Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Is the North of England still there?

Dear blog-botherers, could you help me with a question that has recently been worrying me, and put my mind at rest? I've been wondering: is the North of England still there?

Now, I know the North was there in the 90's because I lived there. Then I went abroad and moved back down South and haven't been up oop North recently. This isn't because I don't like it: I'd love a trip to see the art galleries in Liverpool, or go walking in the Lake District. Problem is, every time I go to the railway station, I get mugged by those well-known criminals, Mr 'First' Greatwestern and Mr 'Virgin' Rail. As a result, I haven't been North of Cheltenham for, well frankly, years.

I have, however, been blithely assuming that The North of England was still there, in a reassuring way. After all, it shows up on the weather forecasts. But recently, I've started to feel suspicious, and wonder if in fact there's a big cover-up going on.

My suspicions crystallised late Sunday evening, when, after drinking a couple of glasses of 'interesting' English wine, I found myself slumped in front of the TV watching, tragically, a Catherine Cookson adaptation. I know, I know, I need to get out more.

These actors with regional accents may be dead
(For those not familiar with the oeuvre, all Catherine Cookson's novels take place oop North). Anyway, while Ms Cookson's improbably named, improbably feisty, and improbably righteous heroine was, er, improbably trapped down a mine with the improbably good-looking local mine-owner, a number of thoughts occurred to me. 1) All these actors actually seem to have real Northern accents. That must be why I've never seen them in anything else. 2) All these locations actually look like somewhere around Durham, and 3) oh yeah, there used to be these things called regional ITV companies that used to make TV in the regions where they were based.

I remember the South-West one, HTV, because I have the entire 1980's series of Robin of Sherwood on DVD. The best bit is the beginning of every episode, when there's like a 'beeowww, beeow, beeowww' synthy signature tune, and the blue and white HTV logo appears on the screen. It's ace.

Anyway, all that led me to wondering when I last saw a bunch of regional accents on screen, as supposed to Dawn French, doing a fake one. I managed to think of a few series in which I'd seen people shopping, shagging, or er, being a cop in a timewarp, in Manchester, Liverpool, or  Cheshire. But y'know, only in those bits where the property prices are still up. The bars, boutiques, yuppy flats and all. But I know that most of the North doesn't look like that. There's terraced houses and council flats and empty factories and docks and big hills and all that. Most people are not either footballers/wives or cops-stuck-in-timewarps. And I'm a bit worried, that maybe in some terrible disaster which the BBC have been embargoed from telling us about, the rest of the North outside the shopping centres might have been wiped out.

Also, until I was helpfully reminded by the Yesterday Channel, I'd completely forgotten that people in Britain used to work down mines, although I know I did used to know this, back in the 80's. It just seemed that recently I'd forgotten it, in the belief that if we weren't toffs, we were servants for the toffs, and secretly in love with them. Then I got confused, and I had to ring my mum up and ask her if she still had the photos of Great Uncle Albert in his pit gear, and she said that she had. She also said that the North of England was still there, because it showed up on the BBC weather reports.

So I pointed out that the BBC never bothered to tell us that there weren't any weapons of mass destruction either. And that you can do anything with computer graphics, these days. Then there was a silence, and she changed the subject, and started going about her arthritis, instead.

It's a f***ing conspiracy, I tell you.


  1. ave some Chorley cake, lass, tha'rt fair clemmed.

  2. Hi Ursula, as I've been trying (!) to post:
    Oh for the heady days of Russell and Bleasedale on your telly box. As a Scouser I recently unplanted myself from the capital to go Oop North for some work with a Liverpool TV Indie. Ashamed to say I set my episode in East London :-(
    But Liverpool is still there in all its glory! And I got to see the @giantspectacular - there's no place like home.

  3. Ha! Maybe tune into ITV and have a look at Coronation Street... I agree with Jeanie B on here... get to Liverpool - you can't beat it.