created by Helen Rose
It may be a dark, wet smear, but it’s home. Helen Rose on not living in London.
I grew up in a town called Glossop which has a population of 32,000 people and an average yearly rainfall of 32,000 feet. Glossop’s name perfectly expresses what it is to live in the North – it sounds like wet trainers walking home from the pub in the rain. But it has a special place in my heart. It may be a dark, wet smear on the face of the Peak District, but it’s home.
Four years ago I moved to Belfast. It’s a place with plenty of bizarre idiosyncrasies but on a micro level it’s not so different from the North. Awful weather, weird accents, and an abundance of easy smiles. My brother, however, headed to London. Last summer I went to visit him in the Big Smoke, and my sense of being a Northern monkey has never been keener.
London is terrifying. Tube station escalators are nothing but modern day towers of Babel, technological testimonies to the arrogance of man. There is no earthly reason why anyone could ever need to travel from such depths at such gradients. All it would take is one poor soul at the top to fluff the landing and we would all topple down like meat dominoes to be ground to mince by the churning metal teeth at the bottom.
London is confusing as hell. Actually, as a theology graduate, I understand hell significantly better than I do central London. The Ministry of Magic is going to be pissed when they find someone leaked Oyster cards to the Muggles. How do Boris Bikes work? Don’t people steal them?
And then there are Londoners. Eyes down, faces blank, headphones in – I have never felt as invisible in my life. I took to staring at commuters until they looked back, asking for directions purely to see the fear in people’s eyes when they realised I was talking to them. I phoned people on public transport just to showcase my accent. Fortunately I left before anyone was goaded into violent action.
But I know that my resistance would have ultimately been proved futile. My accent would wane, my eyes would drop, and I would become, wholly and irrevocably, a Londoner. In Belfast, I never stop being a Northerner. But London would swallow me up as it swallows everyone. My own brother, raised on Vimto and Eccles cakes, has fallen to the Sarlacc maw of the capital. He came home for my 20th and was chuffed to bits to 'only' pay £6 for a G&T.
I’m sure there are many wonderful things about London – 8.3 million people, and my big brother, can’t be wrong. But frankly, I’m content without it. Give me mushy peas and human contact any day.