Saturday, 17 October 2009

South meets North. Before and After

"Eh up! Where's yer whippet?" Yep, you guessed it, that's me being Northern.

"Why are you being Northern?" I hear you cry.

Good question. I am practising my accent because this week I am heading to a bleak and desolate place called "the North", and I wanted to learn the language to try and fit in.

Before you try and talk sense to me, I have a very good reason for venturing into virtually uncharted territory. I am off to see friends Deanna and Michael and their two month old baby Gabriel.

As I set off from Forest Hill on my three hour journey northward, the sky was azure, the birds were singing and the autumnal trees were bathed in sunshine. That's what it's like down South that is.

Pic. No. 1 My temperature dial before I set off

My journey took me up the M40 and onto the M6 where the illuminated motorwway signs immediately informed me of 'long delays between junctions 16 and 18'. Is it me? Why does it seem a logistical impossibility to simply get on the M6 and get off again at your desired junction without some drama or other? It just doesn't happen, and I have a theory why; as if paying your road tax wasn't enough, Birmingham has recently opened a toll-road to avoid congestion in the Midlands.

This is the conspiracy; if there wasn't congenstion of some form or antoher on the regular M6, then the supersized toll-road wouldn't be used ......... and therefore no money generated....... ummmm. In addition to this, I have also noticed that there have been 'roadworks' [cough u-hum] for years, just to the north of Birmingham at the point where you decide whether you want to use the toll-road or not. Have I ever seen anyone working on the roadworks? No sirree, it is the 'heavy plant' equivalent of the Marie Celeste.

Pic. No. 2. The iconoclastic Fort Dunlop building in Birmingham

Anyway, to try and keep you vaguely interested, I managed to get a photograph of the famous Fort Dunlop in Birmingham as I crawled through the roadworks.

"Blimey, that's boring," I hear you complain. But have you ever tried to amass visual material to work with when you are on a motorway for three hours? It's mighty difficult, I can assure you, and Fort Dunlop is a bit of a rabbit in the hat in these circumstances.

As I continued my drive up the M6, I was hoping that the signs warning of long delays further up would eventually disappear. Did they? Nope. That meant that I had to take the scenic route at Junction 15 for Stoke which added another thirty minutes to my journey [interesting fact (notice that it is a singular interesting fact] about Stoke - Take That's Robbie Williams was born and brought up here].

Pic. No. 3 The green country lanes around Stoke

Eventually, I got back to the motorway and as time ebbed by, signs of civilisation gradually waned. There are two definitive ways to know for sure that you have reached 'up North'.

1. When you tap your Sat Nav and look for restaurants in the 'points of interest near you' menu, you will find that Starbucks is no longer listed.
2. The weather is rubbish and deteriorates the moment you pass the invisible yet nearly tangible boundary. And can you believe it? I actually managed to get a picture of the North / South divide.

Pic. No. 4 Blue sky with wispy clouds in the southern bit, then you can clearly see a line of dark clouds over the northern bit (no they are not hills!)

After turning on the windscreen wipers, cranking up the heating, and attempting to take pictures of the numerous pits, mills, hills and pit ponies, I finally arrived at Deanna and Michael's house in the lovely village of Barrowford.

Pic. No. 5 The temperature dial after leaving the south

It's bloody freezing up here - how do people survive in this cold, cruel and inhospitable environment? A penguin would struggle to keep toasty. Even worse than that, how do they survive without Starbucks? I will keep you posted on how I get on with three days of living off the land and eating things that would make a billy goat puke.

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