When I proudly proclaim my northern roots, as I am wont to do, the response from my friends and colleagues in London has generally been: “So what have you been doing down here for most of your life?” To which my answer is: “Missionary work, mainly.”
The past weekend has been one when I’ve felt very much at home in the capital. The FA Cup semi-final on Saturday (won by Manchester City, by the way) brought around 70,000 Mancunians into the capital, and the sound of those nasal accents as they attempted to negotiate the automatic barriers on the Tube or complained about the prices of the beer and the sandwiches - no, it’s not a cliche: they still do - made me feel a little homesick.
Clearly not enough to move back there, my friends would say, but my place of employment is in London. I am both envious of those BBC staffers who have been offered the chance to move north, and contemptuous of those who have made a fuss about being too far away from their nearest sun-dried tomato.
You don’t need to be a northern fundamentalist (although it helps) to think there’s something fishy about the M1 only being open northbound. The message is: we’ll make it hard for you to get to London, but once you’re here, we’ll make it easy for you to return from whence you came.
Anyway, when I left you on Friday, I said that this column might be written through a veil of tears. Instead, It’s written by a man with a hoarse voice and a perma-smile. Did I mention that Manchester City won? And here I must thank two people. First, Yaya Toure, a hero of the Ivory Coast, who scored the only goal. And Chris Dolan, of City’s sponsors Umbro, who sorted out the seats and had to endure being hugged, for the first time one supposes, by a newspaper editor with a Coke in his hand and a dream in his heart. Same again for the final, Chris. They might even have opened the M1 by then!