Have you ever noticed these days how things can be so far out they’re in? This is very much the case with winter trips to Finland or Estonia, for example, or tourists travelling to the States to see parts of Baltimore made famous by “The Wire” – or parts of New York which are famous for rather less than salubrious reasons. People enjoy a bit of a walk on the dark side sometimes.
In the UK, most traditional tourists visit the country when it’s at its best in the spring and early summer. But this can often mean you miss out on a whole slice of British culture that really comes into its own during the winter. The truth is that the working classes of the UK’s major cities have always known how to party well – and this is what makes the cities such fun places to be when the weather is cold, and rainy – and it’s dark by 4.30 in the afternoon. After all – what else is there for it but to have a great time?
And so in the big industrial cities across the country from Liverpool in the west, to Manchester further inland, Leeds in the middle, Sheffield a little further south and Newcastle in the north east – a Friday or a Saturday night out in the depths of winter will surely be something no traveller is likely to forget in a hurry – hopefully for good reasons!
The same goes for Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh and other cities – but please note that London is a little different from the rest. That’s because London is very much a case apart and a true international city. But that isn’t the same thing as saying don’t go there. Quite the contrary in fact – but if you’re going for a traditional working class night out in an England that harks back to another era still – then head to East London and the Docklands – and you can still fund it.
Sport is a big thing as part of this culture. In particular, sports such as football, rugby league, darts, snooker and so on have all been traditional working class preserves and still are, on the whole.
In fact, the oldest club competition in the whole of world football, the FA Cup still takes pride of place in Britain’s sporting calendar each winter – particularly for those clubs from the lower leagues who get to have a crack at the big names in English football if they get a favourable draw. Such potential giant killings have always brought a certain magic to the old competition which is as exciting today as it was back in 1872 when the Wanderers won the inaugural event. In this year’s FA cup betting, Premier League leaders Chelsea are favourites, followed by the two Manchester clubs and holders Arsenal.
The final is played at Wembley Stadium each May – but the real nitty gritty business gets done in the depths of winter as the teams from the two upper echelons of English football join round three of the FA Cup which this season starts on Saturday 3 January 2015.
This is when Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or Man City may get drawn away from home to some non-league club in a small town you’ve never heard of – and that’s what makes this competition so special.
This is great for tourists looking for a slice of a culture that is slowly dying. You just have to know where to look for it. So go to the East End of London, go to a soccer match in January at a small northern club, go to a bingo hall or the World Darts competition at the Ally Pally – or visit Newcastle for a big night out – and you’ll gradually get the picture.