Sunday 22 June 2014

Knutsford, Cheshire

Looking back at my blog I noticed there was a glaring omission from the Cheshire section, namely Knutsford.  However persuading Neil to go back there was another matter.  A bribe of battered burger at the Pepper Street Fryer in Nantwich worked, so he was then held captive in the car for a detour to Knutsford.

We’ve been having rather beautiful weather in the north lately, which is a complete novelty to us sun deprived northerners.  So it was good to take a trip into leafy Cheshire, although my car proved to be an effective sauna until I remembered how to work the aircon.

Getting to Knutsford from north Manchester is simple as you take the M60, M62, M6, junction 19 and follow the signs to Knutsford.  When we lived in south Manchester we used to go M60, M56 and then either the A556 or A538, but I prefer the M6 as it’s both quicker and a shorter drive once you exit the motorway, although you can get a train from Manchester which drops you in the heart of the town.
Parking in Knutsford is straightforward - either you can park on the road for 30 minutes or in the car park on Tatton Street where you can park for 2 hours for £1.

Knutsford is a very well-to-do market town with what I call two indicators of posh – a Waitrose mini supermarket and a Barbour shop.  The town itself is built on the side of a hill and this splits the town centre in two.  Top of the hill is Princess Street and bottom is King Street.  As the streets are so narrow, there is a one way system for the owners of high performance cars and midlife crisis motor bikers to negotiate. 
Knutsford has evolved over the centuries and was recorded in the Domesday Book.  In the 19th century the place was immortalised by Elizabeth Gaskell in the novel Cranford.  With the BBC TV series this place has become a draw for tourists and sure enough we found Japanese tourists taking photos on Princess Street.

Tucked away on Church Street is a tiny indoor market selling pet stuff, cheap odds and ends, plants and locally sourced meat and veg.  Once a month there is an artisan market that pops up too.
King Street seems to be the most popular street and there seems to be an on-going battle between pedestrians and cars to navigate this street as both the pavements and street is so tiny.  It’s not helped by the fact there is parking on the street too. The best eavesdropped conversation was whilst being stuck behind a mother and daughter.  They were discussing career options.  The mother suggested fashion; however, the daughter said ‘I don’t want to spend my days with bitchy girls’.  Looking at the mother, who was clad head to foot in designer gear, I do think she was trying to live her dreams vicariously through her daughter.  An evil thought passed through my head and I thought the daughter could piss her mother off by training to become a doctor or nurse and do something meaningful with her life. 

Walking along through Knutsford was pretty much an encapsulation of the worst excesses of moneyed Cheshire life – a case of style over substance.  Designer boutiques, exclusive bars and restaurants, extravagant florists, bling fantastic jewellers and extravagant cars.  The thing that struck me most was the fact that one restaurant was closed for a private party and had a sign that said ‘guest list only’.  A private party is just that, private.  A guest list is just a conceit. I didn’t half feel like I was lowering the tone in this place with my ten year old car and battered handbag.
The one thing I really noticed about the place was the women.  They were different beings – manicured, honed, tanned (spray), bouffanted, pristine and immaculately dressed.  It must be a full time job for them to look this polished and it must cost a FORTUNE.  The dress sense veered from body con, to maxi dress, to middle aged relaxed matchy matchy casual.  Here is one example of an outfit – a lady was dressed in a leopard print maxi dress, with a matching leopard print oversized bag, gold coloured gladiator sandals and topped off with designer sunglasses used as a posh headband.  I couldn’t help but notice the hair of the middle aged ladies, which was immaculate and must cost a complete fortune to maintain.  The hair colours were quality with no roots showing.  GHD straighteners are a must for the ladies here as there was not so much as a hair out of place or a kink in their dos. 

This place makes you feel seriously self-conscious about the way you look.  I’d hate to be teenage in this town as there must be a huge pressure here to look good.  No wonder the teenager I overheard wasn’t keen on fashion as a career.  I really felt for her as she had some puppy fat and whilst that is a natural part of growing up I bet she felt very self-conscious about the way she looked. She looked great in her rebellious Goth-lite outfit of shorts, velour top and lacy shirt top. You are fine the way you are love, ignore your mother’s advice and do not listen to those bitchy girls. 

Anyway we had come here to check out the charity shops and there are a fair few to go through.  If memory serves me correctly I think the Cancer Research one was very busy.  I know the one in nearby Wilmslow often gets some seriously good donations from the rich ladies who can’t be bothered to trade them in at the dress agency shops.  If you are between a size 8 and size 10 you are seriously well catered for and will get a really nice outfit here.  However when it comes to other things like ornaments and pictures you will struggle.  People here know the price of stuff and are more likely to sell stuff like that to the local antique dealers, which there are many throughout the town.
Neil was extremely frustrated with Oxfam again.  Not only were the vinyl records overpriced, but they were priced beyond what you could pick them up in a record shop or online.  This was compounded by the fact there were some decent singles he would have bought if they were sanely priced.  I remember on previous visits they had a David Bowie record priced at £50, which was in fact a reissue and only worth £5.  People really get the wrong idea about the value of vinyl records.

So what else can I tell you about Knutsford?  It’s very close to Tatton Park and the entrance is by Tatton Street where we are parked.  There are plenty of pubs as well as restaurants and bars, so there is no chance of starving here.  Also I noticed some tiny cottages on Church Hill were in fact holiday lets as they had key code keyholders by the door.  In the past we’ve seen paparazzi photographers lurking outside restaurants on King Street.  At that time I think they were waiting for Kerry Katona when she lived nearby.
As much as Knutsford is physically a pretty town with lots of interesting little shops, I’m not fond of the place.  Maybe it’s the meaningless conspicuous consumption that pervades the place.  Maybe it’s the people as they aren’t that friendly and live in their own manicured bubbles.   Maybe it’s my inner feminist that was railing against the objectification of the local women.  In all honesty I would suggest to the local women to ditch the GHDs and do something that makes your soul sing – focusing on appearances is not a fulfilling activity.  Believe me it was a joy to see a make-up free mum with wild hair taking a silly photo of her son’s bright green tongue.  It was such a pleasant antidote to the artificiality of the place.

Will I go back there?  Probably, if I’m passing through, although it won’t be anytime soon.  

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