Warning: This post was published more than 9 years ago.
I keep old posts on the site because sometimes it's interesting to read old content. Not everything that is old is bad. Also, I think people might be interested to track how my views have changed over time: for example, how my strident teenage views have mellowed and matured!
But given the age of this post, please bear in mind:
- My views might have changed in the 9 years since I wrote this post.
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Many thanks for your understanding.
Regular readers will know that my home town is Southport, a small retirement village of a town on the North West coast of England. I visit every few weeks, but often I check in on the town via the internet, to see what is causing the inevitable arguments at the time.
Southport is an affluent town whose (small ‘c’) conservatism is somewhere to the right of the residents of Ambridge even before the Macy/Craig wedding, and, as such, it’s the arena for fascinating debates that the rest of the country concluded some centuries ago.
It’s a place where the Daily Mail is taken as gospel, complaints are the local speciality, and people’s primary concern in life is the state of the town’s public toilets. It is Middle England. If Richard Littlejohn hadn’t hailed from Essex, he’d probably have come from Southport. It’s the only place I’ve come across to have held a protest against the anti-war protests.
The hot topic in Southport at the moment appears to be regarding breastfeeding in public. Not whether better provision should be given to mothers, not whether their right to breastfeed in public should be enshrined in government legislation, but whether it should be allowed at all. This has hit the local newspaper after a lady breastfeeding her baby was asked to leave McDonalds.
Contributions to the debate from the Southport Visiter (sic) website include:
Of course this woman shouldn’t be allowed to breastfeed in McDonalds.
I certainly don’t want to be sitting tucking into my Big Mac with fries while a woman serves up a fresh milkshake for her baby.
The staff at the store were totally in the right to ask her to stop. Others were eating and women should be a bit more aware of the sensitivities of others around them.
It is certainly not acceptable for women to breastfeed in public, particularly in a restaurant.
It may be the most natural thing in the world, but so is being naked, but that isn’t allowed in MacDonalds.
Woah. Even the case for the ‘Ayes’ is skewed with small-town mentality:
I would be more offended seeing mothers feed their kids with the junk in MacDonalds than seeing a mum offering her baby the most nutritious food it can get!
If topless sun bathing is the norm on the beach, then Breast feeding in public should not be an issue.
There are pages and pages of this stuff. It’s quite remarkable.
Another debate: Should a photographer be allowed to have nude portraits in his shop window? We’re talking tasteful portraits here (click here or here for samples), not hardcore porn. Yet the vitriol greeting this display would suggest otherwise:
There’s far too much sex being rammed down our throats as it is.
It is a sad day when the family portrait becomes soft porn sordid snaps.
Presumably, that was said without irony.
I don’t know of anywhere else in the country where the apparent attitudes of the majority are quite so trenchant, where achievement is so under-celebrated, or where complaining is quite so much the way of life.
But somehow, from a distance, these uniquely negative qualities give Southport something of a bizarre charm. The predictability of the vitriol, bananaism, and ultraconservatism provides a level of reliability of response that maybe isn’t present in other towns.
Southport is a town that’s stuck in the past and stuck in its ways. But it’s my town, it’s inevitably part of who I am, and I’ll always look out for it.