So, which is it for Allendale, newly noted in the Times/Sunday Times top 101 best places to live in the UK, in the top 10 of places identified in the Northeast? Look North covered the story at 6:30am yesterday, and then more extensively at 6:30pm, and it sounds like quite an accolade. Amongst the also-rans are those thousands of lovely places that didn’t make it through the so-called ‘exhaustive data trawl’ of house prices; school rankings; air pollution indices; employment, community spirit, local shops, broadband speed, and combined expert opinions.
Forgive my cynicism, but only a little research shows that across the land, in every region ‘assessed’ by the Times/Sunday Times expert panel, the publicity machines of the local press are going mad (Best in the East, trumpets Cambridgeshire Live of Bury St Edmonds; Crickhowell named best place to live in Wales, shouts BBC Wales; Norwich named among three places in Norfolk as best places to live in the East, screams the Eastern Daily Press; Tynemouth, Ouseburn and Allendale only three places in the Northeast named as best places to live, exclaims the Chronicle) and in the process providing widespread advertising for the paper that invented the idea. Rush out on Sunday to buy the Sunday Times and discover which area is named the best of the best, the top of the 101 named so far! And here’s a clue for free: York, best place to live last year, is not in the running for the ultimate accolade, shock horror! By the way, apparently the Chronicle doesn’t consider Yorkshire as part of the Northeast, as places there, making up the remaining 7 of the 10 for this region, don’t quite count?
The television camera was out in full single force in Allendale yesterday, interviewing likely candidates who could try to describe the village to the region. I could hardly wait for Look North to screen the vox pops! And wow, lots of local colour yesterday evening, local shops, superb! A huge blurb of delight for the community, for sure. Our neighbour was interviewed, but didn’t make the cut, though he’s probably relieved. But the ones I saw did a brilliant job of describing Allendale, very effectively.
It is exciting, even with all the cynicism of world-weariness I can muster, for Allendale to be included in such a list, and I’d not gainsay it, except, except that every region is trumpeting the same sort of stuff about their highlighted ‘bests’ — it all feels so manufactured, really. And we’re to take at face value the Sunday Times’ (really, Rupert Murdoch’s Sunday Times? — the paper that published the faked ‘Hitler Diaries’ — the paper that under Andrew Neil lead a prolonged campaign against the scientific consensus that HIV causes AIDS — really? We should believe anything out of this organ?) implicit claim to be a neutral observer, a fair player in the assessment games, a participant in the scientific method that demands fair play on the data front? Hmmmmm, the plot thickens.
So, along with both excitement and cynicism, what does it all mean?
It means, for one, that the Sunday Times wants to be seen as a valuable place in which to advertise real estate (hint: especially real estate in the 101 ‘best places to live’). It probably means that real estate values in those places are likely to increase over the next year, rather faster than those of their neighbours (sounds good to those of us with established equity, and fortunately Allendale still seems to have suficient affordable housing to accommodate local folks). It also means that the ranking recently of Allendale Primary School at the top of the county for travel sustainability, means more to the village than we might have appreciated, provoking sufficient interest for the Times’ ‘expert panel’ to investigate further. The community spirit demonstrated with the Dalek affair should have contributed on that parameter, as well, while the B4AV broadband effort shows community initiative and a good capacity to work together.
So wait a minute, why disparage the accolade?! Why not get together and burn something, as slightly jaundiced folks in Allendale area notices humorously suggest? I don’t know, as long as we understand the motivations behind it all, but I do know that no matter how many further accolades Allendale collects, and truly, we can equally well be cynical about the advertising opportunities afforded to its sponsor by the Calor Village of the Year award a decade ago, though that effort did feel like a fair competition . . . no matter what anybody says on the outside of us, this village is the best in my heart, the best place to live in the entire country, and that’s what this diary is working to show, day in and day out, with no hidden advertising agenda at all.