The books that dominated my teenage years were the novels about the north by authors like John Braine, Keith Waterhouse, David Storey and Alan Sillitoe (Nottingham was north to me).
Being working class in Tunbridge Wells just wasn’t the same. Our chances of shaking things up were slim whereas it was clear to me that in the north, working class lads like Joe Lampton and Frank Machin were getting places I couldn’t go, starting to win the class war, or least some of its battles. They were as bold and as blunt as their environment. I felt deprived because I didn’t have a slag heap at the bottom of our street.
When my work began to take me beyond the fabled Watford Gap, I found I liked it. There were still plenty of examples of the industrial landscape I’d read about but there was so much more. There was space and countryside and a view from Brimham Rocks that stretched for miles and was more spectacular than anything I’d seen down south.
Around 30 years ago, after a spell in Hartlepool, I moved to Yorkshire and it has started to rub off. I’m a touch more ‘careful’ with money, prefer rugby league to the 15-man code, and my vowels have become a little shorter at times – I take a bath (as in cat) but would still visit ‘barth’. I know I’m still what folk round here call, not always unkindly, an ‘offcumden’. I’ve never got used to saying ‘the show lasted from 8 o’clock while 10’ and never developed a taste for real ale or mushy peas.
It recently dawned on me that, just as when I lived in London I hardly ever visited the places visitors go, so there are large parts of Yorkshire that I have not really explored. They were always readily available and I never got round to making the effort.
Now I plan to put that right. It might turn out to be tricky because I no longer drive so I have to explore the wide open spaces on public transport. This blog will let you know how I get on and what I discover.
There are no travel problems with the first expedition – five minutes walk down the road from where I live to Hirst Lock to uncover the story of a well-hidden painting