I have been reading a lot of opinions recently about my local area, and its cultural identity. An especially well written response to all this was provided by my good mate Chris on his blog (Its a cracking read as well). So I have caved in to the invisible peer pressure and decided to add my own ill-advised response to proceedings, so here goes.
Now I am from Teesside. I am very proud to be from Teesside. I have even blogged/written a letter to someone about the area (Have a look here) I also love Parmos, they taste very nice. I have had visitors from out of town and have recommended that they try it, and it was quite well received. Yet it has only come to my attention recently that my area is becoming obsessed in putting its identity behind that fast food phenomenon.
Now Chris asked a lot of questions of why we are doing this? Is it because we have nothing else? I don't believe so.
I take pride in our history. I was lucky enough to stand on the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge and see the sign that said it was built by Dorman Long Co. Middlesbrough, England and felt enormous pride that I was from an area that had completed this impressive feat of engineering.
Yet I do feel that we need to talk about what Middlesbrough is doing now! Now we used to boast an awesome day of music, but that has been taken away due to council cuts and other events (the Olympics and the Queen's Jubilee, two events I frankly couldn't give a fuck about but I won't get into that now) We used to boast Premiership football, but not anymore, yet our team is most certainly grafting to get there. I still seem to be talking about the past.Maybe we need to make more, and better publicise, what efforts people of our town are doing now?
So this gets me to thinking about why I love this place? Well erm, its hard to quite put your finger on it.
I like the fact that our general price of drinks are cheap, and I like the fact that seemingly, as an area, we drink a lot. (More than we realise I expect!)
I like the scenes of industry that are scattered along the skyline. People pay a lot to see beautiful sunsets in far flung places on top of cliffs and buildings. Yet beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I feel that seeing industry in full flow, or even laid dormant, especially at night, can be awe inspiring and even beautiful.
I kind of weirdly like our weather.I like being buffeted by the wind on a lonely walk back home on a night. I even, to a point, enjoy playing football in such cold and heavy air that you feel it hit your lungs with every breath.
I like our sense of humour, that we can turn a smile at even the most dire of situations.
Most of all, I like the people. I mean you do take the rough with the smooth, we are not a place that has a lack of bellends, but yet when you do meet somebody nice, you rarely meet them nicer and more hospitable than from this area. My friend Ryan, originally from Kansas City, came to visit in 2009. This was after he had completed a trip through Europe, there didn't seem to be a place that he hadn't been to, yet he said of all the people he met, he never met a better group than us up here in Boro. He liked that they were interested in him, instead of him being 'my mate from America', he was Ryan; somebody new and interesting and they welcomed him with open arms. I think that says a lot on its own.
So thinking on, why do we need a cultural identity? Why do we feel the need to hold something up as our achievement? Why do we need a fast food item or a lass from X Factor to say that we are Teesside? How about this, we keep on doing what we're doing and take pride in it. If people want to come up and be open to it, then I am sure they will discover a hidden gem, if not then their loss, its not mine. So maybe, as Chris says, we are a town of "people who are satisfied to 'make-do'" but maybe that's making the best of what we have got. People over Parmos someone put; I couldn't agree more.
I realise I haven't really answered Chris' question. I don't know why people deem it suitable to substitute food with identity. I just thought I would weigh in with my thoughts on my passion for this area.
Apparently (according to the match I watched today) the town of Stevenage's motto is "A town's heart is in its people." I think that could fit us quite well. Although I think I like the sound of "Parmos and Doyles" as well.