An elegy for Woking

I had a great time last night appearing in Woking at the Light Box. It’s the first time that I’ve performed there and the audience was amazingly attentive and receptive. Which is to say that they all laughed in the right places.

Woking has long been one of my favourite towns, not least because it is the headquarters of the McLaren formula one team. But also because my sister lives here. When people go on holiday to all these exotic places, invariably, I go to Woking.

Woking has taken a lot of stick over the years because there’s nothing there except for shops and coffee shops. This kind of overlooks the fact that it has some very fine shops and some very fine coffee shops. Often I go wandering among the shops and the coffee shops, eulogising the wonderful choice and array of shops and coffee shops.

It also has a very good library. The library is air conditioned, and when I’m up there in the summer, and the Surrey heat flows in from the surrounding forests, I sit in the library and write. This in itself is nothing special, except that my friend and poetry colleague Ian Beech used to work at Woking Library. Indeed, the coincidence deepens because Beechy used to play cricket for the pub where I stay whenever I’m in town.

It’s solidly commuter belt, Woking. The audience at the gig was the least diverse I’ve ever seen. Once everyone commutes off to London in the morning, the place gets a little sleepy, which means there’s plenty of time to look around the shops and the coffee shops. And the forests, which are not so far away, the deep dark woods where HG Wells set War of the Worlds. Woking is the only place I know where the statue in the town centre is of an alien.

And there’s another reason why I like Woking so much. About ten years ago, I happened to see Paul Weller on his moped, which was decorated with images from his album covers. And he almost ran me over, because I was standing there kind of gawping. You see, Woking really is the city of dreams.

So that’s why I enjoyed performing there so much the other night. It really is one of my favourite places!

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