Although geographically infinite and politically and socially at least traceable to the Industrial Revolution, it has been said that the North / South divide in England was truly and modernly exacerbated by the miner's strikes under Thatcher's Tory government of the 1970's and 80's. This is when the hard working masses north of the Watford Gap became known as Northern Monkeys (or on roadsigns as simply THE NORTH) and the gentrified class system of the south became Southern Shandy Warriors or Cockneys if they were from London (even if this shows a gap in the education - as this only apllies to people born within a mile of Bow Church in East London or post-modernly conceived at half-time at Upton park perhaps?). As i near my 30th birthday, I feel like my life is changing - gone are the serious drug-taking clubbing days and the cold beans from a can for dinner a week before pay day, replaced with a feeling of wanting to settle down, possibly get on the property ladder and being baking my own olive bread! Ok, so not exactly, but things have changed in the lat ten years and I want to figure out whether the next ten will be spent in London or is my future elsewhere, oop narth perhaps!?
That's right, this week i'm going to talk about London vs Manchester (South vs North) in terms of lifestyle, living conditions, culture etc and this could be a battle to the death. At this point, although born in London I did live in Manchester for 2 years and will try to be as unbiased as possible as I had a great time there.
Ok so first place to start would be rent/house prices and jobs:
In a decent part of London (and I'm not talking about wankers on holiday who tell you they are 'born and bred mate!' in ek-hem Orpington or Croydon) and by that I mean anywhere inside Zone 3 (and possibly Richmond) - nowhere north of Kilburn, east of Stratford, south of Balham or west of Ealing - a two bed flat would cost you £250,000+ to buy or £1000+ a month to rent. My parent's London house (although extended and renovated through the years) is now worth 8 times what they paid for it in 1983! But i'm more worried about being able to pay the bills than buying for the first time and getting my foot on the property ladder which I think is more viable in Manchester.
The National Housing Federation representing 1,200 housing associations, puts the average house price in London at £362,000, meaning as a single buyer I would require £93,000 to get a 90% mortgage at over 3.5 times my salary. The average London wage is only £4000 more than the average in Manchester, yet the 2 up-2 down terraced house in Manchester's Rusholme was worth £50k in 2005 and my rent was £225 a month including bills (a third of what you'd pay for a similar room in a Shepherd's Bush flat!) for a double room in a share house with 2 funny Welsh chefs. It was far from ideal - a few streets away from Man City's old Maine Road ground on the border with Moss Side, a 30 minute walk to the city centre. Now I live half an hour's walk to Notting Hill Gate or Paddington so pretty similar there. The problem is I don't earn 5 times what I was earning in Manchester, and I am pretty sure an administrator in manchester in 2010 isn't earning a fifth of what I earn and because of this and the fact I could rent 2 properties for the price of one oop narth, its...1-0 Manchester!
Travel and location:
Ok this is a tight one. You can get a weekly bus pass in Manchester from £5 - that's almost what it can cost you a day in London. This will get you to 70% of the places you need to go in and around the city centre and South Manchester, so not a huge outgoing. Also taxis seem cheaper too and the banter is usually better.
Manchester is within 90 mins of Birmingham, Wales, Lake District, Peak District, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds and Blackpool which have some outstanding natural areas of beauty. Has good transport links including a tram. It is probably cheaper to get to Scotland too and Manchester Airport is not nearly as rammed as the London airports and is expanding all the time to serve further destinations. Also there must be less parking wardens which gives it the edge.
London is within 90 minutes of Wembley, Richmond Park, Brighton, Dover, Cotswolds, New Forest, Essex, Kent, Surrey Stamford and also some outstanding areas of natural beauty too and undoubtedly the location of Europe for low cost flights to europe and the world - however it has the dreaded M25 and can often take 90 minutes just to get in or out, especially during a bank holiday. As of now, despite constant threat Manchester has not invoked a congestion charge which I feel is just a tax on London's poorest, as congestion is as bad as ever in my opinion - thanks god for my push-bike and although expensive Public transport!
2-0 Manchester (just over the line - using a interactive and long awaited fourth official's replay!)
Ok, so Manchester has City and United (one of the best and biggest in t'world) but London has about 15 league teams, including the regime-driven QPR, the world's finest football team. Also, London has Wembley and Twickenham and Rugby Union is bigger than Rugby League (which can only be a good thing!) although this again shows the class divide! Also London has the Oval (where i was for Ashes 2005 win) and Lord's and numerous other stadia and choice which brings it out on top!
