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The Betrayal.

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We’ve all done it.

Whether it’s about how much we weigh, how many drinks we’ve had or how old we are, lying is, unfortunately, a fact of life.

Pretending you’re ten years younger than you really are or being in denial about the effects of the latest fad diet on your thighs however, is not quite the same as lying about having slept with someone you shouldn’t have or kissing someone when you should be kissing someone else.

It seems to me as though most people wait until they’ve got a white dress, a three-tiered cake and a pair of neat brogues to even begin thinking about remaining faithful to each other. Surely this should come a little earlier and a little more naturally, being one of the fundamentals of a relationship?

I’m under no illusions that there are people who can’t even control themselves within the realms of matrimony. Married men cheat on their wives, women date ten guys at a time and friends have been known to sleep with their best mate’s other half. And I, although it’s probably hard to imagine, am not a saint either.

Relationships are hard, there’s no denying, but the question I’m asking is: when the fuck did morals go out of fashion?

At school we’re taught not to hit each other in the playground and to be nice to our friends. We’re told not to lie to the teacher and to choose our words wisely. Why then, isn’t there a time, perhaps in the latter half of one’s education, when teachers (or parents) get real and explain that cheating is inherently wrong? We’re getting pretty good at progressing from condoms, bananas and films from the 70’s to explain how our genitals work during intercourse, but we fail to explain to kids about when best to use them, perhaps because we’re still grappling with these issues as adults.

I understand very well that children learn best from making their own mistakes, but with some things, it causes more harm than good to let people figure it out for themselves. We don’t wait around for a child to kill someone before using it as an example to explain that it’s inherently wrong, so why don’t we do the same with cheating? Both cause pain and are irreversible, and both can be avoided.

If you think I’m being dramatic by comparing the two then it clearly hasn’t happened to you… yet.

Some people say I’ve had a ‘good run’, considering how common cheating actually is. 25 years it has taken me to join the Cuckold Club and only now that it has happened to me, do I feel like I can comment with conviction.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of finding messages on your partner’s phone, or even better, catching them in the act, then you should know that it’s probably one of the worst things to happen to a person. And the bigger the love, the worse it is. I could sit here and try and explain the feeling but I can’t; it’s indescribable how much it hurts. Forget a kick in the balls or an elbow to the boob the week before your period; this stuff hurts. A lot.

Excuses are void and can range from the desperate to the ludicrous. They’ll explain that they don’t know why they did it and, particularly the male variety, will tell you that they can have sex without it meaning a thing. (It’s at this stage that I’d like to point out that so can women and that doesn’t make it okay.) Another favourite of mine is the, ‘It wasn’t very good’ or ‘I didn’t even fancy him (or her)’. My response? Thank you so much for ensuring that you didn’t take pleasure from putting your penis into someone else’s vagina, maybe next time you’ll get lucky?

Cheaters of the world: whether you did it and enjoyed  it, knew him or just met him, whether she has crap hair and looks like a gnome or has the body of a Victoria’s Secrets model, we don’t care. You did it, it’s disgusting and we’re hurt, so let us move on, be it with you or without you.

In my younger, feistier and perhaps more naive years, I was so sure I would dump a cheater without a second thought. Watching my friends being cheated on by their boyfriends and seeing marriages fall apart, I thought it impossible to even contemplate going back there. But when you’ve actually invested in a future with someone yourself, it gets a little more complicated than the standard duvet day and Beyonce session to help you move on (although both are still completely valid and do still sort of help the situation).

It’s a fact that humans can revert to sex to try and make themselves feel better. We’re suckers for a coping mechanism, hence why we have alcoholics, sex addicts and all the rest and I have seen lots of couples make it through to the other side, changing them for the better. But why let it get to that point? I’m really not sure how many times I have to say this until people get the picture but if you treat people the way that you would like someone to treat your brother, sister or best friend, then the world would be a happier place. I genuinely believe that we have a social responsibility when it comes to people’s hearts and if we each did our own little bit then it could have a huge impact on people’s lives.

