Sunday, November 24, 2013


There was something heart-warming about hearing the words, "ner, we dern't have Cerke, sorry, we only have Pepsi." It meant I was back in Hull, if only briefly for football, feeling guilty about not having the time to contact friends before we rushed back after the match. What is more, I was supporting the opposition.

It was my first visit since the announcement of the City of Culture award, a perfect occasion for football fans' love of ridicule. Hull City supporters sang, "You're only here for the culture", Palace fans replied with, "City of Culture, you're having a laugh". They stood no chance. The City crowd sang back, "We're cultured and we know we are", followed by a chorus of, "We're only here for the concert". The Palace fans laughed and gave them a round of applause, totally outshone by one of the charms of this strangely loveable place; self-deprecating pride.

I am glad they won the award. It is deserved. After years of being stereotyped as somewhere that represents the worst of everything, a poor, Northern backwater, Hull is being celebrated for all the good things that flourish in, well, poor, Northern backwaters. If you, like me, think that the worst of Britain is the twee, gentrified places and the deadening suburbs, you will appreciate Hull.

All promotional videos are corny, but I still liked the one below. Much marketing of towns and cities is based on the theme of, 'it's not like that really', almost apologising for them. They like to pretend that working class places are really middle class at heart. Hull didn't go for that line. Well, it couldn't do that with a straight face. It is sanitised, of course, but it made a virtue of being down-to-earth; celebrating the poetry of ordinariness in a place that is anything but ordinary.

Most people who go there, whatever their initial impressions, know one thing. Hull grows on you. And I will be back very soon to see my pals before I head off to Greece for Christmas. It always feels good, even if circumstances took me away. And sometimes I feel an ache that I don't live there any more.

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