Having lived in Slough my entire life, I know perfectly well what it takes to be someone who can withstand the town. A population in the 100,000''s means that everyday gives you the opportunity to meet new people. In such a diverse and multicultural town as Slough, there is a lot of variety and always something new to experience. Generally, when Slough is mentioned the first thing that people tend to associate with Slough is Road Wars. Perhaps not the best association, though Slough itself does not have a bad crime record. They may also associate Slough with the song "Eton Rifles" by The Jam, as it is mentioned. This is a far better association. In particular, the thing that I like the most about Slough is the range of places to eat, restaurants and fast food chains, not only English based ones, but Indian, Polish, Chinese, Thai, you name it, Slough is more than likely to have it. There are a lot of young people in Slough and this is because of the availability of jobs, particularly on the trading estate, the biggest of its kind in Europe. This means that a lot of people come to Slough looking for work, work that is often available to them. There are rail links to Reading and London, through Paddington station, these journeys not being overwhelmingly long meaning that local transport to the capital is hassle free. The local schools have all grown incredibly well in recent years and the amount of them means that children will not struggle to find a placement, something that is becoming increasingly difficult. Living in Slough also means being close to Heathrow Airport, not so close that you are affecting by planes, but close enough so that journeys to other countries aren''t such a hassle. There are downsides to Slough. Firstly, the amount of pollution that is produced from the trading estate means that sometimes it can look and feel a little smoggy. Furthermore, certain industrial areas of Slough can be particularly loud. Also, despite there being a lot to do and many places to see, there is an evident lack of greenery and parks in the local area, perhaps as a result of the industrial feel to the town. However, these cons aside, the pros obviously outweigh them and I believe that in general Slough is a relatively good place to live.
I have lived in slough for years personally i dont think it is that bad If you keep yourself out of trouble. I think the likes of Road Wars makes it look worse then it is, i have had no problem walking a 15 minute walk from the Train Station back home in the early hours of the morning. You have some lovely surrounding areas such as Stoke poges, George Green , some parts of Wexham and Fulmer. Slough train station has fast connections to London and Reading, it takes 10 minutes to get to paddington so its easy to commute. The schools here are good i walked away from Langleywood with high GCSE's and that was appaerently a bad school so i say never judge a book by its cover i had the best teachers there.The shopping isn't the best here however you have all you basic shops eg. New Look, Topshop and Primark. Food shopping is good theres a Tescos in Slough is said to be one of the biggest in the UK.
It always seems to me that pretty much anytime anybody brings up the subject of Slough a certain famous poet laureate's work from 1937 invariably gets a mention, alongside it being the setting for that widely regarded cringe-worthy "The Office"
Now, I'll be honest, my connections with Slough are purely work related, my experiences with Slough therefore limited to hotel stays, town centre strolls, restaurant meals and the like.
That said, having been a regular visitor of the last few years on various multiple month dragging IT assignments frankly too mind-numbing and tedious to mention, I have developed something of an understanding of the place which I hope you'll permit me to share here.
****Good, Bad and the Ugly****
With a population estimated at around 120,000 (census 2001) handily placed on the London commuter belt with easy access to the M4 and train routes into Paddington station, in the heart of Royal Berkshire, and just a short hop away from Heathrow airport, logistically Slough is perfectly positioned to attract and serve corporations and businesses.
But here's the thing, whichever way you want to look at it downtown Slough is never going to win any beauty contest prizes, in fact quite frankly at it's worst, particularly in the central town roundabout by the grisly Brunel Bus Station, it can only be described as a higgledy-piggledy mish mash of concrete misery.
The town's potential for inferiority complexes is only exacerbated by it being nearest neighbours to the unerringly attractive and historic royal dwelling place of Windsor, and the public school symbolism of those Eton playing fields.
