I love Luton in the springtime, which has sprung with undoubted force this year, delivering as she has several inches of snow to ease us gently from our wintry slumbers into anticipation of a summer which we can only hope will not be too warm.
In this, one might suppose, we Lutonians are no more fortunate than the rest of the south-east, which is also enjoying a brisk springtime constitutional. It turns out, however, that we may be especially blessed.
According to Wikipedia, Luton’s location within the surrounding Chiltern Hills, area of outstanding natural beauty, means that Luton is typically 1-2 degrees centigrade cooler than the surrounding region.
While presumably this means that Luton is an especially good place to cellar wine, I must say this surprises me. Having lived in both Cambridge and Brighton, both especially wind-ravaged towns, I haven’t particularly noticed Luton being colder than anywhere else round here, except, of course, for central London, which really can lay claim to a distinctive micro-climate.
Nevertheless, we Lutonians already knew that Luton was cool, and not (only) for meteorological reasons. Is it because it is so much more affordable to live here than in the surrounding towns, or London? Because we have our own airport? Or because there is still scope in Luton to dream of one day setting up that coffee shop, that yoga studio (and yes, I am working on it), that second-hand bookshop?
For me, it’s the moment’s pause that greets me almost every time I find myself telling someone that I’m from Luton: that unmistakeable interlude as words fail to express the deep impression this makes. They start by looking sorry for me, as all their received ideas of Luton – crap town, Campari and, as the Daily Mail would have it, our friends, the rats – are played out in their mind’s eye, but are nowhere to be seen in mine. People don’t quite know how to take my sang-froid, the unshakeable composure of my revelation; my ‘I heart Luton’ badge that may not only be ironic.
Having moved to Luton from Brighton, city of coolness par excellence, it also took me a while to take the temperature of the town and make sense of living in a town that is a regular – and lazy – shorthand for ‘crap town’. But over time I found myself instinctively rooting for the underdog, and seeing Luton’s possibilities as well as its weaknesses. Pre-Pret, pre-Starbucks, Luton is still a relatively open field for new business. In Brighton, by contrast, I watched as one new venture after another went by the wayside, the victim of an overheated market already saturated with good ideas.
And it is in that moment – the one that precedes the longer, more tedious moment where I find myself evangelising the many good and remarkable things about Luton: its transport connections, the price of a two-bed Victorian terraced house, the tremendous joy there can be in living in a town actively hated by the right-wing press – that the coolness happens. So in the words of this week’s favourite person, the inimitable Eddie Mair, do wrap up.