The North South divide
355 miles done.
I’m typing this sat in a tree lined park with a river running through it. Its boiling hot (for England) so I’m working in the shade of a tree. Dana, who I can just see over the top of a hedge is in the play ground and as usual is at the top of the climbing frame hanging upside down. There are two teenagers on the picnic bench nearby discussing their love lives and the upcoming summer holidays. Its your typical English park scene.
We’re about 5 miles south of Luton. I liked Luton a lot, we got a lot of help, met some really interesting people from the NUT and UKIP with strong ideas and there was a real sense of energy to the town. Its been, however, a long time since I’ve seen so many people with a drugs problem out in the open in a town centre. It surprised me- we usually hide these things away from our town centres in the UK. We’ve covered about 355 miles and London is looming; the end is fast approaching. We’ve been through Oxford, Leighton Buzzard, Luton and a lot of tiny villages since I last wrote.
Based on my experiences from this trip I’ve come to a conclusion I never, ever thought I’d hear my say, or write: so listen carefully because I’m only going to whisper it once. Southerners are incredibly helpful and friendly. They may even been more helpful than northerners.This goes against all stereotypes and reputations, and I say this as a born northerner; someone who has a complete love of the north of England engrained in my soul. But based on the evidence from this journey I can’t deny that we have received the most help in the last week.
England has a border with Wales and Scotland but it also has a cultural borders that divide it up further. There is ’The North’ (capital letters necessary) ’The South’ and then a rather Tolkien-esk sounding ’Midlands’. These borders are not official and everyone you speak to will have a slightly different view of where they lie, but The North basically comprises Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield and Hull upwards to the border with Scotland. The South starts at Bath, Oxford, Luton, Norfolk and downwards to the Channel. The stereotype goes that The North is poorer, less educated and there are fewer jobs but the people are very friendly and warm. The South stereotype is the polar opposite; affluence, opportunity but the people are not helpful or friendly.
According to these cultural borders we spent the first two weeks in The North, a month in the Midlands and we are now in The South. And we’ve never had so much help. Since being in The South we have been helped every night in some way, a farmer has brought us bacon and sausage butties (sandwiches), we’ve offered showers, beers and whatever patch of land people have to offer. This has genuinely completey surprised me. Last night a family took us in as it was going dark, let us camp in their garden, made us a fire and sat talking with us until midnight. They made us breakfast and tea this morning. A few nights ago an ’intentional community’ (co-housing and farming) invited us in to their centre and cooked us dinner. This was the first time we had been invited in for food. I’d like to point out here people have been generous and helpful all along the way, but they have been especially generous over the last week when, according to reputation they should be less helpful.
We’ve asked a few people about this and one lady in the playground here in the park explained ” Northerners are friendly in a superficial way, they talk to you in the street but are less willing to help. Southerners are the other way round, they don’t talk to you initally but they will help. ” The lady at the house last night wondered if it was maybe an economic issue, that southerners have more to offer and so they do.
For me the jury is out on this new discovery, I don’t know what I think the reasons are but whilst I’m thinking about it I will be happily reaping the benefits of a very friendly South.
Do follow our progress on http://punkt.luxson.com/daddyadventurer/