An Open Letter to the South

We are not Scotland.

Cambridge Cambridge University north/south divide northern Scotland

Being a Northerner in Cambridge can sometimes be a challenge.

Dear Southerners everywhere: there is something we need to discuss, so lend me your ears while I take you on a tour of the northern frontier of this fair land which we all call home.

Even if you failed GCSE Geography, you could tell me there is a clear border between England and Scotland. But this debate extends to more than a mere line on a map. How north is north, you ask? Of course, this varies depending on who you ask, however we Northern folk are united in saying that the Watford Gap is certainly not the border.

Personally, the North cannot be extended any further south than Chester and Lincoln as far as I’m concerned – sorry Nottingham, you don’t count. Yet despite this, an inherent cluelessness regarding the north remains pervasive, especially amongst Cambridge dons.

Could a Northerner be among these average Cambridge Joes?

Could a Northerner be among these average Cambridge Joes?

Let me break it down with an example. I’m sitting in a supervision; notes are being taken, books are being discussed, watches are being slyly checked – nothing unusual so far. Marx’s critique of nationalism is mentioned, “ever relevant as it was when is was written” adds the supervisor referring to the Scottish referendum, the main news story at the time. Now gaze your eyes, dear reader, to the other couch upon which I sit – your average Northern Joe with an obvious Northern twang.

Oblivious to the Marxist tête-à-tête going on next to me, my mind drifts to higher thoughts – namely what variety of cookie to buy from Sainsbury’s. Then suddenly, like a slap right across the face, my daydreaming is brought to an abrupt halt and the question hits me:

“So, Cameron…” she begins.
“Callum.” I cough.
“Oh, erm, Callum, erm, how did YOU vote in the Scottish Referendum?”.

Was my thick Geordie accent not enough to indicate where I’m from? Surely she must have heard it before? But then again, I imagine she had not been enthralled by the drama of Byker Grove or been captivated by the musical talent of Cheryl Cole, how was she to know? Maybe I should wear a Magpies shirt to the next supervision, a visual hint would surely help.

Do I have to play The Smiths and eat chips and gravy in front of you to prove my northernness?

Do I have to play The Smiths and eat chips and gravy in front of you to prove my northernness?

It seems then that the only good that the North serves is as a highway from the South to its satellite state of ‘Southerness’, Edinburgh. To the untrained Southern eye, the journey from Brighton to Edinburgh would go as follows; the stunning South Coast, the hustle of the capital, a quick spot of architectural gawping in Cambridge, several hours of driving through a desolate wasteland of culture, and then arriving at your destination just in time for a wee dram o’ whiskey.

If you’re one of the above, those unaware of the delights of the world above Chester and Lincoln, fear not – I don’t blame you, ignorance is bliss they say, but it’s your loss! You’re missing out on an expanse of cultural quirks and intricacies. Can’t afford a train that far? Don’t panic, you don’t have to miss out… we live among you. It’s a scientifically attested fact that although Northerners make up only 18.4% of applications to Cambridge, we bring 94.6% of the party and 95.2% of the chill.

Northerners here bring a solid 94.6% of the party

Northerners bringing all the fun

So this Michaelmas, be bold and befriend your local Northerner – one might even live on your staircase. If you want any tips; don’t be the ignorant supervisor, know your accents, and secondly be overly polite, courteous and hospitable (you know, cultural differences and all). What you’ll gain in exchange is a cultural awakening, you’ll see the world in a whole new way, a better way, a Northern way.