A Northerners View on London

A quick disclaimer for y’all, I’m no London expert. I’ve visited a handful of times and I’ve been here for about three consecutive weeks so far. If anything, it means I’m definitely not the person who should be writing this article. But here I am, it’s my blog so deal with it. There are some things I’ve noticed since being in the Big Smoke that are completely different in the land of pies and gravy.

There Are Literally Prets Everywhere

Honest to God, why are there so many Prets? It is the overrated coffee chain for toffs. They’re literally on every corner of this bloody city. Pret for me was an occasional lunch I purchased mid-shift at the Cheshire Oaks when I’d forgotten my own and Maccies was closed. While their delicious brie and avocado toasties were to die for, I wouldn’t flood the city with Prets at the same ratio as Tescos.

I literally got my girlfriend to take this photo to prove a point. Trafalgar Square. (July, 2020).

It is completely bonkers. I’ve spotted a single Gregg’s for every 20 Prets on my wanders around. Trafalgar Square has two across the road from each other. You can literally look longingly at another Pret while you consume your overpriced Pret that you just purchased. I wouldn’t mind but the coffee isn’t even that great – I don’t understand it, I don’t even want to say the P word anymore. Moving on.

You Can Tell There is Actually Funding

Coming straight from Lancashire, this is no surprise. Central London is the richest area in the entirety of Northern Europe, Lancashire is the 7th poorest within the same area. The difference is genuinely stark, and it makes you realise the centrism of the government in this country. The population of Greater London is expected to reach 10 million by 2030. Half the reason for this is migration of labour. The government can use buzzwords like ‘northern powerhouse’ as much as they want, but when the solution is literally to attach the North to London through HS2, you need to rethink your plans.

It’s Unbelievably Flat

I expected so much more from Primrose Hill. Again, coming straight from Lancashire I expected it to be a relatively substantial height. Nope. The word hill is massively misleading. I’d have called it Primrose Lump, or Primrose Slightly Raised Grass.

The view from Primrose Lump (July, 2020)

The view from the ‘top’ is admittedly fantastic, but if this was up north it wouldn’t even have a name. Being honest with you all, it would have already been torn down and made into ‘Primrose Housing Estate’.

The People Are Genuinely Really Friendly

This really took me by surprise, as you hear some horror stories about the abhorrent unfriendliness of ‘Londoners’. Other than one lad who told me to f*ck off for no reason, or the other who walked around the Rose Garden in the Regent’s Park tearing off the unflowered buds like a small child – everyone has been lovely.

Living in Lancashire, even just sitting in a park or walking home I’d get abuse hurled at me for being ginger. I’m not really sure why, it’s great. We all have a massive WhatApp group where we all update each other on our ginger lives. Ed Sheeran, Paul Scholes and Prince Harry are always typing away.

In London though, I’ve had none of that yet. I’m not writing this for sympathy or anything, I’m a big lad and I only cry sometimes. Jokes aside, it’s just something I’ve noticed.

People often talk about the ‘friendliness’ of Northerners, which is true if you’re hiking through the Lake District, smile and say hello to the one other person who walks in your general direction. However, and I don’t know about you, I actually hate it when someone tries to talk to me on the Merseyrail. Please leave me alone. I do not want to become a Mormon; I’ve seen the musical. Even worse is conversations at the urinal. I’m pretty sure that goes against every rule in the bloke handbook.

If you ask me, all of us should adopt the etiquette of the tube. Don’t look at me, let me ride the train in peace unless I already know who you are. The North is very friendly, but so is London. I just find that the friendliness is in more appropriate places. But maybe that’s just me…

Nobody Walks Anywhere

I really enjoy walking, which is lucky considering I passed my driving test and never bought a car. If a journey is an hour or under from my door, odds are I’ll walk it. I met my friend by the Shard the other day and walked there from Marylebone. She was visibly shocked; it was about an hour and a half, but it was almost 30°C out and I didn’t fancy taking the sweat-box that is the tube.

I find walking gives you a better feel for a place compared to popping in and out of the underground like a whack-a-mole. Maybe in the future I’ll become magnetized to the tube like a regular old Londoner, but that’s yet to happen. Being fair though, the weathers been great.

There’s so much good food. Brood, Borough Market. (July, 2020)

There is Something for Everyone

I’ve spent the last few weeks exploring my new surroundings and honestly there is just stuff to do in every direction. Feeling bohemian? Hackney, Shoreditch and Camden Market. World renowned tourist sites? Check. A massive choice of cuisine from everywhere you could possibly think of? Another check. Graffiti? Waterloo. Seeing how the other half live? Kensington, Chelsea, Hampstead Heath and Richmond. Parks? Yep. Hills? No – actually. But the beaches of Brighton aren’t too far away!

Blood sucking corporate buildings with no character?


Canary Wharf is Terrible

I don’t care if it’s the safest part of London. I’ve never seen a place so devoid of life and filled to the brim with commercial boredom. Every shop is a chain (there are bloody Prets everywhere) and it’s all so grey. The only thing that isn’t grey is this golden egg for some reason.

Somebody call the Easter Bunny. Canary Wharf. (July, 2020)

There is more personality in a lump of cement-coloured clay than Canary Wharf. London is packed with so much culture, so why would you choose to live in the one part that doesn’t have any? Nah, pull it down and try again lads.

No offence if you live there, its just really not for me. I bet you’ve got killer views of the good parts of London from those skyscrapers though.

In conclusion, I’m really enjoying my time in London so far. You can only get so much of a feel for a place so big in a hand full of visits. I’ve barely even scratched the surface of the city and it feels like I’ve done nothing but walk around since I’ve been here. Long may it continue!