****Slough Poem version 2****
And so it was that one particularly dull and lifeless lunchtime, just a few weeks back as I escaped the office and headed into the depths of the Observatory Shopping Centre, I made a very interesting discovery. In 2006, Slough Borough Council had run a competition inviting school children to rewrite the Betjeman version - and right in the heart of the shopping centre the winning entry by 11 year old Joanna Okolotowicz is proudly displayed in huge white lettering.
Horrible bombs don't fall on Slough,
Because it's fit for humans now,
This town's much better, and how,
Old poem die a death!
Sikhs, Muslims and Christians too,
All are welcome and so are you,
All come here to live life anew,
One town, one breath.
A centre of learning you can see,
With a library and university,
A life's training for you and me,
Work hard, get paid.
Ice skating, swimming and fitness places,
Playgrounds, parks and open spaces,
Children laughing, smiling faces,
Getting together, friendships made.
Queensmere, Observatory and High Street,
Cafes, restaurants where you can eat,
See a film at the cinema for a treat
Brand new Tesco open now.
Trains from Reading, London and many more,
Cars and taxis along the M4
Buses drop you at your door,
Climb aboard and come to Slough
****The New Evidence****
So does this mark the dawn of a new beginning for the town?
Well, putting my work weary cynicism aside momentarily, there's no question that Slough does have a very diverse and multi-cultural population, and like many towns these days there's plenty of efforts being made to redevelop and reinvigorate the place. Thames Valley University has a big campus in the town ensuring a thriving student population.
The Queensmere shopping centre at the heart of the High Street has a multi-screen cinema and basically all the big high street names you'd expect to see. Just down the street is smaller but well designed Observatory shopping centre I've already mentioned. If you go through the Observatory, and out to the main A4 Bath Road link through the town, sure enough you will see one of the biggest Tesco Extra Stores you've ever seen in your life - Escalators up to the top floor 24/7 opening the works.
As you drive along the very busy A4 trunk road, back towards the suburb of Langley (which was actually where a lot of the housing that Mr Betjeman took a dislike to) you can now see plenty of open Parkland and greenery, and the refurbished houses lining the road are now highly sought after properties. If you head in the other direction, you'd go past the leisure centre and a large ice-rink (just behind the Slough Borough Council buildings) where the legendary duo of Torvill and Dean perfected some of their routines...
****The nagging doubts****
But what does all this add up to? Is there really any distinctive new identity here? At the far end of the High Street there's a Wetherspoon's pub, with the less than imaginative title taken straight from the fictional paper merchants portrayed in the Office "Wernham Hogg's" - hardly an example of original thinking...
For all the good progress being made, there are still quite a few eyesores tucked away behind the new facades - the Hatfield 'multi-story' car park is a classic case in point, falling to bits, shabby, dimly lit, so bad that where we work they offer security escorts for people working out of hours, that's assuming your car survives the terrifying experience!
****Accentuate the positives****
Then again it's by no means my intention to in any way look down on or cause offence to people who happen to live and work in the town, so I've really no wish to dwell on the negatives that if we're honest can in some shape or form be found in basically any town up and down the land
So let's finish on a positive note with a list of my favourite things about the place.
Food generally comes top of my list, and the Thai Orchid is a great example of a thriving authentic well-run restaurant with a really wide-ranging and high quality menu of dishes.
If you are staying in the area on business, would recommend the Heathrow Slough / Windsor Marriott in Langley - very comfortable rooms, high standard of service and one of the best hotel gyms and pools I've seen - so well equipped they attract a lot of local membership as well.
If it's fresh air and greenery you're after, just a mile or two up the road you will find the Burnham Beeches Forest, which up and till fairly recently the England Football team were happy to use as a base camp.
And talking of bases, for family's on a budget looking for somewhere to stay when visiting nearby attractions such as Windsor Castle, Legoland Windsor, Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park, there are plenty of hotel choices - Quality Inn, Premium Inn, Holiday Inn Express, conveniently located around the town
So to sum up, I do genuinely believe it's unfair to pigeon hole Slough as well a "pigeon hole" of a place, or words to that effect.
