Sunday, 17 August 2014

North Versus South

Chris, Josh, Teresa, Me, Mick

King of the North

Roaming free in the Yorkshire fields behind my childhood home in Wakefield, I could easily have imagined myself King of The North in my egotistic, juvenile imagination – or at least a Prince of The North since I had older brothers and there were plenty of other older lads around. I was definitely several places removed from being heir to the throne. And the arrival of a younger sister meant I was definitely no longer the one to be spoiled....!

Harper, Kerry, Dolly
I am sure all areas of the UK command tribal loyalties. “The North” does, though, seem to possess a conceptual life of its own:
  • Northern Ireland and its relationship with the rest of Ireland
  • North America compared to South America
  • Northern Europe and Southern Europe
  • The northern yankee states as opposed to the southern confederate states
  • North Korea versus South Korea
  • New Zealand's North Island and its contrasting South Island
It can’t be argued, however much I would like, that The North = Entirely Good and The South = Not-so-good…. Three of my favourite Americans are from southern states: authors Harper Lee, Kerry Madden and singer Dolly Parton. Those three clearly flout The South = Not-so-Good paradigm. How could I label the enitire Southern Hemisphere any less worthy than the Northern Hemisphere? I love visiting Southern Europe for the sun, the history, the culture, the food, the wine and the laid-back approach to life.
Harper Lee, Kerry Madden, Dolly Parton
Europe and Tales of the Norse Gods
Although Southern Europe is intrinsically romantic: linguistically, artistically, geographically, historically and architecturally, I still find myself feeling more akin with Scandinavia and northern Europe despite the short days in winter, the possessive attitude to alcohol and the grim humour that seems positively macabre. Maybe it’s because my surname is Johnson so I imagine an ancestral link to Vikings…. And maybe it’s because one of my go-to reading books as a child was a battered Tales of the Norse Gods from Ginnungagap to Ragnarök. Even in France you find the equivalent of southerners being suspicious of anyone living north of Watford Gap with Lyons standing in for Watford Gap. (Paris is an anomaly in The French North.) If in doubt, check out the entertaining film Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis.
Ginnungagap, Ragnarök, Welcome to the Sticks

Am I part-Southerner now?

Having lived in The South for two months as a student (working in a bookshop on Shaftesbury Avenue and witnessing a drug addict dying on my delightful Royal Princesses display), and having lived in The South on and off since May 2014 (and full-time from July 2014 to today, Sunday August 17th 2014), am I now part Southerner? Am I on the North-South turn? Can a man not control his own sense of who he is?

Be advised:
I say again, there is no English soul
More stronger to direct you than yourself,
If with the sap of reason you would quench,
Or but allay, the fire of passion.