Northside - Andrew Martin on the Yorkshire version of Monopoly

In Yorkshire Monopoly, at least the Jail is free from sponsorship

I have a Christmas gift idea for all readers "in the regions", as they patronisingly used to say on Nationwide. For the past four years, a company called Winning Moves has been producing versions of Monopoly customised for the provinces. The first to be made was a Newcastle version. "Newcastle is so proud of its local identity that it was a logical place to start," said a company spokesman, and then asserted that one in three households in the city possesses this version of the game, which, in Newcastle, "comfortably outsells" what he rather dismissively called "the Park Lane and Mayfair format", as if this was merely another version catering to regional peculiarities.

Winning Moves also produces Monopoly adapted for Sunderland, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Manchester, Liverpool and, most recently and oddly, Kent. (Surely Kent is just London's backyard?) For Christmas, I will be giving one of my sons the Yorkshire edition of Monopoly, which is the biggest seller among the provincial versions.

I'm all in favour of countering the bias towards London, and my only criticism of the regional versions of Monopoly is that they carry adverts, so that what used to be the splendidly generic "Electricity Company" becomes "Yorkshire Electricity", but it is perhaps missing the point to complain about the commercialisation of Monopoly. And at least Jail is free from sponsorship. (Which means that Armley jail in Leeds has surely missed a trick; I mean, just think of all that product placement: "Go to Armley Jail . . . Move directly to Armley Jail . . . Get out of Armley Jail free").

I must also admit that my son will probably be a little disoriented by his present, the iconography of the "Park Lane and Mayfair format" being so deeply ingrained. Among the "Chance" cards are messages like that old nightmare, "You are assessed for street repairs, £40 per house, £115 per hotel", but also such unfamiliar instructions as "Advance to Marfleet, Hull" or "Take a trip to the Humber Bridge" - the good news in each case being that you can collect £200 if you pass Go.

There's also an unconscious poignancy to some of the details. Halifax Station, for example (which takes the place of Fenchurch Street), has a mortgageable value of £100, which is probably about right. The downmarket Old Kent Road slot is taken by Bowers Row in Leeds, so I dread to think what that's like in reality, especially given that it carries an advert for, and is apparently proud home to, a waste disposal company called Biffa. The premium Park Lane slot, meanwhile, is occupied by York Minster, and it seems a touch blasphemous that you can build a hotel on the site for two hundred quid. Still, it should all prove very educational for a London-centric child.

This article first appeared in the 02 December 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Alone they stand, against a dominant PM