How to survive The North: An Expert Guide

My expert guide on how to survive the North:

  • Don’t make the joke that anywhere north of Bristol is THE NORTH. They won’t be very happy.
  • If you mention the food ‘pickled egg’ you will be ridiculed and forced to dip your chips in gravy.
  • Find a friend of a friend who has a car to drive you around in.
  • Agree enthusiastically whenever Arnside is mentioned as you’ll be able to see the dog again.
  • Be quick with paying for foodstuffs, else the Northerners might pay for you!
  • Don’t faint when the cost of drinks is so cheap you can buy a whole round for less than a tenner.
  • Keep calm if they offer you jam and scones but no clotted cream.
  • Be careful taking up offers of food and drink as if you accept them all then by the end of the visit you might be full to burst.
  • Don’t claim your ice cream is better. Clearly it isn’t because the SIZE OF THE ICE CREAM WAS THE SIZE OF MY HEAD…to be fair I did get a 3 scoop but even still MY HEAD! *Otter Valley ice cream still rules though just saying*
  • Keep any Scottish roots out of conversation as it might lead to an awkward conversation with the host.
  • Wear warm clothes.

If you couldn’t tell I visited the North a week or so ago, to see a friend from uni (Matty) in his hometown. We spent our time going between Lancaster and Arnside but disappointingly at no point did I exeperience a “proper Northern train”. However, I did experience the freezing cold that The Starks are always going on about. They don’t keep reminding you that ‘winter is coming’ for nothing, it is bloody freezing up in The North. I don’t know what I expected to be fair, but the silver lining was that whenever we went indoors there was a blazing fire to huddle against to get feeling back into you.

While up there I was introduced not only to people but to the food delights of Lancaster, such as the Whale Tail, which is the best plaice to get vegetarian food in Lancaster I am told. It was there I had my first experience of tofu, in none other than a BLT, it dolphinately does not beat actual bacon but it was still pretty tasty. Talking of food I discovered that the Northerners I met had never heard of a pickled egg! You go into a chippy and you get a pickled egg (obviously along with the fish and the chips, I’m not a complete heathen). I managed to persuade one of Matty’s friends to try one, I don’t think he was very impressed. In hindsight maybe he might have enjoyed it more by dipping it in gravy as they do with everything else.

If you don’t know me then one fact that you should know is simply that doggos are life (toast as well). So when we arrived in Arnside and met Matty’s doggo, Nap, it was fate. We took Nap on a walk and we quickly learnt that it was more efficient to call ‘squirrel’ to get him to come back to us than by calling his name! After a while however the trust started to break down which, to be honest, I don’t blame him for. While on a walk at the top of Arnside Knott I found a tennis ball, not going to lie but I think I was more enthusastic about the finding than the dog was; especially since it just gave up chasing the ball when it went a little too far and it was picked up by a couple of kids walking past, taking it away, forever. It was a sad time.

A little fact about Matty is that he does photography, and not surpisingly he is very good at it (in fact here’s a link to his website: http://www.mphotos.uk/ ). So most of my time up in the North was accompanied by the sound of a camera, none other day more so than when we spent several hours at the beach in Arnside with 3 or 4 other avid photography pals of Matty’s. (I stayed with the dog of course.) Many hours were spent taking various pictures on the beach, while I threw sticks for Nap and tried balancing on a rather broken part of a ladder. One of my favourite photos from the day that Matty took was of someone’s reaction to my rather elegant fall off the two pronged thing onto the stoned floor. It was a lovely day seeing the coast from a different perspective than the usual golden sandy beaches I am used to in the South, and getting to experience some more northern chips on a northern coastline.

A typical past time for anywhere in the UK is an evening in the pub and this trip was no different to that stereotype. We headed down the road to the local, which at first glance seems to just be a room or two filled with tables and chairs with a counter that happens to sell alcohol amongst other things. With a group of women in one corner having a pint over their knitting, a couple of gentlemen and their dogs loudly reminicising over the events of the day and our little group of “youths” in another corner it felt like a front, that at any moment the Authorities would rush in and we would all have to hide the drinks, turn the tables over, face the front and pretend to be part of a small legal non-alcoholic congregation. It was here that I met some of Matty’s friends from his days in Lancaster.

One of Matty’s friends, Tyler, I had met a couple of days previously on my arrival as he kindly drove us from the station to Matty’s, and that was the start of his new job as chaffeur. (I jest it was great to meet you, and feel like I had someone else I knew when meeting the others.) Another I had met the day before the pub over smoothie milkshake things in the juice cafe. However I think it was what followed our drinks in the pub that really sticks in my memory, for who could forget the hours spent playing Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway boardgame. Thrilling stuff. Certainly not dated. Worth the 3am bedtime anyday. Where the answer ‘Ant and Dec’ is a relevant answer to any question.

What was nice about meeting Matty’s crew, was that within a few hours of spending time with them I felt comfortable, at ease and to be honest like I had known them for much longer than I had. Some of the conversations I had with them were ones I think I haven’t had with my own friends back in The South. It was refreshing meeting new people who very quickly I could tell I would get on with and that it wasn’t a wasted effort being social. So if any of you are reading this, thanks for being so friendly and welcoming.

So that is my expert guide on how to survive the North. Hopefully I will be able to provide a second edition at some point in the future. As for this post I hope it was entertaining because it certainly will not have been useful.

Here’s to the North,

S

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