A couple of years ago I was concerned for my youngest daughter’s well-being. I knew then that it was time. It was time to take her…Up North
A couple of streets away there is a man who says hello to everyone. He smiles, he chats, he props himself at the end of his front garden in the sunshine and engages passers-by in conversation. For years we would pass him, then one day, this aforementioned couple of years ago, my youngest daughter said,
‘Why does that man talk to us? He doesn’t even know us.’ (We live in the South West. I hear you saying ‘Ah’ now, with a tone of understanding.)
‘He’s a Geordie. Or a Mackem. No, I’m sure he’s not a Mackem. Definitely a Geordie.’
‘What’s a Geordie? Is it like a Mackam, cos that’s a good thing isn’t it? Cos you said George Clarke off the tv is a Mackem and you like him.’ (Blimey! You take one teeny, weeny, tiny look through every single picture on a man’s Instagram account and it’s never forgotten….)
I explain what a Geordie is. And one of the Laws of the North: do not ask a Geordie if they’re from Sunderland. And add a quick explanation that Mum isn’t a stalker, while I’m at it.
‘If you’re from the North baby, you talk to people, even if you don’t know them.’ She listens attentively to this new information. ‘You make eye contact as they approach and say hello to people you walk past or sit next to.’ She’s taken aback.
‘Should we do this whenever we go to London too then Mum?’
Now I’m taken aback! ‘No! Never in London babe. We would be arrested.’ She nods, recognising that this is a likely thing to happen in London.
But it’s made me realise that for the sake of my daughter’s well-being she needs to go Up North.
Her Northern ethnicity has, I’m ashamed to say, been overlooked. I mean, obviously, I’ve brought up both my children to be bilingual where I can. There have been some moments over the years of adequate parenting. They understand phrases such as, ‘Shut do-er lass! It’s bloomin’ cod!’ and ‘Let’s gan yam.’ But typically of children whose mother’s first language is not their own, they understand more than they can speak (in their accent-less voices). Yet her Northern ethnicity really is the one that runs deepest. It is created in utero, clearly. Perhaps lying dormant, until awoken by perfect moments such as this. The need to go Up North, the need to know where you’re ‘from’, to be among your own. To be among people who will not have you arrested if you maintain eye contact for more than 1 nanosecond.
And more than this, was a desire to quench her continual thirst for all things ocean. From the age of 7, she’s known she wanted to be a marine biologist, so where better to take her than North Yorkshire Heritage coast, where you find the country’s greatest beaches.
So, with this need to nurture her mental well-being, about a year ago I took Youngest Offspring (now age 12) Up North. Oldest Offspring (age 16) declined the invitation, barely looking up from her laptop. I tried to entice her on our second visit, showing her photos of our first. ‘This is Roseberry Topping babe. It’s great fun.’ You can hear the enthusiasm for the Yorkshire hill in my voice, can’t you?
‘It’s pretty,’ she reluctantly admitted. ‘What does it ‘do’?’ Tap, tap, tap of her keyboard, as she continued to hack in to the US Pentagon, or whatever it is that she does in her room.
‘It doesn’t do anything baby. You climb it. It’s an iconic hill. Iconic! As a child I’d be always going up it with Gramps and Oma.’ She simply raised an eyebrow at the word ‘climb’, paused momentarily from her tapping to enlarge the photo and peer at all the mud. Silence as she simply looked at the mud, then me, and back to the sloppy, wet mud. ‘That’s one of the best bits…,’ I said feebly. I knew I needed to come back next time with pictures of urban conurbations. I did, and she is now even considering a Northern University as one of her choices for degree. Success. In utero…it was always there.
Now I go up regularly from the South West to the North East, to North Yorkshire where I grew up, rediscovering its beauty and helping my daughter have marine biology experiences, that she wouldn’t otherwiserwise have in our landlocked town. I’ve been posting on Facebook, providing mild entertainment to maybe two and a half readers, some have now even travelled up and loved the North as a result. I thought perhaps if I write a blog there might be another half reader out there who would feel equally drawn to visit North Yorkshire and fall in love with it. My blog posts will be mostly about North Yorkshire, but there will be obvious spillage into the North East as a whole. How could there not be? There is so much to see – vast stretches of beach; rainbow streaked waterfalls; rich, deep history; stunning architecture; the cool, the quirky and the curious. So many things that can only be found in the North East. And all those people you’ll want to make eye contact with.
- Mackem: Person from Sunderland. Usually thought to originate from the phrase ‘we make ’em an’ they take ’em’. Referring to ships built and taken down the river to sea.
- Geordie – the term is usually thought to have derived from the name George. A common name among pitmen.
- Shut do-er lass! It’s bloomin’ cod! = Please could you shut the door darling. It’s really rather cold.
- Let’s gan yam = Let us be away home….