An America blogger has slated Doncaster’s landscape and its nightlife - and we want to know what you think.
Blogger Tara Palmeri, who write for Politico, visited the borough for the UKIP conference, and described ‘housing projects like army barracks,’ and slated the dress sense and appearance of those who go out into town at night.
We think Doncaster is a great place. We want to know your views on what Tara has written.
Here is what Tara wrote:
A New Jersey girl in King Nigel’s court…or, How Americans ruined Britain with condiments.
DONCASTER, England — I’d been given a heads-up by an American colleague before I left to cover the U.K. Independence Party conference — “It’s like the Tea Party, but with actual tea,” he said — but in fact nothing really prepared me for my first journey into the belly of the British political beast.
Sure, I knew I’d be among a lot of people strongly opposed to anything vaguely “European,” but I didn’t expect to hear Angela Merkel and David Cameron bashed so eagerly within minutes of my arrival in “Donny.”
Never mind that the UKIP conference was being held in territory that has voted Labour since the 1980s. My cab driver, Graham, might have been dispatched by UKIP leader Nigel Farage himself as a warm-up act for the main event.
“We want out of the Union,” Graham declared, clearly referring to the European one. “Every proper Englishman will vote to leave. UKIP is the only party that’s fighting for us. David Cameron is stuttering and stammering. That Angela Merkel is corrupt! I think this time we’ll be able to get out.”
He may not be far off, at least if a new YouGov poll for the Times putting support for Out at 40 percent and In at 38 percent is any indication of the current level of enthusiasm for the EU in Britain.
Graham drove me through an industrial area to my hotel, just across from a tractor-trailer parking lot.
He asked if I had traveled all the way from America for the conference. “Nope, I’m coming from Brussels,” I said, waiting for another tirade. Instead, he boasted about the grandeur of Doncaster’s racecourse, where the conference was being held, and encouraged me to take a stroll around the man-made lake nearby.
The next morning, I indulged in a “full English” breakfast of beans over scrambled eggs, potatoes, sausage, ham (or bacon, if you will), and instant coffee that I had to scoop out of a bowl with my cup.
On my way to the racecourse, I passed by housing projects that looked like army barracks, a window glazing shop with the sign “local family firm” and one of the few EU flags I saw in town: at a school for the deaf.
I was greeted at the racecourse by a massive Farage poster on the side of a truck. Next to it was a banner with the phrase “The EU isn’t working” — a UKIP attempt to update a slogan that did work for the Tories in 1979.
Approaching the entrance to the event, I started to feel nervous that I might have to show my only ID: a Polish passport. Luckily, I was able to slide past with just a ticket.
The crowd, which skewed towards senior citizens, was divided into two categories: dignified older English men in proper suits wearing purple ties (the party color), and Farage groupies wearing UKIP flags as capes while waving other UKIP flags. One of these Farage die-hards was selling hand-knitted UKIP teddy bears at £25 a piece.
There were other tchotchkes for sale: UKIP shirts, necklaces, silk scarves, umbrellas, pins and ties. There was a raffle for an oil painting of the man himself, a signed Farage polo shirt, a Britain battleship game and a bottle of Prosecco. There were free purple-and-yellow UKIP slushies.
A huge image of Jean-Claude Juncker as a puppet master controlling newly-minted Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn dominated one side of the room, next to a poster that compared the plenary building in Strasbourg to the tower of Babel.
Once Farage took the stage, it was clear what a political rock star he is to the masses of “Kippers”
A documentary film on migration focused on the plight of the British “haulier” — who on top of having his wages undercut by eastern European competitors, must now deal with sinister-looking migrants jumping on his “lorry.”
“What I saw in Calais shocked me,” UKIP MEP Mike Hookem said on stage after the screening. “I couldn’t believe the dangers British hauliers were facing.” Hookem also claimed that the refugees were contaminating British products in the trucks, ruining the economy.
Once Farage took the stage, it was clear what a political rock star he is to the masses of “Kippers,” even after failing seven times to win a seat in the British parliament. One middle-aged woman had actually tattooed his face on her arm, which Farage gleefully signed. I sat next to a 76-year-old, petite woman named June Moore from Kent who scribbled furiously while Farage spoke.
“I’m here as a believer,” Moore said. “I was apolitical until I heard Farage speak 12 years ago, and it changed me.”
After the big speech, I had lunch with two older, nicely suited gentlemen from Rotherham over what I called a “chicken pot pie.” (I later learned that there’s only one type of pie, and it’s savory. Only we Americans have sweet pies.)
Oddly, I was offered mint puree as a third gravy — sorry, sauce — as if two weren’t enough. On my way to grab a fork and a knife, an older male Kipper who had overheard me order in an American accent offered his opinion that we Yanks had ruined Britain with condiments.
“You know the Americans are the reason we have all of these damn packets,” he said.
My lunch companions were somewhat more polite as they lectured me on the ignorance of Americans.
“I went to America when my son was 12, and no one there even knew about the IRA,” one of them said.
I apologized on behalf of my country and noted that as an American, I sympathized with their desire for independence, since our history is based on breaking away from taxation by powers far away. That one fell flat.
After the conference, I headed to the Earl of Doncaster Hotel in the hopes of having a drink with Farage — I’d been told this scenario was usually not too difficult to arrange.
But first I had to endure another history lesson from another “Donny,” my next taxi driver.
“That tree is older than your country,” he said, while giving a tour of the town.
I pulled up to the four-star art-deco hotel — the poshest establishment in town — and spotted Farage on the front terrace, surrounded by three bodyguards.
So I headed for the bar, where the Kippers were pre-gaming for the big ball in a pink dining room.
After ordering one of the worst sauvignon blancs of my life, I switched to beer and wandered upstairs with a colleague to the ballroom. We were scolded at the door, not realizing that we were walking into a dinner theater performance of “Fawlty Towers.”
Donny after dark
I gave up on trying to get through the Farage throng and headed to The Red Lion pub in downtown “Donny,” where I learned that a proper English dinner was basically an American breakfast: two eggs over-easy on ham with a side of fries (or chips, if you will).
The local crowd was over-dressed for the venue — women in mini-skirts, high heels, tank tops and men in button-down shirts and blazers. A local explained that Friday is a big night for the “Donnies,” so they wear their best. I could count the number of upper lip piercings and neck tattoos. Gin and tonic seemed to be the only acceptable drink. After, I switched to a Red Bull concoction that tasted like cough syrup.
Too tired to attempt clubbing in Donny — and a bit scared of being caught in the middle of a fight — I headed to the nearest taxi stand. Where I promptly found a fight brewing despite the presence of a taxi stand patrol stationed to keep things peaceful in the queue.
With clipboard in hand and wearing a reflective vest, the patrolwoman took the names of a gaggle of women in sleeveless dresses, no coats or tights, who were waiting for a taxi.
A man named Tony started to get aggressive with the female attendant when he thought she let “Wendy” get a cab before him. He grabbed her clipboard to see if he was listed first.
“You don’t work hard, do you?” he sneered at the patrolwoman.
Tony then turned to me to ask for a light. When I explained that I don’t smoke, he said, “Oh you’re from America! I was there. I’ve been to Florida.”
Realizing that our conversation wasn’t getting anywhere, he turned back to the attendant he had just verbally assaulted, and asked: “Love, can I have a light?”
And then all was well in Donny.