Being a Midlander is hard
Screw the north/south divide
You don’t have to do geography to know that the Midlands exists. So why are we still asked whether we’re northern or southern? If we can produce Shakespeare, Olympic Gold medallists and unforgettable curries, then surely we deserve our own identity?
Cambridge is so intense that unless you’re a superhuman you are bound to suffer an existential crisis every now and again. Essay deadlines, the chaos of Cambridge roads and the difficulty of choosing between two equally vile £3 wines at Sainsbury’s are strenuous enough. Yet the Midlander suffers even more acutely because so few Cantabs recognise our existence.
Playing a game of “Which London commuter town do you come from?” is just as essential to the Cambridge freshers week as matriculation or your first underwhelming trip to Cindies. Like a nit-ridden child at break time, the Midlander can’t join in the fun. Anything more specific than ‘near Birmingham’ draws the same kind of blank look you pull when your supervisor’s trying to explain the neoplatonic interpretation of the soul.
Being from the Midlands is a bit like getting a 2:1 in life. We do everything that’s required of a major region but we never get the same special recognition as the north and south. Like a small, central college the Midlands is like the middle child, striving to be noticed but never quite getting there. We’re not wealthy enough to be southern and the northerners won’t accept us either.
This doesn’t help at all when you’re faced with the swarm of inflated egos and perfectionists that is Cambridge. You need confidence and certainty to swim in the Cambridge shark tank which is why you should start accepting the Midlands as a region on a par with the north and south. Being asked to choose between north and south is like asking a bisexual person to choose either men or women. The calamitous events of 2016, or perhaps tonight’s buttery menu prove that having to choose between two equally unappealing options never ends well.
However, this article isn’t meant to be a preachy rant by a fresher with a minor identity crisis, so it’s fortunate that the Midlands is really quite interesting. If I hadn’t expended all of my creative juices on blind date forms then I’m sure this article could have been a soppy love letter to my homeland. It’s undeniable that the Midlands has a lot to offer. What would the south be without the Range Rovers that roll out of Midlands factories? How could you survive Sunday Life without getting hammered on beer made in… You guessed it! The Midlands.
It’s time for Cantabs to learn what the Midlands is and why you should love it despite its flaws. Birmingham is the beating heart of the region, offering up excruciatingly spicy curries and increasingly mediocre football clubs. Imagine the greyest, oldest and ugliest part of your college and build a whole city in the same vein and you have a good idea of what Birmingham is like. Yet its imperfections make it all the more endearing. Its stunning library lacks the phallic appeal of the UL, but doesn’t stay open very late which prevents despair-filled all-nighters.
To the east you can find Nottingham, the place where your clever but unlucky classmates have far more fun than you do. If you feel more comfortable in Barbour you could enjoy our vast countryside which provided Tolkein inspiration for the Shire. Of course you don’t read the Tab for tourist information, but the final pillar of the Midlands experience is my own hometown.
Burton-on-Trent is the home of Carling, Marmite and (insert another product here because all da kewl kidz use tricolons). It may be a classic post-industrial town, but the idea that its location means that I have to choose a regional identity that is not my own doesn’t stand up to intellectual scrutiny.
So as you luxuriate in your self-assured northern or southern-ness spare a thought for the Midlander. We’re going through the same excruciating ritual of lectures, supervisions and underwhelming nights out.
An identity crisis might just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.