NEW research out this week shows that England is sharply divided by region.
The survey by hotel chain Travelodge (don’t laugh) says that 15% of people in the South have never ventured up here, while 10% of Northerners have never travelled in the opposite direction.
So that’s why I can never find any jellied eels in my local supermarket.
Seriously though, these figures are a little alarming.
At a time when you can fly to the other side of Europe for a fiver, it’s strange that so many people are reluctant to visit the other end of their own country.
Think what they’re missing out on.
Five million Southerners have never been north of Birmingham. The Dales, the Lakes, the Peaks – all that wonderful countryside is a mystery to those poor souls.
They’ve never been to Yorkshire, never seen its rolling hills and dry-stone walls. They’ve never witnessed the wonderful Victorian architecture of Huddersfield, or looked down at the town from Castle Hill.
And the city-by-city results are even more alarming, showing that fewer than one in 20 Southerners has ever visited Leeds.
The same tiny proportion of Northerners has ever made the trip to Bath - probably because they were worried about how to pronounce it.
Indeed there are 2.3 million Northerners who’ve never visited any part of the South. Statistically, some of you reading this right now must fall into that category.
Think what you’ve missed out on, the things you’ve never seen - like a pint that costs a fiver.
Of course that’s just a tired old cliché - it’s £6 for a beer in London these days.
But the survey shows that these outdated stereotypes live on. Half of Northerners think that that lot down there are pinstriped businessmen or wide boys.
While one in five Southerners believes the North is all chip shops and pit villages.
And the survey shows that the old prejudices about bad weather in the North remain as well. It’s not exactly tropical down South - the differences in climate are much greater between regions of France or Italy than they are within England.
But still this old idea of the freezing North remains, as if people in Brighton are walking around in shorts and T-shirts at the moment.
This stubborn parochialism is a little worrying.
Our friends at Travelodge, who interviewed 2,000 people for this survey, agree with me.
They recommend getting out and about in the country - staying in their hotels on your travels of course.
But why is this stereotyping so common?
I’m not sure, but I think perhaps people need this confirmation.
A Yorkshireman heads to London for the weekend and encounters one person who’s rude. Typical Southerner he thinks as he returns home to God’s own county - where of course the impolite can also to be found.
Someone from Bristol spends a few days in Manchester.
It rains. What do you expect, he thinks as he returns South - where the sun doesn’t always shine.
Maybe it’s comforting to have these views, to cling to the idea that you’re somehow better.
It’s a shame. The strong local identities which exist in England are something of which to be proud - but also something worth sharing.
It’s great that here in this one small country there is so much history and such a wide variety of accents.
Vowels I vow never to change
I HAD to call my mobile phone network this week to change my account details. It was not a straightforward procedure.
Now, I’m too much of a gentleman to name and shame this company, but let’s just say it rhymes with Wodafone.
I assumed it would be a simple process. I would call up the company, make the few changes and be on my way.
The whole thing would take no more than a minute I reckoned.
But I was well wide of the mark.
When I called up, instead of being put through to an actual human being, I was connected to a robotic voice which introduced itself as Kate.
"Kate" told me she would take me through a few simple steps, all I had to do was speak when prompted.
The first few sections were easy enough, all I was asked to do was say yes or no to various questions.
But then it got more complicated as my new friend Kate asked for things like my address and card number.
She had a real problem understanding me. "I’m sorry I didn’t quite catch that, let’s try again" she said in her robotic tones, like a patient kindergarten teacher.
We gave it another go, but still she couldn’t make me out. Eventually Kate "decided" that she would have to put me through to a real human being in a call centre.
At which point the line went dead.
So nine minutes of frustration, and job not done.
I have a fair idea why Kate couldn’t understand me. I speak with a Belfast accent and she probably wasn’t programmed to recognise my exotic vowel sounds.
I know some of you will be thinking, well couldn’t you just have done an impression of David Cameron for a few moments to get the transaction over and done with?
Absolutely not is my reply.
OK, I accept that English people have trouble with the Ulster accent, that’s why I speak slowly and cut down on the Belfast slang.
But the vowel sounds are a red line.
I don’t change them for real flesh and blood human beings, so why should I modify them for Kate?