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Apocalypse North
England is two nations, north and south it is often said. Most people think this refers to the wealth gap, they have more money in the south, in the north we have better beer, better pies and we get more sex. But the real gap is cultural. This does not mean southerners are always at the opera or ballet while we are at football or bingo. It means southerners are obsessed with social status, we in the north couldn't give a fuck what you think of us so long as we're having a laugh.

Apocalypse North
by Ian R Thorpe
2005-06-02
CREATIVE COMMONS: Attribute, non commercial, no derivs.
KEYWORDS: north, england, culture, tradition, sex, lancashire, yorkshire, essex, movie, television, satire, humour, humor, bad, dubious, taste

As the film The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse penetrates the public consciousness I brace myself for the usual barrage of questions along the lines of "is the north of England really that scary Ian?" The simple answer is "No…. Its scarier."

People in the more refined south cannot get their heads round northern England at all. Only a decade ago I had to put up with a colleague whose idea of a rural idyll was a shoebox semi-detached somewhere in the giant suburban utopia that is the south east constantly harping on about Coronation Street and people keeping coal in the bath. Eventually I showed him a picture of the view from my front window at the time, looking across the Calder Valley towards Pendle Hill. Then I warned him never to come to Accrington and say joke northerner phrases like "ee bah goom" or "poot kettle on mother," or very bad things would happen.

Now those of you who have read Catherine Cookson might think I am doing the usual "by 'eck its grim up north tha knoz, but we're all 'ard bastards," thing.

Well FORGET Cookson! The North Is Well Hard.

And forget the big cities like Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield. They have gone soft and cosmopolitan, their names reek of Body Shop and Chardonnay; some of them even have branches McDonalds. Beyond those metropolitan Meccas of Upward Mobility lie the towns that time forgot. In such places the real north, land of Royston Vaseyish weirdos. If you want to see the north as nature intended you must gird up your loins and go native, mix with eel swallowers, toad botherers, men with ferrets down their trousers and pigeon molesters. They might be barm pots but they are our barm pots and we will defend them with our last drop of blood.

I was once asked by a southerner had I ever had sex in a graveyard. Up here anyone who hasn't had sex in a graveyard is a virgin and anyone who hasn't had sex with one of the permanent inhabitants of a graveyard is a wimp. Do you remember those Essex girl jokes, the best of which were about having sex in a Ford Mondeo. To a northern lass sex in a Ford Mondeo is an undreamed of luxury, having sex on the back seat of the bus is as good as it gets. We had better jokes about the northern lasses of course: how do you know when a Yorkshire girl has an orgasm - she drops her bag of chips. (if any American readers have found their way here, that's "freedom fries,")

A safe itinerary for newcomers to the north is the trek that follows the River Ribble inland. As you get further from the coast you will notice eyebrows getting bushier and hairlines getting lower until at Blackburn the natives the two merge and the foreheads disappears. A few miles further on and in Accrington we start to see more people with a single, central eye. We cannot follow the Ribble now, it swings northwards to the lands inhabited by Shakespeare's "wild men of Lancashire" and so we head east following the River Calder upstream as it takes us through Nelson and Colne. Here you will see the traditional rows of neat terraced houses, each having a hairless child with bad teeth and a banjo sitting on the doorstep. These unfortunate infants are waiting for the pieman to collect them.

They will be back home in a few days though, each wearing a brand new coat of short crust pastry. But we do not put all children in meat pies, just the ones who misbehave.

Is the north really as scary as The League of Gentlemen's mythical Royston Vasey you still wonder. I should tell you these effete young actors planned to film in my locality but found the locals frightened them and they relocated to civilised Derbyshire. There are plenty of oddballs in small towns everywhere of course, but we northerners are odd in a much more sinister way. Things have improved in the past century and a half however. Since we exported all our religious nuts to America we no longer burn old women for being ugly and owning cats.

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