Whether you’re the person who is attached or the one who wants that guy with the girlfriend, take responsibility for your actions – gin sodden or sober – and be the better person and prove how strong you are by saying no. Cheating is always a choice, never an accident.

I enjoy rebelling as much as the next person and can completely understand how the temptation of doing something you shouldn’t can be very attractive, but my experience has changed the way I look at things. Will I get over it? I’m not sure yet. But what I am sure of is that relationships aren’t mandatory. There’s no law saying that you must commit and if you do want to go out there and be ‘free’, then do as you please, but simply stay single while you do so. That way, when you jump in a cab back to theirs, nobody gets hurt, except if they’re into S&M, but that’s their prerogative.

All that I’m asking of you is that you take a couple of seconds longer to think about any decisions you might make in the future and to only partake in the gift of giving this season if you’re ‘giving it’ to all the right people.

Just. Be. Good. It’s really not that hard.

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Seeing The World: What Better Way To Spend Your Time?

Throughout my teenage years and early twenties, travelling was always something that I felt I probably should do, rather than actually wanted to. Being the painfully OCD freak that I am and so very attached to London’s home comforts, the grim logistics of backpacking oddly never appealed to me. Needless to say, not showering for days on end, scooping dinner out of a tin (if at all), and nursing foreign hair infestations was not on my list of things to do. Regretfully at the ripe old age of 27, I’ll happily say I couldn’t have been more wrong. It’s the best thing I’ve ever chosen to do.

Obviously there were holidays over the years: family trips to Spain, boozy city breaks with mates, South Africa with Seany, jollies with the missus and music festivals, all of which I’m hugely fortunate to have enjoyed and loved. This trip, however, is something else entirely. The places, people and cultures have been so dramatically diverse, heart-meltingly humble and astoundingly helpful, to the extent I often believed these encounters were an elaborate scam or robbery. They never were.

Views so beautiful they have literally taken my breath away, surroundings that no iPhone, digital camera or even SLR can truly capture and I can’t even attempt to describe in words the sheer size and scale of these places. And the beer, let’s not forget the beer; at any time of day and more wallet-friendly than water on most occasions; smashing three course lunches for about £1.50 in Bolivia and frankly inhaling the dirt-cheap steaks and red wine of Argentina, as if someone were about to steal them from under our noses. The people we’ve met along the way have also been (for the most part, I’ll get to that) terrific human beings and I wouldn’t think twice about putting any of them up in the big smoke.

But despite those seemingly endless praises, travelling does carry its darker undertones. So’s not to put you off, I’ll try and keep this brief. Here’s what those Lonely Planet books don’t tell you:

The Comfort Zone

Travelling with my girlfriend has been hugely rewarding both on a personal level and in terms of our relationship. We’re now so close, it’s become common place to discuss the consistency, colour and volume of our shit, after EVERY trip to the toilet. Sometimes it’s even reported through the bathroom door, bellowing with sheer joy and relief that it’s a, ‘SOLID ONE!’, having beaten the diarrhoea roulette. Your partner’s face is also seriously important, you better really, really, like it, for the only time you don’t see it, is when you’re asleep or during those brief milliseconds of respite when you blink.

Tossers

I’ve made a point of mentioning how amazing the people we’ve met are, and on the whole, we’ve been very lucky. Of course, as a law of averages, there are going to be exceptions, or, ‘tossers’, as I like to call them. Company so intolerable, that it makes you think perhaps you’re being punished for something in a past life. Wankers so unfathomably annoying, that I frequently found myself pushing an imaginary sock into their mouths, in the hope of putting a plug into the know-it-all, anti-government, anti-commercialism, anti-job, anti-McDonald’s, anti-fucking-anything to be honest chat. One chap in particular spoke at length to us at how large household brands and corporate companies were destroying the world and killing people, as in actually murdering them for land. The same cock sat there telling us all of this in a pair of Nike tracksuit bottoms, guzzling a can of Coke with his Marlborough Lights, showing us ‘proof’, on his sodding iPHONE. We got some comic mileage out of this knob though, so not all bad.

