When I was asked to write about the top 10 reasons why the North is just as good as the South, my first reaction was "as good?" and my second was "only 10?" Londoners will have you believe the world ends at Cricklewood, in Lincolnshire there be dragons, and that north of Watford it's all the bleedin' same, innit? Northerners will say, "The best thing about the North? Well, just everything, really."
BBC executives are not quite so sure, though. Last week, it turned out that Peter Salmon, the BBC North director responsible for moving 1,500 staff jobs from London to Manchester is refusing to leave his £1.85m four-bedroom home in an anonymous suburb on the outskirts of south-west London for the open spaces and fresh air of the North-West. Four bedrooms? You'd buy a whole street for that in parts of Salford and still have change for a bag of chips. Daft bugger.
The appeal of living in the North is flippin' obvious; if you have to explain it, you must be talking to a Southerner. It's the gentle Englishness of Philip Larkin, Alan Bennett and Victoria Wood, as opposed to the brash shoutiness of Sir Alan Sugar. It's being able to walk down the street without being elbowed out of the way, buy a pint of Sam Smith's for £1.20 and have a conversation on a bus with a stranger who isn't necessarily a violent alcoholic. It's getting a bus at all.
In the North right now, Blandford Fly is a 2010 Quality Drink Awards winner with complex gingery overtones; in the South, it's an evil "superfly" currently hospitalising picnickers all over Greater London. In the North they're all nipping to the seaside for their summer holidays; in the South they're stuck fast on the M25. In the North, the locals are friendly, ladies in shops call you duck, pet or love, and the Top 10 Things to Do in Britain (according to guides such as the Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide) are a rock cake's throw away. In the South, you don't even want to know what they call you. By 'eck, it's impossible to choose 10 things that are great about the North. But here are just a few:
The Lake District; York Minster; Durham Cathedral; Lindisfarne; Richmond Castle; Fountains Abbey; Seahouses; Red Rocks; Whitby; the Dales; the Moors; and trying to book a ticket to N'castle when the train company's voice recognition software will only sell you one to New-CAH-stle.
Real beer at real prices. Fish'n'chips; pie'n'chips; chips'n'curry sauce; chips'n'gravy; cheesy chips; chips; chips and chips (fried in beef fat, of course).
Northerners live there. Londoners don't. Regional dialects, rhubarb, liquorice, Cheshire potatoes and the Brontës. Dinner (not lunch); tea (not dinner); supper (served on a hostess trolley) followed by a bath (not a barth). Dripping scufflers. Chorley cakes (not Eccles cakes – it's all in the pastry). Yorkshire Blue cheese, Lancashire cheese, Wensleydale cheese, hotpot, lobscouse and Yorkshire pudding (served with gravy as a starter and with golden syrup for pud).
Straight talking. Going out in Gateshead all wrapped up for winter (in a T-shirt). Last of the Summer Wine (the fact that it's finished); James Herriot; a slower pace of life; a proper English curry. The light summer evenings; the proximity to Scotland; the distance from Scotland; the ferry 'cross the Mersey; rugby league.
Liverpool football club; Yorkshire cricket; the Sage Gateshead; Manchester Royal Exchange. Me, me mam, me dad and me nan. And being able to write this much in praise of the North without once resorting to Geoffrey Boycott.
It's great up North.