Simon Kelner: It's grim up North – but that's no reason to be regionalist

Kelner's view
  • @Simon_Kelner

I am very fond of i readers. I meet them with increasing regularity these days, and have found them to be intelligent, polite and friendly.

They also have strong opinions, and, as evidenced by our letters column, they're not afraid to voice them. I've been accused of being out of touch, stuck in the past, a killjoy and a technophobe. As a columnist, you quickly develop a thick skin, and, given that part of the remit is to provoke reaction and stimulate thought, it can hardly be a surprise that, occasionally, readers feel moved to express their disapproval. All part of the rough and tumble, for sure. Nevertheless, I can't let the observations of Nick Vining, who wrote from Chichester, pass without comment.

Mr Vining suggested that my reaction to the victory of Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France was one of a boilerplate contrarian: everyone thought it was the most marvellous thing they'd ever seen, so I had to take the opposite view. Fair enough, although I would vigorously dispute the charge.

But – and here's the rub – he then referred to me as "a professional Northerner". It may not be racist, but it is certainly regionalist.

I think we all know what Mr Vining means by this charge: curmudgeonly, chippy and dour. Think Geoffrey Boycott, and you get the idea. Or Nick Jellet, the head of contracts from the TV show TwentyTwelve, who begins his sentences with "Well, that's as may be, but I'm from Yorkshire..." (As it happens, I'm from Lancashire.)

Now I don't know what the typical qualities of inhabitants of Sussex are, but, for argument's sake, let's say that they are dismissive and high-handed. In which case, perhaps Mr Vining is a stereotypical man of Sussex. Or even a professional Southerner. But we all know that there is no such thing. I am proud of my northern background, and have dedicated my life to missionary work in the South of England. I still notice more times than is good for me when the Today programme weather summary says "rain in the north, sunshine and showers in the south". And you have to remember that my formative years were during the Thatcher era, when – economically and socially – it was always sunny in the south and cold in the north. To many in other parts of Britain, the Olympic Games coming to London is another example of southern hegemony.

Oops, there I go again. A chip on each shoulder. I am not being entirely serious in my reaction to Mr Vining's description of me, but I do think we should be careful about using regional characteristics as a form of insult. Nevertheless, the idea of being a proper professional Northerner is perhaps one I should embrace. No one would ever expect to make a living out of espousing Northern-ness, if indeed there is such a thing. Surely, you can't be paid for being a Northerner, and acting like one. Hold on. I think I've just managed it. So, thanks, Mr Vining. And let the Games begin...