It's a strange one, thinking about why we go home. The underlying reason must be homesickness, a desire to see friends and family again, even if we've just left them, but for a young lad just moved down to London, it's hard to admit this. Christmas is approaching too, so there's really no reason to head all the way up north in early November. Especially when I've just left home after being stuck there for months. There was no way I wanted to go back. No thank you.
Mainly because there's a lot you have to deal with when you go home. There's your dad asking how the journey went (not well) and how the car handled (great except for some dubious driving). Then there's the conversation about roads. The conversation that let's you know you're slowly becoming your dad.
'Come up the M1?'
'Then onto the M18?'
'Yeah but it was closed after Doncaster, had to take the A18.'
'I wish I was...'
Your mum worries that at age 23 you aren't capable of driving back down to London, despite having just arrived from there. Factor in awkward teenage cousins and grandparents with a diminishing grasp on current events and you've got an awkward weekend ahead of you.
Some people might miss all this, but I needed a gimmick. A pretence for making the 200 mile trip when I'd only been away for 3 months and was supposed to be flourishing in London. It wasn't enough to pretend I needed my laundry doing, or a Tesco shop, or a few quid. No, the excuse I decided upon was that I was taking my southern friend to experience the sights. An initiation of sorts into the culture of my people. So, with this covered, we loaded up the trusty Corsa and set off to find the M1.
Two hours later we returned to the exact point where we should have turned off the Northern circular road and joined the M1. London slid by us in darkness and rain, like a dystopian vision, a back drop to Blade Runner. Finally, we found the motorway and were off.
As we approached the north I realised there were a few things I should warn my passenger about (let's call her 'The Southerner' in the interest of advancing north/south stereotypes). There are certain things someone who's never been north of Camden needs to know. Certain rules to surviving the grim north.
First of all, I had to undo all those years of enunciation lessons. It won't to walk around up north pronouncing things properly, with a lovely accent like a young Liz Windsor. No, a southerner needs to know that 'north' must be pronounced 'nooorf' and 'Yorkshire' has at least four 'O's in it.
That sorted, we had to prepare for the weather. By the time Bakewell tarts started appearing at the service stations there was ice hanging off people's eyebrows. You forget how cold it can be, when you're not having to constantly remember to put on two jumpers and a coat.
Eventually, though, we made it.
An evening in the pub followed. After a few months of living in North London the drinks selection seemed somewhat limited. No Amstel. No Blue Moon. No Camden Hells. Basically, if you don't like Stella or Carlsberg you're going thirsty. Cocktails too no longer come in a nice glass with a bit of fruit hanging off it, no; they come in giant plastic pitchers. And you can forget about live jazz bands, or pop-culture theme nights, darts are the main form of entertainment where I'm from.
Obviously, this is all nonsense and things up north really aren't that grim. After 3 months in London you can't suddenly forget where you came from and what things are like there. In fact, you realise you've missed the things you thought you hated about home. There's familiarity and a strange comfort in the things that used to drive you up the wall, no you don't have to deal with them on a daily basis. The lack of anything to do is peaceful after tackling the rush hour tube every single day. The fact you can actually see the stars at night is brilliant.
Going home makes you realise just what you have there, and (more importantly) how much you value London if you just take a step back.
Thankfully, we survived the weekend. Survived grandparents and conversations about roads. Survived roast dinners with Yorkshire puddings as big as the plate. Survived parents asking us four times if we'd packed everything. Packing the Corsa to head back down south, I realised I was glad I'd gone home. I was ready to cruise back down to London, ready to take it all in and make the most of all those things we don't have where I'm from. And The Southerner? Well, she did fine, because really, there isn't that much difference between two different ends of a tiny country, but at least now she knows how to pronounce 'Norrrf'.