Being Northern. / bolton.


I have friend who will let strangers know, within 20 minutes of meeting them she is a midwife.  Another friend will soon tell people she is a vegetarian and yet another who will mention she is a grandmother  and yet another who mentions her cats.

It is interesting to listen to what people wish to be defined as by listening to what they tell people about themselves, and more importantly what they do NOT let others know.  For example I never tell people what my job is, unless they ask, and I also rarely mention I am a grandmother, unless it comes up in conversation, firstly because, although my grandchildren are the most wonderful in the world, I don’t think other people are  necessarily interested.,…. plus I do not define myself as a grandmother, except for a short while in the mad excitement of getting five in one year!  thus I am forever saddled with the pseudonym “grndma” on trip advisor.

Grandma and midwife are only part of who I am,

For me it is the fact that I am a “Northerner”.  I come from Northern England and more particularly Lancashire. .  For those foreigners who do not understand the vagaries of British accents,  (which to any English person immediately identifies me as northern  working class )  .  I am at pains to point out that I am not one of those Brits who come from the South. Not one of those softy southerners who put on a raincoat at the first sign of drizzle, or even wear a coat at all when I go out,  unless it is actually below 0 degrees.Celcius.  I don’t call milky coffee “latte” and I don’t use a butter knife!      No,  I talk properly,  say boowk instead of buk, coowk, instead of cuk. Eat “dinner” in the middle of the day and “tea” for my evening meal.   I even eat bacon “butties” not sandwiches and have a tendency to call people “love”.   Even this blog is called “denisefrombolton” defining me firmly as a northerner.  I am stoic, hard working and (I hope) welcoming.

There was a documentary a couple of years ago about the north south divide in Britain.  The conclusion was that Southerners really do not have an awareness of any divide yet people from the north of England, definitely feel they are different than those from the south…and by south I mean anything further south than Cheshire and South Yorkshire.  The bit from there to London being known  as vaguely “the midlands”.  That no mans land of Stoke on Trent, Birmingham, Oxford, Stratford  all the way the the borders of Northamptonshire  and Gloucestershire.  Another separate breed of English, who also talk funny.

Counties of England - See below for information of each  English county

Northerners feel that Southerners don’t really understand them.  Hence Margaret Thatchers attempt to annihilate us,  with her philosophy of individuality ( “there is no such thing as society”)  by closing down our industries and trying to destroy our communities……  She didn’t succeed.   We became united in our hatred of her, eventually rising up to protest at the poll tax and thus eventually defeating her.  But the north had been changed forever.

 Even though the powers that be in the South tried in 1974,   to redefine the boundaries around here and put Bolton in the mythical county of “Greater Manchester”  we Boltonians will forever be Lancastrians , we refuse to put “Greater Manchester on our postal address.   Just as the people of St Helens  will never accept the label of Merseyside and be lumped in with Liverpool.

It would seem that southerners have this stereotyped perception of us, reinforced by books like George Orwells “Road to Wigan Pier”  and those gritty kitchen sink dramas of the fifties.   I imagine they think than anyone with a northern accent is less intelligent, less sophisticated.   The North is seen as grim, cold. industrialised.  Full of working class people in clogs and shawls, raising whippets whilst wearing a flat cap.. …. and rain.

My hairdresser husband tells the story of being in a pub in London when he was younger and when a southern acquaintance was told he was a ladies hairdresser, the Londoner asked in all seriousness    “much call for it up there?” !!

Yes there is much call up here.  See the ladies of Liverpool, with their shiny straightened locks,  tans, manicures , long eyelashes, and perfect grooming.  Liverpool is a dream place for anyone in the beauty business..

So far from the stereotype, the reality is much different.  Yes our Anglo Saxon ancestors came in from the farms and cottage industries to work in the textile mills, pits and factories of the industrial revolution, so we have a tradition of hard working stoicism.  but their descendants are educated, cultured and have their own fashion and way of life.

 Hear the world renowned Halle orchestra performing at the Bridgewater hall and look in any supermarket to see our diet is not just pies and chips, there are delis, artisan breads and the fresh fruit and vegetable van makes its way here regularly!!.

We gave the world music from people like John Lennon and Paul; McCartney, not to mention fashion from Stella, (not strictly a northener she ha snorthern genes))  not to mention “northern soul”  ( although, strictly American Motown it was the Northern Soul movement that began in Wigan)  Art from the likes of LS Lowry and the daffodils, much renowned by Wordsworth celebrates the beautiful band of country from Barrow in the west coast to Robins Hood bay in the east..

More recently, workers were imported from the commonwealth countries of India and Pakistan to shore up the dying Textile industries, so we also have a rich cultural  colourful additional inheritance  of Mosques, Temples, curry and Asian festivals.

I will also let people know quite quickly that I am a cyclist.

Last year I went on a bike ride around the Ribble Valley, a couple of miles from my home.  This is a hidden secret. Off the tourist trail and yet amazing countryside, pretty villages of local stone houses.

The river Ribble flows through the valley, with ancient bridges

The river Ribble flows through the valley, with ancient bridges

Ribblehead viaduct from Whalley

Ribblehead viduct from Whalley

Pretty village of Waddington.

Pretty village of Waddington.

2013-05-06 13.12.032013-05-06 14.51.01

Of course there ARE some industrial deserts up here and a third generation of Thatchers rejects, who were left behind, when the traditional industries were closed,  to live on benefits on sink estates. without the skills or education to lift themselves out of poverty, They are now demonised by the current government and blamed for all our ills, instead of the greedy bankers, who really are responsible for the recession……  but I think my socialist colours are showing.

