6:00am Friday 28th February 2014
What makes you Essex? Is it all fake tan, boy racers and white stilletos? Or is being from Essex more than the Essex Man steroetype?
We have compiled a list of 20 things that we think sum up our county but if you have any more, feel free to share them in the comments section below the article.
1. Putting speakers worth more than your car in your car
We've all seen it. A £300 Ford Fiesta fitted with the top of the range Pioneer sound system parked under Pitsea flyover. (I have to admit I'm guilty of this!)
2. Having your roots in the East End of London
Now this doesn't apply to everyone, but a lot of people living in England's finest county can trace their family tree back to the East End of London. Whether it was your mum, nan, or great-great-great-grandmother a lot of today's Essex families have strong roots in the country's capital. And the love of pie and mash and the Cockney dialect moved with us - ain't that right me old china?
3. You want to scream every time someone asks you if you know Joey Essex/Sam Faiers/any of the cast of TOWIE
The runaway success of ITV2's The Only Way Is Essex has made our county famous across the country but it also lead to anyone from outside Essex asking if you know any of the cast and if you frequent Sugar Hut.
4. This is the only jam in your cupboard and you laugh at anyone who dares to offer you any other brand
Tiptree jam: Wilkin & Sons has become a store cupboard staple for every Essex resident
Let's face it, before "shopping local" was the done thing, the only jam your mum had in the cupboard was from Tiptree. The factory has been churning out classic strawberry as well as the fancy-sounding Apricot with Armagnac Conserve (reserved for Christmas only in my house) since 1885.
5. Forget any other teams, its either the Blues or the U's for you
Blues: Southend United's Barry Corr celebrates a goal during Southend v Chesterfield
U's support: The crowd watch Colchester United v Crewe Alexandra
Following local football may mean you will never reach the dizzying heights of the Champions League but the rollercoaster of following your local team makes all the freezing cold nights stood on the terraces worthwhile.
6. You swear your mum’s aunt’s cousin’s son saw comedian Phill Jupitus in Leigh once
Home: Comedian Phill Jupitus poses on Leigh seafront
Jupitus-spotting has become a bit of an Essex pastime. The funnyman was born on the Isle of Wight but chose Leigh to live with his family. His cartoons have already attracted throngs of people through the doors of the community centre and the Never Mind the Buzzcocks star was also made an honorary graduate from the University of Essex for his contribution to the performing arts. And his performance with the Blockheads at Village Green definitely cemented his place as one of our own.
7. School trips were either to Colchester Zoo, Marsh Farm or Colchester Castle
Knights battling at Colchester Castle for a Bank Holiday event
...It was that or picking your own strawberries.
8. You've seen some of the biggest bands in the world right on your doorstep
V Festival 2013 at Hylands Park, Chelmsford
Every year, Chelmsford hosts V Festival which sees thousands of people pour into the city for one weekend. Even better for an Essex resident which means you are first in line for tickets and can even pop home (or to a mate's) for a shower. This year's lineup for August 16 and 17 is yet to be announced but even if your favourite band isn't playing, the fact such a huge event is held in the county means you'll probably go along anyway. The only real question is - red or yellow?
9. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without watching the pantomime
The cast of 2013 14 Colchester Mercury Panto Sleeping Beauty
Ashley Emerson as Flynn Rider Rapunzel panto at Basildon's Towngate Theatre
"Oh no it isn't! Oh yes it is!" (insert more hilarious panto-based jokes here)
Love it or loathe it, being taken to the panto is a yearly tradition not easily broken. Christmas just isn't the same unless you've been dazzled with brightly-coloured costumes and booed the nasty villain. Sometimes you got to go with school and it meant the inevitable lengthy discussions over which "best" friend would sit next to you and singing all the way home on the coach. This year we even get the Hoff in Southend!
10. Most Saturdays in your teens were spent here
Hours of shopping: Lakeside shopping centre
Needed school shoes? Or just fancy eating McDonalds and doing a spot of window shopping? Then Essex's answer to Westfield was the place to go. The hours you spent trying on hairclips in Claire's or trying to convince your mum that those heels really weren't too high for school made up a large proportion of Essex teenager's formative years.
