You can take the girl out of Shakey Wakey...
You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.
I hear these words as I open up a new word document and begin writing this blog. For years I've rolled my eyes at those tab articles titled something like:
‘TEN things that your NORTHERN housemate does that’s SO WEIRD. Spoiler: they want a BATH in GRAVY and will scratch at the pavement in an attempt to DIG A COAL MINE.’
Reader, I've become the very thing I hate. But it's time. Buckle up, I'm going to take you on a rollercoaster of experiences I've had moving all the way down south from humble Shakey Wakey. Hope you've got a pasty to hand, because you'll either burn your mouth in excitement or be left in lukewarm disappointment.
“Bristol?” My friends questioned over half highlighted revision notes in the sixth form canteen, but “that’s so far?”
In reality, it’s not that far away. Only a few hours down the M1 in a car, but at 18 it felt like I was half the world away, mainly because of the excruciating 4 hour cross country service from Bristol Temple Meads to Wakefield Westgate (seriously, that train stops EVERYWHERE, not to mention the painful change over at Birmingham New Street and you end up travelling backwards every time. Sick maker.)
But besides almost getting mowed over by cyclists every 2 minutes and the lack of big Morrisons, I soon found Bristol to be somewhere I could easily call home.
My family are used to me living here now, but at first they treated the journey from Wakefield to Bristol like it was an episode of ice road truckers, bracing themselves at Tamworth Services to cross the imaginary north south line. My beloved Grandma without a doubt still discusses the weather like I reside in some unknown island in the Bermuda triangle. Her most used phrase being ‘how’s the weather...down there?’ followed by our mutual astonishment that it is in fact, similar.
In September I will have lived here for five whole years. You would think that people would have gotten over the fact I have a bit of a regional accent. Reader, you are mistaken. Sometimes I watch my southern accented friends as they turn red in the face and kiss their teeth in an attempt to restrain themselves repeating how I say the word ‘No.’ Eventually it erupts out of their face in a guttural demonic outcry. (Think that part in Finding Nemo when Dory is communicating with the whale.)
Neeeeeerrrrrr. NoOOoOoehh. Nuuuuuuueeeeerrrr. By this point I just humour them, give them a wide eyed nod and be glad they got it out of their system.
I very much still have my accent, but there are certain words that I have naturally trained myself into speaking with more of an RP twang, these include the words ‘diet coke’ and ‘oat latte’. This is mainly due to the fact I rehearse my order in my head like I’m about to make my debut at the National Theatre and if I say these words in my accent, I will definitely have to repeat myself thrice with the barista still staring at me in bewilderment.
Working in an escape room for four years has meant that I have had to adapt my usual way of saying the word ‘code’ before the customers raise their hands in confusion and say ‘excuuusseee me I don’t understand! You want us to escape the room using...curd? Like lemon curd? WAHHHH’ I assume you’re beginning to think I’m exaggerating, but I do believe that in life there are two times when a person is least logical, panicked beyond despair and desperately wants their Mum:
1) Moments after they are born.
2) The 15 minutes before entering an escape room... (and the hour they are inside it too.)
Moving on. Before I get fired.
This means I do have a slight hybrid of a southern/northern accent, so I still stick out down here but get called posh when returning back home. Sigh. You just can’t win.
Working in the arts and being northern means I get shoehorned into a certain kind of role. You guessed it, a coarse working class lass who is really mad at the world. Or a downtrodden Elizabethan maid. If I had a pound every time I got asked to read the ‘rough’ character or a sex worker in creative writing classes I’d have like, 5 quid (you know who you are, I haven’t forgotten). I’m very much aware that it’s not only Northerners who get typecast, people with all kinds of regional accents and people of all ethnicities get shoved into their respective moulds far too often.
But if I am just looking at TV, have you ever seen a northern actor who is just navigating their life and the plot isn't centred around some gritty kind-hearted brash soul that doesn’t include some dark narrative like crippling addiction? I’m struggling. This plays a huge part in the way southerners see us northern lot, and it also makes sense why there was a rumour going round that Roy from Corrie was my Dad.
A big shocker I’ve found in recent years is the lack of geography knowledge north of Swindon, some very well educated and intelligent people have genuinely asked me if Yorkshire is IN Leeds. Barbaric!
Going to Uni I was thrown into a pool of people from all over the UK, the first few months involved a conversation that loosely followed this script:
"Where are you from?"
"Is that in Manchester?"
"No, it’s sort of near Leeds"
"Oh, I have family Leeds. Do you know my Aunt Mabel?"
I resulted in just streamlining my answer to "WakefiedNearLeeds" and braced myself for the onslaught of Jon Snow impressions.
I am making fun, but genuinely coming from a place where I didn’t really stand out at all to somewhere where I was a little bit unique was actually quite exciting. Especially being on a drama course and the first few months being so loud and heightened - people tended to remember the short girl with a thick northern voice. I lapped up the attention, even if it was for a week...
I think every northerner living in the south of England develops a special super power: the acute ability to hear a northern accent from across a noisy room.
It’s quite a pointless power, you would never walk up to them in Tesco and say hey! I’m northern too! Let’s be friends! They’d look at you like you’d just pulled down your britches and shit yourself or worse, they'd talk to you about where they're from and the conversation would grind to a halt once you've both told each other your hometowns.
It is nice to hear a comforting northern twang every now and again, still, it’s a silly superpower - I’d much prefer telekinesis.
There are so many things that were a shock to the system when I moved, so I’ve compiled a short list of the few that spring to mind, I feel like a lot of them are very subjective to my own experiences so don’t come for me if you disagree (or if you do my twitter is @daisymkenn, I’m always up for a keyboard argument). Anyway, here is the list:
Waitrose is a thing. I’d only ever heard of it in a Jacqueline Wilson book, and even then I thought she’d made it up.
The term ‘fair play’. What are we playing and why is it always fair?
No pound bakeries anywhere.
Devon and Cornwall have some weird feud going on, they're very tender about it.
On that note, don't absentmindedly say you like pasties around someone from Cornwall, they'll fiercely let you know that the pasty shop in their hometown is the only place that sells real pasties.
Ginnel isn’t a word that’s used. Neither is snicket.
People on public transport don’t talk to you as much. I’ve got to admit, this one’s a bit of a blessing.
Only bring up the teacake/bread roll thing if you have time to spare and hate yourself.
People from the Midlands claiming they're northern. Stop it.
Bristol tap water is horrid. You mean when I move out and have to actually pay for water it tastes like it’s been sat in a hot car for three days?
Price of a pint. Let me melt into the cliche for a second, but £7 for a pint? The next time I discuss the weather with Grandma I’ll tell her the rain here isn’t due to the water cycle, but it’s just God’s big fat tears over the price of a harbourside pint of ale.
Image by Liz Kay
Goodness, this all came tumbling out of my fingertips. Guess I’ve been holding onto this for a few years. To clarify, I dearly love both cities and their individual quirks, the majority of my favourite people live in these places so they will always be very special, but it is crazy how England is so tiny yet there is such a divide between north and south. Cheers to Maggie for widening the gap ey? Oh no, I've started talking Thatcher, best get back to my gravy bath.
P.S I hope I haven’t offended any of my southern friends, and if you are offended, please get over it. You make me say the word 'bath' like a toddler saying their first word.