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The Idea of North

“To him, the North represented solitude, independence, reasonableness, courage, elusiveness, spirituality, strength of character, adherence to laws, moral rectitude, and peace. He was uncomfortable with the Mediterranean temperament that manifests itself in bright colors, displays of passion, and personal display.”

Directions carry the weight of history: north for assurance and austere certainty. east for the exotic, south for heat and discovery, west for aspiration.

I’m northern. By birth and breadth, by sentiment and rugged mindset. The colours of austerity, the heather-greys and purples of the north york moors are closer to my nature than the almost synthetic greens of rural oxon. The muted pastels of the fishermens’ cottages, painted in grim resistance to the elements, that dot the inner harbour at whitby, and the seafront of alnmouth. The train line from the border to my home plays out a set of panoramas: the square forts and ascetic coastline of northumberland, the near-menace of durham’s cathedral, squat gothic forcefulness rather than slender lineage, and the brute power of the chemical overground, the blade runner nightline on both sides of the riverbank.

We’re different, then. I incline to the moon and twilight; she to the sun’s warmth. The muted colours of autumn are my palette; her skies are swathed azure and thunder. We’re migrant birds, us, who season in each other’s territory.