage points outs, it's not exactly The Wire. Frinton only got its first pub, the Lock and Barrel in 2000 (though there was a fight there in June) there's just one fish and chip shop and no amusements. Last year there were just 33 reported offences and only one drug crime. And the biggest threat to social order came back in 2009 when Network Rail tried to replace the iconic level crossing gates, which now rest in the garden next to the new automatic gates...