My dear Grimsby. Great, Great Grimsby. And Cleethorpes. Sunny, golden beached Cleethorpes. And Immingham. Oh, yeah. Immingham.
I miss the homeland. But not enough to ever move back there, of course. I remember reading several years ago that Hull was once voted the worst place to live in England. Well it was something like that, I can’t be arsed to actually look it up. When I was younger, to spend a day in Hull was considered a great big adventure and a massive treat. I’d literally shake with excitement if I knew there was a chance I’d get over that Humber Bridge for some real culture. And that, dear readers, probably tells you all you need to know about where I grew up.
And it’s okay for me to write that about where I’m from, because you’re allowed to have a go at your home town. It’s fair game. But in 1987, when I heard Little and Large tell a joke about Cleethorpes, taking the piss, like it was some third rate seaside hovel, then let me tell you, I was absolutely fuming. We had a mid-sized Woolworths at that point – how dare they?
Even at the tender age of 11, with a severely under-developed sense of humour (I used to think Hi-De-Hi was funny), I knew this wasn’t something to smile about. Yes, even though I’d chuckle away merrily at Duty Free, I knew these two-bit comics had a bleeding nerve. Who were they to mock my place of birth? It just wasn’t funny. Even less funny than when Syd would try to sing a song and Eddie would just fuck about in the background. Every sodding week.
Oh no. I wasn’t having it. Leave that to the people who live here, you cheeky shits, I thought to my myself, because if I said it aloud, it is likely that I would have been grounded.
I’m very proud of my northern, working class roots and I love good old Grimsby and Cleethorpes. I really do. I’ll often play on the fact that I’m a proud gobby fishwife, and act like some a gritty northern stereotype, even though I now kind of like olives. I don’t believe that anybody, other than the town’s current and former inhabitants, has any business taking a pop at the place.
I’ve lived in Birmingham for the past 16 years and when I meet people who hail from Grimsby or Cleethorpes in Birmingham, I tend to get a bit over-excited. Noticeably so. Like we’re going to have a lot in common and it’s brilliant that we’ve stumbled across each other. Like we share a world of secrets – the other people in the room don’t know Ross Castle or Ron Ramsden – they probably think they’re real people. Well, to be fair, Ron Ramsden is a real person.
I call those of us who have moved to The Midlands, Grimmigrants. I don’t actually, I literally just made that up and it is ridiculous and it will never be used again. There are at least twelve of us here now. Not living in a commune or anything. That would be weird. But our numbers are growing. My two nieces were born here, but they are still are, and will always be, part haddock.
If there are more of you out there, please let yourselves be known. Particularly as there’s a lecture in Digbeth this Saturday about the downfall of Mad Harry’s, followed by a discussion about the day the Labyrinth of Doralia opened. And then a Steels’ fish supper. If only, dear Grimmigrants, if only…