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.
gallantry abroad.’ By the late nineteenth century the Irish presence is nearly 200,000 strong, belonging in neither their old home but loving its memory, nor their new home, there but not there, yet, but falling in love with its potential, struggling against adversity, willing to tackle any task, Micks on the make in Mersey, developing the underdog persecuted patois that is the precursor of Scouse. Dublin is not far from Liverpool, wrote Anthony Burgess, ‘and Catholic Lancashire has allowed the
the mechanical science-fiction immensity of the real thing and its status as one of the world’s great scientific instruments. The thing itself seemed to have arrived from Jupiter, if via the A535, first left after Daisy Bank Farm; the stamp had come through the post without bringing much with it. Cheshire and space exploration, Lancashire and cricket – epic space and time turned into a game that represented the rise and fall of a great earth-bound earth-spanning empire – were early influences on
perhaps scooping up in a small battered shovel some of the old ash from coal and Daily Express and crushed unknown objects that all ended up mushroom-coloured, my mum would make tea. My dad took a big dollop of milk and three teaspoons of sugar, probably craving enough energy to get out of the door and head for work and an unnamed occupation which was never clearly described to me, but which, from odd clues I picked up, consisted of hours of paperwork, boredom and irritation in an office. If
of a schoolmaster. Priestley inherited a ‘public-spirited’ socialism from his family, and he later recalled a happy childhood. He had no memory of his mother, who had died when he was two years old and who was of the ‘clogs and shawls’ working class, but his stepmother, who brought him up, was ‘kind, gentle and loving’. After leaving Belle Vue Grammar School when he was sixteen he worked as a clerk for Helm and Company in Swan Arcade, Broadway, exporters of wool tops, from 1910 to 1914, and
all. Looking at the building now, a substantial multi-windowed triple-chimneyed two-storey Edwardian structure decorated with convoluted pinky-red brick patterns, built in 1908, slammed at the side of the pavement looking as out of scale with demure local kerb and low garden wall as a nineteenth-century mill, it’s no wonder I was apprehensive. It looks as if what goes on inside involves straitjackets, clanging metal doors, solitary confinement and random forms of punishment, and it perhaps scared