Dormz

Even after nearly thee months, the concept of this still unnerves me. “Hi eight total strangers, so we’re all just going to sleep in this hotbox of a room together, stacked like free prisoners, pretending like this is all completely normal behaviour?”. It has to be done at times and there’ll be a good few more to come I imagine, but I don’t like it. Not one bit. The sound of incessant snoring, persistent crotch scratching, phlegm-hocking and and bilingual sleep talking will always hold a dear place in my heart. As will the Venezuelan girls puking solidly between 3-4am, then ignoring their 5:30am alarm call for what felt like an eternity, until they were literally shaken to consciousness by my main bitch – she can get scarily Belfast when she needs to. Thankfully we’ve not bore witness (that we know of) to any camel-feeding, sausage-eating, todger-pulling or finger blasting. Yet. We did however come across one harrowing account of a dorm experience, where a charming Aussie girl insisted her new love conquest refrained from, “Spitting in her fanny”, at which point the neighbouring bed occupier had enough and threw them both out. Bravo.

*

Having digested all that, I’m sure you’re busy clicking through Sky Scanner web pages with your calculator, and so you should be, it’ll be the best decision you’ll ever make. You won’t remember that car or designer handbag you bought on your deathbed in years to come, instead it’ll be some naked Slovakian boy on the opposite bunk, who in his sleep-induced state decided he was going to sit on the end of his bed and glare into your soul, while you pretend to be engrossed in the latest free download on your Kindle. Good times.

photoWritten by Alex O’Brien, my real life older brother. No we are not twins, yes I am the better looking one.

If you want to keep updated on his escapades, home or away, follow him on twitter here. He’s kind of funny.

 

The Thanksgiving.

friends-monica-turkey-music-playlist-dance-best-songs-thanksgiving-shkBeing suitably British, but having feasted on Gossip Girl and The OC for the course of my younger years, I’ve been mildly obsessed with our friends across the pond for a long while now. A recent trip to the Big Apple did nothing to curb this unrelenting desire to be a citizen of the United States but instead made me fall a little out of love with London – something I never thought possible – and even more infatuated with the American Dream.

This, along with the fact that I’m feeling a little downbeat with the state of things at present, I’ve decided to make like the yanks and cheer myself up by recounting all of the things that I am grateful for this Thanksgiving Thursday.

First up are my friends. I am 99% sure that I know a bunch of the best women to ever have existed and sometimes I wonder whether they are even human at all. Always on hand to give me a cuddle when I need it and a kick up the arse when I don’t realise I do, they are a collection of the funniest, most intelligent and, I’m going to say it, inspirational girls I’ve ever known. Not only that but they have an extraordinary (albeit taking a while to get there) taste in men. I couldn’t ask for better bearded additions to our little group, so thanks to you for being the perfect gentlemen and taking care of my little ladies.

I am thankful for the hairiest but most wonderful man to have entered my life. Pretty much a best friend that I happen to kiss a lot, he knows to never order me a crème brûlée, has an impeccable taste in footwear and has been an absolute stick of Brighton rock in what has been a bit of a mental year.

I am thankful for my family, both immediate and extended. You are all kind of odd, kind of interesting and kind of great. I am thankful that my brother and his girlfriend, currently making their way around South America, haven’t lost a limb; lost each other or even lost their minds; all of which are quite possible. Speaking of which, I’m thankful that they’ve even had the opportunity to do something so epic as to see a slice of the world (I say thankful, I mean jealous). 

To those who have stopped panicking about stocking up on tinned goods or border control and have instead donated their time to the Ebola Crisis Appeal: thank you. Be it through downloading the 400th Band Aid single, texting in or even heading out there – it all helps and (selfishly) restores my faith in humanity.

I am thankful for my education, a basic human right that women are not entitled to elsewhere in the world. My education has led me to the understanding that with a little patience and hard work, you can achieve a great deal and it has opened me up to, quite literally, a world of opportunity.

On a perhaps more materialistic note, I am thankful to Lena Dunham, David Nicholls and Don Tillman for quenching my literary thirst this year and I am appreciative for the Toffee Nut Lattes that provide me with a reason to retreat from the cold and reunite with one of my oldest friends at this time of year; these red-cupped delights provide caffeine and comfort like no other.

