If any evidence was necessary to demonstrate my commitment to both Swindon and Wiltshire it can be seen by the reading material currently on my table at home. (That’s reading… as in the written word. Not Reading… as in Berkshire.)

First of all there is the excellent Swindon Heritage magazine, which details all things historical about the county’s largest conurbation. I picked up the first three editions at a memory-laden exhibition at the site of Jennings Street school in Rodbourne during the summer, and I have been rationing my scrutinisation of them ever since.

I hope someone was paying attention when I mentioned a subscription for a Christmas present would go down very nicely.

Sharing the reading space though is December’s issue of Wiltshire Life, which is monthly de rigueur reading for my home county.

It’s true it does tend to focus on Salisbury, Marlborough and Devizes a little too much, but as those places are probably my three favourite urban locations in Wiltshire anyway, I marvel more about the correspondents’ ability to find new slants each month more than feel disappointed of any repetitiveness.

And it was in Wiltshire Life that I spotted a reference to Swindon that I thought was rather telling.

The uneasy relationship between Swindon and Wiltshire is well documented and I do think I’m in a rather small number of people who foster a fondness for both.

It is many years ago that I first came across a description of Swindon that stuck in my mind. It said that to most Wiltshire people, Swindon was seen as the county’s equivalent of an appendix.

Everyone knew it was there, but not many could work out the purpose it served to them. As long as it carried out its mysterious function properly no-one need to pay it any attention, and it was only when it started to play up that people were forced to take any heed of it.

So with this in mind, what I saw in Wiltshire Life caught my attention.

In it, Swindon was described as a ‘dirty cabbage’, and potential visitors were advised that Swindon is ‘a town not to be visited unless necessity demands it’.

Not the sort of praise you’d associate with Wiltshire Life as it refers to one of its member towns, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen far more glowing recommendations pointed in the direction of Devizes.

Then the BBC got into the act, quoted in the magazine as saying Swindon was ‘the drabbest dollop of brickwork ever flung onto the landscape’.

So what surprised me most was that, while this all appeared in this month’s Wiltshire Life, they were quoting what was written in the same journal in the Christmas edition of 1946!

There was an attempt at redressing the situation when comment was made that there was ‘little need to be bored in Swindon’ and that it had ‘one of the most advanced cultural lives in the West of England’, but by then the damage was done.

Perhaps visitors would stave of boredom by laughing at the dollopy brickwork, but I suspect the reference to culture was at least a grudgingly offered reference to the Mechanics Institute

But it does go to show that the urban/rural divide that exists in the county has foundations longer ago than might initially meet the eye.