The Glorious Land: TomTom Club On Tour

So, I’ve negotiated the straits between Scylla and Charybdis and my sat nav is raring to go. On the off-chance a random client strays by mistake onto my onanistic blog, this is a public service announcement (without guitars).

I’ve been on a break for the last few weeks, yesterday was my first proper day back in the black leather swivel chair from Ikea. Happily I’m straight back into a project for the next few weeks on pet care. But I’ll be on the look-out for new projects from early July onwards. Then I am around and working for the whole summer this year – holidays are now out of the way for me (but as David Coleman squawked when Steve Ovett burst past Seb Coe’s shoulder, “Has he gone too soon?”).

See the link to the Shore website on the right if you have a project for me. (Apologies that the site is in its rather untidy temporary home – the new-look site will be finished in the next few weeks!)

Let England Shake (under the wheels of my Toyota Prius en route to a depth interview in Wakefield).

Looking forward to more delving under the surface of Britain this summer – like Michael Wood without the looks and the wistful lapses into lines from Piers Ploughman. Some may be aware of my relish for the less trampled corners of our weird, frightening and lovely country. 2012 has been a vintage year for me getting into some less frequently researched households and localities. I’ve had a Wisbech resident dismissing the residents of King’s Lynn as “carrot munchers”; toured housing estates in inner-city Birmingham and Hemel Hempstead; and spent a Sunday afternoon in the moneyed Cheshire footballer belt talking to owners of fabulous new 4x4s, including a former anti-terrorist protection officer. And I’ve been let into a flat in the Black Country to find a pile of dog poo in the middle of the living room floor. Luckily it was laminate flooring. I let the occupier clean that up, but I was still sat down next to it and she urged me to start the interview while she cleaned up. Lovely start to the day.

The highlight though was an interview that wasn’t, because it was in Chatteris. Chatteris is an obscure Cambridgeshire village known only for the equally obscure but utterly wonderful Half Man Half Biscuit ballad For What Is Chatteris?, a paean to a satisfactorily resourced village from which the singer’s beloved has departed:

One fine chandler’s, two good butchers,
An indoor pool and a first class cake shop,
Ofsted plaudits, envy of the Fens,
Crick barriers at both ends,
But what is Chatteris if you’re not there?
I may as well be in Ely or St. Ives.

Fittingly, my Chatteris interviewee wasn’t there.

My latest sample list – which I’d requested be geographically clustered – has turned out to be about as spread out as you could imagine. It offers the tantalising possibility of combining Kentish seaside resorts, Scottish oil towns and rural Lincolnshire in the same study. Bring them on.

I can’t think of Lincolnshire without thinking of (1) Graham Taylor, (2) Jeffrey Archer‘s open prison, and (3) Stephen Fry as the Duke of Wellington in Blackadder III, reporting on the mental state of Mad King George:

He currently believes himself to be … [unfolds parchment scroll and reads] … a small village in Lincolnshire, commanding spectacular views of the Nene valley.

“Country road, take me home, to the place I don’t quite belong but sort of do in a funny way at the same time …” (This is why qual researchers don’t become pop lyricists)

So here’s to exploring the by-ways of the nation this summer. While the eyes of the world will be on Olympic London, I’ll be getting my kicks in Coventry, North Ayrshire and Rotherham. But if I’d wanted glamour, I wouldn’t have become a qualitative researcher. Not sure what I would have done really … Graham Norton’s PA? A member of Legs & Co?

Published by Simon Riley

Qualitative researcher in the UK. I listen to people from all walks of life and think about what it all means. I work for leading brands, media companies and government.

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