I am thankful that we have seasons in this city; for bobble hats and woolly jumpers, the countryside that is but an hour away from me and for still being allowed to purchase a young person’s railcard because, well, it makes me feel young. 

And finally, but perhaps most importantly to me, I would like to say thanks to all of you for reading my blog, sharing it amongst friends and most of all, enjoying it.

Happy Thanksgiving.

The Visit.

N-flat-01-4It must seem to my regular readers that I spend most of my time getting medical practitioners to look at my lady bits. I can categorically tell you that this is not the case, however, if it makes you feel better about getting your own private parts checked out, then so be it.

I’ve heard that HIV is on the rise again in young, gay men and although I myself am clearly not a young, gay man, I’m well aware that we are all at risk and that I’m not immune just because I’m a heterosexual female. I also know that it isn’t just HIV that we should be protecting ourselves from either: there are 27 different types of STI that are waiting to latch onto our genitals, so it really is worth spending the time using protection and getting checked out, however old you are and however many sexual partners you’ve had.

If you’re under 18 and reading this, then I can understand that STIs might still be a little bit taboo for your age range. When I was at school, anyone who took a trip to the clinic was there primarily to collect a ton of condoms to throw around in class and if you were caught coming out of one, it was immediately assumed that your knob had fallen off. If, however, you’re old and ugly enough to take responsibility for your dental hygiene and general health, then there’s no excuse for neglecting yourself from the waist down; you should be leading the younger generation by example.

It dawned on me recently that I hadn’t had a test since 2009. Shameful. Four years, and a few sexual partners later, I could have caught something and have passed it onto a bedtime buddy already. A quick debrief of my sexual encounters would tell you that it was highly unlikely that I’d have contracted anything from a list of bright, well brought up, good looking and charming university graduates (not) but it’s not as clear cut as having chocolate on your chin: sometimes it’s too dark or I was too drunk and just because you’re called Harry doesn’t mean you don’t have Herpes. So I took the plunge and got myself booked in last week.

My clinic is the sexual health hub of West London and had been a haunt for most of my health conscious friends and boyfriends growing up, but I hadn’t visited the place in years. And you know what? Not much had changed. The same hushed waiting room was still there: rows of chairs filled with people avoiding eye contact at all costs, an old radio playing the same tracks from 2006 and as I was visiting so close to the festive season, a comforting array of washed out tinsel was strewn decadently about the room. Something that had changed however, was my attitude to getting this done. Instead of feeling ashamed or embarrassed, I felt proud of myself and of the people around me; I’d had a bikini wax and was ready to take on the swab. I did still want to be invisible however, so when I sneezed and a guy said “Bless you”. I thought, “Dude, we’re not waiting for a bus here. I’m trying my very best to be as discrete as possible so could you please just not”.

This was all quickly forgotten when I was told by the nurse that swabs were a DIY job these days. I could’ve jumped on her I was so relieved – and I’m really not that shy about my vagina – so hopefully this will encourage those of you who are a little anxious, to take the leap. If, by some chance, some clinics do ask you to drop your pants, please don’t panic; it really isn’t that bad and it will be over really, really quickly. And to those guys who think they have it worse when it comes to sexual health screenings: woman up. It’s a cotton bud, not a machine gun.

My brother and his mates used to visit the clinic together for moral support. Afterwards, they’d treat themselves to a Nando’s for being so brave. I don’t care what it takes to get yourself checked out; whether you want to have sex with your girlfriend without a condom or if you need to justify getting your Peri-Peri fix that week, make like Nike and just do it. Remember that those who are there to assist you have seen a lot worse (confirmed when my gyno made a cameo appearance treating genital warts on Embarrassing Bodies a while back) while those who are waiting to be seen are only there to look after themselves, just like you.

