When I first moved to the UK, it was a very exciting time. Everything is so new and different- it’s complete sensory overload. Every day, there is something to learn, a new experience to be had. When someone from home asks what you've been up to, the answer is never 'Oh, you know, the usual.'
Perry and I have had so many ‘Let me tell you what I saw/heard today’ moments', that our brains literally went into creative overdrive and helped us further our respective hobbies and interests. And most of this took place in Peterborough.
So, with all these magic moments happening all around us, you can imagine my surprise to experience the regular mocking of my new hometown by most Brits.
It happened so often, that I had to craft comebacks. Once, at Heathrow, the customs officer commented ‘Peterborough, huh. What have you done wrong?’ My reply was ‘At least it’s not Hull.’ This brought a chuckle because he realized that I knew. I knew this was the true national sport of Britons- City Scorning. To be fair, they are equal opportunity insulters. With few exceptions, (Bath, York and Edinburgh seem to rate pretty highly) most cities have some perceived wrong or negative attribute.
Liverpool and its Scousers are known for thievery, Leeds football fans are the dirtiest. Newcastle is full of drunken Geordies. Glasglow and its Glaswegians are violent criminals. Birmingham (Brummies) are a bit slow. London thinks it’s the centre of the universe and the traffic is terrible. Bradford, Hull, Scunthorpe and Skegness are ‘simply dreadful’. And Peterborough? After querying countless Britons on exactly WHY they had so little respect for this decent and hardworking Cathedral city, the answers could be categorized pretty succinctly- boring.
Peterborough has been a Cathedral city since the 1500’s when Katherine of Aragon, Henry VIII’s 1st wife was buried there, but only recently (1970’s) grew rapidly to help alleviate overcrowding in London. It has a solid, hard-working reputation from the brickworks and engines industries that built up in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. It has many modern housing estates, a decent shopping mall, an expansive system of biking and walking trails and a large country park with 3 small lakes. It has several historic sites including Flag Fen and the Cathedral. It is a short 45-minute train ride to London. It had the first roundabout in the UK. Peterborough is pretty darn awesome!
If you find it boring, you simply aren't trying.
Another fault that I’ve heard people use when describing Peterborough is ‘lacking character’. Most Britons love character and all things ‘oldy worldy’. This is why I think Bath, York and Edinburgh routinely get the moniker ‘so lovely’ and Peterborough gets a scrunched up nose like someone passed gas nearby. In it’s defense, it was a small city for a very long time and most of its expansion happened in the 20th century. Also, since Peterborough had significant industry, it experienced some bombing during WWII, which destroyed the precious little historic city centre it did have. That explains the lack of ‘typical’ character.
I find this criticism most unfair. So, I got in the habit of providing that short history lesson as well as informing these folks that that to an American, any UK city would be exciting. This sometimes had the unintended consequence of shifting their scorn to Americans in general. Oops.
In the end, while we did enjoy the Baths, Yorks and Edinburghs of the UK, Perry and I actually did love Peterborough and named it ‘Number 1’ in our hearts.
Towards the end of our time in the Cross Keys city, I noticed a friend sporting a re-usable shopping bag with ‘I ♥ Peterborough' on the side ala I♥NY. I immediately wanted one and headed to my local Tesco to collect. Alas, none were to be found! Perry, a resourceful guy, joined the hunt without success. However, during our last week, my dear sweet friend Alison gave me a lovely going away present of Peterborough themed items including a book on the history of Peterborough and her own ‘I♥Peterborough’ shopping bag. I was chuffed!