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...?

13 comments:

Clare Taylor said...

As a confirmed wussy Southerner (although I think I should be given some credit for making it through 4 Russian winters) I definitely think you need to include a reference to Ned Stark, and to say 'Winter is coming'. But other than that, can't help I'm afraid...

40s Chic said...

It's funny you should post about moving back to the north - I'm moving back next month after more than 24 years away. What's taking me back? Family, countryside, the feeling it's time to go home. I will be making a new life for my daughter and I in the region I grew up in - don't know if it will work out after all this time, but I'm certainly going to try it. It's time to go back. It's a feeling inside, a soul thing if you like, but it's time.

Suzy said...

Its lovely to see you back Judith

Im a Scot but with a life long. Affinity tonthe north, centered around Beadnell in particular. My best and truest friends come from the North east Holystone, Kingston Park and Houghton le Spring in particular. I love the spell the place casts on you. Each year on my first visit down as I pull off the A1 and head towards Bamburgh I hold my breath as my car rounds the corner and I get.my first sight of my favourite castle at Bamburgh. I get a feeling of peace and a sense of coming home,,

Your talk will be great I'm sure and I.bet the valium will turn up in time

Iota said...

It's to do with rocks. The south of England is on soft rock (limestone, sandstone, chalk). The north is on hard rock granite. That's why it's gritty and straight-talking.

You have my permission to use this brilliant analysis in public (though you might add "so says my blogging mate Iota, who lives in Scotland and therefore thinks of the North as the South".

wife in the north said...

re clare: I know I am planning to. Don't you just love Game of Thrones. I have read all of them - the children barely got fed. I am going to find it hard not to do the entire reading in a Stark/Winterfell/Northman accent. I also plan to wear a bearskin cloak.
re 40s chic...ah. you dont say where. I hope it works for you. If you feel it in your soul then it is undoubtedly the right thin to do
re suzy:yes it claims you somehow
re iota: I know you can keep trumping the North with a further North can't you?

Rachael said...

As a Highlander (proper north!) who came to Southport (what they call the north) from Buckinghamshire (which is in the south but they call it middle England) I find the whole thing fascinating.

The north is different. People are friendlier up here, more plain spoken, more helpful - I swear they've read the guide to being northern. Still doesn't feel like home, but places never do until I leave them. It's the trouble with having terrible wandering feet.

Anonymous said...

You were great!Definitely not a wuss! Loved your choices of bits from the book.Come again and welcome back to the north.

All At Sea said...

Gorgeous Judith, I love living in the North. I'm travelling to Britmums next weekend and fear I'll be quite the fish out of water. Can't wait though. Beautiful, beautiful writing as always x

SueBee said...

Don't forget t'chip shop curry sauce!

Anonymous said...

Love your posts. I'm not sure what I am ,born in Warwickshire to Irish parents, college in Leeds for three years way back and living in London for the last 42 years. Have always felt at home when in the North. Lovely people, amazing scenery and loads to see and do.Have just been to Wakefield to see the new Hepworth gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture Park, both definitely worth a visit. Northumberland coast next on my list.

Ann Cordner said...

Big subject Judith and very contensious for Northerners, but not, strangely enough for Southerners! And that, I would say, must speak volumes, but what about
I really couldn't say!
:-)

HelenJoy said...

I think the north is a relative term. If you are from London, where does North start? I you are from Newcastle, Leeds is South!

Ballsy said...

It's articles like these that make me realise how proud I am being born and bred in the North East (Ashington, Northumberland). I have spent much time in the South and yes had the piss taken out of me for being "Northern", but to be honest, I love it.