This week I found myself in the unusual position of having to take annual leave simply because I worked nine months solid without any time off and now its caught up on me. Having made no big plans and no partner to do anything with (#ForeverAlone), I’ve spent the last few days going about some of the local towns and villages in the area. The plan; soak up the history, cream cakes and tourist sweat the region has to offer.
To back track a little, I was born and bred in the county of Gloucestershire, near the little market town of Chipping Campden.
Although a small minority may dispute my background, I’ve always very firmly stated my origins as being North Cotswold through and through. One of the many problems with Cotswolds is that it’s not an area defined by fixed boarders and fences. One person’s Cotswold is another’s Vale of Evesham. For example, the most recent controversy in my home village is the upcoming development of an airfield in neighbouring Warwickshire. Everybody with an ounce of common sense knows Warwickshire isn’t a Cotswold county, Cala Homes can ruddy well do one on that front.
Anyway, back to the point, because I have been on annual leave I’ve had the unique chance to go around some of the places I don’t normally see. Don’t get me wrong, Swindon, a town located in the heart of the Cotswolds, does have some unique shopping delights…
…But it’s never quite been embraced as fully ‘Cotswoldian’. To counter balance, this week I have been visiting the towns of Chipping Campden (obviously), Cirencester, Painswick, Stroud and Bourton-on-the-Water. A mixture of the famous and under the radar. So here it is, a (very) simplistic guide to the sights of my home region.
A (Very) Simple Guide to the Cotswolds by Alice E. Bennett
The first, most important thing you need to know about the Cotwolds is that it’s habitants operate like a well oiled machine. Not necessarily a technological machine, we’re still a bit behind in that department.
No, it’s more a traditional machine. A machine oiled with prosecco, gallons and gallons of prosecco.
To be honest, before prosecco was a thing our family unit was in deep crisis.
That said, the average Cotswold resident isn’t too picky, just know that any alcohol of reputable quality is embraced. So long as it’s not Gordon’s and located on the top shelf.
If you do decide to rub us up the wrong way (e.g. playing your music at 9:15pm, voicing your love of the Labour party at a Church fete, ignoring our carefully placed signs…)
…we will tend to express our frustration in one of three ways. The first, adopted by the minority youth culture, is to be witty by trying to make it a joke or pun-tastic:
The second approach adopts some of the attributes of an open letter, however because we do things old school we treat an open letter in the most literal of senses. It’s quite common to have locals tack up posters in the middle of village squares:
The final method we’ll voice anger is by taking our complaints to the local press. God have mercy on your soul if that happens. To prompt such an action, you really have to do something utterly criminal.
What the Cotswold towns and villages lack for in subtly they most certainly make up for in shopping. As we will tell you, our shops outclass yours 10-1, including our charity shops.
People actually get excited about the mere thought of browsing through our used crockery and underwear, that’s how superior our stuff is.
Bask in the used glow.
Our shops also boast some of the best opening times in the country and are run by the fittest and most able of patrons.
With window fittings so majestic you’d think they were lifted from Oxford Street itself.
Our shop names may make no sense, but the way we say and present them will ensure you walk away feeling like the stupid one in this relationship. That and an overpriced t-shirt.
(The same rule can also be applied to house signs. Sign material comes at a price around here.)
Speaking of clothing, we are the fashion trail blazers of the world. Move over Pairs, get out of here London, if you want to know what is going to be ‘in’ this season you need look no further than Stroud’s High Street. Two words: ‘Butterfly Boob’.
Two more: ‘Gym Cats’ (alias ‘Crotch Cats’), perfect for Rio 2016.
If clothing isn’t your bag (or hat or scarf), then our shops do stock the most delightful alternatives including piles of biscuits which are, frustratingly, not piles of biscuits and witty sayings which aren’t witty. Because as any Cotswold home owner knows, any coffee morning or house visit isn’t complete until you’ve made you guests feel suitably inferior to yourself.
And what kind of animal are you if you leave without buying something for your cat?
If you find yourself in a sticky situation or engaged in conversation, use these buzz phrases to steer yourself into safe waters:
- “Where is the nearest Waitrose?”
- “Too many immigrants in this country if you ask me”
- “I was just talking to my wife Florentina about that”
- “Isn’t the weather ghastly today?”
- “In my opinion if it’s not Tory, it’s not for-me”
- “It’s mainstream shops like Pry-mark that are driving the price of good quality chinos into the ground. It’s an utter disgrace”
And there you have it. Follow all of the tips and advice above you’ll be right on your way to being just about tolerated by the Cotswold community. When you come to depart our happy region we only ask you to remember one thing:
We wouldn’t want you taking our middle class mannerisms with you now, would we?