The writing blog of James Christopher Sheppard. I am a 26 year old gay male from London, UK. Here I present my experiences, poems, thoughts and opinions...

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Sunday, 31 July 2011

The North/South Divide. London Vs Hull.

Written by James Christopher Sheppard

Ok, so I am biased. I didn't think I was, but I am. Having spent the vast majority of my first twenty-seven years on planet Earth in either Surrey or London, I expected to revel in the cheap and friendly North. Of course, being a southerner, I call anything north of London the North, but in this case I mean, specifically, Hull in East Riding of Yorkshire- or Humberside, depending on who you ask.

Prior to actually moving to Hull, I had visited many times as my mother moved here from the little Surrey village of Dormansland in 2007. While it certainly wasn't my first choice of places to reside, however temporary, I thought it was... ok. The city centre is a decent size and has all the British high street shops you'd expect to see. There's cinemas, bowling alleys, arcades, a lot of gambling shops, a marina, gay bars, straight bars, clubs where you can get a vodka and coke for 70p and it even has a river- the thick brown River Humber. There's even a handful of museums and a place called The Deep. Surrounding the city centre is housing estate upon housing estate that seems to be run completely by children. There's one main train station and the main way of travel is by bus. All in all- Hull has pretty much exactly what you'd expect it to have. There are no surprises waiting to be discovered.

The main problem with Hull, for me as a Londoner, is that while it is a fairly large town, it's probably about the size of Kingston Upon Thames. And there is nothing else within an hour of the city. When I lived in Kingston, I could happily attend university in the daytime, then meet friends in my hometown of East Grinstead for dinner and be back in central London in time to meet other friends for drinks, before grabbing the last train back to Surbiton and getting into bed at 2am. I have worked in retail for years in the South and am pretty good at providing customer care. I've been trained to remain impartial to people, to remain professional and help them to the best of my ability. In Hull they expect you to make conversation with your customer and act like their best friend, while using terms of endearment like 'darling'. I'm sorry, but I have no interest in making small talk beyond the niceties. If I am hassled in a store, I just want to leave.

People in Hull are friendly, don't get me wrong, but there really is a difference between the northern an southern state of mind. In London, you can happily get the tube without so much as recognising that there are other people in your presence, while there are in fact fifty other people in your immediate space all doing the same thing- ignoring each other. In Hull people actually talk. It drives me crazy. I want to scream 'just leave me alone!'. My point is, I didn't realise just how deeply my southernness was imbedded within me. I am now at a point where I don't mind being called a snob and all the other southern names- I've realised that is just who I am, and boy am I glad.

Making the transition from London to Hull is no easy feat for a Southern snob like me. If you're considering moving to a cheaper part of the country, really think about it before making the jump. It's cheap for a reason. There are no jobs, virtually no career opportunities- unless you want to work within industry, few things to do and a town that is not equipped to keep you entertained and intellectually stimulated for a prolonged amount of time. Take me back to London, pronto!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


Written by James Christopher Sheppard

The state is hard to describe,
not quite an emotion, but a physical reaction concentrated from somewhere inside.

It swirls around in your middle, tearing through your stomach like a tornado. And it builds,
growing stronger as it spins.

Your wind pipe reduces in diameter and breath becomes less natural. You have to think about breathing now.
You breathe slowly and try to regain control. It’s YOUR body.

And while the tornado may slow,
your head begins to fill with heavy hazy clouds.
‘Don’t bottle it up’ you’re told. ‘You’ll feel better’. But it’s all just words.

The scattering of words leaving my mouth and congealing
in a way that brings nothing new. Words swallowed by others and re-spun.
Just for you.

Is this when we drink then?
To deaden our tormented insides?
To drown the tornado and dispel the clouds?

Or could this be where we use a blade
to slice through our skin and
let the demons that are trapped within us out?

This state visits me everyday and I am running down a narrowing blacked out corridor, 
but I am tired.
I no longer know what I am running towards
or why I am running at all. 

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A letter from Hell

I know I have to do it for financial reasons, be in Hull for the next year or so, but it doesn't make it any easier. The longer I'm here, the smaller the city feels and the grimier and more foreign the accent grows. I have a job and I should be grateful. In spats I am, but most of the time I am too exhausted from the amount of time I spend there on my feet sell, sell, selling for pretty much minimum wage to even speak to anyone else, let alone go to the gym or have a social life. It's only been a few days, but I have a doomed feeling about my future here in Hull. I am losing the ability to remain positive about living in a house that regularly sleeps six others. I miss my own space so much that I itch for a cigarette, a habit I quit doing on a daily basis over 18 months ago, whenever I allow myself to remember that it has well and truly gone. Being allowed the opportunity to live here so cheaply is a very generous of my Mum and it is good to be nearer family, but I miss my own life. I barely feel alive.