We watched a TV programme last night about the obesity crisis, looking for who to blame. Not sure there’s one person/group/department but what was interesting were some of the facts. They focused on the Mile End Road in east London, now called the Chicken Mile for the preponderance of takeaways, mostly one off shops rather than some franchise outlet of a fast food behemoth. Not surprisingly we have more of these sorts of facilities than anywhere else in Europe.
And it is the youngsters where the problems start, even as young as four. One thing that I did notice, wherever the film crews went were the number of young teens buying this battered shite, often in school uniform.
When I was at secondary school there were no gates or security or entry controls. Anyone could wander in or out. These days, understandably, you need to pass some levels of control to get in. But it seems you can leave as a thirteen year old to buy your crapburger and fries. We couldn’t, not until the sixth form (16 to 18 for those unfamiliar with the English system) back when I was able to grow hair where I wanted. Why are they allowed out? Seems wrong to this old curmudgeon? Or do I have the wrong end of the wand, or is it just that, as it was back in the day, there is always some cheeky yoof who can subvert the rules?
It also got me thinking about the concept of the takeaway, circa 1973 when I was 16. I lived at that time in an outpost of the civilised world, close to that bit on old maps that said ‘Here be dragons’. The New Forest. No one’s centre of civilisation. My school was in the quaint Forest town of Brockenhurst, famed for… nothing really. It had a railway station and my secondary school, a small police station, a high street of shops selling strange things you need to debollock a horse, the odd greengrocer, a bakery that smelt like a brewery and four banks. There were four pubs and a laughingly named convenience store that did everything it could not to have what you needed. What it didn’t have was a takeaway, not even a chippy. There was a tea room that flogged Earl grey and doilies and was the preserve of the local desiccated dowagers. No self respecting teen would venture inside and risk humiliation by some cheek-pinching granny.
Indeed the only time I remember there being any reference to the takeaway, it was when the annual gathering of Hell’s Angels descended on Brockenhurst and stopped at the Railway Tavern. Some oik asked Frank, the miserable publican if he did takeaways and when he told said oik to sling his hook, the pie counter was heaved out of the windows shortly followed by the oik. Brockenhurst made headlines that day and not for the warmth of its welcome.
Makes you wonder whatever happened to those Hell’s Angels. I suppose they grew a prostate like the rest of us. I haven’t been back to Brockenhurst for a few years but I imagine that even here the takeaway has extended its insidious tentacles. Shame.