The Man Who Pays His Way: Why suburban South Australians shouldn't throw stones at Staines

Reaching Paradise is easy – so long as you start from Grenfell Street in Adelaide. Bus 104 will get you from the centre of the South Australian capital to the north-western suburb of Paradise in 16 minutes. The price of Paradise, or at least a one-way ticket there: A$4.10, under £2.

Tracking down Staines, as I did on Thursday, proved trickier. The fast train from London Waterloo was mysteriously erased from existence (if, indeed, it ever truly existed in the Sartrean sense). The stopping version did exist, but took nearly an hour to stutter through 17 miles of south-west London suburbia to Staines.

It's enough to make you want to emigrate – which is exactly what the South Australians have in mind. The state government in Adelaide has launched an advertising campaign to lure Brits away from our damp and dreary existence. South Australia seeks to seduce with a promise of Paradise – not to mention the suburbs of Happy Valley and Hope Valley – for as little as a week or as long as a lifetime.

"Screw working in Staines," announces the first in a series of ads that disparage southern England: "Hello Adelaide." The ad then lists the attractions of South Australia's largest city: fine wine, fine weather, fine jobs, fine beaches, fine universities and fine houses.

How does Staines compare? That was what I set out to find.

The Romans bridged the Thames here two millennia ago, but there is little evidence of what they bequeathed to Staines. What Staines gave the world, though, is very evident. On the high street, outside WHSmith, stands a dramatic sculpture of two men hauling a huge cylinder. It turns out, on closer inspection, to be a celebration of linoleum.

The linseed-based floor covering was first manufactured here in 1864, though the trade took the lino-clad stairway to corporate heaven decades ago. The outlook is hardly blooming, either, for a florist's on Church Street named Open All Flowers, now closed down.

Very much open for business are Staines' world-class car parks. I began at the aesthetically pleasing Riverside (89 spaces, including five devoted to families with young and ended at the Tothill Multi-Storey, a temple for traffic with 600 spaces for stationary saloons. But when Staines is not providing parking solutions, does it spend its spare time as a metaphor for misery?

Well, no. Migrants from Szczecin and Sofia have come to Staines because it is a pleasant, prosperous place. Motorists are benign towards cyclists, while on the riverside path, kind people walking well-bred dogs bid strangers "good morning". On the far shore, Thames barges have been converted to the most comfortably mobile of homes, with names such as Anna, Atlas and Albertina. Europe's busiest airport is just two miles away, but a chirruping chorus of Thames birdlife drowns out the jets. I did not stick around to sample Staines' nightlife, though I noted the handsome Town Hall has been reborn as a pub. Its name: Town Hall.

Now, mediocrity is a subject close to my heart: I have supported Crawley Town FC for more than 40 years. Staines is as easy a target as the Sussex new town for mockery, which is why the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen chose it as the fictional home of his character Ali G. But for a destination to try to attract tourists by disparaging the suburbs in which they live and work is risky, because people may peer into your own version of Paradise.

British Airways erased Adelaide from its network 12 years ago. Perhaps the city was simply too suburban. According to Wikipedia, the city has no fewer than 275 suburbs of its own; presumably some suburbs have their own suburbs. Further investigation reveals a certain nostalgia for London: from Mile End to Mitcham and Highbury to Highgate, Adelaide has many suburban alternatives to Paradise.

The ad suggests that South Australians are even more fixated in the weather than the British. Before you abandon these temperate climes, bear in mind that it is the driest state on the driest continent. Good news if you want to avoid the drizzle, but not so ideal if you hope to dodge bush fires. The Foreign Office warns of "seasonal natural disasters".

Curiously, the ad fails to mention some key advantages that Adelaide has over Staines. Adelaide's airport is just as convenient for the city centre as Heathrow is for Staines, and has the additional edge that you can get from arrivals hall to beach in five minutes flat.

Both Staines and Adelaide are railway junctions. But while the destination screens at Staines station whisper of Weybridge and Wokingham (existentialist difficulties permitting). Adelaide is at the hub of an entire continent's railway network, with departures to both Indian and Pacific oceans (about 40 hours to Perth or 24 to Sydney, aboard the Indian-Pacific, since you ask). Another service, the Ghan, slices north via Al ice Springs across to Darwin, deep in the tropics.

Quite rightly, the ad exalts South Australian wine. But guess what: you can buy it in Staines as easily (though perhaps more expensively) as in Adelaide. Try a 2005 McLaren Vale shiraz, £14.99 from Marks & Spencer on the high street.

Last word to Jane Lomax-Smith, the state's tourism minister – born in Walthamstow. The north-east London suburb was originally chosen for the ad, but its ample name was too long. Thus Walthamstow remained unstained.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
life
Property
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The Commonwealth flag flies outside Westminster Abbey in central London
news
Arts and Entertainment
Struggling actors who scrape a living working in repertory theatres should get paid a 'living wage', Sir Ian McKellen has claimed
theatre
Extras
indybest
News
Skye McCole Bartusiak's mother said she didn't use drink or drugs
peopleActress was known for role in Mel Gibson film The Patriot
Arts and Entertainment
tvWebsite will allow you to watch all 522 shows on-demand
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor