If Shotley is a village, then Shotley Gate is surely the scandal which surrounds it. But it's also where I live. And as Vanilla Ice used to say, it's not where you're from, it's where you're at.
If only I knew what he meant...
The fact that the road signs which say 'Shotley' are mounted on little white gates, thus providing the sort of visual clue familiar only to viewers of Catchphrase, and the much-missed Roy 'say what you see' Walker.
The sexual tension between the Shotley Hoes and the Shotley Massive. They should get together and have a square dance.
The unknown person who moves my plastic hedgehog from one side of my porch to the other on Saturday nights. It's mind games like this which make my life interesting.
The fact that the postbox on the corner of Tudor Close and Great Harlings is sometimes emptied early, and sometimes late, but never on time, making the posting of every letter an adventure into the unknown.
The visual similarity between Felixstowe docks at night, and the landing site from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The deer you can often see late at night in Stourside and Kirkton Close.
The weasel which stares me out and then threatens to attack me on the footpath down by the River Orwell.
The signs at Ganges Wood which make it look like the New Forest.
The lights in Great Harlings at Christmas time.
The red brick wall on the main road by the sewage works, where it's possible to re-enact the title sequence from 'Reservoir Dogs'.
Shotley Drama Group. They won't make a drama out of a crisis. No really, they won't - I've already offered them one of my plays.
Tudor Close in the snow.
People who can't spot the spelling mistake in 'Shotley Peninsular'.
The fact that there's only one 'z' in Buzabout.
The annexing of land which has taken place in the last five years by everyone and his dog who lives in an end-terrace house in Shotley Gate. I must've missed the passing of the law which allows residents to fence off any patch of grass within 20 yards of their back door. Of course, if I lived at the end of a row of houses, I'd do it like a shot. So this is pure jealousy. It's hard to annex land when you live in a first floor flat. Hard, but maybe not impossible. Just give me time.
Shotley Gate Village Store's failure to stock skimmed milk.
The fact that I'm the only person ever to walk around the village without a dog.
The poor reception of Channel 5 in this area, which is interfering with my statutory right to watch programmes about swingers, call girls and Nazis.
People who have security lights outside their front doors with a range so extensive that anyone trying to innocently walk along the pavement late at night finds themselves caught in the glare of public suspicion every twenty yards. I feel like I'm taking part in some kind of performance art as I walk down the street turning on spotlights as I go.
The fact that I regularly have to help out confused parcel delivery men who are trying to find number 17 Tudor Close, and are wondering why there are only 12 flats and 2 bungalows. I've started telling them the others were bombed in the war.
The fact that the launderette at the marina is home to four washing machines which permanently have it in for me.
The lack of a 24 hour bagel bakery within 100 yards of my front door.
The suspicious number of people who stop me in the main road and ask for directions to Kirkton Close. Who are these people, and why are they all looking for Kirkton Close?? In the last five years, I've also been asked for directions to Great Harlings, Lower Harlings, Ganges Road, Stourside, Bristol Hill, Estuary Road, and Queensland (isn't that in Australia?). But interestingly, never Tudor Close. I wonder why...
Well helloooooo Weather Pixie. Following in the footsteps of great meteorologists like Ulrika Jonsson, I proudly present Weather Pixie, with an up to the minute report on the current climate in Suffolk, God's own country. She doesn't speak, a decision we can only hope is adopted in the near future by Julie Reinger, the Look East weathergirl. Someone should tell that woman she's not auditioning for children's TV. I could slap her, I really could. But I digress...
Weather Pixie's clothes and background change according to the conditions, and if the temperature rises sufficiently, she gets her kit off. So let's all pray for a heatwave in Shotley Gate this summer.
The figures are the current temperature, humidity, wind direction, wind speed, and pressure.
Yes indeed. This advert appeared in the local community newspaper at the beginning of September 2003. I'm not sure it's a great idea to begin your sales pitch with the words "Shotley Gate - you either love it or loathe it" - it does kind of imply that anyone moving into the area has a 50% chance of hating the place. But glossing over that, you have to say the wood with 3000 spring bulbs sounds appealing. Or at least it would do, were it not for the fact that this bungalow is situated 20 yards from my front door, and looking at it now from my living room window, the wood does seem to be doing a good impression of a small back garden with half a dozen trees. But I guess that's why they warn you not to try and see it from the gates - I can vouch for the fact that you will indeed see nothing. Least of all a fabulous cottage style bungalow with its own wood. Of course, I'm dicing with death here - from the menacing way they warn you off ("One word of advice, if you know where we are, don't try to see it from our gates... not if you like having kneecaps..." - I think I'm quoting accurately there), I clearly need to keep a low profile. Not only do I know where they live, but I have to go dangerously close to their gates every time I put out my wheelie bin. I'll do my best to avert my eyes, but I'm going to be living in fear from now on. One glimpse of me, and they might send the boys round.
Come to live in Shotley Gate - Part Two!
If you're not really the inglenook fireplace type, and a private wood with 3000 spring bulbs sounds a bit high maintenance for you, never fear, here at Shotley Gate we cater for everyone. Why not move into the cul-de-sac from hell instead? It's just one of the features which is making Shotley Gate THE property hot-spot of 2004. Well ok, I made that bit up, but even so, I'm sure it's quite charming down there in Lower Harlings. Judging from the Daily Mail article of Wednesday, 11th February 2004, it certainly sounds that way. Firework parties, dancing in the street, even free gifts of ladies underwear - it's clearly a swinging place (possibly in every sense - you never know), and I for one would happily move there like a shot. That's if I can't get a house in Kirkton Close.
Hey Hay, We're the NIMBYs!
It was bound to happen sooner or later. The reputation of Shotley Gate as some kind of community-based nirvana for the 21st century (a reputation no doubt cemented by headlines in the Daily Mail, and web-based reviews of our battered beefburgers) has led to the proposal of a new housing development on the old Ganges site. Named 'Haylink', this proposal for 325 new homes has been greeted with much enthusiasm by local residents. Not all of whom have webbed toes. The people of Woolverstone, presumably keen to protect their crops from black immigrants (with wings), have launched an army of scarecrows onto the peninsula. Which I'm sure will have the desired effect. That's if the desired effect is to rid the B1456 of crows. Personally I find pheasants more of a problem. Especially since the speed limit was reduced to 40mph. They're so much harder to run down now.
But I do enjoy a good local campaign. A vaguely-named 'Local Residents Group' (probably led by someone called Malcolm - they always are) urged us all to write letters of protest "by the end of September". A fine idea in principal, were it not for the fact that they told us to do it by means of the October edition of the Community News. But undeterred, they jumped up and down hysterically with the words "Despite the negative impact that the proposed Haylink Ganges development would have on ALL of the Shotley Peninsula, still too few people have made their views known to the right authorities". ALL of the Shotley Peninsula?? Even little me..? Marvellous. It's not true, obviously, but still, you can't beat an entirely unfounded sweepingly dogmatic statement with no basis in truth - it's what made this country great, dammit! I love people who claim to speak for everyone. They're always so amusingly unrepresentative.
Anyhoo, I'm naturally keen to do my bit, and what's more, I speak for everybody in Tudor Close. No really, it's true. I haven't actually asked them, but I'm sure they all agree with me. So I hereby present:
'15 Reasons Why Haylink is Actually Quite Fluffy and Nice'
1. Haylink will be situated half a mile from Shotley Primary School - clearly too far for the average modern parent to walk, meaning more children being driven to school in 4-wheel drive vehicles with bull bars, and an increase in the number of cars parked on the pretty yellow zig-zags on the main road. Cycling to school will be prohibited for all Haylink children, on account of... um... the dangerous number of cars making their way towards the pretty yellow zig-zags on the main road, resulting in vast queues outside the school three times a day, and... wait for it... a REDUCTION in traffic speed! Thus increasing safety on the B1456. Hurrah!
2. A reduction in council tax bills, when the council realise they no longer have to put rumble strips outside the school and maintain the grass which used to grow there before parents started parking their cars up and down the pretty verges.
3. The Haylink proposal includes provision for 5,000 square feet of new retail space (so near, so Spar), increasing the likelihood that I might not have to drive ten miles to buy skimmed milk and bagels any more.
4. A further reduction in traffic on the B1456 when other people realise they no longer have to drive ten miles to buy skimmed milk and bagels either.
5. One thousand new residents, providing a vastly increased pool of talent for Shotley Drama Group to draw from, increasing their chances of finding someone who can actually sing.
6. Affordable housing for employees of the Bathside Bay development. Let's face it - would YOU want to live in Harwich? Of course not. The place is a dump and they need signs to stop people driving on the wrong side of the road.
7. Increased business for the Shotley Ferry, transporting the aforementioned Bathside Baywatch Babes to and from work.
8. Yet lower council tax bills when the council realise they no longer have to subsidise the ferry.
9. Increased revenue for local insurance companies, underwriting the Shotley Ferry for major loss of life in the event of mega-waves caused by high-speed catamarans.
10. Increased business for local undertakers following major loss of life in the event of a mega-wave caused by a high-speed catamaran.
11. Increased sales of champagne by The Bristol Arms to members of the Starboard campaign, upon hearing the tragic news from Bathside Bay.
12. A reduction in juvenile delinquency when every local teenager realises there are now enough new houses for them all to have their own window-cleaning rounds.
13. Increased sales of buckets and chammy leathers. Not to mention an increase in lottery funding when the teenagers go and blow all their earnings on scratchcards.
14. Increased visitor levels for owners of Shotley-related websites, who could take advantage of this increased traffic by placing adverts on their home pages, thus making large amounts of money. Not that I've thought this one through at all.
15. The joyful possibility that some of the new residents might actually be able to spell 'peninsula'.
Ok, I'm pushing it with that last point, but all the others are valid. And frankly, the 'Not in My Back Yard' brigade are worrying about nothing anyway - I've examined the plans and as far as I can make out, each new home will come with its OWN back yard. And besides, if you're one of the local residents who have been shamelessly annexing land over the past few years, you already have a bigger back yard than you need.
So I think I speak for the entire population of Shotley Gate when I say that Haylink is a marvellous idea, and we all welcome it with open arms. Besides, I spend half my time in Brighton, so it doesn't really affect me.
Sadly the lack of skimmed milk finally got to me, and I left Shotley Gate on 1st July 2006 and moved to Brighton to be with my girlfriend Lisa. This page remains as a tribute to the 8 happy years I spent in Suffolk.