Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Lost in Translation: The North

When you travel on British motorways, you encounter strange signs, informing you that you are travelling to "The North" or "The South". Because they are places, regardless of which cardinal point you are following.


Photo: Alamy

So, yes, you could be heading south from Scotland, and still, technically be going to The North.

Now, I am aware most places have a north (this is a Doctor Who quote, what can I say, it's that kind of a blog), and in France we've even called one department "Nord" (it was a low-inspiration day in revolutionary France - unlike when they named the Côte-d'Or department which boasts exactly no coasts [yes, "Côte" can also mean hill, I am fully aware I am being disingenuous {I think this parenthesis thing has just got out of hand}]-).

BUT! I have a point!

The North v. South opposition is serious business around here. Parisians do make fun of Northerners, but they also make fun of Southerners, and the rest of France unites in despising the Parisians. Whereas in England, you are faced with two camps who refuse to speak to each other (they even use code to confuse the opponent, just ask a Southerner where the cob-shop is).

The funny thing is, beyond accents and vocabulary, I am yet to understand what are the actual differences between Northerners and Southerners. England is only small, and they are the same region by French standards (and decidedly neighbours by Amercian ones). And yet, and yet. For some reason, you mustn't confuse the two. I offer no explanation for this, I only know that, apparently, it matters dreadfully.

The other tricky thing is to try and pin-point where the North starts. The further south you go, the further the imaginary border follows you down, whereas the further north you go, the more you reduce the officially "northern" area behind you.

Nope, makes no sense to me either.

Plus it leaves the poor Midlands stranded, rejected by both North and South whilst trying to identify with both. 

Bless your heart, Birmingham. At least the Midlands have the Peak District (although I wouldn't be surprised if the Northerners suddenly decided to grow more tolerant and include Derbyshire in their reckoning just to steal that one from you as well). 

And don't come telling me it's grimmer in the North to explain all of this, South, face it, the English weather is grim everywhere. Just be civil to each other and share your umbrellas. (You see, when I do the test to find out how northern I am, they put me somewhere beyond Jersey, where the map doesn't go).

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