The North: (And Almost Everything In It)
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Here is the north, this is where it lies, where it belongs, full of itself, high up above everything else, surrounded by everything that isn't the north, that's off the page, somewhere else...
Paul Morley grew up in Reddish, less than five miles from Manchester and even closer to Stockport. Ever since the age of seven, old enough to form an identity but too young to be aware that 'southern' was a category, Morley has always thought of himself as a northerner. What that meant, he wasn't entirely sure. It was for him, as it is for millions of others in England, an absolute, indisputable truth. But he wondered why, when as a child he was so ready to abandon his Cheshire roots and support the much more successful Lancashire cricket team, and when as an adult he found he could travel between London and Manchester in less than two hours, he continued to say he was from the North.
Forty years after walking down grey pavements on his way to school, Paul explores what it means to be northern and why those who consider themselves to be believe it so strongly. Like industrial towns dotted across great green landscapes of hills and valleys, Morley breaks up his own history with fragments of his region's own social and cultural background. Stories of his Dad spreading margarine on Weetabix stand alongside those about northern England's first fish and chip shop in Mossley, near Oldham. And out of these lyrical memories rise many disconnected voices of the north; Wordsworth's poetry, Larkin's reflections and Formby's guitar. Morley maps the entire history of northern England through its people and the places they call home - from the frozen landscapes of the Ice Age to the Norman invasion to the construction of the Blackpool tower - to show that the differences go deeper than just an accent.
Ambitiously sweeping and beautifully impressionistic, without ever losing touch with the minute details of life above the M25, The North is an extraordinary mixture of memoir and history, a unique insight into how we, as a nation, classify the unclassifiable.
they were stupid and aggressive, encouraged me to do so well in my eleven-plus that I leaped above the medium-level Mile End Grammar and won one of the scholarships that went to the fifteen top children in all of Cheshire, giving me a place in a school that seemed nineteenth-century in an entirely different way, Stockport Grammar. The comprehensive conjured up visions of ill-disciplined teenagers the rough side of mod and the mad side of rocker, while the grammar school suggested a world where
bricks, all those hills and all those chimneys, all those kerbs, pylons and sudden turnings. Past some stubborn, colossal buildings that seem to have been around for centuries, and others, glassier and slighter, which seem to have impetuously popped up and might burst at any moment. Sometimes I found the north as I looked at a picture of something that happened before I was born, or a few years after. Sometimes it was at the side of the road that I was walking along, wondering where it would
genuine missing link, as myth and reality, between shrouded Roman Manchester and the Industrial Revolution. Even if just a hastily dug act of fear as the Vikings stormed ever closer, it required in its own medieval way the sort of planning, dedication and strength usually ascribed to the Roman era and the Victorian Manchester that shook up the world, and itself. In Reddish it cut across from Gorton Cemetery a few hundred yards to the east of my primary school, in between the local park where as
soon as she hurtled out of astonishing oblivion into this little Reddish room covered in flowered wallpaper the colour of a sticking plaster, the north had rushed into her and influenced her mind as though it alone could represent the difference between not existing and existing. Carol could now be added to a list of northern moments, incidents, personalities, jokes, sentences, routes that included: 48 1907 Wystan Hugh Auden was born at 54 Bootham, York on 21 February 1907, the youngest son
that made me think of televised Saturday-afternoon wrestling. A few damp matches would be struck before there was any sort of ignition. The coal would splutter into life behind the cheap buckled metal fire guard and above piles of soft grey ash from the day before and even the day before that, pathetic little flames forcing themselves into flickering motion soon gaining in confidence and alerting the icy grey room where we were gathered to the benefit of warmth. After early-morning fire duty,