I feel sure if the Betjmeister had actually known just how convenient that mighty Tescos would be, he'd have never been so disparaging about the place!!
It's never going to be a tourist haven, but why would it want to be - it has all the amenities and facilities you would expect in a town of its size, and in terms of transport links to Greater London and beyond, you'd be hard pushed to find a more convenient spot.
So in the spirit of that lazy Wetherspoon's naming, I'll leave it to the mighty David Brent to sum up my thoughts:
"My world does not end within these four walls, Slough's a big place. And when I've finished with Slough, there's Reading, Aldershot, Bracknell...."
Not a name that makes you think of nice things perhaps. For that we can blame John Betjeman. It was he who wrote: Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough It isn't fit for humans now, There isn't grass to graze a cow Swarm over, Death! Come, bombs, and blow to smithereens Those air-conditioned bright canteens, Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans, Tinned minds, tinned breath. Mess up the mess they call a town - A house for ninety-seven down And once a week a half-a-crown For twenty years, And get that man with double chin Who'll always cheat and always win, Who washes his repulsive skin In women's tears, And smash his desk of polished oak And smash his hands so used to stroke And stop his boring dirty joke And make him yell. But spare the bald young clerks who add The profits of that stinking cad; It's not their fault that they are mad, They've tasted Hell. It's not their fault they do not know The birdsong from the radio, It's not their fault they often go To Maidenhead And talk of sports and makes of cars In various bogus Tutor bars And daren't look up to see the stars But belch instead. ----------------------- As far as I'm concerned, that's the biggest load of hogwash since Jeffrey Archer's libel case! Slough is about 20 miles to the West of London. To the south of the town lies the M4 motorway and, with the M40 a short distance to the North and the M25 to the East, getting around the town isn't difficult. The town centre is typical of many suburban shopping centres with its mixture of shops to suit all tastes. There are two undercover malls - the Queensmere and the more modern Observatory. Both have a good mixture of shops. To the West of the town centre, spread along
the A4 Bath Road are a number of trading estates catering for electrical goods, furnishings, sportswear, gardening and DIY. To the North of the town centre lies the Britwell Estate which has a large amount of affordable housing. Further out, there is Farnham Common, a pretty villiage with a mixture of Victorian and Edwardian architecture and the beautiful Burnham Beeches forest. To the South of the town centre, there is the pretty Herschel Villiage and further out, a considerable amount of open countryside and playing fields for Eton College. To the South West, lie Cippenham and Chalvey which, again, provide affordable housing. To the East of the town lies Langley and this is where the majority of the housing which offended Betjemin lies. The 30s semi has seen something of a revival over recent years and this is a desirable area of Slough. House prices here have shot up in the last 15 years and you would now be looking at spending something over £200,000 for a good 3-bed semi. Public transport isn't the best in the area but there is a fast train link to London Paddington and regular trains to Reading and the West. I have lived in Slough for 2.5 years now and I have no desire to move - it's a lovely place to live with a lot of greenery and open spaces along with all the amenities you could possibly want.
I and my partner have the misfortune to live in Slough. Jobs keep us here and house prices rising so fast stop us leaving too. The main town - with it's newish shopping area is functional, but with the hospital miles away, major places of business stretched along the A4 and no sensible means of getting around, it's an awful place to live. I say sensible - there is an extensive service of buses run by Beeline and London United - but they are always late, sometimes don;t appear, overpriced, crowded, dirty etc that I usually walk as much as I can. The 24hr Tesco is always packed, as is downtown all day and all weekend. I wouldn;t mind if it was just the "yoofs" with their noisy phones, but there's a serious problem with asylum seekers here, as we are only 4 miles from Heathrow and on a main train line from London - it's an ideal stopping point, and most of them never leave! I won't be all bad. The M4 and M25 link us well with the rest of the country, the villagey part of the town I live in is pleasant and there is no end of IT companies down here to find work with, but i'd rather live elsewhere and commute in.