North and south

North vs South – the verdict


Unbeknownst to both the Northerners and the Southerners, self-appointed Judge, Jury and Executioner Jonny Edge is ready to deliver his sentence.

I’ve been watching you. Watching and waiting, patiently preparing to finally have my say on who’s worse – the Northerners or the Southerners. As all of us Brits know, we’re a nation split horizontally across the middle between the North and the South. No matter which end of the nation you’re from, you’re now to be judged in my court.

Last spring, I moved to Yorkshire from Devon. Thankfully, I’m not actually from Devon and I’ve emerged virtually unscathed from my years there – but I’m not Northern either. When I was young I moved around quite a lot, so there’s nowhere in the UK I actually consider being ‘home’. You could say I’m kind of geographically-neutral for this argument, and that provides me with the neutrality needed to judge fairly. That or the perfect position from which to throw shade at the whole lot of you.

Before moving to Yorkshire, I was convinced of the fact that Devon – alongside its poor relation, Cornwall – were home to the very worst drivers in the UK. Down there, driving is mostly about trying your best to avoid things – tractors with their bale spikes lowered helpfully to head-height, regiments of Honda Jazz’s piloted by ancients, and, perhaps the worst of the lot, suicidal young drivers. They, of course, obtained their licenses from their cousin – the examiner – after an intensive 2 weeks of practising on the farm. I spent the best part of a decade driving in the South West, and hand on my heart here, I can say I’m lucky to be alive.

In Yorkshire, the expectation was that I’d find a better quality of driving. After all, Yorkshire is home to a huge variety of roads – everything from busy streets to quiet, muddy back routes. Some of the very best UK roads can also be found here, like the ones stretching across the moorland, beautifully curving and wide stretches of asphalt enjoyable in almost anything, or they would be if the locals weren’t absolutely determined to become a statistic. Here, it seems to be everyone for themselves, with a lack of regard for all other road users epitomised by overtaking on blind corners or crests. Huge accidents are not uncommon, and neither are the inevitable impacts they have on our squishy little bodies. Surprisingly, driving in Leeds city centre is often more enjoyable – and safer – than driving on the roads between major towns. So, does this mean the North is worse than the South? Well no, I don’t think that’s the case. Instead, something much worse is happening.

As a nation – both North and South united – we are socially regressing. It doesn’t matter where I drive now, I see the same symptoms regardless – a lack of respect for fellow road users, widespread selfishness and an over-reliance on driving aids. Even just a decade ago, drivers kept an eye on one another far more than now. Communication and consideration both seem to be fading fast now, along with simple, basic manners. In all parts of the nation, you can observe it, people increasingly sitting on cruise control in the middle lane of the motorway, or even in the outside lane, despite being so much traffic that nobody can pass. In supermarket car parks, people no longer return trolleys, leaving them to drift around and bump or scratch cars. On top of that, poor parking, tailgating, road rage and abuse all seem to be commonplace.

I was originally tasked with judging you, to examine the standards between North and South and throw one of you in my motoring gulag, but the issue is no longer North vs South, it’s the cancerous ‘me, me, me’ attitude and finger-pointing. As a nation, we no longer respect the needs or situations of others no matter which part of our country we happen to come from. It’s hard to say if there’s any possible way to reverse from the point at which we’ve arrived, which is a worrying thought.

Despite all of this negativity, I will say this – I’d rather drive alongside the worst of you than the best of central Paris. Never will I forget the day a French woman in her 80’s exercised by swearing at me for a solid 20 minutes after I pulled out on her at a Parisian junction. Nor the many days of taking part in what seemed to be a touring car race around Milan or the time I had to pull over in the Southern Alps to let a man in a 1980’s Fiat attempt to turn himself into tinned human.

Look, I have to do this. I can’t lie to you, can I? You’re all guilty. Ultimately, there’s nothing between North and South – you’re all as bad as each other. You increasingly making driving a stressful, happiness-sapping event that is, from a personal point of view, slowly killing my passion.

Maybe some time inside will make you consider your actions. Britain, I hereby sentence you.