I usually sit down each month with the aim of writing something positive about my hometown of Middlesbrough. After almost a year, I’ve got a fair backlist of articles, featuring lists on why the town is a good place to live or why it’s worth visiting; there are photo posts on the places I love and even an ode to the food.
What I haven’t done yet is sit down and write something a bit more personal.
For those that aren’t familiar with it, Middlesbrough is a large town of around 140,000 people, located in the North East of England, close to the mouth of the River Tees. On a map of the UK, about halfway between the tip of Scotland and the bottom of the south coast, there’s a little nick where the Northumberland coastline drops away, before the land curves out into the North Sea and around, forming the Yorkshire coast. That little nick is the Tees, a short distance from where we are.
I’ve always lived here. Like many from the North East, I sometimes have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about where I come from, because I’ve spent so many years listening to the remarks of people who have never been here, or have perhaps passed by on the train from London to Edinburgh, watching the green fields and pit villages of County Durham flash by.
Or even worse, they’ve caught an article on the national news that invariably uses a stock shot of the town that captures only the run down or industrial areas.
I remember going for a university interview years ago and being shown around the campus by three boys called Rupert, Henry and George (or something pretty much along those lines). As soon as they heard that my friend and I were from the Boro, unlike most of the other potential students there, who were from somewhere much further south, one commented: “Oh yes, that’s got quite a reputation, hasn’t it?” (Put on your posh boy accent whilst reading that line and you’ll be about right).
It can be tiring feeling that you have to apologise for the place you live. But why should we? Nowhere is perfect.
Here, there are plenty of things to love. We’re lucky enough to live in a beautiful area of the country, with the rugged beauty of the North Yorkshire Moors right on our doorstep. It only takes five minutes to get out of town and be surrounded by countryside, by history, if that’s your thing.
Here, you can walk down the street or wait at a bus stop and people will chat happily to you. You can even head into town for night out alone and chances are you’ll meet up with someone you know.
Here, you can actually buy a really nice house without selling your soul, or your firstborn child, to the bank.
Here, you’ll find people who are passionate about where they live and what they do. They want to shout about it and share it with others.
The North East England tourism campaign had it right with their slogan: Passionate People, Passionate Places.
Here is the place that will always be home.