‘Are you from Yorkshire? Scottish?.. WELSH then?’
Beth Wright explores Exeter’s homogeneity.
Wrong again. Such is the daily life of a Northerner here in Exeter. Barely 90 minutes north of London my home boast a Midlands postcode – yet Yorkshire, Scottish and Welsh gags form the norm. The geographically inept stare in shock, stunned that I could possibly pronounce words differently to their own BBC dialect. Even when telling a lecturer that I came from Loughborough (don’t all shoot me, I do not play hockey), I was left shell shocked when she replied, ‘Oh really? Well done.’ Well done for what? For having the audacity to brave the south and travel through the fresh air and better quality of life? Making the 5-hour journey? Or simply being proud of my northern roots? Whatever reason, a northern accent brings daily struggle in a little city called Exeter.
Constantly faced with stereotyping humour; shock; and a lot of mockery, it seems us northern folk are a rare breed, scattered silently amongst the Surrey and Home Counties masses. You could probably collect us in a toilet cubicle of Rococos without much trouble shutting the door. Barely 24 hours pass by without someone parrot fashioning the accent that we have developed during our smoke clogged, green space deprived, Northern childhoods through their own terrible impressions; dropping the 'to's and 'the's where possible for further comic effect. The only break comes from the occasional ‘what does that even mean?’ peppering my days with translation exercises. This week’s word of choice: ‘mardy’- an imperative word up north to replace grumpy. Say it over a drink in the Ram and I’m faced with a surprised look that almost shouts: ‘Why did you even come to Exeter?’
Let’s not forget the many other cultural differences facing the north/south divide. If I’d have known that bread and milk cost so much here, I’d have thought twice about my finances. It seems being a poor student in Exeter means just that. Never did I think I’d be moaning about food and house prices, yet here I am, barely 16 weeks in and it’s one of my biggest concerns. Oh, and the age-old basis for all British conversation: the weather. Nobody warned me it was like monsoon season past Bristol… spring-like weather in the depths of January?!
And yet, despite the house prices, constant nags, ridicule and looks of shock that I could possibly originate from anywhere north of Junction 24, I wouldn’t alter Exeter for the north. After all, who would?