Now, I’ve got a hankering for a soy vanilla iced latte from a Pret in Canary Wharf.


PS. After a quick Google search it turns out there are 237 Prets in London (back in 2018 at least, so they’ve probably carried on breeding). Told you.

How stunning is Little Venice? (July, 2020)

Dear Lancashire, an Unplanned and Extended Visit

Alright che,

For me, living in Lancashire was never on the agenda. It was a region I had knowledge of as my family roots stem from Liverpool, a former chunk of the historic Lancashire region before it broke off and became Merseyside in 1974. Manchester too is formerly a part of the region, a city which has been the backdrop for many a night out.

Historic boundaries of Lancashire (Red), and the current county (Green)

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to travel, live abroad and see as much of the world as possible. The county of Lancashire just wasn’t somewhere I’d felt inclined to visit. My impressions if you’d asked me a year ago? Rain. Despite learning much more about the area and its rich culture and history, I don’t think I was that far off.

According to the Telegraph, Preston is the 7th rainiest area in the United Kingdom. The Met Office also claim that on August 10th, 1893, 32mm of rain hammered down on the town within five minutes. Soggy.

I ended up in that waterfall (the area, not the time it happened – this would be a much more interesting article) by complete accident. Some family issues meant I left my home in Chester and after spending a great few months in Ellesmere Port living at my Grandads, I eventually moved up to Blackburn to be with my girlfriend where she was staying with her Dad.

It’s the guy that sang the A-Team! (Royal Oak, Blackburn, September 2019)

Blackburn itself doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but I really enjoyed my half a year living in the former mill town. After all, it had been home for King Kenny when he won the Premier League with Rovers back in 1995. If it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. While north of the West Pennine Moors I performed my first open mic at the royal Oak in Pleckgate, looked for witches as I climbed Pendle Hill and was able to connect with my girlfriend’s family – and for that I’m truly grateful.

A standard Lancashire advert. Source: shittyfoodporn on Reddit (lol)

Blackburn also opened my eyes to some of the strangest northern scran I’d ever seen (that I would admittedly come to love). The best of all being the ‘butter pie’, a savoury pastry with the contents of potato, onion, and lashings of real butter. I was first served this delicacy piping hot within a ‘barmcake’, or a bread roll for those of you outside the county borders. Call it what you want, a ‘Wigan Kebab’ or a ‘Pie Barm’ – I had no idea how to eat the thing at first. I’d ‘tret’ myself to a Greenhalgh’s one afternoon and attempted to eat it as I walked through a ‘ginnel’. One bite in and my palms burned as the sloppy buttered potato clung to them like napalm, I couldn’t have looked like more of an outsider if I’d tried. I even sounded like one as my Cestrian accent bellowed from my ‘cakehole’ with “ooos” and “aaahhs” as my hands scorched that cold October day.

Fried Spam as an addition to the already perfect full English breakfast was another I failed to understand on first listen. Firstly, for the addition itself, secondly, because of the broadness of the Blackburn accent. My first month I think those who knew me only thought I could say the words ‘what’, ‘sorry’ and ‘pardon’. After trying it for myself, I can safely say Spam is a more than welcome replacement for when your ‘binlid’ is lacking sausage, but you do have to swat away some strange looks from elsewhere on this floating island we call Britain.

Oh, and on the 3rd day, God said let there be gravy. However, due to its viscosity it failed to leave the north, and so the Northerners celebrated as they were pretty chuffed it never reached the Southern fairies. They could stick to their jellied eels.

In the end we decided to leave Blackburn so I could be closer to where I worked. I had a job on the docks in Preston and it was taking me nearly two hours to get to work everyday (when Northern Rail decided to turn up) and another couple of hours back. In response to this we moved to Bamber Bridge, a wee urban village south-east of Preston. The obscure name of the place translates from the Old English “Bēam and Brycg”, which means ‘Tree-Trunk Bridge’. I never saw one and the name still puzzles me now.

Bamber Bridge Train Station, 1963 (Source: Ben Brooksbank)

Bamber Bridge had been home to the American 1511 Quartermaster Truck regiment in the Second World War, which was racially segregated. All the soldiers in this regiment were African American, except the officers in power who were white. Fighting broke out between the officers and infantrymen in the ensuing tensions of the 1943 Detriot race riot, the African American infantry with the local townsfolk on one side – the white American military police on the other. The violence actually started at the pub we lived next to while we were there. Today, it is known as the ‘Battle of Bamber Bridge‘. It is a scene that could be reported on yesterday as the Black Lives Matter protests roll on. Go Brig* for being on the right side of history!

*Brig – a term the locals use for the village of Bamber Bridge.

The village is perfectly situated next to Cuerdan Valley park, an absolutely stunning area of greenery, trees and rivers that is 100% a side-effect of the aforementioned rainfall in the area. For as much as people criticise the rain, it really does birth some stunning scenery. I don’t think I’ve inhaled cleaner air or drank fresher water from taps. Where I grew up each sip was followed by the unpleasant sting of limescale, even after a filter through the Brita.

Cuerdan Valley Park in a rare moment of sun (March, 2020)

The town of Preston also has some killer nightlife. It is the only place I’ve seen where you can get a Tango Ice Blast cocktail. Odeon, if you’re reading this – make some notes.

The Ribble Valley and the Fylde coast also contain some fantastic spots if you’re ever around the area. Clitheroe, Downham and Lytham are some of my favourites. Not to mention the historically significant Lancaster.

The time came for us to move down south to enter the London lottery, but these slices of Lancashire will live on within me. Sure, it might not be the most eye-opening location of my life story, but for me it was just as much of an adventure.

Live life like a tourist and you’ll never be with ‘owt’ to do.

Ta-ra for now!