The City & The Northern Girl #1

“Now what do we have here then?

            I have just successfully survived my first year at QM as both an English student and a born and bred Northerner, and it is safe to say I’ve fallen in love with the place. However my first year at university hasn’t been without its tears, stress and a good helping of Dixie chicken. So far it’s been crazy and I’ve learnt five main things:

  1. Appreciate a fellow Northerner. Spotting them down here is one of those rare and golden moments in which you collapse into their arms with relief and immediately start discussing how much we miss pies.
  2. People continually imitate your accent. The fascination surrounding this has even reached the point where someone once said in a seminar, “Oh please say something again, your accent is hilarious”, leaving me feeling like a circus monkey and with an increased sympathy for American associates.
  3. Tube manners. Apparently standing to the left of the escalator or chatting to the random person sat next to you will result in you being subject to death stares from all ends of the carriage.
  4. It is bloody expensive down here! Especially when you’re used to a Liverpool student night special complete with 50p and £1 drinks. Yes really.
  5. Some people actually think anything above London is ‘the North’. Genuinely. As other Northerners will fully sympathise, this is the most irritating, insulting thing you can ever say to us and let me tell you now, it is most definitely incorrect. Start at Yorkshire and work your way up: welcome to the true North.

 If you are a Southerner reading this, you probably have an image of England’s North being somewhat resonate of Billy Elliot – incomprehensible accents, Thatcher hate and lots of terraced housing – but don’t be fooled by our outdated stereotypical image. The presence of a divide between the North and South of England is a given and I have personally found this to be proved true over the course of my first year in the Big Smoke.

 Discovering the gap that exists between my parents’ income and the majority of my Southern friends parents’ incomes was a shock. Especially when I realised that I was the only person in my flat of 12 that had a part time job, which buys my food and living expenses, as the others relied on that never ending Mary Poppins’ bag-like bank of Mummy and Daddy. It still seems surreal to think that a year ago we were strangers, yet now they’re my best friends.

University experience is unique in that you’re thrown into a mix of people, quite often complete cultural opposites, and you suddenly take on the role of ‘student’ i.e. skint, living off pasta and permanent resident of Wetherspoons. You’re all in the same boat, which by the end of each term is usually drowning slowly into the godsend that is an interest-free overdraft. But for me, the divide remains rooted.

 In 1962, Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, voiced his determination to “prevent two nations developing geographically, [as] a poor north and a rich and overcrowded south”. A hopeless task to say the least. Unemployment continues to rise at an alarming rate in the North, with 100,000 more people declared unemployed just last year. It’s a simple divide – the poverty’s higher, the wages are lower and anti-Conservative attitudes remain steadfast as money continues to be ploughed into the South with little left for the crumbling North.

Don’t mistake this as me asking for sympathy, I am proud of my down-to-earth Northern roots. But these are just cold, hard facts, which prove the distinctive split in the country’s regions. Yes, most of the North is made up of proud working class people, a trait that saw us survive the oppressive Thatcher rule of the Eighties, but let’s not forget our saving graces. Chunky meat pies, unrivalled landscapes (hello, Lake District), searching for the sea at Southport, Rugby League, chip shops that serve gravy… the list goes on. I guess we aren’t a complete lost cause after all.

Image: Images Money. www.flickr.com/photos/59937401@N07/
Image: Images Money. www.flickr.com/photos/59937401@N07/

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