Saturday, 2 August 2014

England, Scotland, Yorkshire, Surrey

Geographical Identity….
Living in England has always been a source of pride to me. Shakespeare was born here and worked here. I've loved visiting Scotland, Wales and Ireland (I've yet to visit Northern Ireland) and have no problems identifying with the UK, Great Britain, Europe or the Globe. But I speak English. I think in English. I dream in English. Watching a film like Wadjda at the National Media Museum in Bradford reconfirmed for me that humans in every country share the same hopes and troubles. But, if I dig deep and deeper, and tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, my true geographical identity, first and foremost, now and forever, is not English in my heart and soul. I am a Yorkshireman.


After the bloody fray at Wakefield fought
Where your brave father breathed his latest gasp
and where your brothers and sister live and your cousins and some childhood friends and where your brave mother also breathed her last and where your schools were and your first ventures into earning money and playing sport and acting on the stage and canoodling with other humans.... What does it mean to be from Yorkshire?
  • A sense that the outdoors is better than indoors?
  • That dry stone walls mean that boundaries are not rigid but the boundaries are there and can be helpful?
  • That you say what you mean and you don't say much if you don't have much to say?
  • That a Yorkshireman is a Scotsman with all the generosity squeezed out of him?
  • That you are stubborn?
  • Dour?
  • Strong?
  • Loyal to the point of death?
  • That you would defend the land – the north first, of course, then the north-east, then Scotland and then across the Pennines and the Midlands and everywhere beneath Birmingham after that?
If I joined the army I would want to be in a Yorkshire Regiment.
Images of Yorkshire


Since retiring I've been living in Surrey spending time with close family. Yorkshire tugs me back but I know it will wait patiently for my return.... could I ever learn to love Surrey as much as I love Yorkshire? It is interesting that the more you spend time in a place the more you see its strengths. At first I could see only impolite Southerners with invasive driving habits, insanely chintzy shops with inflated prices and towns whose souls were being slowly sucked out by the monolithic monster juggernaut named London. But gradually I've begun to appreciate Surrey’s ancient woodlands, the hills and downs, the people who are people being people wherever they live, the resistant strain of old-world market fairs doggedly refusing to dance attendance on London. There is regional identity here too.
Surrey countryside and Dorking High Street

Scottish Independence

In a few weeks Scotland will be voting whether or not to remain part of the UK. Either result (Yes or No) will be fascinating. I know enough history to know that nothing needs to be forever and for most of our island history the UK was not a recognisable concept. Family-based tribes were the norm for centuries before the Normans invaded. Globalisation makes many places in the world seem indistinguishable. Costa Coffee in Dorking feels the same as Costa Coffee in Bradford.

Not in Kansas

My instinct is that differences should be preserved and celebrated, as long as they are not threatening any other group. So does that mean I am in favour of Scottish independence? If Scotland votes to become independent, shouldn’t Yorkshire do the same? When holidaying in Scotland (Skye, Mull) I felt more kinship in Scotland as a Yorkshireman than I felt when I first arrived in Surrey.... though, now, after a few months, Surrey is also starting to feel a bit like “home” too. I’m not in Kansas, Toto, but Kansas is in me…. Are we all ultimately adaptable? Chameleons in fact?
Polesden Lacey in Surrey

Looking for a new retirement identity

As I begin retirement I suppose I’m having all those thoughts about who I am, where I belong, where I’m going and what it’s all about….. regional and national identity have emerged as a part of that. But I think I’ve concluded that home is where the heart is – but the heart migrates to wherever your loved ones are, so home migrates too.
I to the world am like a drop of water
That in the ocean seeks another drop
Who, falling there to find his fellow forth,
Unseen, inquisitive, confounds himself….
England? Scotland? Yorkshire? Surrey? The readiness is all. Let be.
Ribblehead Viaduct and a drop of water....