Sent to Arcadia

Coventry isn’t as bad as you might think. No, really, it isn’t. I worked and lived in the city for over a year just after school and, as far as I can remember, it was just fine. On the other hand, I was young, and hadn’t much experience of living anywhere else, so maybe I just didn’t know any better. I can’t say I’ve ever felt a yearning to return…

Well, I’m back again now, manning an exhibition stand at the Ricoh Arena in an unfashionable area to the north of the town. The last time I did the exhibition stand thing was at Olympia – a very much larger event in a very different venue. Then, as I recall, I paid a lot of money to stay in a room so small that putting your suitcase on the floor meant you could no longer walk around the bed.

So what about here?

Here, my exceedingly affordable room is quite a bit bigger than my bedroom at home. It contains a large brass bed, a sofa and a comfy chair or two. An antique wardrobe and an oak chest sit next to the fireplace. I am, in fact, in one of the nicest B&Bs I’ve ever stayed in, a 17th-century haven in the middle of a couple of hundred acres of dairy farm, run by a delightful couple. I can park easily under the trees outside, and the cows gazed thoughtfully at me as I headed out this morning on my way to the exhibition.

So how long did it take me to reach this rural idyll from Coventry’s manufacturing heartland?

Twelve minutes.

Beat that, London.

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© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser