Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Field Guide to the 15 Real Nations of Britain:

Reposted from 2007.  This didn't get quite enough hits to make the top 100 but I have liked it over the years, so it qualifies under the "You Ungrateful Bastards" category. It was not fresh when I first saw it, so it may be 20 years old now.


This is not my composition, but one posted at Ship of Fools years ago. I’ve kept it for years and thought I’d give it a wider audience. The author, Ken Brown, identified himself in the comments. I conclude he is British, not an American or other outsider writing.

(1) West of Scotland - the Western Isles, Argyll, the Clyde and it's firth, those parts of the Highlands that drain west. Think of Scotch mist, whisky, moorland, Gaelic (pronounced "the garlic"), poetry, deserts wi' windows (i.e. vast housing projects with no jobs), deep-fried Mars-bars, and schism. The friendliest people in Britain apart from the inhabitants of Sheffield. Also the most violent, apart from the inhabitants of Nottingham. These are the ancestors of the Scots of Nova Scotia, half of Appalachia, the great Plains, and Texas. You can tell by the place-names: Houston is a suburb of Glasgow, Calgary a little village on Mull.
Industries: shipbuilding, steel, fish-farming, Robert Burns, and emigration.
Capital: Glasgow.
Main outside influences: Ireland, the USA, the western Isles
Religion: football.
National Sport: religious bigotry and apparently random thuggery.

(2) East of Scotland - Everything north or East of (1) above. A dour region for dour folk. No-one has any fun (the Edinburgh festival might look fun but it actually consists of Glasgow promoters putting on English shows for foreign tourists. to American tourists) The posh people speak with English public-school accents (Brits can think of Tam Dalyell), the working classes speak a broad Scots nearer to Norse than English. Or so it seems to one who is more familiar with the sing-song voice of Glasgow.
Industries: law, medicine, oil-rigs, coal, trawlers, and turnips.
Capital: Edinburgh
Main outside influences: the North Sea
Religion: money
National Sport: trying to be better than the west of Scotland

(3) Borders - all of Scotland south of Glasgow, most of the English county of Northumberland, and all of Westmorland and Cumberland and south west to the Lake District and north Lancashire. Hill country, moorland, with a long, noble and bloody tradition of independence. These were the main ancestors (along with the Ulster folk who Americans call Scots-Irish) of the other half of Appalachia, who later settled most everything south and west of Kentucky, and it shows. Hatfield is a Border name; McCoy a West-scots name. Get the picture?
Industries: fudge, sheep and liberalism.
Capital: Roxburgh, Selkirk & Peebles
Main outside influences: none since the Vikings: people leave there, they don't go there.
Religion: rugby union
National Sport: reiving (AVI note. That means cattle-rustling. See Appalachia & the settling of the American West, above.)
(4) Anglo-Walia - Wales that speaks English. Defined by language, not borders. On paper Anglo-Wales it is about 80% of Wales, in the papers about 20%. Shirley Bassey, Dylan Thomas, Max Boyce, and male-voice choirs, names of geological eras with no land animals, very large rugby players.
Industries: Coal, steel, the usual. All long gone, as usual.

Capital: Cardiff
Main outside influences: William Webb Ellis, George Whitefield
Religion: once Methodism but these days more likely fish & chips.

National Sport: Rugby union
(5) Cymry - Wales that speaks Welsh. The original British, and if you ever visit there, don't you dare forget it. Divided eternally and completely between north-Walian and south-Walian, but as an English speaker I can't tell them apart.
Industries: Sheep, slate, and schoolteaching.
Capital: Aberystwyth. It should be Machynlleth, but no other bugger can pronounce it.
Main outside influences: The Holy Land. Wales is full of towns with names like Bethel and Bethesda. (As is the part of the USA that the Welsh took iron working to)
Religion: Druidism
National Sport: cottage-burning
(6) Cornwall and the far South-West - the bit that sticks out of the bottom-left-hand-side of your map. The climate is wonderful, the scenery attractive, the wildlife is tame, the mines are worked out, and the people are unemployed.
Capital: Exeter. Exeter isn't actually in Cornwall, but then these are colonial boundaries.
Industries: mines (once upon a time), fishing (fished out), smuggling (long ago over), showing tourists round gardens
Main outside influences: Wales, Brittany, the Atlantic Ocean

Religion: Traditionally “nonconformist.” These days inedible foods are worshiped.
National Sport: Nominally hurling, but really it’s filling out welfare forms.
(7) North-East of England - Tyneside and the denser parts of Northumberland, County Durham, and the parts of Yorkshire within spitting distance of the river Tees. Eeh, it's cold oop North. If you can see the Penshore Monument you know you're in the north-east. Tyneside is the British equivalent of the Ruhr, except it didn't make it through the 1950s. The place was tooled up to build the ships to fight the First World War - hulls, engines, guns, armour, ammunition, lasted to the second, then spent a generation as the land of Get Carter and the Likely Lads.
Capital: Newcastle
Main outside influences: Norway
Industries: once upon a time: steel, coal, ships, armaments. These days: insurance and making TV documentaries about the North.
National Sport: football (again)
Religion: the Labour Party and the Trade Union movement. (Now, like most minor deities, mostly worshiped from afar)
(8) North-West of England - traditional Lancashire & adjacent parts of a few other counties. Everyone in the south thinks they are desperately poor and half-starving. In fact, apart from Liverpool (which really is totally broke) and some decaying inner suburbs of a few other large towns, the north-west is quite a prosperous place. Also a diverse place. There are towns here where the local accent is completely different from the next town maybe only 4 or 5 miles away. The north-west is the only part of England outside London that ever nearly succeeded in being cool - Manchester & Liverpool used to take alternating goes as the pop capital of the world. But now all they have left is football. Most of the ships that people from the rest of the Old World used to travel to North America departed from Liverpool. First the slave ships, then when the bottom was shot out of that market by the Haitian revolution and the Evangelical Revival, they converted to emigrants.
Capital: Manchester, England's Second City.

Industries: Once upon a time cotton, these days just about everything.
Main outside influences: Ireland, India
Religion: Refusing to attend church. Becoming Islamic.
National Sport: football (it gets boring, doesn't it?)
(9) Yorkshire - Real Yorkshire isn't quite the same as Yorkshire on the map because it is a state of mind more than a place. Being Yorkshire involves thinking you are better than anyone else, so much better in fact that you never bother to tell them. If you find yourself in a picturesque, if gritty, stone-build village on the edge of the moors and all the doors are shut - you're probably in Yorkshire. Except for Sheffield of course. Sheffield is so much unlike Yorkshire that it hardly fits here at all.
Capital: York
Main outside influences: Outside? Influence? When ah were a lad, they 'ad no truck with them there outsiders, and the only influence they ever saw was aunt Maisie's nice cup of tea.
Industries: moaning about soft southerners
Religion: cricket
National Sport: horse-racing
(10) East Anglia - the big bulge on the east coast just north of London, including the counties of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, and Cambridgeshire, along with a few other little ones no-one can ever remember. The flat part of England. For our purposes we have to add in rural Lincolnshire and some of the flatter parts of the east midlands.
Capital(s): Cambridge for education, Norwich for bad TV shows.

Industries: keeping unfeasibly large numbers of poultry in sheds big enough to see from orbit
Main outside influences: the Netherlands
Religion: once upon a time a hot-bed of puritanism and non-conformism. The Pilgrim Fathers came from Boston in Lincolnshire (Plymouth was just a place they stopped off on the way to get a last pint of decent beer) as did Oliver Cromwell.

National Sports: Cricket, football, lotteries.
(11) London London is, er, London. The default city of the modern world. The Great Wen. The Heart of Darkness. The Smoke. The place the banks keep your money. Like all other great cities it evokes a completely different set of images in those who live there than those who don't. Tourists think of Tower Bridge, fog, beefeaters, helpful cabbies, and the Changing of the Guard. Locals think of Battersea Power Station, expensive beer, the Tube Map, 300 bus routes, and endless conversations about house prices. Oh those endless, endless conversations about house prices. People from London owned the ships that people from the rest of Britain and Europe used to travel to North America, but they never went there themselves. You'd have to get off the housing ladder if you wanted to emigrate. And there might not be a tube.
Capital: London, of course
Industries: money
Main outside influences: Ireland, the West Indies
Religion: desperate fun
National Sport: reading late-night bus timetables and arguing about the tube map.
(12) The Motorised Banana - imagine a large banana-shaped piece of land to the north and west of London, curving from Cambridge in the north-east to somewhere around Basingstoke in the south-west, bulging out west along the Thames Valley to Oxford, and taking Milton Keynes and the outer suburbs of London on the way. This is the most prosperous part of Britain, and also the part that makes most sense to Americans, as nearly everyone lives in suburbs, shops in malls, and drives cars.
Capital: Heathrow Airport

Main Outside Influences: London
Industries: commuting to London, driving round the M25
National Sport: five-a-side football, driving round the M25
Religion: television, driving round the M25
(13) South -Central England and the South Coast A triangle whose outlying edges are Exeter, Chichester, and Oxford. Rolling green meadows, villages of thatched houses, little cathedral towns nestled in the folding hills, quiet country pubs - you've seen the Miss Marple programs. Picturebook England.
Capital(s): it really ought to be Southhampton, the only big city in the region, but the spiritual home of the place is Bournemouth, which is about equally composed of retired gentlewomen in distressed circumstances and young thugs tanked up on cheap cider.
National Food: Cream Teas
Industries: none
Main outside influences: the Isle of Wight

Nodding at empty churches
(14) The Real South East - the bulge south of London: Kent, Surrey and Sussex, together with the outer suburbs of South London and adjacent parts of Hampshire. On the main routes from London to everywhere else. Combines really quite downmarket fading naval or port towns like Dover or Chatham, or Portsmouth; with vast swathes of exurbia posing as countryside, such as the huge Mega-Village One that has metastatised just north of Brighton.
Capital: Brighton
Industries: transport, scenery, commuting, education, trying to be near to London without being part of London.
Main outside influences: France, the rest of Europe
National Sport: Sport? In a region who's best-known football team is Brighton & Hove Albion? Come off it!

Religion: None
(15) The Rest The rest of Britain is all those parts that don't fit into the 14 categories defined above.
Capital: Birmingham. People who have seen both Birmingham and Akron, Ohio, usually say they find Akron more charming.
Religion: the car
Other interesting facts: none known. No-one likes Birmingham. Except people who live there, and as no-one else ever goes there no-one knows why they like it.


Anonymous said...

I lived in East Anglia for three years. It was about 25 years ago that I left to return to the states. Yes, it's flat -- and partly below sea-level. Those Dutch engineers who drained the polders also drained some of the fens. The Isle of Ely really was a bit of high ground surrounded by lots of marsh and bog. It's one reason why one wing of Ely Cathedral is no longer standing.

Running Post said...

Oxford has a few hidded treasures;one being the web cam placed in the carfax tower right in the centre of town.I felt i should write a little ditty myself about it.

Ken Brown said...

Hey, it seems I wrote this....

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I will highlight that! Great to have you here!

Unknown said...

As a long-time resident of "the real southeast" it strikes me as not quite as bad as "View of the World from 9th Avenue", but still very much the Londoner's biased caricatures of the regions. I also see a lot more distinction between some subregions of his regions than between some of his regions.

As a foreigner living in the UK there was much that was visible to me that is invisible to those born and brought up there, but there is also a bunch that I'll never know because the parts of conversations and media that would clue me in to things like regional differences go right over my head. Of course I'm also been known to say that there is more cultural difference between Indianapolis (within the 317 area code) and the counties immediately to the south of there than there is between Indianapolis and Windsor Ontario.

We know that in stereotypes there may be some truthful observation, but the above field guide seems a bit on the cruel side to me.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, it is on the cruel side. And I will guess that there is a London, or at least area stereotyping to this, yes.

Grim said...

I like that you felt that you would need to explain what “reiving” is to your audience.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I actually thought of you and chuckled when I did that, knowing that you would think it extraneous.

sykes.1 said...

Dear Unknown, Welcome to the 11 Nations of North America. Colin Woodward might have placed the northern edge of Greater Appalachia a little north. McPherson also places it about 41 °N. Having lived in West Layflat, IN, and Columbus, OH, I would place the northern boundary of Greater Appalachia south of both Indy and Clumps.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I have not liked Woodard's divisions as much as Garreau's - but I am coming around to it. I think it is mostly his ill-disguised sneering that puts me off. The idea itself might be better than I credited.