“I would rather be a man toiling, suffering—nay, failing and successless—here, than lead a dull prosperous life in the old worn grooves of what you call more aristocratic society down in the South, with their slow days of careless ease.”
says Mr Thornton in North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Have you read or watched Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (BBC version 2004)? Imagine the camera panning across the English countryside. Birds are tweeting, yellow roses adorn the hedgerows in full bloom, the sun shines, there are parties and pretty frocks? That’s the South. Now put a grey-blue filter over the lens and picture a hazy, sooty cityscape with chimneys and rooftops for miles, inclement weather, a crying child, a wide-eyed youngster in a flat cap and the constant din of industrial machinery. Voila – I give you, The North.
Hubby and I have now made two short visits to Kingston upon Hull in Yorkshire:- the first to look for a house for my brother and family a few weeks ago, the second to help them settle in. To visit Hull as a tourist, or ‘ull, as the natives call it, is a must. To live and work in Hull, is perhaps more like a calling.
What we discovered in Hull:
- At the Maritime Museum we heard tails of mermaids, and saw skeletons of whales and whale products from Hull’s heydays. We learned about the life of the ‘learner deckie’ on the trawler boats where, with only one day to spend your money, everyone felt like a millionaire.
- Right whales are called as such because whalers considered them to be the ‘right whales’ to kill. They swim slowly and once dead, they float.
- We tasted the famous patty or pa’ie as they pronounce it in Hull. The locals insisted we try the local “pa’ie and chips” from a local “chippie”. We opted for just the patty as it’s made from potato (mashed, rolled into a patty and deep fried), making a dinner of patty and chips essentially two helpings of deep fried potatoes in different shapes. This was as interesting cultural experience.
If you want some advise on where to buy the best fish and chips or patties in Hull, visit chipadvisor… not tripadvisor.
- Kingston upon Hull was awarded the European City of Culture award for 2017. So effectively, they took the estimated £60 million boost (thanks EU) and then voted 70-30 to Brexit.
- There are many more interesting museums for us to visit in Hull: William Wilberforce’s House, a real Trawler Boat which is a museum and you can go on board, The Deep (their famous aquarium with a Finding Nemo like drop off into the deep), The Streetlife Museum where you can walk down a street in the 1940’s and many others. Museums are free.
- To commemorate the coming city of culture award next year, Hull organised a couple of naked art installations this summer, one in which thousands of people stripped down and were painted blues and greens in celebration of Hull’s long maritime history. We did not take part, but I hear they had a good day for it.
- Forget the Great War or WWII, in 1900 The Cod Wars were fought in the north sea off the coast of Hull between the United Kingdom and Iceland. A series of ‘valiant battles’ (figuratively speaking only) were fought over fishing rights in the North Atlantic. I’m sorry to report that Iceland won and this devastated the fishing industry in North of England.
- Vocabulary tips: a bun or roll is called a ‘bread cake’ and a pair of trousers are ‘kecks’.
- It’s perfectly normal to wander across the street to meet your new neighbours in a nightgown, slippers, no teeth and a cigarette in hand … suffice to say we met my brother’s new neighbours. No more on that one … I won’t steal my sister-in-law’s stories for her blog.
- A person born and raised in Hull is called an ‘ully gully’ where the ‘u’ is pronounced almost like ‘oo’ in stool, but when you say it, purse your lips together and make the sound a bit shorter.
- The ully gullies we came across were some of the friendliest people we’ve met in England and tended to refer to me as ‘luv’ (same pronunciation as the ‘u’ in ully gully).
- The marina is beautiful. There you’ll find quaint shops and great restaurants and on sunny days you may come across Morris Dancers, though not necessarily your traditional sort.
- For a top class restaurant, try 1884 Dock Street Kitchen – expensive for this northern city, but delicious food. I had oysters. No reaction to oysters (successfully tested calamari in South Africa) … so far it’s just crab I can’t eat.
- The Humber Bridge costs £1.50 to cross and it’s well worth the drive over the dramatic rise and to see the wide, muddy river Humber – one of England’s few remaining working rivers.
P.s. Hull patties come in different flavours like onion and sage or rosemary… so ully gullies would insist that it’s not just potato.
P.p.s. Incidentally we learnt from our friends in Liverpool (city of culture) that it’s also perfectly acceptable to buy your milk, tabloid and ciggies from your local (a local is the shop in walking distance from your home), wearing a onesie and with curlers in your hair – the curlers can remain in most of the day as you go about your chores.
P.p.p.s. For some really interesting listening programmes about the North of England, BBC Radio 4 is doing a series… I believe you can listen online from anywhere in the world.
P.p.p.p.s. In the whale section of the Maritime Museum whale noises are played on hidden speakers. So it was I came to discover that, like Dory, Hubby can speak Whale.