As you will know, if you follow me on Twitter, I am originally from the North West of England – Haydock, to be precise. Haydock as in the race course – that seems to be how I describe Haydock to anyone down South. I am a Northerner living down South.
I moved down South in the early 90’s and lived the good life as a single girl in London. Oh, the memories of Ladbroke Grove on a Saturday, Camden on a Sunday, drinks by the Thames most evenings after work, house parties, flat-shares, games nights and lots and lots of drinking. Living in London on the Millennium was pretty amazing. I am still not sure how I managed to fit in any work with the social life I had, but somehow I did. I loved London and still do.
I took a short break from London to live overseas as a holiday rep (the less said about that the better, my mother reads this blog) and then in 2002, I met my husband – a proper Enfield boy – and we moved to Kent in 2003 after we married.
In effect, I have lived down south for longer than I lived up North but the North is in my blood and I still think of myself as a Northerner.
When I first moved to London and started to work in the travel industry, I consciously changed the way I pronounced one word.
I pronounced it “boo-king” not “book-ing” much to the amusement of my work colleagues. Whenever I waltzed up to someone and said “can I chat about this boo-king”, I was always met with “calm down, calm down” and lots of waving of arms and head bobbing. Harry Enfield has a lot to answer for!!!
Now, although my accent has changed, I am no longer regarded as having a Northern accent when I am up North but I am also not regarded as having a Southern accent when I am down south. The Northerners think I speak like a Southerner and the Southerners think I speak like a Northerner.
Even my youngest likes to get involved in taking the mick out of the way I pronounce certain words and letters. He also likes to tell people he can speak two languages – English and Northern. Although in my defence, he thought ‘thirteen’ started with an F and he rarely pronounces the T in qualiTy. He gets that from his Dad.
Pants and trousers. When I grew up, the boys wore pants and underpants. Down here we have trousers and pants. On occasion back up North, the pants/trousers were also referred to as Kecks/Kex – usually when describing Farah trousers in the 80’s. Farah Kecks/Kex – a must have item for any wardrobe.
Lunch, Dinner, Tea or Supper?
This is a favourite discussion in our home.
When I was growing up, we had breakfast, dinner and tea. My children now have breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Visiting my parents, who still live up North, becomes entertaining when my mum asks what people want for dinner and my eldest, very literal, son just cannot get his head around why his Grandma calls it dinner when it’s lunch. Tea is something he drinks, as far as he is concerned you don’t have a meal called Tea.
Thankfully breakfast is the same throughout. We have introduced him recently to Brunch and that has been entertaining. Why have brunch and not breakfast and lunch? Why have one meal instead of two? He also believes this means the word lunch has to be correct as we call it Brunch and not Brinner!
I recently read a very amusing article in The Guardian from David Barnett. What is a pie barm? I read this with tears rolling down my face because I can still remember the first time my husband saw me put a pie on a barm (aka Bap, Roll, Bun) – he really thought I was joking. If you have never tried it, you really have to. It’s a carb feast, so perhaps just an occasional treat and usually best to have Gaviscon available for an hour or so later – but definitely worth a go. The heartburn is a small price to pay for such a glorious combination.
I grew up on Pimbletts pies – when Gran came on a Thursday they were always on the menu for
dinner tea, along with a barm and of course, one of their infamous vanilla slices.
One thing I sadly missed down South was Chip Shops offering Chips and Gravy!
Down South, this is just not done. Mushy peas – yes. Curry sauce – yes. Gravy – WHAT???? When I asked for this in any chip shops down south, the reaction always made me think of Peter Kay’s Dad when offered Garlic Bread. “Garlic? And Bread? Did I hear you right?” I used to get this look of pure confusion. “Chips? With Gravy?” You would think I had asked for some rare foreign delicacy.
So imagine my pure delight when we purchased the caravan last year and found out that our lovely Clubhouse offers Chips and Gravy on the menu.
I am so happy to be able to share this delight with my children – they had looked at me with faint concern when I had mentioned it. They (and my husband) had presumed I was just making this up or perhaps reacting to some medication – how could chips and gravy be a real thing? However, my children are now truly converted. The pride I feel as I watch them dipping their chips in the gravy will only be surpassed on the day they put a pie on a barm.