Considering that the longest it didn't rain continously for in the two years I was in Manchester was 4 days, this is a no brainer! It also once rained for 4 days straight from the Sunday evening to a Wednesday evening and I nearly got trenchfoot! London's weather can also be infuriating but it is a few degrees warmer (thanks to all the congregated bodies) than oop narth!
Culture - Ray Winstone vs Brian Potter:
Manchester has a great music scene that you feel a part of (it tranfuses the whole city) and going out is cheaper, easier and less pretentious (half of people don't even remove their parkas when they go clubbing, just like Liam and Ian Brown!). My favourite club is Sankey Soaps in Ancoats and the beer (real ale) and lyrical banter is better for what comes out of your wallet I feel! The sheer poetry of the Manchester accent does it for me. Go on Ironside you can take Winstone, ya dickhead!
However this is where it all changes and depends on your social/class viewpoint. Some would vote for London because it has unrivalled clubbing, opera, musicals, theatre, dance, ballet, comedy, gastro-pubs, concerts, museums.
You may be able to get a better and cheaper pint (3 for £4.80 in Sinclair's Oyster Bar) up north, but it's down south that you can truly do almost anything you like (money permitting) 7 days a week. In London it seems I have to put up or keep up with people's fads more - fashion, technology, dog-eat-dog, but in Manchester I feel its easier to be who you are without going out and buying the latest gadget to prove what a great guy you are - there is more a sense of community and not a keeping up with the Lord Farthrington-Joneses. Of course this is only an opinion and experience and London is a massive and diverse city so its hard to pigeon-hole. A person addicted to facebook is as sad as the next person addicted, i just feel one in London is sadder as there are literally so many other things one can spend their time more constructively on. Whether you can afford it is another thing and like most things this debate comes down to money and how you view its importance. It also comes down to whether you find having drugs delivered to your door disgusting or fantastic or whether you enjoy the smell of a stranger's armpit on a sweltering packed London tube carriage more than the smell of weed emanating from the top of the Wythenshawe to Piccadilly Finglands bus on your daily commute.
Full time whistle: 2-2 (Extra Time to be played after this commercial break)
Ok, so in conclusion then, however much you ham it up each city, each compass direction (North and South) has its pros and cons and its down to individual tastes and wallets making this exercise as pointless as our very existence in the universe!
One last thing before I go mind and regardless of where I live I ordered a CD online for my brother in law's birthday on the 28th Jan from Play.com and it arrived today, 3 days after his actual birthday. Now I know they are based in Jersey (an island of the United Queendom of course), but come on...if it's in stock, how long does it take to pluck from the warehouse, cover in cardboard and send? Certainly not a week anyway! To top it all off, they sent the wrong CD and after an arduous 10 minute phone call in the rain - partly to do with her poor spoken English and shocking reception on my/O2's behalf - it turns out I have to wait 2 weeks for another copy.
Now that's customer service...wherever you live in the UK!
When (the less of two evils) i decided to get a refund, despite todays new fangled technology etc, I received an email with a return address but no return postage. I will not receive my refund until I pay for the postage to get Biffy sodding Clyro (a band I detest and ironically wouldn't pay the price of a stamp to go see!) back to play.com and my refund. Serve me right for being a lazy twat and not going to the shops like normal people and purchasing a copy with my bare hands I hear you cry and touche! But what has the world come to when you have to pay for other people's mistakes that you've already paid once for!
I'm such a sucker, like the number of 'last chances' I have given to Satan... sorry RyanAir because of their stupidly low fares. My point is it doesn't matter where you live in the UK, you are still going to get rode and get shoddy customer service where you are expected to bend over and take it in the arse just for wanting to be nice abn dbuy someone deserving a gift, but not wanting to go down Westfield as its full of pretentious or pyjama infested yoofs and sad orange fashonista wannabe types hanging around the Bulgari shops with their John Terry look-a-like footballer HABS (Husbands and Boyfs innit!) updating their facebook mobile pages to their celebrity doppelgangers. Play.com - you have a lot to answer for.
And as for the rest of you sorry people, leave now, go live your life (wherever that may be) and stop bothering me!
Until next time Dear reader:-)