Well, not actually abroad. But as far as many of us living in Yorkshire are concerned the South may as well be a different country; once you cross the border people stop putting gravy on everything and Greggs become scarily infrequent. After having moved to Oxford on a semi-permanent basis, I’ve come to realise some of the cultural differences that separate different areas. When I arrived last term, someone genuinely asked me if we had Wi-Fi and colour television up north. The answer is yes, yes we do. In an attempt to I get rid of this ignorance I’ve decided to prepare a brief guide to Yorkshire – God’s own country.
Let’s start with food, something for which the North harbours a strange amount of pride. Once you get past all the pies and pasties our most famous export tends to be the ‘Yorkshire Pudding’. After all, what would the Sunday Roast be without this vital ingredient? Traditionally it’s actually a starter course to the main meal but in most other places in the UK it’s just eaten alongside the meat dish. A slightly lesser known treat is a type of sweet cake called ‘Parkin’ made from ginger and treacle. It’s usually served around Bonfire Night but has become fairly common all year round. But if these dishes are too ordinary for you then some parts of Leeds market used to sell a much more unusual foodstuff. It’s called ‘Kicker’ and to put it plain and simple – it’s horse meat. That’s right, we ate horse long before the whole Tesco situation. Although I don’t expect it would become a popular dish in any of the college halls.
Although Leeds United isn’t quite the football team it used to be (having a reputation for disappointing their fans week after week) since the Olympic Games I’ve claimed the right to boast for Yorkshire’s sporting achievement. At the London 2012 Olympics competitors from Yorkshire received 7 gold medals, 2 silver medals and 3 bronze medals. In fact, from these statistics, if Yorkshire had been treated as a country it would have come twelfth in the global medal table. Not too bad if you ask me – I expect to see a statue of Jessica Ennis in Sheffield city centre any time soon. But if we put normal sporting achievements aside for a moment, one strange test of stamina has become typically associated with Yorkshire. It’s called ‘Ferret Legging’ and I can assure you that, despite any of the stereotypes, I’ve actually never seen it happen in my life. But it involves putting a live ferret down your trousers and seeing how long you can keep it there. The winner is the last to release the animal from their trousers, the record for which is currently five hours. Think you can beat that? Maybe we could introduce it as a component of Eights week…
Moving on from bizarre games to culture, I was surprised recently to read in an article that Yorkshire has produced very few writers. As far as I’m concerned that assumption is entirely false: as well as being the birth place of Ted Hughes, Alan Bennet, Tony Harrison and W. H. Auden, Yorkshire is most famous for being the home of the Brontë sisters. The dark moors of Wuthering Heights are a very real setting, and the Parsonage the three sisters grew up in can now be visited as a museum. For many people the remote moors and dales of North Yorkshire are a beautiful place to go walking and, as writer Bill Bryson one said, they are perhaps: “the finest place there is until I have died and seen heaven” – he means apart from Oxford, of course. Yet if literature isn’t your thing, then perhaps the music scene will be able to persuade you; Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs being but two of the county’s biggest exports or, if you’re looking for something a little more high-brow, then one of England’s largest national opera companies ‘Opera North’ is based in Leeds.
So, if you’re planning on leaving the university for a bit of fresh air or a change of scenery, come up and visit. Assuming that you’ve spent a prolonged period in Oxford then you might have to show your passport at Northern border control, otherwise there shouldn’t be much of a problem. We’ll welcome you with open arms, show you the sights and maybe, as unlikely as it seems, Leeds United might actually win a game of football.