Updated: Mar 8
Yes it certainly does
With the fuss over the Corona infections rising and the weather, people are asking; “should Cheltenham festival go ahead?”
In immediate response the answer should be a resounding no. An absurd question to even discuss. Is it safe? Don’t know, so close the effing thing. Yet it shows how much the residents of the town are considered. Aside from the despicable ignorance toward public health, this year they are closing even more roads to be allowing race-only traffic through, busy through routes so that local folk can sit gridlocked for even longer.
It is certainly a testament to the appeal of this event, so why do people love it? Are we going to cancel it, and if so, who will take the decision?
As the races are about to start. this is kind of moot. Today we have the first Covid-19 case in the town. With a quarter of a million people about to descend, something tells me there may be two eventually. Money and short-sightedness has made the decision. Personally, if I catch it, I am going into The Jockey Club office and sneezing and breathing all over the place and licking the doorknobs. Can't wait.
Read on to find out why Cheltenham is the way it is, and what the truth is about the races
HERE IS HOW TO AVOID RACE-TRAFFIC FRUSTRATION
I have lived in the town of Cheltenham for the last two decades. Got to say one of the most loosely-fitting and highly-irritating phenoms is that this is a town of easy life and privilege.
I put here a two-part missive. To explain why it is a misconception and show reason, and to explain why the more highbrow side of Cheltenham-life has a dark-side of its own
My opinion, and it is only that, is the misconception can be laid out to one thing: When you drive through Cheltenham on a through route, you go into Landsdown and out through Charlton Kings. Either that or you come in from Bishops Cleeve, past the racecourse, through Swindon Village, and out up the M5. You pass through Princess Elizabeth Way and Monkscroft (which like most roads named after a royal, is a less than salubrious area). However, it is not that bad. You pass through it, on one side the art college, the grammar school, and the other, some slightly cramped looking multi-storey homes. Over before you know it. In case you needed washing off, you go past the one thing Cheltenham has that no-one else does, the home for British intelligence information, GCHQ. Almost like saying: "Don't worry, you have seen the worst, but this should remind you that we are here to protect. So long Viscount, come back for Gold Cup in March"
So basically I am saying that you do not get to see the grot, the ick, and the ouch. Take it from someone who has lived here, Cheltenham is no soft-centred wonderland.
It is home to one of the most notorious crime-families in the country,. The subject of a
national television programme on the BBC at one stage. Pioneers of murder, extortion, fraud, grand-larceny, and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. They also had a
feature film made about them. I hasten to add we are not talking about romantic underdog types. I have encountered them. They are not cuddly villains or rough-diamond gypsy types. They are bad people.
To give you some back history, let me explain why, aside from the wealth of the local population, Cheltenham has such a high crime rate. A lot resorts back to the 1980's. The heroin explosion of the post-punk era. A doctor moved to the area, a doctor who was once Margaret Thatchers personal physician. Clive Froggatt believed that prescribing pharmaceutical grade diacetylmorphine (heroin) to addicts was the way to combat addiction. So there was a huge surge of addicts relocation to the GL50's.
The sad thing is, it may have worked and things may have been different in Clive was not using the stuff himself. He was disgraced, and the rest is history. One thing for sure was, a lot of addicts had moved here, they had no relocation money, and no heroin. Street-crime and low -level theft cases soared, and so did the costs to local services and the housing committees. Still that was a long time ago. Yes it was, but how long would it take to eradicate that sort of black mark? Who is equipped to deal with such an unheard of phenomenon, as close to a real life Pied-Piper story as I can think of.
There is just not a justification in thinking Cheltenham is some sort of pampered and gentrified gated-community. We had a high profile murder in my street. a dear man by the name of Andrew Pennington. The brutal and senseless murder that happened shocked the town. What shocks even more is that the lunatic who slaughtered that poor man in cold pre-meditated blood was free seven years later. and is now able to live where he likes. . That poor man died in horrific ways and you get longer for tax evasion. Seven years. Just read in the above link what he did. Seven fucking years?
That was, in fact, the second murder on our street in that year, These may sound like isolated incidents, which they were but there is plenty of the regular ebb and flow of human weakness in our town all year long.
Take a look at The Moors Park estate, once coined "the worst estate in Britain" although to be fair, that was due to the fact it was so tiny and so much crime came from there. I do not compare it to Toxteth, Regents Park, or Knowle West. I know many places are much worse but just to give perspective.
So all this should tell you that there is a lot more to this town than meets the gentrified-eye.
HOW TO AVOID FESTIVAL WEEK TRAFFIC JAMS
We come then to what this town is most well known for. The Cheltenham Festival and Gold Cup in March. For four days, the town is turned into a bustling, media-soaked frenzy, the biggest jump-race meeting on earth, and the money and vice you would expect to follow are not missing here. I will express that it is a must for the town. It's entire economy is based upon it. Some businesses run at loss knowing they will get an absurdly high cash-injection in that week. If you offer food, accommodation, alcohol, transport, or bookmaking and cannot make money in Gold Cup week, you are not in the right game. That said, I fucking hate it.
As someone with a lifelong contempt for gambling and a welfare-based objection to horse racing, it holds little appeal. However, it is the clientele that irks the most. Long gone are the days of the gentry coming down and having a few spirited hi-jinks . No, it is now vain, credit-card armed, coked-up louts with insecurities based in the fact they have watched Peaky Blinders but cannot behave this way in the town they come from because someone would rightly beat the shit out of them, so they come to my town and do it. Loud, obnoxious, style-free idiots, they all dress the same, they all shout a lot, to be heard, and they like to urinate on crowds, as we saw in the news a few years ago.
Last year, a poor guy was cycling home from work. Some fat 20-stone pig rugby tackled him. He was in his fifties. His pelvis and hip were shattered. He lost his job through sickness, he suffered financial losses, depression and PTSD and I frankly do not care about the economy of this town as much as I do the well being of my fellow Cheltonians, and it is this man and his family I stand by. This article gives details of the poor man and his troubles. I would like to add that I am sickened by the fact that this mans home town did nothing to support him, the so-called press in Cheltenham have no trace of this article if you look for it, however, there is plenty in support of what a fantastic time the races is. Nothing about a giant piece of human filth ruining a commuters life. " Race Pukes" I call them, and they will forever be so. Nice to see the local press supporting it's people. Censorship for pennies.
This is why I choose to hibernate for that week in March. As far as what happened above you may say that is just one incident. To that I say; yes, it is. Since when does it take more than that?
I am not saying that we should cancel it. I would like to see more control. I would like to see a zero-tolerance no-caution policy for all crimes committed by visitors to the town. I would like to see anyone who comes here to commit said crimes charged and made to pay the full costs involved on pain of a custodial sentence, and then banned from all race-courses and bookmakers across the country. Drugs, violence, criminal damage, assault, robbery, or immoral earnings. Cheltenham citizens deserve more than that.
They certainly deserve more than a broken hip and a snub from the press.
I would like to add that I contacted the Cheltenham Echo regarding this and I have received no response
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