Yes, it’s embarrassing when you’re about to show your foof to a complete stranger or when you’re asked a long list of questions about your sex life but it really is so important to make sure you’re clean as more serious diseases are found in young people today. Oh, and a little FYI: never respond with “erm… I tried it once but stopped because it hurt” when asked if you’ve had anal sex during your health questionnaire; the nurse is trying to figure out if you’ve been exposed to potential risks, not whether you’re an experimental lover. Just a little heads up, this definitely didn’t happen to me…

I received my “all-clear” text just this morning and I can tell you that the relief of that message far outweighs the 60 seconds of embarrassment in that nurse’s office or the scratch of the needle from a blood test.

Drop your trousers and get it checked.

All of you.

The Pornography.

large (9)Porn was first thrust upon me, much like anyone else who grew up in the noughties, in the charming form of Two Girls, One Cup. Suffice to say, I haven’t had a great relationship with the medium since.

The next thing I remember was a school trip to Wales, where boys who had only seen nudity in print, were passing a copy of Nuts Magazine around the coach. They shared their thoughts about a lack of pubic hair and different shades of areola, as us girls looked on with both intrigue and fright.

My boyfriend during these younger years was caught watching porn by his mum – an act as alien to me then as peeing standing up – and despite it being a moment of awkward humiliation for them both, she took it upon herself to stand there and give him a rollicking for objectifying girls: what a woman.

Following on from my teenage years, my male friends at university developed my fascination with porn and introduced me to the world of online sex and the delights of ‘Sausage Pizza’. One of their favourite past times was to leave ‘Meat Spin’ running on my unattended laptop during dissertation time for me to return to as a treat after running off for a quick toilet break. (If you’re not sure what either of those food related porn titles are, take it from me, it’s better that way.)

Back in the day, and by this I’m only talking ten or so years ago, porn was taboo and the only way to get yourself off was to watch the 10 minute preview to an adult film on some obscure 900 Sky channel or switch over to TOTP where Rachel Stevens was doing her thing. Nowadays, we can access a whole world of sexual fantasy, in ultra high definition, from behind a computer screen, or even more conveniently, through our smart phones.

The majority of both my male and female counterparts watch porn on a regular basis and I’ve even known guys to share porn between friends. It has become so much a part of our daily lives that questioning the morality of it would be like questioning the morality of a roast potato. But aside from the fact that (some of) the stars of the small screen make a stack of money, how else is it enhancing the lives of these men and women who are having sex for money? To me, there’s no difference between this occupation and that of a hooker on the streets of London, and any monetary transaction that exists when having sex, whether a punter or a production team is paying you, is just wrong in my opinion.

There’s obviously a darker side to the industry, and between the inappropriate videos out there and how easy they are to access, I can’t help but fear for future generations who are watching this stuff as children. Not only are they being educated in the art of bad sex, but these films are taking ideas of brutality and domination, and normalising them. In fact, these films are such a poor example of what sex is really like, that I’d probably give those sex education videos from my school days a little more credit. I also think more time should be given to educate those of an older generation who aren’t aware that these films are but a click away from their child’s reach, but I’ll save that for another day.

A guy I was seeing at the end of last year said that there was something he found shameful about masturbating and that he always felt a little self-deprecating afterwards, like he’d done something really wrong. I think it’s important to recognise that there’s nothing wrong with a little self love, but it’s the tools that are used to get you there that might be the problem.

Perhaps porn is a good way to vent mismatched sexual desires that you don’t share with you partner, or to tide you over until your next conquest, but we need to remember what it was like to be obsessed with what sex was going to be like before we had it. The whole world is obsessed with it because it’s amazing. And why is it amazing? Because you get to touch another person’s body, feel great and if you’re really lucky, connect on a higher level. Watching porn, albeit a fantastic form of contraception, just means more time spent staring at a screen as opposed to each other and I find that tapping at a keyboard to watch people have sex is much like staring through the window of a great restaurant to see people eating instead of heading inside and trying the menu for yourself.

