I love Newcastle. It’s the city where I was conceived, born and raised. I love the architecture, I love the green spaces, I love the football team, and I adore the people. That’s why I’m going to be sad to leave.
The Geordie nation (and, yes, we really would like to be a nation) are a really special people. Friendly, caring, hardworking, funny, and passionate. But, in spite of all the regeneration and job creation the Labour government has done since 1997, career prospects in Tyneside are a little limited. There are hundreds of call centre jobs, wor accent being so damn sexy, like man pet. A lot of people work at “the Ministry” which is the huge multi-acre DWP and HMRC site that deals with the rest of the country’s tax credits and NI payments (ours are dealt with by 5 people in Blackpool). There’s also a lot of former shipbuilders and pitmen who work in the ever-growing social care sector. Of course there’s a reason that’s the case.
I was born in 1976 so I was a young impressionable eight-year-old in 1984 when hundreds of families were ripped apart in the Miners strike. I was lucky that my parents didn’t work in the coal industry, but I knew lots of people who did, and I remember the food parcels that were being sent, not to Ethiopia or Somalia, but to Ashington, Ellington, and Boldon Collieries. This post isn’t for debating the rights and wrongs of the miners’ strike. Thatcher was evil, Scargill was an egotistic dick. ‘Nuff said.
If that was all that went wrong in the north-east, we’d be fine. But the Conservatives allowed chronic underinvestment in the region from 1979 onwards. The shipyards were closed one-by-one, the fishing fleet got smaller year-on-year, manufacturing shrank to almost nothing. Only two things were growing in Newcastle during the Thatcher years. The dole queue and despondency. The city and region were ruined. So it’s no great surprise that employment isn’t as vibrant as it should be even now. The area has improved hugely, and that shouldn’t be underestimated. But it hasn’t moved on enough yet. So I’m heading back to London where I went to university, which is a hard thing for a Novocastrian to do.
Here in Newcastle we’re raised to believe Gateshead is the south of England and the midlands is a place from myth and legend. King Arthur probably would’ve had Camelot there, if it weren’t for the fact that Camelot is clearly St James’ Park. London is another world all together. My career and life have stagnated in the last few years and I really do need to move on. I’m excited by the new challenge and horizons, but sad that I feel the need to leave the place I love so much.