Scouse, Lobbies or Stew?
Of course, even up North, there are a variety of different phrases or words for the same thing. For example, my kids love what we call Scouse, my mum called it scouse. It’s a lamb stew – there’s a recipe here (but I have to admit we never used cabbage or Worcestershire sauce). However, even my Gran didn’t call it Scouse, she called it Lobbies. She said it was because you lobbed everything into the pan. Whatever you call it, the twins love it so if it’s ever on your menu, give us a shout.
Also, when we have hotpot, there’s none of this Lancashire hotpot with potatoes on top. Hotpot in Haydock comes with a big fat serving of shortcrust pastry – which soaks up the gravy, what could be more delicious? Many a New Years Eve party has ended with a huge plate of Scouse/Lobbies with a shortcrust pastry topping – and of course, half a jar of pickled red cabbage. What better way to soak up the booze and start the New Year?
North or South?
The North will always be where I think of as my roots – I have many fond memories of my childhood – Blackpool Lights (or Illuminations if you’re not from the North West) and Ainsdale Beach watching Red Rum train on an evening. Camping in the Lake District, swimming in Coniston even when it was -2 and Kendal Mint Cake. Weekend trips to Rhyl when it opened one of the first wave pools.
There’s also the not so fond memories of Hillsborough and the Miners Strike. I believe growing up in the North West in the 80’s gave me my passion for speaking out and saying when I think things are wrong.
As a teenager, my formative years were spent at Wigan Pier, Peppermint Place, The Palace, Henry Africa’s, the Hacienda and who can forget “Hit Man and Her”? Tacchini tracky tops, Pringle jumpers and Farah Kecks/Kex? Growing up in the 80’s in the North West was kind of fun.
But, I do love living in Kent. Yes, the system for children with SEND could be better but that applies across the country. Yes, I miss having family close by, especially for my children. However, I love being 20 mins from the coast and 40 mins from London. I love being close to the Channel Tunnel or 20 miles from Dover for the ferry to France. I love being a ten-minute drive from woodland and being surrounded by lots of small villages. I do, however, struggle to understand why some people down here insist on putting butter on a burger roll! Chips and gravy – fine. Butter on a burger roll – wrong! So very very wrong.
My children will always be reminded that they are half Northern and they will always be encouraged to embrace their heritage. However, now I have a place to purchase chips and gravy, I think, after 14 years, I can finally settle here in Kent.
What about you?
If you grew up in a different part of the country to where you live now, what differences have you found? What are the things you miss? Have you changed anything to do with your accent or the words you use? I would love to hear from you.
8 thoughts on “Being a Northerner Down South”
Kecks! Yes! And definitely all that confusion around the meal times. We had a discussion about brunch just the other day, with Sasha finding it hysterical and she came up with ‘linner’ as the next meal, or ‘dunch’ (lunch and dinner, geddit?! 😉 ). I’ve spent 11 years trying to persuade my girls to say ‘bath’ instead of ‘barth’ but I’m not totally convinced I’ve won yet thank to my Surrey born husband :/ I do miss it up Norf but can’t deny the weather is mostly better down here (though actually the coastline in my old hometown is a peculiar magnet for the sun too!).
Oh don’t get me started on the Bath/Barth thing. It’s a constant battle but one I will eventually win.
Pimblets meat & potato pie on a BBC (Buttered Barm Cake) mnnnnnn
Now that sounds like total bliss and I know just by reading that, you are a true Northerner!
Of course I took it to the extreme and moved country! And even after 27 years in Ireland, I still haven’t completely lost my British accent, as my kids regularly remind me and mock the way I say certain words. But in other ways I’m nearly Irish, I feel as though this is the home I was always looking for, despite the problems you find everywhere x
I have to say I like the idea of living in Ireland. If they offer chips and gravy, I may even look into it.
I think the North/South divide re: chips and gravy missed Wales! We love chips and gravy here, my favourite meal growing up was homemade chips and oxo gravy. I’ve never lived anywhere but the valleys, so I can’t comment on the other stuff haha x
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