Taking all of the moral questions surrounding the industry such as how these people are being treated behind the scenes and how many of them have actually chosen this as a career choice away, I don’t actually have a massive problem with it being watched, even within the realms of a relationship. I’m safe in the knowledge that my boyfriend isn’t thinking about me as he watches Jenna Jameson’s puppies jump up and down onscreen, but I’m cool with that; after all, my boobs will never be as big as hers and I wouldn’t want him to miss out, being the boob man that he is. But when it comes to my turn, why am I expected to enjoy ‘female friendly’ films?  I feel a need to let all of you porn producers out there know that not all of us girls want to be caressed with scented oils or fed fresh strawberries and I find it simply hilarious how this new age porn industry can be so regressive at times.

As you can see, I’m not 100% sure where I stand on the whole porn debate, but as a little experiment, I think I’ll steer clear of it for a while.

Think that might take too much will power as the winter nights draw in? Film your own and be safe in the knowledge that both parties have consented, are being taken care of (in more ways than one) and I’m sure you’ll feel far more satisfied watching a demonstration by someone with a good working knowledge of the female anatomy, because FYI, what they do in porn films is not good sex and I can guarantee it will not get your girlfriend anywhere near where you want her to be.

I am, shamefully however, looking forward to Fifty Shades of Grey coming out at the cinema next year.

Does that count as porn? 

Who even knows anymore.

The Music.

large (3)There’s nothing worse than a music snob.

You know the types I’m talking about. Those who believe Frank Ocean to be a waste of time without having listened to one of his tracks and those who berate Ed Sheeran for being too mainstream. Basically, I’m talking about those who make unfounded statements for no other reason except for the fact that it’s cool to say that you have a distaste for modern, or even just popular, music.

I tend to just put it down to ignorance and a lack of dedication to the cause on your part. Dig a little deeper into today’s music and you’ll find some hidden treasures. And correct me if I’m wrong but it takes time to tick by for things to be deemed timeless, much like denim or the LBD. You laugh now but Ben Howard or Paolo Nutini, men capable of a lot more than some of your favourite golden oldies, could too be timeless, if you give them time, of course. And if you really do feel that way about modern music, then why are you dancing to the Arctic Monkeys on a night out? They released their first album in 2006. I don’t care if you’re drunk. Don’t be a hypocrite.

I wholeheartedly agree that it’s infuriating when an artist makes millions from generic dance tunes pumped out of what seems to be their arse holes, but don’t generalise and say that there’s no musical talent at the moment when you fail to do your research. Right now, sadly yes, the mainstream is all about mega bucks and fame and I would love to find a way to bring a wider variation of talent to the fore. But when you tell me that it’s impossible to boast about the talent of today compared with musicians from the 1970s, I can do nothing but laugh.

I’m not saying I’m a musical genius and I probably don’t know as much, technically, as some of you reading this, but I do listen to all kinds of music, all the time. My dad had me listening to Suede at ten years old and I was completely unaware of how political I was being when I introduced my best friend to Morrissey back in primary school. But it wasn’t all deep lyrics and men dressed as vicars. Dad also stood by my side as I sang along to B*Witched at Wembley in my pedal pushers with a light up wand and an oversized Fanta, and he whole-heartedly backed me through my Spice Girl phase. I believe that creative taste not only comes from the media, society or current trends, I think it’s also something that’s inherited, which makes it okay to appreciate older music, but we must be tolerable of all types.

I’ve been trained, by my wonderful – but completely barking – parents, to reserve no space in my life for pretentiousness, but I get when it when people are frustrated that a lack of talent becomes a sensation for reasons such as a leaked sex tape or a handsome face. But sadly, that’s been the way of the world for a long time now, and as epic as Elvis was, he too was predominantly a pretty face and a pair of snake hips. Unwarranted success is not a thing of today; in fact, it was something that was born a long time ago.

Compare Primark, for instance, to higher quality labels made with more craft, skill and a higher thread count; yes there’s an obvious difference in quality, but they each have a value.  Imagine you’d spent a shed load of cash on that one off trend last year? These fads are what clothing for a fiver was made for. I mean, thank GOD I bought a trouser skirt for a quid. That’s one piece I’m glad to see the back of, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. And the same goes for music. I was at a party this weekend where I watched a little girl ‘Shake It Off’ with more style and grace than Taylor Swift herself. Alongside her was my mother of 53 years, a granny of 85 years and two 16 year old males. I doubt that we’ll still be singing it in 2045, but a song that brings a range of people together and can provide that much happiness for three minutes, is worthy of something in my opinion and shouldn’t be mocked.

