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Berwick-upon-Tweed, a Sign of The Times

With hindsight it was obvious that the problem lay once again in thinking too small. Instead of looking for inspiration by looking up and out, NOT BAd had busied itself with the familiar, the tried and tested at least providing a recognisable paradigm by which to work.

Because how were we to know? Who would possibly have thought that the key to unlocking this post would not be found in scanning the pages of The Berwick Advertiser for inspiration as usual, but in reading an article in a national newspaper?

It’s a shame though, because ‘Tiser reporter Kirsty Smyth had bust a thorough gut this week covering the proposed closure of Berwick Maternity Unit but, being in possession of a cervix which no longer has any ambition to soften, we couldn’t get excited about the campaign here at NOT BAd HQ. We roll in a very shallow puddle – if it doesn’t affect us directly then it’s like it doesn’t exist. Pretty much like the future of Berwick Maternity Unit, by the sound of things.

So anyway, once our warm appreciation for Kirsty throwing President Hollande into the BMU mix had cooled, NOT BAd found itself at a loss. We teetered on the edge of serving up a feather soufflé about the Tweedmouth teenager who was told by magistrates to “think about his behaviour” after punching a PCSO, and then – BAM! – you would have been gasping on the floor as we sucker punched you with a tenuous but well-timed John Prescott reference.

Yes. That’s where always doing things the same way gets you.

So imagine how grateful, how blessed, we felt on discovering that Berwick-upon-Tweed had been recommended by veteran travel writer Stephen McClarence as ‘The great British weekend’ in yesterday’s Times newspaper. Yes, The Times, established 1785, circulation a spit above 400,000.

Now we understand that this news will be greeted with mixed emotions by those regular subscribers of Marxist Monthly who traditionally inhabit this neck of the woods. A Conservative paper? A Conservative paper, if not waxing lyrical then at least waxing politely about a small, shabby town in an area so poor that it can’t afford a dual carriageway and where even the seagulls have a dog on a piece of string.

We know.  It’s Chicken Licken all over again.

But, comrades. Let your natural revulsion settle a little; suck on a ginger snap as you think about it. This could play very well for Berwick. That’s 400,000 poshos that could potentially spend their staycation propping up our local economy. That’s 400,000 poshos that will be looking for chi-chi coffee bars, boutique hotels, and gift shops where they can buy something made from twigs and Cath Kidston buttons for a price that smarts to remind them of that weekend when they went slumming. And who knows, some of them may stay.

Of course, you can grumble softly into your whippet’s ear about incomers swanning in and changing things; you can shake your flat-capped head with despair at the toffs honking their expensive vowel sounds across our hallowed cobbles with no appreciation of the way of life or how things are done here.

But let’s consider that way of life for a second…

But don’t worry, truly traditional stuff is adored by poshos – anything that connects them with history and the past glories of feudalism.

Northumbrian pipes? Safe as. The same goes for salmon fishing, pheasant shooting and deer stalking. In fact anything that involves killing will be a sure-fire hit come half-term. (But not badger culling. City folk are squeamish persecuting anything that looks nice on a calendar, nasty cough or no.) Clog dancing can stay because it looks funny and what are clogs anyway but vintage Crocs? Pies and pasties provide welcome relief from locally sourced slow-cooked mutton and artisan bread, so for Greggs this shout-out by The Times could start a carbohydrate Klondike.

Without wishing to be accused of wilful reductionism, NOT BAd would gently point out that The Maltings Kitchen and Northumbrian House each had a mention in The Times, but it appears us locals find it taxing showing our support for these establishments even by simply ‘liking’ them on Facebook. Our stance regarding the Berwick Maternity Unit above is another fine example of general nothing-to-do-with-me-so-can’t-be-arsediness.

Fortunately for us, the natural habitat of a posho is a committee; they can’t get enough of them. This is because they’ve been genetically modified to rule, generation after generation of sub-committee members interbreeding and creating offspring with clipboards for faces. As has been said before in more esteemed publications than this, instead of resenting a posho and his or her busybody ways – instead of holding them up as yet another example of ruling class oppression – we should see it as the Universe presenting us with an opportunity. Because, truth be told, being a local caring about local issues is one thing – being a local and actually doing something about local issues is quite another.

Now we know some of you are crying, “But what about Berwick Deserves Better? A local group for local people!” Indeed, this is a tremendous campaign gaining momentum and starting to make a visible impact. NOT BAd joined them on one of their initiatives this summer and came away buzzing from the group’s passion and commitment to the town.

However, we guarantee you that it will be the same small band of people turning up time and time again to pick up litter, clean off graffiti and strim those overgrown verges, and a high proportion of those people will be gobby and opinionated incomers. We further guarantee that Berwick Deserves Better and Berwick Town Council will receive no shortage of suggestions from dyed-in-the-wool natives on how to improve the town but with no offer of practical help.

In view of the exhausting nature of getting shit done versus the relative ease with which we can grumble about it from the comfort of our DFS sofas, we should embrace over-eager committee membership from whomever is willing to second it because, thank God, it picks up the slack when the rest of us can’t be bothered.

Berwick-upon-Tweed – the great British weekend.

It has a terrific ring to it, hasn’t it? Yes, we can continue to stick to what we know and think small, but wouldn’t it be more exciting to consider this piece in The Times as a sign that things are changing for the better? To look up and look out? An opportunity is knocking on the door, so let’s all put down the welcome mat. With any luck, comrades, those poshos will have bankers’ bonuses to burn…

By the way, does anyone want us to wave a placard for the BMU? We can do Friday week, after yoga.

For the love of God go and click ‘like’ on Facebook for The Maltings Kitchen and Northumbrian House.  You can always have a lie down afterwards.

(Sadly we can’t provide a link to the article in The Times because of their paywall. Those bloody Conservatives, eh?)

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