Like most other Geordie people, until I moved down here, London was just something you read about at school. It was a whisper on the wind, an old wives’ tale, an absurd notion dreamt up by a mad wizard.
Many moons ago, I can remember sitting around the fire with my family as a child, listening to the radio and watching my Dad shovel fresh coal into the roaring flames after a hard day’s coalmining. As the embers from the fire danced hither and thither - chased by the family whippets, Ant and Dec - I can remember hearing a voice trickle out of the wireless and into my tiny Geordie ears.
“London! The city that everyone is talking about!” It said, in an exotic foreign accent I could barely understand (I later learned that the accent in question was from a place called ‘Cockney’).
“Father, will we ever visit the place they call London?” I asked.
“No, son. I’ve never been, your mother’s never been, and nor shall you. There’s nothing for us there. Remember the family motto: if it’s south of Middlesbrough, we’re not interested.”
I looked on, forlorn, as Ant and Dec quietly lapped up their Brown Ale in the corner. Whatever ‘London’ was, it wasn’t happening to me.
Fast forward a few moons, and there I was! Standing in King’s Cross station, with my suitcase and one hand and my cloth cap in the other. I had arrived. How, you ask? The folks at LTP had seen me perform at a Geordie travelling circus (my talent was reciting Paul Gascoigne’s career statistics from memory) and they decided to hire me as their production assistant!
In the welcome letter that LTP sent me, I read that I would have to go ‘underground’ in order to reach their offices in East London – this worried me because I’d left most of my mining equipment back in Newcastle. Not to be discouraged, I thought I’d find a local and ask them what to do:
“Evenin’ me auld cock-er-ney sparra!” I said in my best London accent, even though it was nine o'clock in the morning. “How does this underground malarkey work, then?”
“You’d take the Victoria line to Highbury and Islington, then from there take the Overground to Hackney Downs.” The local replied, in an accent that sounded nothing like the Ray Winstone movies I’d watched in preparation for moving away. “Now please get away from me, you’re getting coal dust all over my brogues.”
I followed my new friend’s instructions to the letter, except for the bit where I took the District line to Kew Gardens by accident, and soon enough I was there, ready to start my new life as a production assistant with LTP.