Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Crap Towns: Dorchester

Or, putting the boot into the place while it's down

Once upon a time, the county town of Dorset was the centre of the universe. Now, people go there to die.

Dorchester gave the world Thomas Hardy, the sailor who Nelson tried to snog on his deathbed, and er... Thomas Hardy, the celebrated writer whose works are now available for a quid at any book store. Dorchester was also the scene of some of the best public executions outside the state of Texas as the infamous Judge Jeffries did his best to keep the population down, but the only way you'll get killed these days is by expiring through sheer boredom.

What's wrong with Dorchester then? It's the sheer apathy of the place. It's run by a council too scared to spend any money on anything, and will procrastinate for years rather than make a decision. They look six miles down the road at the bright lights of Weymouth with envious eyes, and swear they'd never do anything as crassly as the seaside town. So they don't do anything at all.

After sitting in planning for years, they council opened a long-awaited skate park, filled entirely with kiddy ramps from the local branch of Argos. It was closed within a month. The Christmas lights have won national competitions three years in a row for their crapness. They doubled the budget in 2003, so there were two strings of white lights. But steps are being taken! Some bright spark organised a town meeting to combat apathy in the town. Two people turned up, one of whom was the photographer from the local paper.

One of the absurdities of local boundaries means Dorchester actually controls part of Weymouth, and it has become WDDC's mission to become as obstructive as possible in the running of the place. Little men in big offices.

And the football ground's built out of lego, and Weymouth beat the 8-0 on Boxing Day.

When you thought things couldn't get any worse, Prince Charles came along and built Poundbury next door. It is HRH's idea of a rural idyll. It's got a word to describe it, and the word is "nice." Nice as in harmless, organised, token-village-store, token-village-pub and a list of prohibitions the length of your arm. Poundbury makes Dorchester look like Vegas, but they are of the same blood, the same living death.

Just five miles up the road, carved into a hillside is a man with the biggest dick on the planet. A stone age monument? A Roman fertility statement? Or, as current thinking suggests, a work of satire on Oliver Cromwell? I like to think it's the people of Cerne having a laugh, waving their mighty mallet at the good burghers of Dorchester. The world's biggest white-eared elephant.

Oh, and they closed the brewery closed down in 2003, which makes the place even worse now that we've all had a chance to sober up. I pity the people of Dorchester. They need help.

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