Part-time red-brick academic Tom Whyman inveighs against his native English village in the American Sunday Times:
Alresford is my personal hell.
We are not used to thinking that a place like this â€” a pleasant town with a pretty center â€” might actually be hell. There is almost no poverty and only the occasional act of violence. There are good schools, a range of shops, a heritage railway. In fact, itâ€™s somewhere that a lot of people, apparently, actively want to live: Houses in the center easily sell for upward of a million pounds. (What they will cost once the vote to leave the European Union makes the economy crater remains to be seen.)
But dig below the surface, and you will find the demons crawling. You can see them in the looks that residents give you when they pass; sneering snobs glaring down their noses with entitlement; small-minded townies, bullying you with eyes that you recognize from the primary school lunchroom; the old people, 80 and above, wearing blank stares. You can hear it in their bothered tutting at the bus stop (especially if they ever hear a visitor mispronouncing the name of the town), the shots that constantly ring out from across the countryside as they set about murdering as many of the local pheasants as they can. …
[I]t is impossible to leave Alresford, because Alresford is not just a place: It is an ideology that infects your very soul. Letâ€™s call it â€œAlresfordism.â€ It is an ideology of smallness, of contraction, of wanting to curl up in our own personal, financially secure hole and will everything amusing or interesting or exciting in the world away.
Since my late teens, every effort I have ever exerted has been with the intention of escaping Alresford. And yet, I am an early-career academic and so I am forced to move back, every summer, to live with my parents because I cannot afford to pay rent elsewhere after my temporary teaching contract ends. Then, sometimes, I think: What if Iâ€™m actually secretly comfortable here? What if I have chosen the security of death in Alresford over the risks of life elsewhere? What if I am in fact fully in the clutches of Alresfordism?