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Straight Outta Compton August 29, 2011

Posted by normanmonkey in Food, Thirtynumbthing, Travel, West Byfleet.
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‘As I l leave, believe I’m stompin’, but when I come back, boy, I’m straight outta Compton’ – Ice Cube

In days long gone an August bank holiday was a perfect excuse to not go to sleep for 72 hours in the company of other itinerants a backdrop of thumping beats. Not anymore. Those same itinerants are now hollow-eyed and sleep deprived on account of their kids or running businesses and marathons, possibly at the same time.

As per usual I had been taken by surprise by the sudden arrival of an August Bank holiday. Where on earth do they spring from?  While trapped in the killing fields of commuting and the 9 to 5 (make that 6) ] I’d fantasised and whinged about  could be done if only I’d had the time the time. It was all visions of a weekend break in Rome or a bohemian day in Brighton and yet when the time came I realised it was too late to actually do anything meaningful.There was a mad scramble of phone calls, texts and tweets like a manager without a squad on transfer deadline day at 10.55pm and discovering that even Marlon King isn’t available.

So what did a Thirtynumbthing do with three days to fill?

Left to my own devices led to the usual distractions of writing a to-do list, losing it, giving up, and then forming a nest of papers, magazines, endless cups of tea,  and an interminable feed of live sports. That was Saturday morning. By Monday however the mind-numbing effect of Sky Sports News and fermenting scent of stale sweet and sour sauce tends to lead for a call to action. What was needed was escape from the detritus of my own mounting detritus. My kitchen had turned into a scene from a William Burroughs novel. Something had to be done!

Straight Into Compton
There comes a moment when a man doesn’t want cocktails or to be surrounded by hipsters and urban attitude. I’d hit that moment and what I craved was a radical departure reassurance and twee harmony. Above all that I wanted cake.

In what may prove to be a defining turning point I went online not to Time Out but Surrey Life.  The pleasurable afternoon I had as a result could be a portent of the comfortably numb future that will befall us all before incontinence.

If anyone goes to Compton in Surrey in a confused pilgrimage to the place made famous by Niggaz With Attitude they will be sorely disappointed.  Among the cottages and rolling green hills there’s a distinct lack of gang warfare, bitches or LAPD brutality.  I, for one, would still very much like to see a twin-town exchange programme and the resultant fall out in a fly on the wall documentary.

What Compton lacks in crack houses is made up for with the Watts Gallery Tea Rooms and a fine lemon sponge for starters. The Watts is precisely the kind of place a person can end up and lose an afternoon watching middle-England in full throttle. I’d been transported to another England, one well away from the London of my work week, the one of traffic, uppity bar staff, drunks on the Jubilee Line, wasabi popcorn, feral kids, feral social media gurus or cabbies moaning about ‘the fackin’ Spurs’.

This was a haven of scones with jam and clotted cream, genteel old ladies, upstanding families, children (and even dogs, come to think of it) seen and not heard. Everything and everyone had a place and permanence to the point you could practically hear Elgar playing in their footsteps. It was, in the words of Vivian Stanshall, ‘English as tuppence, changing yet changeless as canal water, nestled in green nowhere’.

The only hitch was that I’d left my wallet at home. What would Ice Cube or Eazy-E of NWA have done in Compton when faced with only enough change for the tea room or the Watts exhibition, but not both?  According to ‘Cube’ when he’s called off, he’s got a sawn off, squeeze the trigger and the bodies get hauled off.
Wise words, but armed only with a lighter and a copy of The Guardian, violence was not an option. It meant forsaking the Victorian art and sculpture of George Frederic Watts in the Gallery favour of Welsh rarebit and cake in the cafe. Yet again, my stomach triumphs in a mismatched bout with the arts. I shall be back.

What did I learn? Firstly to plan future bank holidays well in advance; second to remember my wallet if I do should venture out and finally, next time I’m heading down to Compton to pack a sawn-off just in case I can’t pay for a cream tea.

This article first appeared as Thirtynumbthing @blokely.com

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