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Friday, November 07, 2008

Quacky's Guide to England Part 1 - Its not grim up North

The lovely Diane and her husband Keith have lent me Stuart Maconie's Pies and Prejudice, In Search of the North (in turn I'm go to lend them Up North! by Charles Jennings GUFFAW).

I'm a 150 pages in and it's enjoyable if a bit frustrating. I have this fear he will deal with stereotypical bit of the North from Blackpool to Liverpool in the west via Manchester and its satellies Wigan, Bolton, Preston through to Rotherham, Leeds, Hull and Sheffield.

Its what people down South think of as the North, in the same way I guess that people assume that the South is London and that Essex is Romford, Basildon and Southend. I do hope he'll show us the North in its glorious whole. I know Lancashire much less well than Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland, the later three have some delightful small market towns.

I mention this because I was in a meeting with a client yesterday (ooh get him) who was from Preston. I mentioned the book and she had read it. We agreed that Cheshire doesn't "feel" Northern. We chatted about Manchester (the city centre of which is quite nice I might add) and the like, one of the others in the meeting said that she hadn't got a clue what we were talking about. She had been to Manchester, Sunderland and Newcastle for meetings oh and a meeting in Birmingham and that was her experience of the North. I should add that I mentioned Birmingham was not the North.

Now I often find this, people can happily tell you about this lovely harbour in Kos or this idyllic chapel they found in the Tuscan hills but haven't been to and have a clue about Lincoln Cathedral or the wonderful bays of Cornwall.

I'm sure that there are lovely places overseas hell I KNOW there are but its amazing how the people who TELL me about them haven't got a clue about there own country.

Of course us English have a delightfully odd sense of Georgraphy us any Southerner where Workington is and I suspect they put it somewhere near Manchester. It's actually on the North West coast and is nearer to Scotland than Manchester. The North hides it glories, it pretends it is all Coronation Street, flat caps and whippets when it is so much more. I guess you have to get off your butt and go. But I'll give you a clue, the bit North of the steroetypical North is much nicer. Draw a line from Blackpool to Preston to Leeds and keep going out to the Yorkshire coast and head North, just make sure the line goes south of Beverley (home of two the best parish churches in the country). Its lovely !! honest. Go!

Oh and Essex is more than Romford, Basildon and Southend. As I think Diane and CP now know the bit North of me Saffron Walden, Thaxted is quite attractive and most of it actually is. Although it is a pity about Romford and the new towns. The Westcliff bit of Southend by the "front" is quite pleasant though.


Kate said...

"She had been to Manchester, Sunderland and Newcastle for meetings oh and a meeting in Birmingham and that was her experience of the North."

Tell your friend that Birmingham is not in the north, it's the capital city of the Midlands. Thought I'd better say something in defence of my region. We do find it a bit annoying to be lumped in with the north or the south when we are neither.

I don't know Lancashire very well at all, but in Yorkshire, even the really grotty places are surrounded by beautiful countryside. Also lots of castles and other interesting historical stuff. Oh and to be fair, I should also say there aren't as many grotty places as there used to be, many have cleaned up nicely now the industry is gone.

Liz said...

Exactly Pete, I will refrain from ranting at you because I'm sure you could do without it.

Everywhere has its nice and nasty parts regardless, and I find it horrific that 'southerners' still have a mental image of a woman with rollers in her hair wearing a cleaning smock when they think of 'northerners'

Tricia said...

Ah - Westcliff on Sea. I have relatives who lived there when I was a lass and I stayed there often - in fact my first taste of live theatre was Wescliff's theatre - and I saw Billy Elliot!!

But I have to admit that I don't know the Midlands/North of England as well as I'd like to....

Pete said...

Kate - I've added the bit about Birmingham which I did mention to her.

Liz - if I'm honest I expect Northerners have as many stereotypes about us southerners!

Liz said...

Ah Pete, now that depends on where 'saaaarf' you're talking about :D

Probably a key one is the 'landon youfff', which is how pretty much every teen speaks these days anyway whether they're fron London/Essex or not.

Like, innit.


My boyfriend, as you may or may not know is from London, and has the usual 'southern' accent. Not really much of an accent other than saying grarse and glarse rather than glas and gras.
Meanwhile his sister is a real little chav, and says things like Petooor, and she's Lawror.

Anna said...

Excuse me, the Peak District is one of the most beautiful places, and a fair bit of it isn't "North" North...

Thought I'd better stand up for my home county and say that most of Derbyshire is very pretty and interesting, full of fascinating places and gorgeous countryside.

North of Leeds is the best bit indeed.... Bah!!

Pete said...

Anna I am THOROUGHLY confused.

I always think of the peaks as Derbyshire!! and the peaks are glorious. I think of them as the midlands.

What I am trying to say is there is a narrow corridor of what peope THINK is the North

Liz said...

Sheffield is the only city in the country that shares its boundaries with a national park, and this park is...

Yes, the Peak District!

Ladybower reservoir, the snake pass??

(a fellow Sheffielder)

This is why Sheffield is so beautiful, just 10 minutes drive from the city centre, and you have the Peaks. And since parts of Sheffield are actually in Derbyshire, that's probably even more confusing :D

Anna said...

Ah Pete, I see what you mean.

Yeah, I'd say Midlands too, but some of the Peaks is in North Yorkshire, which is definitely North.

I tend to describe myself as a Northerner even though I'm not really, because it's easier than saying I'm a Midlander and then having people think I'm from Birmingham.

Not that anyone would think I'm from Birmingham after hearing me speak...

Pete said...

Anna, yeah the boundary is a bit confusing.

I was aware though as I've stayed in the peaks at the Yorkshire Bridge Inn which is on the border :D

Liz - is sheffield itself beautiful ? I've only driven through it

Liz said...

Hmmm Pete, I'm not sure how to describe it for you...

Yes there are good and bad areas, if you go to the west of the city - the area that is pretty much in the peaks it's very leafy and green(mind most of the city is!) It's very hilly, so every angle is new and you have a great view whether looking down into the centre or out to the peaks.

The green belt, so called because it's protected by law to keep the city green are places like Dore, Totley, Fulwood, Eccelsall which are also some of the richest areas of the country (Hallam)

Liz said...

This should give you a good idea:


Kate said...

Thank you Pete! I get a bit sensitive about it, probably because up here people think I'm a southerner, but if I travel to the south, they think I'm from the north. I used to get a bit stroppy about it, but now I just pretend I think they are Welsh or French, or something else equally unrelated LOL

You are right about the narrow view people often have about other parts of the country. UP here people often think the south-east is just London, completely forgetting places like Kent, or the Sussex Downs.

Anna said...

Yeah Liz, bits of Sheffield are lovely (I spend a fair ammount of time in Sheffield, I'm there at least twice a week).

Especially since so much of the city centre has been done up the last few years.