We have to decide whether we stay living here or move back to London at the turn of the year. That is the timetable we set ourselves. Whether we end up staying or go back (I was going to say "home" there - oops), I am feeling increasingly frustrated by the bad news stories coming out of the North-East.
Twenty to 25 years ago, it was all pit closures and heavy industry closing with a constant stream of job losses in shipbuilding and engineering. No one rolled over and no one gave up - unions fought for jobs, "management" pulled together buy-outs and there was a fierce struggle for American and Japanese investment in car building and the high tech sector. There is still a skills issue in the labour market courtesy of the heritage of unskilled and semi-skilled jobs. But more people are in employment in the region than ever before. The implication behind the stories on Northern Rock, the child benefit debacle and this latest political fandango over David Abrahams is that something is "not quite right" about the North-East. Perhaps they are not as sharp as they are down South; the financiers oblivious to risk, the underpaid poor bloody infantryman following orders - oblivious to the need for security and rigor? As for the eccentric property developer, the conspiracy theories whisper that it might be the Israelis or it might just be that the Labour party of the 1970s is alive and well and living on Tyneside. Cor blimey. I do not think I knew what "community" was till I moved to the North-East. I have found the people to be sharp, funny, immensely decent and infinitely generous. I thought it might be the right time to say so. Perhaps I will open up an account with Northern Rock, pay in my next child benefit cheque and use the interest to send a donation to the Labour Party - in my own name naturally. I wonder if that would help my Northern credentials?