There’s something attractive about the other. While my accent is not particularly strong, a degree of fluidity regarding the presence of vowels marks me out as a Northerner. Not only does the word bath has no ‘r’ but the phrase ‘down to the’ needn’t be longer than a single syllable, ‘darnt.’ Spoken by the boyfriend, ‘darnt’ becomes comedic as instinctively he tries to add in his Cheltenham accent vowels to soften and draw out the language I use. It becomes an obscure ‘down-tuh-urgh’ as he cannot cut out the fripperies of being Southern that us Northerners can rarely afford.

I only partly jest. The truth is that having lived in the North East of England for much of my adult life, I felt that life got easier and sunnier when I moved South (even despite my sojourn to the tropics). Perhaps there was even a degree of novelty in my Northernness; I’ve had a fair few compliments on my lovely accent (there may be some charm to sounding like an extra from Heartbeat). But there just seemed more work, more opportunities and more money. 

I swear there’s a noticeable degree or two difference in temperature and people are friendlier. I’ve particularly been amused by the Gloucestershire notion of ‘rough.’ Having walked through Newcastle’s Big Market after a football defeat and having sold kitchens in Middlesbrough, the South has nowt on up North. Walking through Gloucester at night I’m not just struck by how many police officers there are but that none of them are having fights. Back in Darlington it seemed a night out wasn’t complete without pulling a lass, eating a kebab and having a scrap.

Note also the difference between two daytime comments from a pair of young men; in Darlington “I’d have a go on that” (urgh), in Gloucester (as I carried some pillows while wearing a low cut top) one bloke comments “she’s tasty” (aww) to which his mate replies “Oi’d like to bury my face in them there pillows!” (I burst out laughing). Ok so sleaze all round but the West Country boys seemed far less threatening than the gravelly use of “that” to describe me back homeward.

Imagine my surprise then to read that I haven’t escaped the North and that according to Professor Danny Dorling, the dividing line keeps Cheltenham in the South but cuts to include Gloucester and the Forest of Dean in that which is grim. The reporting has been vaguely insulting although I have to confess to wearing a flat cap (it’s a lovely shade of aubergine and has a bow but it is a flat cap) and having owned a greyhound so I probably shouldn’t take offence at the likes of Tim Oakes. Ok to clarify, I’m not offended at his Northerism so much as the fact he isn’t actually funny; a second-hand ferret makes no sense, you never sell a good ferret and anyone selling a ferret is clearing dodgy so the entire enterprise would fail...

Anyway, it’s a concern. Northernness in sociological terms refers to lower life expectancy, less chance of your children attending one of the top 20 universities in the country and the business and employment opportunities that you face being less evident. Politically incorrect as it may be to admit it, but I wanted to move away from the fact that (in County Durham at least life) is harder the further up the country you go.

I could bring my Bronte novels, my awesome Yorkshire pudding recipe and my distain of the softness of Southerners with me. There’s no need to actually live there to have pride in my roots (look at all the Aussies in London) and I think my accent makes me sound a bit dense at times, especially when I’m excited or angry. My mum is from Essex and beat (metaphorically I hasten to add) as much of the local accent out of my brother and I as she could. I found her irritating at the time and yet when imagining a potential child of my own, I want the soft lilt of the West Country accent that carries the sing of proximity to Wales rather than the brusque and somewhat aggressive edge of the lads back home.

Snobbery? Undoubtedly. I am a traitorous born again Southerner and think that the asparagus makes life better here. Obviously my gut reaction is to investigate my village - it’s not really Gloucester you know, maybe I’m still in the socio-economic South (my rent certainly feels that way!)

This is absurdity. What can I say, work is a challenge at the moment and I need to get more sleep. I’m descending into introversion and losing what little objectivity I once had for the dissemination of news and creative conclusions for its implications on my live, love and universe (yes, tonight I’m claiming ownership of that too).

There’s a topic worth discussing here but I admit defeat and concede that now is a rare example of me struggling to find words. I’ll seek to remedy that soon, but for now dear readers I’ll bid you adieu and send you back out into the world(wideweb) in search of greener pastures and brighter blogging.

Mrs Locke
9/2/2010 06:27:44 am

So am I actually both more Northern, and more Southern than you - both in geography and my marriage to a real live hactual Londoner?

Much to his disgust, I sound more Northern again now - particularly when drunk, at our wedding, surrounded by my family!

9/8/2010 11:15:00 pm

I grew up in the north-west but my parents had both lived down south for a while, and I've moved around a bit as an adult, so my accent is mixed up. I have clearly northern vowels - though my linguistic training did teach me to pronounce the southern vowels, so I could pass for a southerner if I really wanted to. I definitely think of Cheltenham *and* Gloucester as being "south".


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