Guildford is the town where I was born, although I have never lived there. I probably never will, unless I won the lottery and if I did, I’d more likely be found in Guildford Western
Australia than the namesake in Surrey.
It is a nice town, do not get me wrong. It is a big town of almost 80,000 people and that doubles if you incudes its’ Borough.
It is not a city, do not get confused by the large modern (well, 1960’s) Cathedral that dominates the town on Stag Hill, so named because the Kings of England from times of yore hunted there. It has tried to become a city but those who advise QEII
told her to say no. Thus it remains a town, the largest in Surrey, where it also serves as the county town, having taken over from Kingston-on-Thames when that was swallowed up by “Greater” London and is also the seat of the University of
Surrey, and has been since 1966 when its predessor was moved from Battersea in London. And no it was not called the University of Surrey then, it was called something else. The fact that London has sprawled and sprawled and taken former parts
of Surrey such as Kingston with it has effected Guildford, and it is now the most significant place to the southwest of London. Catch a train from Waterloo and if you get the right one you can be there in under half an hour, having only stopped at Woking,
which is a concrete jungle five miles up the road best missed if you can. A sort of what Shenzhen is to Hong Kong with Guildford obviously being the Hong Kong. Maybe I am the first person ever to have compared Guildford to the former British colony
on the South China Sea?! Certainly in rush hour it feels like you are in Hong Kong. I’m not the first to compare it to an Asian metropolis, Jeremy Clarkson once said that Guildford appeared to have the working population of Tokyo. And
if you ever find yourself on the one way system at 5.01pm on any given week day you will see why…. And that is without the masses that then follow from the trains having burst out of London. They live ‘out here’ because it is
not ‘up there’. But all they have done is bring the prices from ‘up there’ to ‘out here’ and by that I mean the houses. Regarded to be the most expensive place for property outside of London, a modest three bedroom
semi-detached house will be around the £400,000 mark and that is if you are lucky. If you have to rent, well, a three bedroom house will be £1,500 a month but if you want a driveway and a postage stamp garden then look more towards £2,000
a month. And despite what you may think, those who work in and around Guildford do not earn any more pennies than those in other parts of the country. And I won’t even get started on the council tax prices. So, yes, you can see what
I mean; I will never live in Guildford. Me and many others.
Walking around the town it is not all English twee. Yes, plenty of clearly well healed people, English gents
with patches on their elbows having just squeezed the Range Rover into a parking space somewhere, shopping in the shops for the well healed on the cobbled High Street, which is said to be the steepest in England – and probably the world, as they don’t
have many cobbled High Streets in Yemen and such places I’m sure. But, you will now hear a lot of Russian voices. Not to be confused with the Polish voices, who as Nigel Farage will be on your TV telling you sometime soon are everywhere in
the country, and yes there are plenty in Guildford but the Russian are there big time. The Oligarch's with money clearly to burn, I mean spend. I grew up thinking the Russians were poor people living in tower blocks in some
frozen wasteland. Not these ones! They, their wives with real animal skin and offspring are easily spotted in and around Guildford. It is also the University town too, so plenty of students from all over the world can be seen
and found tackling Tesco. How on earth they afford any sort of student accommodation I really don’t know.
It is a nice town to while away an afternoon though, a variety of shops with
lanes between the two main streets, good for burning a few calories too as the High Street is indeed steep. Two very large department stores in House of Fraser for those with the coin and Debenhams for those who do not. There is even a Primark
and TK Maxx. Yes, in Guildford. Even a Poundland. Surely there for the students? Aside from the shops, there is the Castle grounds, the River which is not quite Oxford but even so, it is there with boats for hire a little further along
to the south of the town. There is Stoke Park, which has is used for many things, although Guilfest, the music festival succumbed to the rubbish summer weather in 2012 and a whole host of countryside around with the North Downs. And just a short
train ride away from London, and that is where we came in…