Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Bind up the petty differences

Locating the North

Where IS The North? I would draw a line above Birmingham and the Midlands so I think The North would include Cheshire, Staffordshire (certainly North Staffs), Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire. I think the Midlands includes Shropshire, Leicestershire, Rutland and Norfolk. I don’t think there would be any dispute about Being Northern above the counties I’ve listed, though there are clearly tribal areas within the land stretching above Macclesfield, Nottingham and Lincoln.
Where would you draw the north-south divide?

Northern Uprising

West Riding folk think North Yorkshire folk are posher than them.  Scousers, Mancunians, Cumbrians, Geordies, and some Borderers have deep-rooted senses of being People Apart.  So if Scottish Independence yields a YES vote, and it works economically, politically and socially, I cannot believe that within 100 years there won’t be a Northern Uprising….

It’s the way you say it
In some ways all high streets in all main cities throughout the UK look similar. But accents differentiate without doubt: when southerners refer to a northern accent, my blood boils at the vagueness of "northern." Which northern accent do they mean? Northerners don’t think a cockney accent is the same as a Devon accent. (“The accent of his tongue affecteth him.”) The Bradford accent sounds nothing like a Blackburn accent, the Newcastle-upon-Tyne accent could not be mistaken for a Wirral accent. When I worked in a bookshop in London’s Shaftesbury Avenue, I instantly knew the moment I was speaking to tourists from Wakefield, my home town. (“Your accent is something finer than you could purchase in so removed a dwelling….”) And when I spoke, they also knew where I was from.
Image from Tom Phillips/BuzzFeed/skvoor/shuttercock
Perhaps it’s a class conspiracy after all
I have experienced politeness and friendliness Down South but in all honesty, my impression is that I have experienced more of it in The North. I expect, though, that I would have more in common with a southerner who attends Shakespeare’s Globe than with members of the northern Hurworth Hunt. There is plenty of culture, education and enterprise in The North, just as I’m sure there is plenty of blunt-talking, honesty and pie-eating in The South. Perhaps the north-south divide is really about that perennial English interest, the class system with stereotypical prejudices conveniently glossing over the depravation in London’s Newham or Tower Hamlets and discounting the privilege in Alderley Edge or Harrogate. Is the north-south divide encouraged by the establishment to keep the people at loggerheads? To keep us at odds with each other to distract us from government policy that seeks to divide and shift the blame onto other people, however that is being defined at the time.
Sunday Times graphic of economic divide
Exploiting the petty differences
I know not, Menas,
How lesser enmities may give way to greater.
Were’t not that we stand up against them all,
‘Twere pregnant they should square between themselves;
For they have entertained cause enough
To draw their swords: but how the fear of us
May cement their divisions and bind up
The petty differences, we yet not know.
Be’t as our gods will have’t!  It only stands
Our lives upon to use our strongest hands.