Dom Joly: Uncle Walt's role as Swindon's evil twin

Share
Related Topics

I'm going to have to tread very carefully here – last time I wrote about Swindon I faced a wall of abuse and ended up on a live radio show having to face my critics.

Swindon is only 20 minutes from my house. Cheltenham and Oxford are both 30 minutes away. Let's just say that I spend a lot of time in Cheltenham and Oxford. I am currently far more loathed by the good people of Weston-super-Mare than Swindon. They apparently burned an effigy of me after I'd written something uncomplimentary about their beautiful town – the Venice of the Bristol Channel. This should redress the balance.

I was flicking through the papers this week when I read that Swindon was to be twinned with Walt Disney World in America. It was the first time that Walt Disney World had twinned with somewhere in the "real world". They certainly have things in common. There is nowhere in the world that I have been more unhappy in than Disney World – it's an over-priced, saccharine–filled, cheesy dream factory that left me depressed. If your daughters yearn to be princesses and your sons fetishise over-sized fluffy animals (I'm trying to wean mine away from the family business) then it's definitely the place for you. If not, then stay the hell away. If you really must go then do what a friend of mine did. He took some acid before entering the furry gates. He had a bad trip that ended up with him assaulting Goofy after mistakenly thinking that the creature was attacking him. He ended up in a weird Disney jail accessible through a door in a fake tree. He also claims that Mickey Mouse was the jailer, but I think that part of the story was artistic licence.

I do wonder how Swindon was sold to the Disney Corporation. They surely can't have actually visited the place. Before I went on this radio show – representatives of the town drove me round to show me the "highlights". There was the Oasis Leisure Centre where "Oasis, the band are supposed to have got their name from". Then there was the "Magic Roundabout" – the Spaghetti Junction of roundabouts clearly designed by somebody on very strong hallucinogenics. Roundabouts are a big part of Swindon; there are countless numbers of them. These would be confusing to their US "twins" as Americans don't have roundabouts. Possibly, when they heard about The Magic Roundabout, they assumed it was some sort of amusement park.

Swindon's other, more conventional, twin towns – Salzgitter in Germany, Ocotal in Nicaragua and Torun in Poland – will probably feel seriously miffed as I can't remember this sort of fuss over their twinning. Perhaps they should attempt to twin up with Butlins or Legoland in revenge.

Way before Disney agreed to this "twinning" idea, they built a real town near the park in Florida that they called Celebration. The idea was to create an idealised American town. They wanted perfect lawns, white picket fences, smiling families ... all very Truman Show. By agreeing to live in the town you had to abide by a lot of very "white bread" regulations that gave the place a very surreal edge. Oh, how I'd love to see the citizens of Celebration spend a weekend in Swindon. I'd love to see them drive round and round the town trying desperately to find their way about before wandering gingerly around the pedestrian kill-zones at chucking-out time on a Friday night.

I'm writing this on the train from London and we have just pulled into Swindon. Got to go and hide in the loo until we pull out. There's already an angry mob on the platform – they've got pitchforks and burning crosses .... Goofy seems to be in charge.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: On behalf of a successful academy i...

Investigo: Finance Business Partner

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - West London

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...

Recruitment Genius: Florist Shop Manager

£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A solar energy farm in France  

Nature Studies: For all the attractions of solar power, it shouldn’t blight the countryside

Michael McCarthy
Supporters of New Democracy wave Greek flags during Antonis Samaras pre-election speech.  

Greece elections: Where does power lie? This is the question that ties the UK to Athens

Steve Richards
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project