Thursday, June 13, 2013

True North

I am supposed to appear at the York Festival of Ideas on Saturday evening and talk about "Living up North" along with Paul Morley who has just written an enormous book on "The North (and almost everything in it)". The thought of this event has been giving me sleepless nights and hives the size of whippets.

"The North" is what you call a big topic. Big.

Plus I can't find the valium I usually take when I have to do a reading. It is two days away and my body is running cold at the thought of it. I am such a wuss when it comes to leaving the house - never in a million years would you have me down as a child who'd had to do monologues at the PTA cheese and wines of the seventies complete with granny outfit and walking stick.

So I thought I might hammer out some ideas here and see if it helps...

For me the move from South to North was a return of the native - bearing in mind I'd been born and brought up in Leeds, gone to Durham university and worked in Newcastle.

Then I left.

Then I came back.

I still live in it. Since the gig at York university effectively brands me a "professional Northerner", this makes me unusual because most professional Northerners live somewhere else.

There is a truth to the North - an integrity, an authenticity.

The North pulls you to it, draws you to it - even the rocks themselves.

There is an idea of journeying Northwards, towards the unknown, towards the Other - of crossing boundaries into a place with dangers.

There's cold and snow, wolves and bears, invaders and raiders.

There's a cultural representation of straight talking and plain dealing of silent honourable men and gritty women, of poverty and pits, of black-faced miners and back-to-backs, community and mill chimneys and pit wheels, Victorian architecture and ambition. There's moorland and mountains and rivers that cross it. There's fiction and reality.

There are all of those things that we each of us carry and tweak, and accept or reject and polish to a North of our own making.

This North we have made for ourselves is the North we live in - and the North that lives in us.

...or I could manage a few scrappy verses of a monologue...?