High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, England, UK, Earth
Looking for sun, sand, surf, and wild women? Well, you've sure come to the wrong place....
High Wycombe is a medium-sized town about forty miles north-west of central London, which grew up around the A40 when that was the main road from London to Oxford (and which has now, in most respects, been replaced by the M40 motorway). The town has good rail links into London, hence many people commute in to work there every day, but attempting to get to anywhere other than London without a car is horrific.
Wycombe is famous for absolutely nothing, but used to be a large producer of furniture, or was it carpets, or something else? Well, whatever it was, all the factories were closed down long ago. Today, its main product is boredom.
The best thing to do if you should ever arrive in High Wycombe is to leave straight away. If offered, do not under any circumstances accept a job in High Wycombe - if you do so without taking appropriate precautions you are likely to find yourself falling under the Curse of Wycombe, which will prevent you ever leaving again.
(If you think the following suggestions are dull, you ought to try living here for a while.)
- To the West of High Wycombe is the small village of West Wycombe (imaginative or what?), where atop the hill is the Dashwood Family Mausoleum and West Wycombe church. The church is unusual in having a sphere on top of the spire instead of a cross, and there are many tales of bizarre goings on here in the eighteenth century. Under the hill are the West Wycombe caves, where, as at Medmenham Abbey, the Dashwood family and guests (a.k.a. "The Hellfire Club") used to engage in orgies (sadly, nothing like that happens here today).
Rumour has it that Benjamin Franklin stopped by for a quick orgy on several occasions, and that the Hawaii was relinquished as a British possession because Lord Sandwich (inventor of, you guessed it, the sandwich), was too busy indulging his carnal instincts here to deal with his duties as head of the Admiralty.
- Visit the central car park late at night and watch the boy-racers.
- Visit the Lane End Chinese take-away, the only one I know of in the country that sells 'Sweet-and-sour Quorn' and similar dishes.
- Hang around the Kebab vans late at night, and meet many interesting local people (see also 5).
- See how quickly you can drive from one side of town to the other. As High Wycombe seems to have the most bizarre traffic light programming in the world, and since it is impossible to get from one side to the other on the motorway, this is a major challenge, involving much high speed driving down back streets, and early in the morning, often a milk- float slalom.
- A subset of the above suggestion is to drive round the Handey Cross roundabout - this is an exciting road junction where the M40, the A404 dual carriageway, and several small local roads meet. Originally a roundabout, the council added traffic lights due to the large number of accidents, and one entertaining local pass time is to try to get across the roundabout from the Marlow end of the A404 to the Wycombe end without being stopped by the lights - I think it should be possible at about 67 mph, but have yet to have an opportunity to test this theory without having someone get in the way.
Note, however, that the council will be rebuilding the junction for the third time in a year or two, this time moving the entire motorway a few miles to the south at a cost of some forty million pounds. Well, hopefully it's third time lucky....
- Attempt to drive across town at 3 am in an old, rusty car without being stopped by the police. Alternatively, see how many times you can be stopped by the police on one trip across town without getting a ticket.
- Get beaten up (see also 1).
- Walk around near the Wycombe Wanderers football ground at the beginning or end of a match and shout out "Wycombe Wanderers are crap" or words to that effect. See also 5.
- Wander around the centre of town until stopped by one of the numerous market research people who are always on the prowl and talk complete bollocks in an attempt to skew the poll results.
- Walk up and down the streets in one of the many housing estates and pretend that you're climbing Mount Everest. You can also marvel at the ability of builders to sell houses that are built on a hill with a slant of thirty degrees or more, and the imaginative street names such as Everest Road, Tensing Crescent, etc.
- Leave (the recommended option).
About the only good thing that can be said for the town is that it does have a few reasonable pubs. Some that you might try are the Bell (in the centre of town), where one night a week they hold a 'nightclub' night with probably the smallest dance floor in the known universe, the Dereham Arms, hidden just off of the A40 on the way into London, the Hobgoblin in the town centre, the King George V on London Road, or the Rose and Crown off of Desborough Road (though the last time I was there someone got beaten up on the street outside).
There are a large number of interesting pubs out in the country around the town, so if you have a car you can try driving around and stopping at the first one you like the look of. In West Wycombe is one good pub whose name I forget, off the south side of the A40 in the middle of town, with an excitingly small entrance to the car park behind, the Ship in Cadmore End isn't bad for beer, but is pretty small and quiet.
There are a few aside from the Bell, but are probably best avoided unless you're into knife fights.
Wycombe has numerous chinese take-aways and fish and chip shops (mostly around Desborough road), all of which are a similar price and the food is edible. The more adventurous might like to try the kebab vans, but foreign visitors should ensure that they have adequate medical insurance before doing so (I'd recommend the chicken kebabs from 'Halal Doner Kebabs', which hangs around near the village pond in Lane End late at night).
There are also a number of Indian restaurants of varying quality, and friends and acquaintances have eaten at several of them and lived to tell the tale. Personal choice would be the Shaheen Tandoori off the London Road to the east of the station, the only Indian place I've eaten at more than once.
Otherwise, Oxford is only a short trip up the M40 (typically a fifteen minute drive followed by an hour looking for a parking space, at least for those of us too stingy to pay for car parking). Hitchhiking from Wycombe to Oxford is not recommended, I once picked up a hitch-hiker on that route who'd been waiting about six hours for a lift...
Weather: Cold and wet.
Best time to visit: Never.
Best time to leave: Now.