When those outside of Stoke-on-Trent think of what we do for employment in the city their minds quickly centre on the renowned pottery industry or perhaps the influx of logistic firms now set up in the area. But there’s plenty more to the Potteries than that, as those who have ever worked in North Staffordshire will atone for. It’s also a pretty unique place and for locals and those who have moved here for work will certainly appreciate those elements which set it aside.
So here’s eight things anyone who has ever worked in Stoke-on-Trent can relate to.
Mayhem may be a strong word. Perhaps the title of this opening ‘thing’ sounds like a PlayStation game where the aim is to avoid red lights, pot holes, angry motorists, bad drivers and….wait, hang on, no it’s accurate. Stoke-on-Trent has traffic mayhem all over the place.
Those who have commuted from one end of the city to the other – or travelled into the Potteries – will share a tale of driving through it with a grimace as they recoil at the memories of a sea of red brake lights. It’s safe to say any journey will never take less than 15 minutes and that includes getting from one part of Hanley to another.
We have the A500 – ‘affectionately’ known as the D-Road – which is ultimately the God in control of every single road. How? Simple, shut the A500 for a little bit and drivers will lay siege to all the A and B roads in the area. Now those A and B roads usually have at least five sets of temporary traffic lights on them, some pretty hefty potholes, or an OAP deciding rush hour is the pinnacle time to take their 42-year-old Skoda out for a spin.
And when you have a meeting to get to, an interview, or the start of your shift, your blood pressure can creep up as you realise the hour-long delay you experienced in Longton was due to a dog running into the road in Penkhull and leading his owner on a merry dance. Navigating the city is a little like playing Grand Theft Auto as it’s fair to say we have our fair share of drivers who probably call their indicators ‘optional flashy bulbs’ and don’t see any value in their wing mirrors (AKA pointless door mirror things) meaning sudden braking and even just stopping for no apparently good reason are all part of the course.
You’ll know someone on your first day
One thing to be said for the Potteries is it’s a pretty friendly place. This is due even more to the fact we’re not wanted by the Midlands or the North so we have almost formed our own People’s Republic. What this means for many locals is that sometimes it feels like they know everyone in the Potteries. So if you’re starting out on your first day and are worried about how you’ll be accepted but there’s a pretty high chance the guy on reception probably went to your school/plays football with your cousin/his dad is mates with your dad/and so on…
It’s a useful thing apart from if your new boss instantly recognises you as the lad who stripped to his socks to celebrate a last-minute winner at Vale Park or the Bet 365 Stadium depending on your affiliation.
A co-worker who will only speak ‘Stokie’
Ah the Potteries dialect. How we love to switch our accents into third gear when out of the area or looking to bewilder an outsider. However there is no ‘off switch’ on some people and there is probably at least one in every workplace. No matter how much they try and stop calling people ‘duck’ it’s almost a physical impossibility – they just ‘conna do eet, owd’. Despite your age they’ll call you ‘owd’ or ‘yoof’; they’re virtually always relaxed ‘dusna mayther yoof, be owrate wunna it?’; and if a task can’t be done they’ll ‘sack it off owd, I conna do eet’. If ever they are greeted by a senior executive you may witness them trying to stop their mother tongue but all that will do is end up leaving them speaking like a 1980s PC.
The Potteries hater
While we have the dyed in the wool Stokie who embraces his/her accent there’s the opposite in the Potteries workplace – the outsider who can’t stand the place. They’re working here because this was the only job they could find within an hour of their house, of they’ve recently graduated from one of our two universities and because of their partner they are staying here – ‘absolutely temporarily’ there’ll be at pains to tell everyone. Now the Potteries hater is aware of the loyalty Stokies have for the city and the unspoken law that if you’re born here you can knock the area all day long. But if you turn up with a non-North Staffordshire accent and fancy having a pop at Smallthorne Roundabouts you’ll receive a lengthy lesson in why it’s a piece of engineering genius. Now the hater will go one of two ways, they’ll deliver on their threat to get out as soon as their beloved home county has a job or they’ll stay….
The adopted Stokie
After a few years the hater has realised the Potteries is a little like the Bermuda Triangle in that it’s not always easy to leave. In most workplaces there’s a flood of locals but plenty of accents from all over the country. This dates back to North Staffordshire’s once thriving mining industry where plenty of Geordies swapped Newcastle for…well Newcastle, and set up home here. This was where the work was at the time and this remained the story until our mines went the same as many across the country and were closed down. Plenty of those from the North East are still here and hearing a Geordie accent around the Potteries isn’t all too uncommon. But there are theories they go home every night and brush up on their accent so they never lose it. Most of the non-native Stokies will have a story of how they got here but can’t quite place just why they never left…
Terms from the pot bank
How can we do something about workplaces on the Potteries without mentioning the actual pottery industry? Venture into this world renowned industry and you can rest assured the work you do is the envy of enthusiasts across the globe. But get ready to learn a whole new language. Know what a Saggar is? How about a Saggar Maker’s Bottom Knocker? What about Tenmoku? You soon will if you’re working on ‘the pots’.
Every city has it, so don’t think we’re claiming this as unique to the Potteries. But what we do have here is a rivalry which has stood the test of time. It’s been some time since Port Vale and Stoke City shared a division but supporters still keep a cynical eye on their rivals results ready for the Monday morning line of ‘your boys didn’t do very well’. If you go into a workplace and don’t like football then that’s absolutely fine but be warned this won’t stop a dedicated Stoke or Vale fan telling you exactly the formation they’d play at the weekend right down to asking you for a pen and paper so they can fully explain their tactics. If one of those fans then decides to give BBC Radio Stoke’s Praise and Grumble a call on a Saturday be ready for a Monday morning gossip of ‘did you hear Rob on the radio on Satdee?’. For that week Rob is a celebrity and may well enter the canteen expecting Sky Sports executives to be sat there waiting to poach him.
Friday is oatcake day
When the weekend is in sight at the Potteries’ workplace there’s only one way to mark its impending arrival – oatcakes. These oval delights say it’s Friday like nothing else. Even the ‘Potteries hater’ we talked about earlier can’t resist getting a double bacon and cheese; the absolute Stokie will lift his in the air exclaim ‘thayt conna bayt bacon and chayse’, while even Sandra on her 12th diet of the year will tuck into North Staffordshire’s finest – all while assuring anyone who’ll listen she’s going to go for a run around Westport Lake on Sunday morning.
Right, on that note, I’m off to take 45 minutes driving two miles to get an oatcake. In a bit yoof, and enjoy working in the Potteries!