I have a couple of five word slogans for you, Boris; The North is fierce hearted. We won’t be divided now. We choose justice and peace over lies.

Heather‘s #MadCovidDiaries 2.8.2020 

My grandparents have lived in Bradford all their life. Grandma worked on the glove counter of Brown and Muffs; which sounds like a euphemism but was a department store that formed part of her glamorous career girl history. Grandad’s father was a music hall pianist, he liked to fill a bath tub with bottled booze during rehearsals at his place on Claremont.

My grandparents met at the chippie 60 years ago. They can recall the first Chinese meal they ate at on a date at the only Chinese restaurant in town. They speak fondly of the first deli in Bradford, one of the businesses started by the many Eastern European families resettled after the Second World War. Their Bradford has always been diverse.

I had no friends when I moved back to Bradford. The only way around that was through it; forcing myself to go to swing dance classes, open mic nights, community events. That’s how I turned up at an interfaith prayer event. The prayer night happened on the 11th of each month – a mark of respect to the lives lost during 9/11 – and everyone brought a prayer printed on a sheet of paper and a plate of food. We sat in a circle, papers were swapped. The Catholic priest read the Muslim prayers, the Bahai priest read the Sikh prayers, the Imam read the Anglican prayers. After holy words were respectfully mispronounced we all tucked into the food. That’s what the North is to me. It’s a glorious mash up of protest and pierogis and ice cold vodka and apple juice, steep hills and punk nights at the 1 in 12 club, a broad Pakistani Yorkshire accent, J.B. Priestley’s statue stood proud on a pedestal. We’re messy but we are willing to put our hearts into our community.

I’d just begun to venture outdoors last week when West Yorkshire was unceremoniously parked back in lockdown the night before Eid. My PTSD symptoms had flared up and I was feeling despondent that my usual safe places suddenly felt full of threats. It’s true that the prospect of desensitising myself to being outdoors all over again was unappealing. However the lockdown announcement angered me because it made a scapegoat of the good folks in the North, it played that familiar refrain that some people are other, they count less. Trauma is a thrumming powerless feeling, a suspicion that you count less, that you are prey. This lockdown announcement feels a million times worse than a panic attack in Argos because it is a hateful way to exploit suspicion.

It’s not true that BAME people count less. It’s Yorkshire Day as I write this. I say that the Hindu families my grandparents worked with at the foundry count as much, are as much my kin as the Muslim driver who helped bring my shopping bags to my door; as the Serbian nurses and the Shipley born Access bus driver and the Cypriot check out lass at Morrisons. This is our home and we’re all trying to keep each other safe. We’re all scared and we’re all trying our best to deal with a crisis beyond anyone’s comprehension.

I have a couple of five word slogans for you, Boris; The North is fierce hearted. We won’t be divided now. I’ve lived up here long enough to know that we choose justice and peace over lies.

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