I hate the north of England, its damp and cold and the people who infest the place are often as miserable as the weather. There exists the sort of misplaced pride in an accident of being born to a geographic location, which is an attempt to inject something near romantic and positive into the whole shameful rigmarole of being a ‘Northerner’. To be northern is to be often pigheaded, oafish and proud of it. To be quietly racist over greasy chip butties on barms as you watch Corrie whilst dreaming of the chance of being loudly racist abroad in Benidorm; all the sun and the chance to export the unique misery of Northerness to the European mainland. To be suspicious of change, distrustful of otherness and jealous of success should it show up your own failings, to look at the rest of the country and judge it wanting whilst knowing deep down you live in a toilet of a post industrial wasteland now only fit to be colonised by southern yuppies who work in Media City or commute to a London they could never hope to afford to live in.
Still though, now we have the new electric trains making it easier to get from one point of cultural distress to another.
We often had the pop bands but we squandered those brief moments in the cultural sun and now wallow in a pathetic retrospective coolness, ‘yes that was once the Hacienda now its flats’ & ‘yes I know the cavern was rebuilt’ and even on those rare moments when we might not have created a movement we appropriated it as our own. Where were you when the Pistols played the Lesser Free Trade Hall? Seemingly simply everyone who was anyone in punk and indie or more importantly who went onto to become a talking head for hire for BBC4 documentaries was there.
We once led the way in industry but at the cost of the happiness and the health of the people crammed into rows of identical terraced housing and often to the cost of the other poor subjects of the benign British Empire. When we weren’t exploiting imperial trade monopolies our finest Georgian cities were often built on the abject misery from the the trade in humanity, the bricks paid for each by the sale of a human life, the mortar metaphorically mixed with the blood of slaves the trade in which we did more than most to expand and exploit. Many famous street names still attest to the shameful past although every now and then there goes up a cry to rename them. More possibly in an attempt to cover up the past, try to hide our forebears racism for the tourists braving the place than to actually acknowledge or accept the guilt of history.
We huddle in the myth that being Northern somehow makes us more poetic, more honest and more ‘real’ than our southern cousins it doesn’t, we’re just as bad as the rest but we gave the world the Beatles and Bennett so there.
To be Northern is to be reliant upon parkas for protection, to be northern is to be primate near feral natives counterpart to the ‘civilised’ South, to be Northern is to carry one chip on your shoulder whilst buying a chip supper and to holiday in the rain with rabid hen parties and startled donkeys on a glass and turd ridden beach.