Wednesday, 28 October 2009

A professional Westerner

Brit criticises 'the futile and arbitrary business of attempting to impose large, simplistic categories onto what is, in reality, a chaotic mass of British humanity'. So I reach for my tin hat when I say that I've imposed, in futile and arbitrary fashion, a couple of new large and simplistic categories on the chaotic mass of British humanity.

We hear all the time about Scots versus English, North versus South, London versus the provinces. But what about East versus West? No, I'm not talking about Asia and The West or Islam and Christianity. I mean Eastern England versus Western England. To ensure procrustean clarity, that would be Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire versus Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall. Seems a fair fight.

I've lived in both regions and I can vouch for there being some profound and intrinsic disparities, which have both historical and geographical origins. As we're dealing in categories, I'm sure the best way to illustrate these is through the use of rigid, binary tabulation (but in no particular order at all):

West   ---   East
Celtic   ---   Norse
Hilly   ---   Flat
Warm westerlies   ---   Cold easterlies
Wet   ---   Dry
Bohemian   ---   Puritan
Oxford   ---   Cambridge
Curly   ---   Straight
Beef   ---   Wheat
Cider   ---   Beer
Vaughan Williams   ---   Britten
Bath   ---   Ely
Atlantic   ---   North Sea
The Wurzels   ---   Pink Floyd
Horseradish   ---   Mustard
Cavalier   ---   Roundhead
America   ---   Low Countries
Romance   ---   Realism
Glastonbury   ---   V Festival
M4   ---   M11
Prince Charles   ---   Bernard Matthews
Brunel   ---   Coke of Norfolk
Trip-hop   ---   Line dancing
Rugby   ---   Football
St Ives School   ---   Norwich School
Winston Churchill   ---   Margaret Thatcher
Stephen Merchant   ---   Stephen Fry
Keith Floyd   ---   Jamie Oliver

Not every Western entry is clearly superior to its oriental counterpart, I admit. But I think any fair-minded person would also have to admit the comparison is overwhelmingly in favour of the hesperian. What's more, other superb and largely original products of the West don't even have an Eastern analogue: Banksy, Laurie Lee, pixies, surfing, Morse, Thomas Hardy, pasties.

The significance of this division should be obvious. Due to its monotonous landscape, harsh weather, puritanical attitude to life, boring location and generally unimaginative and conformist natives, East is bad.

On the other hand, as it has a varied landscape, mild weather, a cavalier attitude to life, an interesting location and generally stimulating and off-beat natives, West is good.

So, the West is the best. Or as Swindon Town* fans sing 'West Coun'ry, la, la, la, West Coun'ry, la, la, la'. If we can get these categories sufficiently entrenched I aspire to be a professional Westerner: relaxed, liberal, outgoing and fun where your professional Northerner is uptight, parsimonious, chippy and miserable. But that's a battle for another day.

* A football club, which like others in the region is insignificant nationally.


Recusant said...

West is best, East is least.

You're right, of course and, being Essex born, it pains me to say it. Better oysters in the East though. And painters. And religious architecture. And partridges. And skies. Still, we would have to have a lot more to make up for having Stephen Fry.

Brit said...

... and Delia Smith, Recusant.

I'm a hardcore westerner - Oxfordshire is virtually London.

worm said...

gotta say though, being a cornish boy, and having lived all over the south of this country, that people in essex and kent are WAAAY friendlier in the pub than cornishmen. And obviously their women are more accomodating

Sir Watkin said...

At last, someone else who has noticed this vital (and surely blindingly obvious) distinction!

(Skies?? Who needs skies? Most unnatural things.)

Anonymous said...

I dunno, Sir Watkin, y'all can't call yerself a true Westerner if you don't love to saddle up and ride the range while singin' about them big, blue open skies. Don't know about that there cider, though.

Sir Watkin said...

I have no idea what Mr Burnet is talking about.

Is he, mayhap, a believer in the myth that if one sails far eno' west one comes to the Indies?

Respectfully dissenting from the witness of my revered kinsman, Tywysog Madog ab Owain Gwynedd, I must assert that this is manifestly improbable. Surely if travels too far west one falls off the edge of the world into oblivion.

Gaw said...

Recusant: I do love an oyster (really fancy one now, with shallot vinegar and a drop of tabasco). They provide a decent consolation for those unfortunate orientals.

Brit: Jesus, forgot about Delia, the poor buggers. Should have twinned her with Keith Floyd (or RIck Stein) - game, set and match right there.

I agree Oxon is marginal but so are Beds and Herts. My real reason for including it though is that Oxford encapsulates some western qualities: home of lost causes and dreaming spires. Whereas Cambridge is the home of Olly Cromwell and the Cavendish Physics Lab.

Worm: It's not just Cornish pub-goers. It's striking how surly, suspicious, bar-hogging gits dominate western pubs (with the notable exception of this place).

Sir Watkin: I imagine you would subscribe to the proposition that 'Further Wester, it's even Bester'. Until you get to Cardiganshire, of course. Cardy bastards.

Careful Peter, you're in danger of broadening our minds. Keep it narrowly parochial please.

Kevin Musgrove said...

This is the point at which the Lancastrians and Yorkshiremen traditionally gang up to take the piss out of all you Cockneys. (-:

Sean said...

when is the punch up? I am turning out for the east. FFS the only thing Bristol is famous for is the view from the motorway going to Devon and Cornwall on holiday.

Oh you forgot
Fred West V Ian Huntley

Gaw said...

Kevin: 'Cockney' meaning anyone from south of the Severn-Wash line I assume. I would destroy your alliance immediately by enquiring about last Sunday's score from Anfield.

Sean: Whereas Sheffield has so much going for it...ha ha!

My brother played rugby for Ledbury in Herefordshire for a while. You share cars for away games and he used to get a lift with this nice but quite diffident bloke. He couldn't work out why everyone asked his driver before they headed off whether he'd remembered his shovel. Turned out the poor lad's surname was West, uncle name of Fred. Not something you live down I guess.

Sean said...

Its got a lot going for it, but its much too dangerous for my kids so we moved out

A fine place for us spreadsheeting computer nerds no?

Gaw said...

Please forgive me Your Grace.

But blimey, the article names Tongwynlais in Cardiff North as one of the fastest growing accumulators of 'affluents' in the country. It's the next door village to Taffs Well where a good part of my family's from. I don't think my Nain and Taid would have believed it in a million years.

cjcjc said...

The very fact that the West includes Swindon rather undermines your whole case...

Gaw said...

Swindon? Home of the Great WESTERN Railway's works, home of football fans who chant 'WEST Coun'ry la, la, la, WEST Coun'ry la, la, la' (rolling their r's as they go), located in the county of Wiltshire officially part of the South-WEST region.

Ckckkkckck, you obvussly goddit arrse abewd tit, as they say down that way.

Gaw said...

Unless you mean that Swindon is a shit hole not worthy of inclusion, in which case I agree with you. But nowhere's perfect.