Tuesday, 23 January 2007

A Common Man


We live in the North-East of England. Northumberland to be precise. And a wonderful place to live it is. Primarily rural, it's full of awesome scenery, mountains and vacant lengthy beaches. There's no cities as such; the nearest big conurbation is Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

The village we live in is large enough to have the infrastructure we need to live well as a family; good schools, shops, pubs and a few tasty restaurants. You could call it a small town I suppose.

In living here, I gain pleasure from walking around, secure in the knowledge that I'll pass people whom I know, and who know me. We share pleasantries and gossip. If we visit our local hostelries at night, we know that our evenings will be full of the chatter of friends and acquaintances.

Much of Northumberland is like this.

Perhaps some would balk at this parochial existence. Supposing it breeds small mindedness and conservatism. Which it does of course. However, since the decline of heavy engineering, the region has suffered an economic blight from which it's only beginning to recover. Consequently, incomes are relatively low and for many, their perceived quality of life is poor.

This struggle to live well, and the received culture of 'Northerners' (friendly, straight forward and generous) counterbalances this parochialism in my view; it leads to quite cohesive communities.

The real economic powerhouse of England is the South-East, specifically London. Here incomes are higher. As is 'quality of life', apparently. Proportionally to the North-East, inhabitants have larger disposal incomes and equity enough to afford beefy mortgages, Algarve holidays and Chelsea Tractors.

However, by and large, they are time poor. It's said that people in the South live to work, whereas in the North people work to live. Of course, this is a blunt simplification, but it illustrates the points I'm coming to eventually, honest.

I've cause to visit the South-East from time to time. When I do I'm always struck by the differences in conversation. My southern family and friends talk so much more about their houses, investment opportunities, interest rates and new cars.

As a northern friend once said, "Even if I had two barge poles (about ten feet), and taped them together, I still wouldn't touch the city life."

Mind you, I'll admit to buying into this smugness a bit. I have a lovely big, black, family sized car. Tell me, how big is yours?

Anyway, to my point;

Some would say that society is being strangled by the tightening grip of secularism. As a result it's becoming increasingly cynical and impersonal.

Personally I think this is a correlation, not a causation. This depersonalisation of life is more a result of social groups growing so large that the notion of the common man has become abstracted. Success and happiness are now largely defined by the amount of plastic and metal we collect around us.

Perhaps we should take some advice from Kafka; “I do not read advertisements - I would spend all my time wanting things”.

2 comments:

Holly said...

If you ever visit Canada, I suggest rural Nova Scotia as a place you would enjoy. Having grown up there, I am biased, but it sounds very similar to your lovely little neck of the woods.

Enjoy the simple and pretty places. They grow ever more rare.

jamon said...

Hi Holly. New Scotland - it sounds great. How close I came to writing from your viewpoint. Dad, being a skilled engineer and having a good job offer nearly brought us all over to Canada to live in the early 80's.

I wonder how different life would have turned out...