Thursday, 11 March 2010

My hometown

Recently I’ve been dipping into The Book Of Watford, a lavish publication that my friend Stuart found in a second-hand shop and gave me for my birthday last year. Subtitled ‘A portrait of our town’, it’s a collection of historical photographs of Watford accompanied by extracts from the local papers, and it makes for fascinating reading.

But while the details of the evolution of the town are lovingly covered (with particular emphasis on roads and buildings), there are some glaring omissions. In the entire section on the 1960s, for instance, there’s only one mention of the local football team and none at all of music. (And don’t get me started on the similar holes in the account of the 70s and 80s – but that’s a topic for my other blog.)

I’ll happily acknowledge that Watford wasn’t exactly renowned for either its football team or its music scene in the 60s. But the former did experience the greatest success in its history, gaining promotion to the Second Division in 1969. And as for the latter, I refuse to believe that kids in Watford weren’t going out on a Friday and Saturday night and grooving to local bands – facsimiles of more successful acts, no doubt, but no less worthy of attention for that.

I set my novel in Watford because it was the nearest town to where I grew up, and because there was no famous blues band that originated there, which made it easier to invent one. But quite honestly, it could have been set anywhere. If you had a time machine and you were able to return to any town in Britain on a Saturday in 1966, I’ll bet that you could find teenage boys who went to the football in the afternoon and a gig in the evening, whether they were in Wrexham or Walsall, Bury or Brighton. It was a universal experience – and for a book on local history to exclude it entirely seems quite extraordinary.

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