Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Variations on a Theme

It often seems to happen that little things in my life with coincide so it feels like a there is a theme. What I mean is that I will be reading a book about something and then quite by accident (or perhaps sub-consciously) I will watch a film or read a newspaper article on a similar subject. It happened a few months ago when I was watched Little Miss Sunshine and read Miss Wyoming, while the Miss World Competition was happening in the real world.

It has just happened again. Last night I went to see a film “The Inheritance”, that turned out to be a Scottish road movie (neatly coinciding with my weekend post). During the film I was contemplating the idea of a road movie in our small country, that you can really drive from one end to the other quite easily in a day. The film got around this by slowing the journey down by a) having a slow driver who wanted to take in the scenery, b) a useful navigator so they kept getting lost and c) a clapped out old camper van that broke down every so often.

Then there was a bit of dialogue in the film about Greggs. Greggs for anyone who doesn’t know (which means you definitely aren’t northern) is a chain of bakers. It started in the north where it is ridiculously popular – the high street of my hometown (which comprised about 40 shops) had 3 branches of it on that one road, plus a few others around the town. Pasties are their big thing. So these two brothers in the film, one who lived in London, the other who’d stayed in Scotland mention Greggs and I realised that Greggs is a huge subject in the north-south divide.

When I first left the north, I was horrified to find there were no Greggs in Norfolk. What was I supposed to eat? Babies in my town are fed Greggs pasties as soon as they are old enough to hold them. There were no Greggs in London when I first moved here either. So this became a valid topic of conversation, both with Southerners and with my family and friends on returning home, where I would have to gorge myself on their Cheese & Onion pasties every visit. Then a few years ago, they expanded and now there are quite a few in London. But here is the thing, they aren’t the same – the pasties are a different shape down here, smaller and of course, more expensive. So I never eat them down here, but now “the difference between Greggs in the north and south” has become a new topic of conversation when I return to the north.

So I concluded (during the film last night) that the issue of Greggs is the crux of the North-South issue.

This morning, I started reading the book “Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North” by Stuart Maconie. It was a present from my friend who has never left the north as she thought it would be appropriate for a “northerner in exile”. Its easy enough reading, amusing but not life-changing. I felt that I could have written something similar myself. Within the prologue, he discusses whether a road trip is possible in England and Greggs the Bakers. Actually so far, I feel as if I have written it already.

So there it is, the common themes in my life at the moment are UK road trips and what a chain of bakers means to regional identity.

3 comments:

cogidubnus said...

Greggs pasties are fair enough (I first encountered them years ago in Chesterfield) but it's their sarnies (and the quality and prices thereof) that really set them apart...(actually the pasties are really brilliant, but most people buy sarnies)...

There is now a Greggs in Bognor Regis (and you can't get more North-South divided than that can you?)...but sadly, (a) the pasties just aren't the same, and (b) the sarnies are about double the price they are in the midlands ...

So what's the difference? none...they're all profiteering buggers when it suits them!

northern monkey said...

You are definitely onto something with Greggs and the north-south divide...

I never buy the pasties down here only the sandwiches, which in my home town Greggs doesn't even deign to sell!

I am craving a cheese and onion pastie now...

SandDancer said...

I don't think they do sandwiches in the many Greggs in my hometown either - or if they do they are overshadowed by the pasties. Unfortunately I can't eat them anymore though as they give me bad heartburn.