Do more of what makes you happy and less of what you think should make you happy. If you want to compose classical music by day and watch Miley Cyrus in concert by night, then do it. Life is too short to panic about who might be judging you or what is cool. And if you genuinely want to listen to Chopin all day errrday, then okay, but don’t condemn Joe Bloggs for listening to Usher on repeat – particularly if he’s going through a bad break up.

I’m not wholly exempt from this snobbery and have to check myself when I judge the footwear of tube hoppers across the capital or wince at men in jewellery, but if they’re happy, then I should be too. My brother thinks that some of the clothes I wear are outrageous and I do have a somewhat eclectic music taste but that’s what headphones were made for, as well as an inherent lack of giving a shit.

Being able to accept people for who they are and allowing them to love what they love in peace, whilst having your own opinion? You can’t get classier than that.

So just accept that some people prefer One Direction to The Beatles and get on with your life. I’m sure they probably think Dylan is garbage. And that’s fine too, kind of.

Each to their own.

The North.

Noel GallagherI’m a proper southerner.

I question the sanity of anyone who lives past Highgate and opted out of cheap beer for a university in Devon, but somewhere between my love of Ted Hughes and a burning desire to have written Wuthering Heights, I have ended up with a Yorkshireman.

Here in the south, we are still perplexed with prejudices about northern men. We mock them for being those “Brit-abroad” types: sunburnt in the Costa Del Sol, sipping on a Pina Colada in an England shirt – sounds a bit like my recent trip to Italy with a bunch of them actually – (I jest) – but I’m pretty sure that it’s not just the northern contingent who partake in such delights. So do the men of Essex, Plymouth and dare I say it… Chelsea. But for all their boisterous ways, they make up for it by being the most chivalrous, well mannered and caring of the male variety. They have a naturally warm nature and are fiercely loyal. They will pull your chair out for you, they know what a proper ‘brew’ looks like, and after five minutes you feel like you’ve known them for more like five years. They are, for the most part, quick witted and humorous, but they don’t mince their words and they’ll soon dig you out for wearing too much fake tan. But because they elongate their vowels, they somehow get away with it. Being called ‘our lass’, however, is something I don’t think I’ll ever get my head around.

But it’s not just the northern men that I’m here to praise. You know when you meet girls in the bathroom on a night out and you form an unbreakable bond for the next six hours, sharing tampons and lip gloss and tales of torment from the smoking area? The women of the north are like that, but all the time. There’s no time too short for a quick chat or a glass of vino and you’ll be hard pressed to find better company on a night out. But God forbid you sit in their chair or push in front of them in a queue – there’s no stiff upper lip action from these women – prepare to be told.

Not only are the people top dollar but the north comes with all the trimmings, and I’m not talking Yorkshire Puddings. Northerners are matter of fact, they don’t pretend that pastry isn’t the best thing ever invented and they don’t deny that, sometimes, a triple vodka just isn’t enough. They don’t cheat you out of £7.60 for a single gin and tonic and beer will never cost more than a fiver. But it’s not all cheap booze and laid back attitudes. The north is home to some of the UK’s biggest and best creatives in both the literary and music scenes; the Yorkshire Moors are (albeit terrifying in the middle of the night when you come across a dogging site and a lone hitch-hiker) one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been; Whitby is the birth place of none other than friggin’ Dracula and Hull… is, well, shit. But we all have our flaws.

It IS far colder in the winter, there was that whole Northern Rock debacle back in 2008 and Paddy McGuinness isn’t exactly my favourite person in the world, but it’s hard to explain: the north feeds my addiction to nostalgia and is comforting in a way that the south will never be, a bit like beans on toast or ITV. 

But for all the fish and chips, industrial towns and Rovers Returns in the world, am I ready to leave the big city after 25 years?

Haway man.

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