Wednesday, 16 November 2005

On being a Northener

Now there's a place in Wigan a place you all should know
A busy little factory where things are all the go
They don't make Jakes or Eccles Cakes or things to stick on walls
But night and day they work away at Uncle Joe's Mint Balls

Sitting on the shelves opposite where I'm writing this is a small red tin. On it is the smiling face of a gentleman in a top hat.

The chap is Uncle Joe and the tin contains his world famous mint balls. Mike Harding, a very famous and very, very funny Northern chap, celebrated this wonderful delicacy in a song, the first verse is quoted above. The chorus is (all together now):

Uncle Joe's Mint Balls keep you all aglow
Give 'em to your grannie and watch the beggar go
Away with coughs and sniffles, take a few in hand
Suck 'em and see, you'll agree
They're the best in all the land

Now this led me to thinking about how else those of us lucky enough to be born in the North of this wonderful land can be distinguished from the poor beggars born elsewhere. Sterling Times A - Z of Englishness quotes Cecil Rhodes ""To be born English is to have won first prize in the lottery of life" but most of us know that being born in, say, Slough really doesn't work as well as being born in Lancashire.

Northerners are generally well spoken and rugged (the blokes are rugged too), we are fearless (find "Napolean's Retreat from Wigan" in the poems section of Mike Harding's site) and resolute. We support the underdogs - 30,000 used to turn up at Maine Road when City were in Division three - and retain our sense of humour no matter what, remember that Manchester and Liverpool are both in Lancashire whatever the Boundary Commision claim.

But what else distinguishes us from the rest? Is it the tradition of liberalism that gave birth to The Manchester Guardian? Is it our inherent work ethic which meant that we were the catalyst for the Industrial Revolution? Is it our generous welcome to all those who want to settle in the North - it's no coincidence that in 1908 a New Zealander and a German were working in Manchester when they invented the Rutherford-Geiger detector of single ionizing particles, still known as the Geiger Counter.

Those unfortunates who don't know about the North West of England could do worse than visiting this site to find out a little more about the area.

And yes - I have a flat cap :-)

8 careful considerations:

Bluefluff said...

Mum used to sell Uncle Joe's mintballs loose from a big jar, in quarters. I was allowed to eat the stuck-together broken bits when the jar was empty :-)

kat said...

And what about Fishermen's Friends from Fleetwood. They sell 'em all over the world now.

Nogbad said...

Fishermen's Friends! Of course Kat - more grist to the mill! :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh yes! I used to keep a tin of Uncle Joes in my bedside locker at school. I used to sing the Mike Harding song too. I do like Fisherman's Friends better though.

When I was doing a radio show in Sussex (which is MILES away from Lancashire) we did a sketch show called 'The Road to Wogan Pier'. And my mate at 'tother 6th form college was in a production called 'Frankie goes to Oldham Mumps', which is very near where we stayed last October half-term when we fulfilled BKs wish of going on a Pendolino train.

On the subject of music, Manchester is still way better than Liverpool and has produced tons more good stuff e.g. The Smiths, The Happy Mondays etc. In fact the best thing to come out of Liverpool is the East Lancashire Road.

I must post my tale of me meeting the Manchester Ship Canal. One day. When I've sufficiently recovered, which may be never. I'll keep taking the minty ball tablets.

Nogbad said...

On the subject of music, Manchester is still way better than Liverpool and has produced tons more good stuff e.g. The Smiths, The Happy Mondays etc. And Joy Division and The Hollies and Les Dawson?

fugusashi said...

American here...

I've read this a couple of times, but finally googled "mint balls". Candy, of course!

For some reason, however, "turkey fries" kept coming to mind. ;-)

Nogbad said...

Morning Paula! I dread to think what turkey fries may be - are they related to what we might call lamb's fries?

fugusashi said...