The North-South Divide

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The north-south divide represents the folded crease in our country. Imagine England as a sheet of crisp white paper; at the top printed in large letters is ‘rain, Greggs and Emmerdale’, and at the bottom ‘Eastenders, sushi and sun’. Then, someone comes along and folds the top half downwards, pressing hard to ensure a deep defined line. Across that crease everything appears to change. Prices of food, houses and alcohol elevate by stepping over the border into the south, and accents vary from the Queen’s English through to the broad twang of the Geordies. The question is: should we all erase the line and unite hand-in-hand, or should we stand at the barricades of our region to defend pride, identity and individuality within our own small island?

Realistically the north-south divide is much more important than just weather and calibre of food.  By dividing the country up into two halves, socio-economic and cultural factors suddenly become the definition of a community. People who are interested in those kinds of things become increasingly excited about any differentiation between wage packets, job satisfaction and the number of plants per household. Personally that sounds too much like a geography lesson for my liking. Having spent a fortnight in our capital city commuting, spending and working I consider myself reasonably qualified to compare our glorious north to our exciting south.  And as my geography A-Level is all a haze of volcanoes and tsunamis my evaluation will be far more fickle and shallow.

I’m an optimistic, happy-go-lucky girl so I consider friendliness a vital ingredient to a blissful city. Not towards acquaintances or friends; everyone is friendly to friends – that is after all, the point. I’m more concerned with friendliness to strangers. Here in London the morning commute is carried out in silence. Conversation does not begin until the office has been reached, the coffee has been drunk and the clock strikes 10am. People en masse are herded on and off trains, buses and the tube and if someone happens to drop their travel card in the middle of the platform amidst the ‘cattle’, the odds are they will be trampled on along with their ticket home. Chivalry is non-existent during commuting hours, so if you’re looking for your ‘knight in shining armour’ don’t waste your time on the train. I’ve searched and all the hot, rich-looking ones already ‘have a ring on it’ and therefore their heads in the paper…  

In London, strangers remain strangers unless there’s a reason for them not to be. In the north, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Here, strangers are considered to be people you haven’t met yet. It has often been said “up north people will ask you how you are, down south they will tell you how they are”. Whereas this seems unnecessarily harsh and reasonably false concerning southerners (I’ve obviously met quite a few down here in London town and they’re all lovely), the comparison between the two conflicting attitudes to strangers holds a certain resonance. It’s not unknown to me to have random conversations with Leeds locals in the pub, in queues for shops or even, and here’s a shocker: on trains. And if they’re not complaining about student noise, student litter or student alcoholism they’re really quite charming.

For refreshingly real viewpoints on sex, drugs and exciting danger we are able to look to the southern music scene. These concerns are as prominent in music as they are in TV, but mercifully without the scripts, cameras and smoke-screen which come ready-packed with TV storylines.  London is the conception city of street music and artists such as Tinie Tempah, Pro Green and Wretch 32 exude the London atmosphere through their words and through their music videos. Throughout recent history the “meaning” of London has changed and evolved for many people, moving from austerity to sexual and individual freedom. However music has always been able to capture the sense of revolution in the capital, and legendary rock and punk bands such as The Rolling Stones and The Sex Pistols screamed ‘London’ as much as the iconic sky line or the double-decker red buses. The north-south divide means identity within music is far more just than dividing bands into genres.  Northern artists are instantly recognisable through the emergence of their cheery accented lyrics; the Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian and The Wombats all allow their northern drawl to infiltrate their songs and to great success. It’s welcoming and memorable, and oh-so-easy to sing along to. After all, I don’t think there’s anyone in the county who hasn’t adopted the northern accent when singing Elbow’s One Day Like This.

The north and the south are proud owners of their own identities. This enables them to develop a sense of community across a large expansion of land. By simply saying “I’m northern” or “I’m from the south” people connect to one another in a field or city of embraces and love. Although imagining the north and the south as two separate entities is somewhat cynical, they do each continually develop ‘personality’ and characteristics. Perhaps it’s easier to describe each half of the country as siblings: individual and independent but with unbreakable ties which allow them to unite to form one spectacular country. In this way, the north-south divide should only serve as a division of culture: of music, food and lifestyle and definitely not as a barrier between the British community.

Jessica Baggaley

I make the incoherent coherent through punctuation, adjectives and irony.

Website: jbwp91.wordpress.com

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