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Didcot has been named the most normal town in England and it's hard to argue with it

didcotparkway.jpg

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word ‘Didcot’?

For me, it has to be ‘Parkway’, the station through which one must pass to get to Bristol and beyond. I stopped there once, when I had to change trains after going to the wrong Stroud (in Gloucestershire) by mistake for a stag do and overshooting the desired Stroud (in Oxford) by an hour and a half and 60 miles and then having to travel back past the desired Stroud and back out again via Didcot Parkway. I had a beer there while waiting for my connection. It was a pretty average beer. It was a pretty average station.

Which bring us neatly onto the breaking news that Didcot has been crowned the most ‘normal’ town in the country.

Yes, in the whole of the United Kingdom, no place perfectly represents the average as well as Didcot. A group of statisticians found that ten of its streets were a particularly close match to the national average lifestyle, opinions and experiences and for things like age, ethnicity, marital status, property ownership, employment, Euroscepticism, the 2015 Election vote share, income, and house prices.

What an accolade. You’re not that exciting, but you’re not that boring either. You’re probably split 50/50 on whether to leave or remain. You’re just in the middle.

Mayor Steve Connel called the findings “tremendous” which is an admirable attempt to try and own some basically depressing news. Residents of Didcot, you should probably vote this guy in again next time the elections come round.

He said – and respect to you if you can get all the way through this without skipping to the next paragraph: "We have a very diverse group within Didcot. We have a large retired population, working professionals who commute, a scientific community, and a large grass roots working community. You can look at every aspect of British life and it's there somewhere within Didcot, and that's probably why we've been named the most normal town – statistically anyway. [Our residents are] people who work hard, get on with their lives, and do everything they can to advance their community, and if the spirit represented in Didcot is considered normal across Britain, then I think we're in tremendous shape".

Yeah, you could interpret it that way Steve. Or you could take a look at Rex Features photograph library to see if anything out of the ordinary has ever happened in Didcot. Like, ever.

First up, it’s clear that the power station is the big dog in Didcot, this is pretty dominant in the picture stakes. Sadly, it was turned off in 2013 after 43 years in service. Here’s a picture of some of it being demolished in 2016. So your major point of difference: gone. Kaput.

Didcot power station

Demolition of the remains of Didcot power station in 2016

The aforementioned Didcot Parkway features heavily too. There’s a railway centre which celebrates its 50th birthday this year and which has appeared in ‘major Hollywood films’. Railways. They’re basically good aren’t they, but – if you’re not really into trains, which all power to you if you are, it’s a good hobby – probably not that exciting to the average Joe let’s be honest.

Didcot cat

A cat lazes on the track at the Great Western Railway Centre, Didcot in 2006. It's probably dead now

But hold up, what’s this? It’s only a bingo hall which features in several Rex photos, including a few ‘ops’ with the local MP Ed Vaizey. Bingo’s great isn’t it. Good clean fun. ‘Britain’s Bingoing mad’ and all that. A perfectly solid game. Very normal.

The New Coronet Bingo Club, Didcot

The New Coronet Bingo Club, Didcot

We’ve had some culture, what about some sport? Well, Didcot is home to Didcot Town FC. We briefly thought that having a non-league team makes them less normal, but then, no, when you think about it, given the pyramid nature of the football league, there are way more non-league teams than league ones, so you’re much more likely to be near a non-league team. Didcot Town FC play in Division One South & West of the Southern League, which is on level eight of the pyramid (the leagues are one to four). And where are they this season? 16th place, with -5 goal difference. They’re not going up. They’re not going down. They’ve scored pretty much as many as they’ve let in. Perfect.

Didcot Town

Didcot Town FC, members of Division One South & West of the Southern League

Does anything out-of-the-ordinary ever happen in Didcot? Well it took some serious scrolling down the Rex Features site, but we got something. Behold, the great great grandson of Charles Dickens sitting on a rocking horse at Didcot Christmas fair in 2009.

Didcot Christmas street fair

Gerald Dickens, the great great grandson of Charles Dickens, at Didcot Christmas street fair in 2009

Has Didcot ever been at the forefront of history? Has it ever blazed a trail? Set a trend? Well, once, it seems.

It was the place where the very first Alworths store opened, back on 5 November 2009. And what is Alworths I hear you cry? Well, it was the chain which rose from the ashes of Woolworths. And if ever there was a shop that did a little bit of everything it was Woolies. Someone clearly did their research at Alworths HQ because they kicked off their bid for world domination in exactly the right place.

However, someone else at Alworths HQ should have done a bit more research on, y’know, being successful, as the company entered administration in 2011, being acquired by Poundstretcher. The shop’s a Currys now. Solid.

Alworths

The first 'Alworths' store opens in - where else - Didcot

And that, it seems is that, for Didcot, truly the UK’s most normal town.

But wait.

What is this, as we keep scrolling into the nether regions of the 2000s?

Hold on just a second guys, because there’s a car that’s also a pub and it appears to be in Didcot.

Mobile pub mini

Tony Anchors driving the mini that he converted into a mobile pub in 2003

This glorious contraption above – a mini converted into a mobile pub – is apparently the work of one Tony Anchors.

And, as we scroll on, it turns out this wasn’t even his finest hour.

Didcot golf car

Tony Anchor with his mate David Greenfield, landlord of his local pub, in Didcot, 2001

Look at that! It’s a car with a golf course on top! And he’s invited the landlord of his local over for a game! Unbelievable stuff.

And there’s more!

Didcot house on wheels

Tony Anchors with his house on wheels in Didcot, 1999

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, that’s a house that you can drive. Does this man’s imagination know no bounds? What next Tony Anchors? What next (well, what came previously seeing as we’re scrolling with ‘newest first’ but do go on Dave) can you give us?

A car that is also a garden.

Didcot flower car

Tony Anchors in his flower car, Didcot, 1994

Amazing.

And just wait, because Tony Anchors is not finished yet. Not only does he create works of utilitarian art like the above, but in 2007, this happened:

Smoking party

Just check out the quotes on this (and before we go on, props to This Is Oxfordshire for the outstanding headline pun):

Mr Anchors said: "We are holding our cancer charity smokeathon to stick two cigarettes up at the nanny state.

"There will be a bit of a disco on and anyone can come along.

"I would say 90 per cent of the regulars in the pub, including the landlords, smoke. The forthcoming ban on smoking in pubs is one of my particular gripes."

‘A bit of a disco’. Brilliant. It’s just a shame the Chainsmokers didn’t exist for another decade because that would have been the playlist sorted.

Can anyone truly say that Didcot is a normal place when Tony Anchors lives there?

Well, yes, in all respects bar Tony, they can say that with absolute 100% certainty.

But respect Tony, respect for trying mate. If you’re out there, please get in touch.

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