North/South divide

As we move from Christmas to the New Year I am pondering the past. I moved to the North East of England just before Christmas in 1985, 30 years later it feels both a distant memory and also one of the most significant relocations of my life. Moving over 300 miles from my roots has been an enduring conundrum for me, I have both found myself at home here but an outsider. The move North was traumatic and unsettling – I found myself living in a huge, cold terrace house in a middle-class enclave of Newcastle. I became a sort of step mum to 3 boys and being uprooted at Christmas was truly hideous. It is colder in the North East and back in 1985 the industrial decline was everywhere to be seen. I was lucky to get a job as a District Nursing Sister in Gateshead but that was a huge culture shock in so many ways. A soft Southerner was not the most welcome person. I remember very clearly one lady not letting me into her home as a DN as she felt I was a representative of Maggie Thatcher and it took a lot of persuasion on my part to eventually get in – we got on well after that and I often think of her as I drive past the block of flats she lived in. Up unti then most of my colleagues were young and their aspiration was to catch themselves a spouse. In Gateshead my new colleagues were often the only source of income in the family as their husbands’ jobs were long gone with the closure of mines and shipyards. It was ALL so different. Back then education was a life raft – I started my OU studies in January 1986 and that made the transition bearable. I am still in touch with one of my fellow students and both our  lives are significantly different to back then. 

So 30 years is a long time to be in one place and I have no intention of relocating any time soon. My daughter talks with a north east lilt and I love the open skies and wide, empty beaches BUT this time of year remains tricky because of the changes I overlooked all that time ago. It is never too late to address sticky issues and as I contemplate whether I will see  all my siblings as we visit the South for New Year, I wonder why we have never really talked about it and possibly ignored the impact it had on our relationships. My family is in the North but my childhood was in Berkshire, I know there are insights to explore and this is the first step.


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