Beautiful Stanhope, I salute you!
NOW how on earth did December 4 creep up on us like that? It’s the countdown with a capital C. It’s now only ….44 days until my birthday. I will of course be playing it down, so please don’t make a big thing out of JANUARY THE SEVENTEENTH, I’m not a big one for birthdays. Anyway, a couple of friends of mine have inspired this week’s column without their knowledge. They’re from outside of the “gated community” and have decided to buy in the area. They don’t know Ashford at all, so have been looking at houses blind as to where they are geographically. So I was quite surprised and rather put out when they told me they had turned down a house because it was too near to Stanhope. Now, for me, that was like a red rag to a bull because, if you didn’t know already, I’m a Stanhope boy through and through. Okay, I don’t live there now but you can take the boy out of Stanhope but you can’t take Stanhope out of the boy. I still have mates from 40 years ago that are proud Stanhopeians. I also have mates who still live there or have moved back there. And of course my dear old Muvver has never moved away and never will. That for me is a complete bonus because not only do I get to visit my Mum but I also get to visit my childhood. Now I know I can’t completely wrap Stanhope up in cotton wool and drown myself in wonderful childhood memories and nostalgia. Of course it’s had its fair share of problems but every large council estate does. When Mrs Thatcher decided to give everyone “the right to buy” most people at the time, or since, took the option, got a massive discount, sold up and moved on. But they weren’t selling on to other families, generally it was to fat cat property tycoons who bought them and rented them out again, which for me leads to “ghettoisation”. How things are changing now! The regeneration is taking shape and Stanhope is becoming a beautiful phoenix rising from the ashes and a new community and community spirit is being forged. Perhaps its old reputation will always precede it but it’s the people who will make it work. I wouldn’t think twice about moving back there, as I informed my ex-friends at the time. So Stanhope I salute you, I doff my cap to you and rejoice in you and as Chas n Dave once sang (artistic licence warning) “Give me a Stanhope girl every time”.