Bingley. Keighley. Shipley. Skipton.
Nothing tells you you’re in the North more than the names of the towns. I can’t even say them in my head without slipping into a Yorkshire accent, and from there it’s a slippery slope to the rest of the southern stereotypes – mills, flat caps and general grimness.
As the train pulled out of Leeds on Friday night and the thickly-accented announcer called out the names of the stations all of the above came to mind. And then I remember I had “It’s Grim up North” on my iPod.
Probably one of the hardest techno songs ever to make the top 10, it was always one of my favourite dance tunes of the 90s – the deadpan delivery of the list of northern towns (including four of the stations my train would be stopping at) over a pounding beat and samples of industrial noises – it brought all the cliches neatly together.
The thing I’d forgotten about the record is the way an instrumental version of ‘Jerusalem’ gradually fights its way free of the beats and noise to end the song as a triumphal celebration of the North, and of course the train journey ended the same way – gradually the industrial landscapes fell away to be replaced by the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales. Less than an hour out of Leeds (and probably less than half an hour by car) to glorious landscape of a kind you’d have to travel hours from London to reach, which of course I just had.
Ultimately the joke was on me: I think Northerners want us to think it’s grim up there just to keep the place to themselves.