…and all three of them are millions of miles away from the Shropshire Union canal.
There’s the posh bit, the bit that looks as though it was the original old settlement and then there’s the useful but not so posh bit full of ticky-tacky boxes dating from the time when humans stopped building homes and instead began to arrange bricks in the most profitable, minimal-footprint efficiency and to Hell with the fluffy details.
To arrive anywhere useful when beginning one’s travels from the canal – such as a shop selling comestibles – one must first run the pedestrian gauntlet of a narrow, rural two-lane motorway. Actually it’s a road, but the past two generations of humans, those who have never walked any greater distance than to the refrigerator, all regard this lane as “de-restricted” and to be tackled with F1 Qualifying fervour. Sadly, all of them have talents more suited to driving refrigerators than motor vehicles. Check that your Last Will & Testament is up to date and somewhere easily-discovered before you set out.
If you survive Sector One then you will find yourself in Sector Two, the posh bit.
Pedestrian life-expectancy, vehicle speeds and driver skills are no better in this “the posh bit”, but there’s every chance that at least it’ll have been a Bentley or an Aston Martin that flattened you. Depending upon the thoroughness of the pathologist performing your post-mortem you may even be lucky enough to be buried with a wayward Jaguar XJ gearbox lodged in your fundament.
The very worst that might happen on this stretch – other than being shot for vagrancy (he wasn’t wearing a single designer label, Your Honour, so I shot him) – is that you’ll be mowed down by the au pair’s Audi or Mercedes. On the outskirts of this section where the money tails off you might be unlucky and find the gardeners driving – and there’s no delicate way to say this, I apologise – BMWs. Step lively, and be prepared to throw yourself into the hedgerows.
There is a signpost at the canal bridge, next to the sulphurous Headquarters of Anglo-Welsh Boat Hire Incarnate, and it reads “Bunbury ¾”. Walk for three-quarters of a mile in the direction indicated and you come upon a roadsign reading “Bunbury ¾”. I carry a Magic-Marker and a devil-may-care attitude with me at all times; I have corrected this sign to read “Bunbury STILL ¾”.
Don’t be fooled even when you see that though, not for a moment. It is at least two miles to any useful portion of Bunbury, and more than three miles back once you get there.
The Bunbury referred to here is, I think, the old Bunbury, the Bunbury from before the social changes that lead to builders putting up signs directing first-time ticky-tacky buyers to cramped little estates that they have called “Fiddler’s Rest” and “Blacksmith’s Cove” and “Tiny rooms and no garden but at least you’ll drive home through faux gates and a cast-concrete sign proclaiming Poshy-Poshy Nook Executive Homes”.
“Old” Bunbury is, I would guess, where the builders who throw up ticky-tacky estates with new-brick fake gated entrances and uber-twee names all now live. Those builders and, just possibly, Miss Marple.
If you ask directions to Bunbury folk will generally refer to the it of the matter as the Dysart Arms. Remember the ambitious, earnestly-run bistros of the late seventies and eighties? Well, you will remember those soon enough once you glance at the menu. It’s a jewel in the Brunning & Price chain. Do you know why they call them chain pubs? It’s because of the corporate slavery chains around the necks, wrists and ankles of the people that you thought were the pub landlords et al. Anyway, I digress – and we’re almost two-thirds of the way to Bunbury. TFfT.
To one side of the Dysart Arms, this “the pub at the centre of Bunbury”, is a signpost, pointing the weary traveller towards Bunbury. This is it in the photo below. It doesn’t have “¾” on it anywhere, but it really ought to, for it is (at least) another ¾ of something still to go.
The great bulk (and I choose the word bulk deliberately) of Bunbury is another third of your walk away from this, the centre of Bunbury.
Sadly for anyone with ambitions to be mowed down by a Bentley or an Aston, or even the aforementioned au pair-esque Audi or Mercedes, the up-hill, down-dale, round a couple of blind bends you’ll need to brave in order to get to your there is somewhere where one is more likely to be flattened by an eye-wateringly white Seat Ibiza or a Volkswagen Tiguan-really-wishes-it-were-a-Touareg-but-it’s-not.
Step livelier still here – the inscription on your marble tombstone is at stake. You really don’t want to be mown down and remembered as “Here lies you, born during the age of manners, smudged into the next life during 2017 by an Acura RDX, a mid-sized budget-priced cross-over SUV with 10-speaker stereo and Parking Assist”.
Such are the considerations one thinks about on a walk from the canal into Bunbury.
You’ll know when you’ve reached the useful Bunbury, for you will pass pubs of the sort that used to have bouncers on the door to throw customers in. The sort of pubs that have now been reinvented, given a lick of Müller cream-yellow paint and re-named from the Book of Old Pub Names, The Ones That The Punters Are Quite Fond Of.
Well, just beyond that are the Co-operative Supermarket and a most splendid Fish&Chip shop. The ladies who run that place know a thing or two about “frying tonight”. Best chips I’ve had since my dear late Mother put her chip-pan away for the last time.
The Village Chippy – most sincerely recommended.
The Co-op’s not bad either.
The walk back from the real Bunbury (not the “old” one or the “posh” one, but the real one) is twice as long as the walk there, and the walk there was long enough.
Weighed down by 3lbs of deep-fried chipped potatoes, half a pint of Sarson’s vinegar and a bio-degradable canvas bag full of Co-operative comestibles the way back holds many, many pauses for reflection and contemplation.
[American friends please remind yourself here of your linguistic error in re “chips” and “crisps” and “French fries*“, otherwise you’ll get all confused and start paying taxes once more to King George, or something similarly awful.]
*Ugh! Extruded-potato worms, with fat and salt. Dreadful things.
Anyway, one such pause is the cows of Bunbury. The cows of Bunbury aren’t just any old cows, no, these are Müller cows, although it is with sadness and the resignation of cynicism that I note that Messrs Müller & Co have dropped the umlaut in their name in most matters when in England. Good to see it in place on this sign. I suppose that they got rather fed up with English persons assuming facial expressions akin to domestic cats about to vomit, as they try to enunciate a mutated meu-e-u-e-uuuu. Let us not Percy Vere, let us lower standards instead.
Thinks ahead to a few more generations of this process, when the alphabet will consist merely of two grunts and an optional squeak in order not to socially disadvantage those who simply can’t be arsed with all of this tiring language nonsense.
This is where your breakfast Müller Chocolate Vanilla Balls Corner yoghurt comes from. Well, there’s every chance that you’ve knocked back something squeezed out of the muddy udders of these ladies.
The lady to the front of frame looks rather as though she is concentrating on producing the Chocolate Vanilla Balls part of your breakfast. It must be difficult for cows these days, with so many variants above and beyond the Ski-with-grapefruit-pieces original.
So, Bunbury, eh?
A nice enough place, just not where it is supposed to be, and most certainly not just the one place. It has a Co-operative shop and a most excellent chippy, for which I am grateful. I just wish that it had less of the confused time and space, and that the drivers of Bunbury and environs were a little less murderous.
Still, talking of murderous, we haven’t tackled the staircase locks yet…