South By Southeast
Can it really have been so long? Ah let’s get on with it.
99% of people in the world are wrong about 50% of everything they believe. Give or take. From the large to the small, they’re wrong.
Yes, trying to impose democracy by force is wrong. But blow yourself and a load of others up and then think you’re going to heaven – no, no, no, you’re wrong. You think there is a heaven? You’re probably wrong. But then again you want to argue that there can’t be a heaven because the universe is saddle shaped etc – damn, probably wrong again. It’s really easy to be wrong about the big things. The papers are full of people being wrong about everything.
I (wrongly) believe that I’ve cut down the amount of things I’m wrong about to about 20%. And for the most part the things I’m wrong about are the usual suspects.
I wrongly still look in the mirror and think: “looking pretty handsome today. Knock ‘em dead, big guy.”
I wrongly believe I’m an excellent driver despite all evidence to the contrary.
I wrongly believe that things were better in the past (despite vivid memories of Crewe town centre being almost all boarded up in the last big recession and being forced to wear my brother’s hand-me-downs).
I wrongly believe that someday my beer belly will go just away.
I wrongly believe that drink makes me better company.
And in the depths of vanity I sometimes wrongly believe that one day I will be a successful journalist or I’ll be discovered as some great natural acting talent and will end my days relating my tales of excess to a fawning Parkinson.
There is however one subject on which I know I’m probably wrong but it still plagues and pesters me all the time. It’s a bit embarrassing.
I believe that northern people are, generally, friendlier than southern people. Isn’t that dumb?
Really stupid. I should further my stupidity by pointing out that when I say southern, I really mean south eastern, and probably home counties people.
I moved a little while ago, further south and further east. Out of south east London and into the most south easterly county in the country. Only two miles down the road from where I was.
The former owners left a large skip in the front garden, filled with the contents of their house. We had to pay to have it removed. When we finally got into the house we were depressed to find they hadn’t cleaned, had left broken glass in the hallway and left live wires sticking out of walls (nice – they knew we had a young ‘un) (yes, they took the sockets and even the doorbell bizarrely – although they threw away a PS2, a Sky box and an NTL receiver which I recovered from the skip and got working).
Blah, blah, blah.
Couple of days later. Some guys come round, convinced us they were working on the houses behind. They noticed we’d just moved in. Do we want to buy some things and get some work done cheap? We part with money for something which doesn’t happen. Conned.
I’m putting my bin out. See a guy a couple of houses down doing the same. Good opportunity to meet the neighbours. Give him a big smile, friendly nod and a wave. He stares at me and then goes back in his house. Like something from the Twilight Zone.
And after every time (there’s many more) I thought, this wouldn’t happen up north.
My next door neighbour is lovely. She’s from the south-east. Her offspring (who rarely visit) are unpleasant. I want to tell her she’s abnormally friendly for our neck of the woods, but don’t want to spoil things.
Our old childminder is wonderful – but I tell myself she’s a proper old-fashioned Londoner, and they’re OK.
This all sounds like bigotry, people. And it disturbs me. But every time I get disturbed I remember things, such as my old housemates at University and what a bunch of evil south easterners they were. I (friendly northerner) attacked one with a table leg once – but that’s another story. You’d applaud if you knew why.
I remember being pushed off my bike by a policeman in Parliament Square on May Day.
I remember a guy with his hand round my friend’s throat at a Dylan concert. At a Dylan concert!
And I have changed.
I long ago stopped trying to engage people in conversation on public transport (though I love it when a see a fresh bumpkin trying it - though my mum stills tries it. Don't like this so much), I stopped moaning about how bitter doesn’t travel (I don’t even drink it for God’s sake, gives me terrible wind). I don’t even pretend to be a Crewe Alex fan anymore (I now pretend to be a Crystal Palace fan).
And besides, the last place I had a (proper) fight was my home town. The last place I was hit was Leicester. The last people who chased me were Russian.
But still I pine for my old friends. For being able to call someone a “f##ker” without fear of reprisal. For people understanding when I’m joking and when I’m not. Pining for people who don’t read Heat. Pine even for enemies who approach with a growl and clenched fists rather than smiles. Pine for the countryside, the compact cities.
You rightly guffaw, cos that’s claptrap. I’m actually just getting old and pining for my youth.
Yep, my North is just as much an imagined state of mind as my imagined idea of the past. It’s just as full of false hopes as visions of gods and heavens. It’s my reassuring “other place” which keeps me going when people are being shitty to one another.
Reactionary bigot or sentimental old fool? If I settled on one, I’d just be wrong.