The Blog

The Real North-South Divide

I arrived in London with very little idea of what living in the capital was like - and almost two years later, here is what I've found out.

I moved to London almost two years ago, to finish studying and pursue a career in journalism. Born in Bradford, West Yorkshire, I went to school there before moving to Birmingham for my degree (gradually making my way down south via the crime hotspots of the UK) - and then finally, to the big city. I grew up in a lovely, sheltered village with one recreational shop, which sold pottery figurines and seed packets, and a library with a vast selection of videos and Mills and Boon. There was also an annual vegetable fair, where a prize would be presented to the owner of the largest marrow, and the local pub would frequently hold a meat raffle (the winner would receive a pound of sausages, a lamb joint and some mince). Essentially, I arrived in London with very little idea of what living in the capital was like - and almost two years later, here is what I've found out.

1) That accommodation is insanely and unreasonably priced. I started looking for a flat a month before I landed in Camden, laden with suitcases, a lamp and a duvet. At roughly double the cost of renting a decent house in Yorkshire, I had a wonderfully sparse, tiny bedsit in north London. I was also paying through the nose to live next to a lunatic neighbour (who would post daily cigarette ends through the letterbox and have arguments with her shed), who had an enormous, bloodthirsty dog. The flat didn't have a lounge and barely had a kitchen, but it did come with a mouse. In fact, that was the best thing about the flat. It would frequently sit and watch me from the gaps in the skirting board - he was probably was scared of the neighbour too.

2) London transport is excellent, but infuriating. The underground is like a nightmarish subterranean bin, and buses take forever to plough through the dense traffic. On a recent commute back to south London, my bus suddenly stopped and a wailing siren went off, informing everyone that we were under attack and should call 999 immediately. I leapt off the bus - which then promptly left with everyone else still on it. In comparison, the main reasons why trains and buses are delayed in Yorkshire is because there is a cow on the line, or there are ducklings crossing the road. That's if there is any modern public transport at all, of course. When I was there last weekend and enquiring about getting to Haworth, I was told to 'get the steam train or a taxi.'

3) Trendy pubs offer board games, hot beverages come in glass beakers and toast costs five pounds. Back home, pubs offer a respite for hen-pecked husbands to drink ale, while providing a hunting ground for the local youth. During the school holidays, I worked in a pub where the landlord and landlady, Vernon and Margaret (good, solid Yorkshire names), would be completely blotto by midday. They have to would hold onto the wall of the pub to get around, and there was a limited menu of dripping sandwiches. It was a strictly no nonsense affair. One day, a non-local came in and asked if there was a vegetarian option. The pub hushed. A cigarette dropped onto a table. Margaret, who was leaning against the wall with a glass of Chardonnay in hand, straightened herself, looked the questionable character in the eye and simply said, menacingly, 'bread.' They never came back.