Tragic in Tonbridge

The other Saturday morning I popped into the Tonbridge branch of WH Smith to have a free read of their art and photography magazines.

I’ve noticed an interesting code of etiquette among the ranks of tight-fisted men (it’s always men) who congregate around W H Smith’s magazine racks at the weekend. We murmur apologies if we encroach on each other’s personal space and execute a sort of blokey pas de deux, whilst still reading, to allow a fellow freeloader to pop back their finished with copy of Stuff or ArtWorld, or Total Carp. Believe me, you get all sorts.

Heading out via the book department I noticed a new section devoted entirely to Tragic Life Stories. It’s a ‘genre’ according to Smith’s, presumably in the same way that books by Top Gear presenters are a genre according to Smith’s. But the sheer number of TLS titles got me wondering whether Tonbridge was somehow a uniquely tragic place.

Later in the day, still troubled by this thought, I decided to test out my new tragic-o-meter on Tonbridge’s posh neighbour, Tunbridge Wells. For God’s sake, the T. Wells branch of Smith’s has double the amount of shelf space devoted to books with titles like:

Mummy Doesn’t Love You

Cry Silent Tears

I Just Wanted to be Loved


Behind Closed Doors



Mummy Come Home


Nobody’s Child

A Child Called It

A Man Named Dave

No way home

Boy A

No One Wants You

The Burn Journals

I Just Wanted to be Loved

Searching for Daddy

Please Don’t Make Me Go

Don’t Tell Mummy

Ma Sold Me for a Cigarette

That’s a lot of book titles, I know, but you really have to seem them en masse to get the full miserable effect.

Well, my fledgling theory about Tonbridge is in tatters. It is tragic, but no more than anywhere else. The march of Misery Memoirs is unstoppable. They and Jeremy Clarkson deserve each other.


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