I’ve brushed past many different countries in my life as a musician. Some places have seen me passing through dressed as a tourist. (The world of business has taken me nowhere, presumably because I have never done anything business related). Anyway, I’ve been to a few places around this globe, but there it nowhere that stirs my poetic soul more than the North of England, the place of my birth.
I’ve wondered why this is. There are so many more “exciting” places to spend my time. Is it because I have an intrinsic understanding of northern humour? Is it because I have friends here? Is it because I understand the language? Is if because I know what to wear to fit with the weather? Is it because I like my world to be constantly damp? Is it because I am, underneath my romancing of foreign shores, a home bird? I think all of those things are true, but I’ve taken it to another level. See below.
A man I used to know once posed an age old philosophical question to me. At the time I just thought he was winding me up by showing off his superior intellect. However, since then I have been mentally chewing on the question at length.
He sited an example of a ship, built to sail the seven seas. Lets say the ship was called ‘Ethel’. Over the years, Ethel fell foul of many a storm at sea. She started to become rusted and ruined by the ravages of the waves. Her old, wind battered mast was replaced by a brand new shiny mast. Her boot-trampled deck was replaced, as well her salt-rotten underbelly. In fact, every part of her was, over time, removed and replaced - everything down to the screws and bolts that held her together.
I have pondered this. Is this ship still Ethel? Should she be given a new name to go with her new parts? If so, at what point does she stop being Ethel and become, say, Betty? She still looks like Ethel, and she still sails like Ethel.
You might suppose that spending time wondering about this issue is not productive, but I would disagree. (I’m secretly a millionaire you know)
Science would have it that over the course of a lifetime, every cell in a human being’s body is discarded and replaced by a new cell. Nothing in my being, from my birth date to my death, will remain un-renewed. This indicates that the sum of the parts that equal the very essence of what we call a ‘human being’ is not merely physical. (can't believe I just, actually, wrote that down. If I read that cold, I wouldn’t understand it all, but at least I know what I mean). I was Nancy when I was born and I will still be Nancy when I die. There probably won’t be a point in my life where I decide that I’ve got enough new cells to warrant a change of name by deed pole (although I wouldn’t put it past myself entirely)
I figured the defining factor that makes Ethel Ethel might be summed up by the word “purpose”. Without her parts, she would not be able to fulfil that purpose. Ethel was made to sail the seven seas, and so long as Ethel sails the seven seas, she is, and always will be, Ethel.
I don’t mean to get too heavy on you, but my point is thus… my love of the North of England is no shallow matter. I was born here. I breathe the northern air and it melds into my being. I drink the northern water and it flows into my veins. The person and the place are inextricably linked. I’m like a ship, and The North is both my timber and my sea. That seems a bit of an abstruse metaphor. To put it in a less daft way, my body is made from northern atoms, and I also live here.
I first learned how to sail in the lagoon of Wigan in my formative years. Wigan and I have shared something that will never be known by anyone other than Wigan and I. I could not escape that fact even if I were to live out the rest of my days on Mars.
I’m a passionate person in general. I could easily be accused of being overly romantic, but just imagine that boats could speak. I’m sure that, in accord with her stern desire to sail, Ethel would speak very highly of the trees from whence her timbre came and the sea on which she sails.
I think that this is why I adore The North. It is to a point where a warm shiver runs right through me every time I hear a person from Clitheroe say the word “horse”. I adore the way that Mancunians whine and twist their words. Scousers make me smile with their oceanic twangings and every time I hear someone form Yorkshire say “goat” or “boat” or “moat” I want to collapse with excitement (n.b. technically I should be opposed to flattery directed at anything Yorkshire, but the war of the roses was a long time ago and I’m trying to grow as a person).
You can imagine how sensually overloading it is for me to go outdoors. I can hardly walk down my street without hearing a round vowel or a cutting consonant, and don’t get me started on the differing shades of grey you can find in the clouds.
There might be many adventures to be had in this world, but nothing compares to the wonder of walking on the rain sodden soil of home. There might be dishes of such flavour that a king would marvel at their taste, but nothing compares to a Yorkshire pudding on a Sunday (sorry Lancashire, I’m coming to you – best for last). There might be music that boggles the mind with its exotic harmony, but nothing compares to the Smiths on full volume as you drive down the M62. There might be Azalia, Orchid and Lotus, but nothing compares to the red, red rose.