At the moment I am quite ashamed of my home town centre, which seems to have  been taken over by gangs of people from other countries. Who shout at each other in a foreign language, Thus the local population who have money to spend, tell me  they are so intimidated they now go else where to shop, like the nearest local town of  Bury.  The domino effect of this is that local businesses have closed down over the past two years  and even NCP have closed the  muliti story car park.  It is so sad.  Especially as we have this magnificent town hall

2013-05-02 07.28.01

As very often happens with my blog,  It starts of as one subject and then morphs through a stream of conciousness to something else.  A simple question about how we define ourselves has become a blog about being northern.

..and I have far exceeded my usual self imposed 5-600 world limit.  So if you have made it this far without your eyes glossing over, I hope I have made you think about yourself and how YOU define yourself.

Love Denise



  1. I don’t think I would describe myself as anything, voluntarily, but when pushed I did come up with the description of “failed scientist, failing writer”. It is sadly as accurate as any.

    As for the north I once introduced a lady from Texas to the Mancorialist (a man who goes around Manchester photographing the weird, wonderful, and trendy) and she spent hours, she told me, fascinatedly looking through the pictures as she didn’t possibly imagine that we looked like that.


    • It’s interesting how you describe yourself as “failed….” when I see you as a very successful blogger and a bit quirky.

      Love the pictures from the Mancoralist. Can rival any picture taken in Paris. and love the phrase “didn’t possibly imagine that we could look like this!. LOL!

      Have a good day and keep writing.. .


  2. I really enjoyed this entry. Being a Southerner, I mean here in the USA, is very different from in England–it’s almost the exact opposite. I wish sometimes I still had my Southern accent but it was lost many years ago. Interestingly, my Mom back home in NC also calls the midday meal dinner, it’s a very Southern address.


    • Hi Joseph nice to see you. When I blog I never know how others will read it. Sometimes what I see as SO interesting hardly gets a comment and others I have run away with like this attracts people like you.

      I recently spent some time with a couple from Alabama. What a lovely accent they had, I could listen all day. and interesting that people in NC. (where is that) call the midday meal “dinner”. Maybe the first settlers were from the North of England.

      Enjoy your day. Love Denise


  3. I am not sure how I would describe myself, but Alsacienne would definetly be part of the definition. Alsace is a beautiful region with a very strong identity, a special history and, like Northern England, it is the target of quite a few clichés in the rest of France : Siberian weather, locals who speak a Germanic dialect and eat sauerkraut and sausages, etc…Speaking of food reminds me when I spent a few months in West Yorkshire in the 80s and how outraged people were when the U.K. Health minister said that “Northerners die of ignorance and chips”, for them this summed up the condescension of the South towards the North … Anyway, I find Northern England beautiful, well I only know Yorkshire and Cumbria, but your pictures of Lancashire are lovely too.


    • I am so glad you spent time in northern England fro it is rare to find a French person who knows us. Especially as the Eurostar now takes people directly into London.

      I am saving up to visit Alsace. I really would love to take your invitation and come visit. Your pictures show me a beautiful part of the world.

      Enjoy your day Anne.
      Love Denise


  4. Pingback: A defining moment… | A Paris Journey…

  5. Wow, you certainly packed a lot in to that blog! As an adopted Northerner ( I’ve been here since 1971) but originally from just north of London, and then Hampshire, which really is south, so really a southern softie I suppose, I much prefer the north, particularly the north west of England. I came here aged 20 to study and just stayed, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. We have so much beauty here in our surroundings, including some of the grittier areas, and so many friendly, caring people, and if we do need to go south, it’s easily reachable by train or plane. I think what I’m trying to say in a very longwinded way is that I feel northern, even if I don’t quite have the accent, and woulodn’t have it any other way!


  6. Very interesting! Although I must speak up in defence of whippets – we had one as a kid (clearly the influence of my Lancastrian father) and they are lovely dogs. Beautiful photos too x


  7. Nice to see you back Denise. I love your posts but especially these social commentary ones. After living in NZ for over 40 years I think I qualify as a Kiwi, but when I’m back in the UK I’m identified as a Liverpudlian when I speak – but I don’t quite fit in culturally. When I’m home in Auckland I mostly fit in culturally, but not entirely, and I definitely don’t sound Kiwi! In my Englishness I am most definitely a northerner, that is for sure! I wouldn’t have been attracted to your blog if it was entitled Denise from Slough! It was interesting to read you are a midwife – I was sure you were a counsellor…


  8. Haha! I let my profession slip. I usually keep it quiet. partly for professional confidentiality reasons and partly because people then tell me their own birth story!!!. …..but you were not far out with your guess of counsellor as I have extensive training as a counsellor, I taught i and practised as a counsellor for several years, alongside being midwife. …. but then burnout got to me. There is only so much misery you can listen to before you start to loose your empathy and develop detachment, which is no good for anybody.

    Once a northerner always a northerner I say. A Kiwi friend of mine says that Northerners remind her of Kiwis and I always find Kiwis very down to earth.

    Love Denise


  9. What a gorgeous part of the country you seem to live in…your photos are beautiful! I really enjoyed learning about what it means to be from the North!


  10. Just a small correction, Denise love. The picture of ‘Ribblehead Viaduct at Whalley’ is actually Whalley Viaduct, crossing the Ribble at Whalley. Ribblehead Viaduct is in some other county, the name of which, being a Lancastrian, I can’t bring myself to mention. Keep up the good work, lass, and enjoy your pasty barms from Ye Olde Pastie Shoppe.


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