The Mancunian Candidate

ADAM KIRTON shares his (slightly bizarre) experiences of being a Northerner in Cambridge.

accent Adam candidate kirton Manchester mancunian Michael northerner wood

Northerner then, and now; not much has changed, says Michael Wood. “Here is a traditional society, with deep-rooted social customs and means of worship, whose people are stubborn, violent and rebellious. Their accent is uncouth and incomprehensible, and they drink too much.”

When you throw a bunch of terrified, hungover strangers together, the question “where are you from?” is going to pop out sooner or later. It was of no surprise to me that one of the first people I met in Cambridge, upon learning of my origin, exclaimed, “I’ve always wanted to meet a Northerner!”

To foreign lands…

Nowadays, people often struggle to comprehend the ‘uncouth sounds’ that I emit. The other day my college daughter admitted that it took her three weeks to understand me, and one of my friends recently spent ten minutes under the illusion that I’d been talking about a ‘dragon man’ in Richard III (‘right hand man’, anyone?).

Relatively speaking, I don’t actually have that a thick accent. But God help you if I’ve had a few jars, because I roll my ‘r’s like there’s no tomorrow.

We’re a rare breed down here, apparently – either that or we merged into Bigfoot’s realm when I wasn’t looking. It can be quite fun to be a mythical Manc in Cambridge, but it produces some interesting situations. And people think you’re a bit weird…glass houses, methinks.

Take, for example, this bizarre woman from the Vaults. Imagine being confronted by a lady who’s never heard of Manchester and believes you are Australian. Thinking back, maybe she thought I had said I was an Anzac…

Nope, she was adamant that I was Australian, and that I spoke a different language. If you can see a way those two add up, then hats off to you. The language thing is potentially understandable; even now when I ask people if they’re “getting owt?” they have to check what I’m on about. I’ll have to make a dictionary one day.

The culture clashes keep on coming. Thanks to Manchester’s location, clouds burst over us every single fucking day. We don’t usually get floods, but I reckon that’s because the hill people must sacrifice cattle. And the sun is a rare sight. It sounds grim, but you learn to love it.

I remember a certain walk home from one of my first lectures. I’d taken the scenic route through Clare and was passing over the bridge when it started ‘raining’. I was very tired and a little homesick. I looked to the heavens, just to feel the cold drops stinging my face and wake me up a bit.

Clare Bridge: hotspot for many a meaningful exchange

Suddenly, some guy runs up to me, screaming, “My dear fellow! Do you need help?”
“Nah mate,” says I.
The silence continues.
Eventually, he walks away.
Some very odd people round here.