Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The North South Divide

Wednesday night is a good night to rant at the moment.


We are well into the new series of The Apprentice, a reality show that pits the (supposedly) greatest young entrepreneurs of Britain with Alan Sugar, aka Sir Alan Sugar, aka Lord Sugar.

It seems like he gains a new title every time they film a new series. What next? King Alan the First?

Anyway, I digress. I used to rant about Alan Sugar, the founder of Amstrad but I have warmed to him over the years. He is famous now for being Britain’s most belligerent boss, a man who is almost impossible to please and who does not suffers fools at all.

The Apprentice is compelling viewing. Lord Sugar takes a handful of young arseholes and puts them through a terrible ordeal with the dubious prize of being able to work for him for a six figure salary.

The candidates are all young and have one thing in common: their arrogance is breath-taking.

I watch the show hurling abuse at how cocky these fools are. They claim to be expert sales people, fantastic marketing gurus who will make loads of money for Lord Sugar. Yet most of them are absolute idiots who have a massive ego but little else.

And Lord Sugar delights in exposing them and shooting them down in flames – and he delights me too.

A week or two ago, one contestant made me reach a new level of anger when watching the show. To my amazement, Mrs PM also let rip and our TV almost buckled under the assault from the two of us.

Lord Sugar sent the candidates from London up to the Trafford Centre in Manchester to sell the latest London fashions to Mancunians. I was already irritated by the phrase latest London fashions when one of the candidates said something that enraged the two of us.

“Manchester is two years behind London.”


“THE CHEEKY BUGGER!” screamed Mrs PM.

Can you believe that?

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised at this sweeping and wholly inaccurate slur on my adopted city. A few people in the South of England pour scorn on the North.

When I say “South” I really mean “Greater London” because in reality quite a few people of that city and the surrounding towns look down on Northerners. I am not joking when I say that there are some from the London area who don’t actually know anything about life north of Watford.

Many years ago, I was visiting friends in London and we found ourselves in a night club near Camden Town. At the end of the evening, a young woman asked me where I was from. The conversation went something like this:

Southern Belle: So where are you from?

Plastic Mancunian: Manchester.

Southern Belle: Manchester? Where’s that then?

Plastic Mancunian: You are joking, right?

Southern Belle: No. Whereabouts in London is Manchester?

Plastic Mancunian: It’s not in London. Its 250 miles away.

Southern Belle: Oh! Are you getting home in a taxi?

I swear I am not making that up. I have had similar conversations with people who have said, quite seriously:

“Manchester? That’s north of Watford innit? Why would anybody live north of Watford?”

It makes you feel like punching them.

It is this perception of the North that really annoys me. I love London as a city but some of its residents are bizarrely arrogant. When questioned about life north of Watford they consider us all to wear cloth caps, breed whippets and pigeons and say things like:




Let me aim this post at that minority of Southerners and just say this.

We are not stupid.

We are not two years behind London.

We are friendly.

We do not say “ECKY THUMP!”

I could go on. I could dismiss everything that these people think but it is not worth it. Some of them would never travel out of earshot of Bow Bells – unless they were to move into the Home Counties of course.

Actually, to be honest, I suffer at the hands of both Northerners and Southerners.

I was born in Walsall, near Birmingham, i.e. I am from the Midlands. I am regarded as a pariah by both Northerners and Southerners. Northerners call me a Southern Jessie. Southerners call me a Northern Arse.

I reckon now, in the North, I have been accepted because I have lived in Manchester for longer than I lived in the Midlands and these days I even count myself as a Northerner.

And to any Southerners who feel that travelling North of Watford is like stepping back into the Stone Age, I think you should pay us a visit. We might not be able to understand what you say but we are a friendly bunch and we do have interpreters.

I am joking of course. The regional accents in England can change dramatically within a few miles. Sometimes though, it can be difficult to understand the cockney accent or even the Greater London accent.

I remember meeting a lad at university who was from the south of England. I understood everything he said until he told me where he was from.

“EMOO” he said.


“EMOO! You know. EMOO EMSTID!”

“Where? Spell it!”

“H-E-M-E-L H-E-M-P-S-T-E-A-D!”

“OH! Hemel Hempstead!”

“That’s what I said. Where are you from?”




“Warsaw? Are you Polish?”

“No! W-A-L-S-A-L-L!”

So my accent in those days was just as difficult to understand.

I will finish off by saying that I actually like cockneys and Southerners but I will add that if you are a Southerner reading this who thinks that Northerners are Neanderthals who worry sheep then think again. The North of England is beautiful – so is the Midlands.

And there IS life outside London and particularly north of Watford.

It most certainly is not “GRIM OOP NORTH!!”.


I will leave you with an ode to Southerners everywhere:

Alexei Sayle’s “'Ullo John! Gotta New Motor!”

We don’t think all Southerners are like that!


Anji said...

Great post. This happens everywhere of course. Did you know that in France we don't include Parisiens as being French, they are 'Parisiens' and their attitude is just the same as Londoners. They don't understand how people could live in the North - or the South...

My mum's from Great Barr.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Anji,

I know all about France and the Parisians. I've been there a few times and everybody outside of the capital is really friendly - in Paris they seem "cold".

Mrs PM lived in Toulouse for a year and she agrees.

Great Barr - just down the road from Walsall. Nice!




Kath Lockett said...

Heehee! Try being an AUSSIE living in London for two years and having this particular joke:
Q - what's the difference between a pot of yoghurt and an Aussie?
A: - the yoghurt develops culture after a few days
.....every single day. Usually by yobs who thought a bacon sarnie was fancy food.

Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

I can imagine the stick that Aussie's get "darn sarf".

We get things like:

"I went to the Norf once - it was closed!"





River said...

How the heck do you all manage to understand each other? It's almost like China with its differing dialects in each province.
China does have provinces? Or am I confused with somewhere else?

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

With great difficulty sometimes - especially people from Glasgow!

You are quite correct - China does have provinces - and when I was there recenly, a couple of guys from Beijing struggled to make themselves understood in Kunming even though they spoke the same language...