11. Every time this sign is “improved” it brightens your day
Basilwood: Top, the original Basildon sign on the A127, middle, the sign was given a Remembrance Day makeover and, bottom, the Olympic rings were added to the sign to mark the 2012 Games
Put up on the A127 on a roundabout at the Basildon slip road, the £90,000 "Basilwood" sign has dominated the headlines and attracted criticism and fans in equal measure. The sign was part of a £400,000 project commissioned by Basildon Council to boost the local economy.
Locals have made their own mark on the Hollywood-esque sign. In 2011, 15-year-old Army Cadet Bobby Baker put the "ah" in Armistice Day when he fixed a giant poppy onto the sign. In 2012, it was also adorned with the Olympic rings to mark the start of the Games.
12. You had to explain how to navigate these while a passenger in a visitor’s car
Sadlers Farm: The many-roundabouted A13 junction was given a £63million makeover
Greenstead roundabout: Colchester junction sees an average of 30,000 traffic movements a day (image courtesy of Google Earth)
"No you get in the right lane then the left then go round the roundabout! Not that roundabout - the other one!" Many a taxi journey, trip home in a friend's car or ride to the shops with your nan became a hair-raising experience as those unfamiliar with the unorthodox layout of several mini roundabouts surrounding a gargantuan one became stymied by the road ahead.
The A13 junction at Sadlers Farm was recently revamped but some drivers are still unsure whether it was for the better...
13. You took a picnic to the beach or stood in the pouring rain to watch an airshow
Southend Airshow: A Concorde wows the crowds at the 1988 event
...and the Red Arrows were always the best bit
Clacton Airshow: The Red Arrows perform over the seafront in 2012
The regular Southend summer airshow was scrapped last year when Southend Council withdrew its funding, but it is being revived for 2014 with the promise it will be bigger and better than ever.
2014 marks the 23rd year of the Clacton Airshow which will be held on August 21 and 22. Last year, the airshow won the best event category at the 2013 Essex Tourism and Hospitality Awards.
14. It will ALWAYS be Peter Pan’s
Peter Pan's playground (pictured above in 1996) became Adventure Island (below)
Rollercoaster: Adventure Island's pink and yellow Rage rollercoaster dominates the park
Peter Pan's Playground was created on the site of the Sunken Gardens on Southend seafront. It was renamed Peter Pan's Adventure Island and is now Adventure Island. For many people who fondly remember being flung upside down in the Barracuda (losing all the bus fare in your pocket) it will always be called Peter Pan's.
15. Going to London is called going “up town”
Up town: But we are always glad to get home
"What you up to this weekend?" "Oh I'm going up town." Essex residents are blessed with being only 40 minutes from the capital. Whether you want to watch a show, take a Boris bike along the Thames path or just fall out of bars in Soho, London is the place for you. The best part is when you are finished with the hustle and bustle of the city you can retreat home.
16. You've walked up the longest pier in the world (but always get the train back)
...and are equally proud of the county's smaller piers in Walton and Clacton
17. When someone tells you to meet them at Bas Vegas you head straight here
Festival Leisure: Affectionately known as Bas Vegas
With a myriad of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, bowling and even a wakeboarding centre Festival Leisure Park in Basildon has affectionately been nicknamed Bas Vegas. Opened in 1997, it has proved hugely popular with families and clubbers alike.
18. Summer involves sitting on one of the county's many beaches and eating ice cream
People have been visiting the seaside in our county for generations...
...and it's still as popular as ever
Southend: Top, families enjoy an Rossi Ice Cream on Southend seafront and, above, not a spare inch of space on Three Shells beach at the height of the summer season
19. You’ve heard every Essex girl joke going
Essex girl: Martina Cole
We all know the stereotypes. But if you believe the many jokes written about Essex girls you would think the county is full of blonde, perma-tanned women who always wear white stilettos and dance around their handbags. In reality, some incredibly talented people called Essex home including author Martina Cole and sportswoman Fatima Whitbread.
20. But you know there is nowhere else you would rather call home
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