People in York are friendlier than people in London, that's just a fact. I was there last week staying with my parents, so I know. People in York talk to you. At a bus stop waiting for a bus into the city centre we struck up a conversation with a lady with three children, a girl and two boys, who were talking about Germany Beck, an area of Fulford where a controversial housing development is taking place (Persimmon Homes, building 700 new houses).
"You do know why it's called Germany Beck, don't you?" says my mother, butting in to their conversation. She can't help herself, she's a raging extrovert; standing waiting for a lift in a department store I have to instruct her not to speak to the people already inside the lift when we get in, reluctantly she usually (but not always) obliges, but I can see it's a struggle.
The three children waiting with the lady at the bus stop didn't bat an eyelid as they might have done in London if some mad woman suddenly struck up conversation with them. "No," they said, with sweet, enquiring faces. "Why?"
So my mother told them: it's named Germany Beck after German de Brettgate, a landowner who lived in these parts quite a long time ago. I knew this too, as it happens, because only the night before I'd been with my mother at the Fulford Historical Society meeting in the local church hall: 'Who's who in Fulford:1066 to 1266' (and I know what you're thinking, you're jealous because my life is so glamorous).
After this we had a long chat with the woman and the little girl at the bus stop about how troublesome boys are (the elder boy kept mithering the younger one, as they say in Yorkshire). When we got on the bus another woman greeted my mother by name and as I passed the place where the little girl was already sitting on the bus she beamed at me, so I beamed back.
Arriving in York city centre, we descended the stairs (we always sit on the top deck, if there is one) and another woman at the bottom of the stairs suddenly stopped and waited. "Everything alright?" I asked her, wondering why she had suddenly stopped and waited. "Yes," she said, "I'm just waiting so you can go first." I'll just repeat that; she was - JUST WAITING SO WE COULD GO FIRST.
When I stepped off the bus the driver was waiting there too, suddenly he shot his arm out towards me. "Look!" he bellowed. I jumped. What? What was it? Someone pulling a knife? A shivering homeless person lying prone on the pavement I was about to step on? "Your shoe laces are undone," he said. I didn't have any shoe laces. I was wearing boots. I studied his face. He was smiling. It was a joke. I'll just repeat that - IT WAS A JOKE.
"It's not like living in London," I said to my mother as we walked away, "London is a war zone. In London you must put on your emotional body armour every time you go out. In London it's dog eat dog, every man for himself, survival of the fittest. It must be lovely to live in York where people know your name and everyone is smiley and friendly."
"It is," said my mother.
A few days later, back in London, I was walking through our local market with my husband, telling him this. "People in York are so friendly," I told him, "it's such a lovely place to live compared with London. Here no one knows your name and everyone is horrid and mean."
"Mmm," he said, just as we were passed the veg stall.
"Alright boss!" called out the veg stall owner, to my husband. I'll just repeat that - ALRIGHT BOSS! called out the veg stall holder, to my husband.
"Did he just call you boss?" I asked my husband.
"He did," he said. "You'd be surprised. I command respect in these parts."
I have to admit, I was surprised.
Love E x
P.S. Because he's not the boss at all, I am.