Tuesday 17 April 2012

In memory of the north-south divide

They say, if you want to see what Hull was like in the nineteen eighties... go to Hull.

I grew up in the frozen north during the sixties and seventies when we heard with some alarm of all the 'modern' developments down south. Still using farthings and furlongs, we resisted the terrible changes as long as we could, but sooner or later we knew we’d have to deal with “new-pence”, “centigrade” and them there “milometers”. And it was only a matter of time before we’d no longer be able to buy a pound of sausages and would have to make do with a pound of kilos instead[1].

In darkened corners of public bars (men only) we heard how proper grammar schools were being replaced by comprehensives, how, in ‘That London’, you would hardly ever hear an English accent in the street any more... And anybody who’d actually been and survived Down South would regale you with stories about this new-fangled ‘lager’, costing anything up to three bob a pint. The horror.

Perpetually, it seemed, ten years behind, my generation benefitted from the cane long after it had been banned by the southern softies and we got to wear flared jeans well into the punk era. In fact, while punk was happening in the King’s Road we were still chuckling over that David Bowie. “Is it a lass or what?” we’d ask, “A what, you say? A bloke in makeup?” And then we’d shake our heads sadly and sigh, “Nay lad. It’s not reet.”

Oh how we laughed at the liberal folly of progressives and regaled our whippets with the daft ideas we’d heard of but hoped never to suffer. Not that we were xenophobic, mind. Oh no…We knew all about foreigners; very worldly wise we were. Once we had a visitor from – ooh I forget – but somewhere south of Pontefract at any rate. And we treated him like one of our own - food, beer and all that - and chatted into the early hours. To this day nobody has a clue what he was talking about, but we were too polite to say.

Up there in our lazy northern backwater there was little that couldn’t be settled by the application of the Good-hiding, Thrashing and Fettling laws of 1383, which we’d never got around to repealing. We never had the benefit of deferred achievement and had to learn stuff the old-fashioned way – practice, practice and more practice. And we knew that to get ahead you had to work hard, keep out of trouble and bide your time.

Yorkshire bookkeeping

The creeping liberal disease of instant gratification without effort was never going to bring us to our knees. Or so we thought. I visited God’s own country not long ago and not only do they have violent crime, hatred, distrust and pressure-cooker multiculturalism, just like everywhere else, they’ve even got t’Internet. Where will it end?

Today, if you go to Hull, the only prehistoric relic you’ll find is… John Prescott.

[1] Tommy Cooper, Gawd rest ‘is soul!

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