Division, and French Toast

Outside the window, the pitch black of the countryside gave way to rows and rows of streetlights in suburban formation, gave way to the old factories, bridges, and office blocks, as we hurtled along rails into the historic centre of Berlin.

Jumping down from my hotel on wheels, I found myself directly in the the heart of the city. Brisk morning air, fellow travellers, bleary eyed, wandering down the platform. I followed suit.

First order of business, breakfast. Follow the map to the renowned café, just east of the old wall, known for their excellent brunch. Friendly yet trendy, right up my alley, something known only as a "wanky coffee shop" among friends. You know it when you see it.
Flat whites, cortados, single origin beans, and a sizable brunch menu. Staff in striped t-shirts effortlessly cool and gaunt.
It was here I settled in for a few hours of coffee, light work, and to consume my weight in french toast.

I overheard a conversation in English between two people. One, an employee, a woman in her mid 30s, quietly spoken, unplacable accent. The other, a young woman, cheery, confident, wearing a boho skirt and her cut English accent with pride.

"Oh it's nice to hear a familiar accent… where are you from? How long have you been in Berlin?"
"Pontefract, and I've been here a while" the server's response.
"Where's that? Never heard of it?"
"It's in the North"
"Well I'm from Southampton!"

She's from the North?
We got talking, the usual chat. Turns out went to the same University! What are you doing out here, etc etc... all the usual nonsense.

So we had a connection. Our intial muted excitement of meeting someone from the same part of the world on this colorless winter's morning. The curiosity of bumping into someone in a coffee shop midway who knows the joy of a proper brew. Well, she seemed more surprised than I was. Isn't Berlin packed full of people from all over?

She speaks in a her neural accent, international, difficult to place. I guess, similar to mine. Yet, with each mention of God's Own Country, a little northern twang breaks through, as is only proper.

But, she tells me there are no Northerners abroad. Or very few. Or she hasn't met many. Not in Berlin anyway.

And I had to think about this. I realise I have no idea if it's true. But then, I probably didn't pay much attention to it. And if they sounded like us two, would I even know?

It's true, people do like to stay in Yorkshire. Lots of my friends from University days moved there and never left. Yorkshire has a lot of charm, a lot going for it.

But, similarly to me, she spent her first 18 years there in a boring part of a boring town with only boring things to do. She left and never looked back.
For some people, once you move away once, it's like the starting pistol for the marathon, and not the sprint. Some people just keep going until they can't anymore.

I was surprised how strongly I felt, excited at this interaction at all. We were able to share some brief moment about our regional identity. The absurdity of this being two neutral-accented northern people living in Europe, immersed in internationalism.
And then to immediately fall into the age old pattern of North vs South. Of issues of identity and injustice, apropos of nothing.

But on that morning, we connected over identity, over nothing, and everything.
Because I am like her, and she is like me.

And as quickly as it began, it ended.
I paid the bill and left.

Ta'ra, duck.