On Saturday night, I caught a train out of London. I wanted to get away from the city and the routine that I'd got myself stuck in there, and Romford seemed like the perfect place to go to escape from fashionable people and conversations about art.
Even though Romford now officially belongs to the suburbs of Greater London, everyone there seemed to think of it as being part of Essex still. Perhaps because of some LAZY stereotypes that surround the county, Romford's been vilified as a town full of girls with greedy vaginas and men with hyperactive fists, but actually that's a massive disservice. Did you know, for instance, that Romford was home to a popular leisure centre called The Dolphin from 1982 until 1995, when it was knocked down to clear way for some flats and an Asda? Also, Underworld are from there.
So ignore the idiots who badmouth Romford, because I had a fucking great time there on Saturday night. Here's what happened.
In the research I did before I caught my train, I'd discovered that Romford is the luckiest town in the UK. The National Lottery have paid out more than £50million to its inhabitants, so I decided to spend the evening taking as many chances as possible. Unfortunately, the man who was working in E&M Newsagents that night wasn't feeling so happy-go-lucky, and wasn't able to sell me a Lotto ticket. Way to support your local heritage of blindly optimistic gambling, E&M guy.
I decided to go to the dogs instead. The two young men in that photo up there only followed me about three quarters of the way, so by the time I arrived things were already looking up.
The dog track was great. Everyone there was so much more "real" than the people I spend time with in London. I wasn't asked for drugs, change or cigarettes once, and no one was dressed "seapunk".
Using the tried and tested method of picking dogs because their name is funny or smutty or that it features one of your own names, myself and photographer Natalie threw some coins down for Nats Delight, and bagged a massive £2.19 and £3.48 between us.
Unfortunately, one of the dogs in this picture (I think its name was 'Redhot Wendy') had a heart attack as it was scampering around the track, and a man had to come and pick its stiff body off the sand and carry it away. Suddenly, my winnings felt like blood money. Does this sort of thing happen often at greyhound races? I had no idea. It really bummed me out.
I decided to suppress my social conscience/ show solidarity with the greyhound formerly known as Redhot Wendy by clogging my arteries with mediocre fast food. Suddenly, everything was OK again.
With our winnings jangling in our pockets, we wandered off in search of racier pleasures at a nearby pub called The Crown. It promised funky house DJs and strippers, and that it was “the new handing out place in ESSEX”. What could that mean?
The answer is I have no idea, because The Crown totally failed to deliver anything other than a Freeview channel on which people were discussing sex addiction. “It’s now four hours since he last masturbated,” announced the distressingly loud voiceover. Apart from that, the funnest bit about it was this vaguely threatening menu.
We headed into the night and the hedonism of the town centre. Unfortunately, Romford is 90 percent car showroom. History has shown that there's nothing very hedonistic about used cars, unless people are having sex in them with strangers in lay-bys near Milton Keynes.
Then we found them. The women of Romford don’t talk to you, rather they gurn at you. These girls were actually pretty friendly...
...but others made me think of Babestation girls, forcing sexual desire as if it were trapped wind; part pain, part relief.
Thankfully, the men of Romford seemed a lot more comfortable with their sexuality.
And liked to punch things really hard.
And inevitably some got a bit carried away and had to go home to bed.
The guy on the left was the DJ. He spent the night constantly reminding us of how he was mere milligrams away from having his stomach pumped. “I’ve just had a shot of tequila,” he bellowed, “and now I feel sick.” Which made me feel sick by proxy, because the smell of tequila on its own is enough to make me dry-heave. But, you know, at least I could connect. “I’ve had about eight Jaegerbombs... I am battered... I’m going to need a taxi home...Wahey!” On and on he went.
“Who watches Jersey Shore?" he said. "Who knows the fist pump?”
This guy knew the first pump. He also kept trying to sell me a BlackBerry Torch. I think he was the king of Romford.
Sometimes life is just one, long school disco. When the girls start crying in a heap on the floor, you know it's time to leave.
We made our way to Romford's other late-night hotspot, Buddha Bar. It seems to fancy itself as an upmarket alternative to the other local watering holes. As soon as I walked in, someone shouted to his mate, “There’s a bird up there mucking around with a angle grinder. It is mental!” And he was right, it was pretty strange.
A bike gang of Eastern-Europeans were owning the dancefloor in Buddha Bar – all leather waistcoats and Harley-Davidson T-shirts. They let me take this photograph before the leader asked me to, “Fuck off!” in a surprisingly pleasant manner involving a handshake. If I could be in any gang, it would be this one.
I noticed this young woman cowering in the corner. She said her name was Cassie: A diamond in the rough, she was clutching onto her handbag with dear life, fixed to the spot in a delicate blue dress that retained a certain modestie. She looked terrified. For the thousands of drunks having the time of their lives, the tragedy of Romford is that there are people like Cassie who are overlooked... By which I mean I really wanted to have sex with her.
Piling out onto the street, love was in the air, and it became clear that the fortunes of Romford are as high as they are rumoured to be. On nights like tonight, everyone's a winner in life's big lottery.
Thanks for a great time, Romford!