Let's move to the post-industrial cesspit that truly defines the genre! This week: Middlesbrough

What’s it about?

A town whose reputation for shitness is as legendary as it is deserved, Middlesbrough keeps applying for city status and being rejected. Not because it doesn’t meet the technical criteria, but because it’s not worth the ink for a bigger dot on the Ordnance Survey maps.

An important industrial centre for more than a century, the steelworks was royally Thatchered in the 80s, leaving only air, land and water pollution to remind residents of Middlesbrough’s glorious past.

In a perfect metaphor for the state of the town as a whole, its iconic landmark, the Transporter Bridge, does not transport. It’s been closed since 2019.

Any good points?

The residents’ passionate loyalty to this unequivocal shitheap borders on the touching. A well-known poem claims that Middlesbrough’s steelworks ‘built the world’, the recitation of which is sure to bring a tear to the eye of every Smoggie, despite being complete bollocks.

Four years ago local drug dealers were given free advertising after it was reported that Middlesbrough was the proud home of England’s cheapest smack, costing less than a DVD of Trainspotting.

People come from as far away as Sunderland to sample the local delicacy, parmo: most of a chicken, flattened, battered and covered in bechamel and cheese like it has been tried for witchcraft.

Wonderful landscape?

Middlesbrough has been passed around various counties like a hot potato, or the recently adopted feral cat of a recently deceased relative. It currently resides in North Yorkshire, where it soils the county’s grassy dales and windswept moors.

The pleasant, leafy areas of Middlesbrough are so rare that they appear like a mirage, receding away as you reach them and discover the trees are in the rich’s back gardens. Why would anyone be rich here? Because the same purchasing power would get you a south-facing skip anywhere else.

Hang out at…

The ailing town centre. Marks & Spencer’s, TK Maxx and Debenhams are just a few of the fallen soldiers of the recent past. TJ Hughes is gone too, but not missed. A New Look caters exclusively to the tween girl population, who have achieved the highest fuck-per-sentence ratio of any demographic.

Find yourself in need of a camouflage vest, a nipple piercing and meat that’s been on the floor? Head down to the Dundas Arcade, unofficial museum of the 1970s. It smells so powerfully of cheese pasty that it penetrates the hair follicles.

Before it got its drinks licence revoked after a brutal assault allegedly by its bouncers, you could dance the night away in local institution Club Bongo International.

Now there are only two options: the genuinely brilliant Empire, which is constantly packed to capacity with people from even more boring places, or a budget-friendly night in the Swatters, where a man will claim to be able to drink six pints in 20 minutes before vomiting into his pint glass.

Try the MIMA art gallery for a more culturally enriching experience. Fair warning: all the art is fiercely Middlesbrough-related, just in case you thought you might be able to pretend you were somewhere else for a bit.

Where to buy?

To get stabbed with a proper knife, the town centre. If you prefer box cutters or improvised shivs Hemlington is alphabetically organised by street name, so you can assess whether the danger level is ‘I think we should leave’ or ‘our bodies will never be found’ simply by checking a street sign.

Linthorpe has a scattering of beautiful Victorian houses, but their position in the centre of a Bermuda Triangle formed from Eastbourne shops, the increasingly dilapidated Linthorpe Village, and a cluster of bin bags which may or may not contain a corpse make it a gamble.

The house prices can get as low as minus £50,000, cash which will be reimbursed by the local council for braving the move. If you live.

From the streets:

Bill McKay, aged 51: “We tend to put all our hopes into football, up here, like. We’re currently 24th in the Championship.”

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Let Idris be the judge: Should I try to get my infant son cancelled?

Idris Elba, actor, DJ and best James Bond that never was, answers your moral quandaries

Dear Idris,

I’ve recently become a father to a gorgeous little boy called Leo. No need to congratulate me – it wasn’t me who went through 30 hours of labour and an episiotomy, even though I kept telling my wife I’d happily change places if I could.

Anyway, Leo’s 12 weeks old and I’ve come up with an amazing idea to enhance my son’s life for the better. I’m going to get him cancelled on social media for voicing bold opinions that offended the woke media.

It’s a real boost to a career, and he’d be the youngest ever to do it. Imagine all the newspapers that would let him write columns and the attention he’d get. He could end up the first baby pundit on GB News.

I have the distinct feeling he’d thank me later, when he has the capacity to be grateful for all I’ve done for him. What do you think? Massive fan of Luther, by the way.

Tom Logan

Dear Tom,

You’ve certainly given me an intriguing puzzle. I not long ago finished recording my voice part for Sonic the Hedgehog 3, and I’ve worked with Jason Statham, so I know a little something about how undeveloped minds work.

Great idea getting your little one cancelled – it’s a shame he’s too young to get de-banked – but how are you going to go about it? Babies famously don’t express opinions outside ‘Breasts are great’ and ‘My arse needs wiping’, both of which are eminently sensible and hardly cancellable.

You could always do a weird kind of ventriloquism act on your baby, but you’d have to be fucking good. Getting ‘trans women are the devil’ and ‘migrants should be housed in burning chicken coops’ out without moving your lips and operating Leo’s mouth sounds like quite the challenge.

I’m also concerned nobody will believe a newborn like Leo has had time to think up these opinions on his own, and is just parroting yours. Kind of like where Farage says anything that Putin wants, but with the metaphorical hand up the arse far more visible.

Put a hold on your plan until he hits the terrible twos, when he’ll frequently be beet-red in the face and screamingly furious about not getting his own way no matter how unreasonable. Then he’ll walk right onto GB News or, as a failsafe, Talk TV.

Hope it goes well with your little tiny racist,