Up North is ... where?

"It's got to be somewhere around here ..."
"It's got to be somewhere around here ..."

In England, as in other nations, one will often hear persons declaring that they are from 'Up North', or 'The North'. One immediately wonders where this 'North' begins, and where it ends, if, indeed, it does ever end. Also, how wide it is. Does it end at its sides where the land does, or spill out into the sea? And north of where. exactly? If you keep heading north, you will go all the way round and end up south of yourself.

If the name of your country is South Korea, you will absorb from birth, without even being taught, that your country is called South Korea because there must be a North Korea, which must be to the north of your country. If you are from North Korea, you will absorb from birth that yours is not only the largest country on the planet, but the only benevolent one, while all the other little, dirty countries, whose women are all whores and whose dogs taste disgusting, are out to destroy you, and it is your duty to attack them before they attack you. Or, in the words of Danny Blanchflower, former Tottenham Hotspur manager, you 'equalise before the other team score'.

Blanchflower was from Northern Ireland. You would imagine that there is a Southern Ireland, which is to the south, but the country which neighbours Northern Ireland is not called Southern Ireland, and parts of it lie more northerly than any of Northern Ireland.

Some would have you believe that North begins at Watford. But it's not Watford's fault, just that it lies at the beginning, that is to say, the London, south end, of the M1, and has a pleasant name, both to say and to listen to. Watford. Say it to yourself then say it out loud. "Watford! Lovely, lovely Watford." Say it to strangers in the street. There is much less chance of them giving you a right proper caning than if you had said, for example: "I've got lard and I know how to use it." Most will smile, albeit quickly, as they hurry away.

But the North can't begin at Watford, because Watford is south of the Midlands, and if, as their name suggests, the Midlands are in the middle, then the North must be north of them. Then there's the Potteries, and Derby and Nottingham: are they north, or just north of the Midlands?

I would suggest that the North begins at the southern tip of Yorkshire and extends through all its other tips, taking in Lancashire but excluding Wales. However, parts of Lincolnshire, which is not in the North, are more north than parts of Yorkshire. And further north of the North, we come to Durham and Northumberland, which are not the North, but the North-East. To further confuse things, inhabitants of the most northerly tip of the British Isles can view anything as The South. Even The North.

So if the term 'north' for the North is geographically incorrect, then it can only describe Lancs and Yorks, and including Cheshire because it's nice to be associated with somewhere posh. And only the older bits, because something cannot be called 'proper' unless it is so old that debates in proper old pubs about its origins have been going on for longer than anyone can remember. New North is Trendy North, Artificial North, southern-affected North, not real North.

But where is it? The North can't be one city, one town or village. Two counties, forever divided by the memory of the Wars of the Roses, yet united in existing as one of the two counties (sorry Cheshire, you're just their holiday home) of the North. If we leave aside geography for a moment, maybe we can locate the centre of the North. But even finding the centre of the North will give no idea as to its extent. Because it is nothing, not even a state of mind. It's just a collection of embroidered tea towels, sepia-tinted photographs, little dreamy thumbnails to short-cut you to a better world which was horrible. Proud of Grandad down t'mine, but secretly glad the thing's been closed down so I could do a Sports Science degree at Loughborough.

Northern bands in the Britpop era didn't use Northern chords ("we don't use that southern-softy Cm9"), and the Northern girls that they sang about were anatomically the same as girls from around the planet.

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