This Grauniad article on love and disappointment the northern steel-making city of Sheffield - not far from where I was born - is heart-wrenching. I think it sufficiently details the reasons why I don't live there right now.
The remark about brides who live on the upper floors of the high-rise apartment blocks taking the freight elevator on their wedding day so as not to crush their "frocks" in the cramped passenger elevator made me wince with recognition - and a strong memory of those elevators, with stinking stains down the walls from crotch height and the dull, cobwebby fluorescent light in the ceiling behind its vandal-proof (but not graffiti-proof) plastic panel.
The overall tone of the article was a bit too "it's grim up north" for me. I'm used to being from the Kentucky or Alabama of the UK but after 12 years living in London where people assumed I keep coal in the bath and gave me all the respect that stereotype engenders, it was eye-opening to move to the US where suddenly I'm in the top tier because I have a "British" accent. It isn't *that* grim. We have Hebden Bridge. And the Dales.
Why do Southerners assume Northerners keep coal in the bath? I've never known. Orwell mentions it in The Road To Wigan Pier.
"Moreover the pithead baths, where they exist, are paid for wholly or partly by the miners themselves, out of the Miners’ Welfare Fund. Sometimes the colliery company subscribes, sometimes the Fund bears the whole cost. But doubtless even at this late date the old ladies in Brighton boarding-houses are saying that ‘if you give those miners baths they only use them to keep coal in’."
The Daily Telegraph was still giggling about it in 2008 in a book review.
"Jenni Murray would like you to know that she keeps a very clean toilet - you could eat your dinner off it. Eating your dinner off toilets seems to be one of those strange northern customs, like keeping coal in the bath, that has never caught on down south."
Fuck off, Torygraph.
The Guardian's story about Sheffield's Park Hill Bridge at least is grounded in reality, even if the reality is as gritty as the ash-heaps behind the steel mills.