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A couple of years back I read Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island and wasn't hugely impressed. This, on the other hand, is a wonderful book about the North of England, prefaced by the Ninth Doctor quote, "Lots of planets have a north", written with affection and humour, and occasional rage against Southern and/or London prejudices. As a non-English person myself, I don't have a particular stake other than cheering for the underdog; as someone who has a fascination for micro-cultures, I loved Maconie's exploration of the great cities of Northern England through pop music and football, even though those are both subjects which I am vaguely aware of rather than passionately interested in.

It is one of the few books where I actively wished I could hear the author reading it. Words on a page are all very well, but I imagine that Maconie had retained his Wigan accent, which would surely add colour to his delivery of lines like the way the Liver Birds are unlikely to fly away from Liverpool, because they are made of metal and nailed to the Liver Building, or the awful effects of his family's cooking tradition on his childhood morale. When his Golbourne Colliery relatives were sent tins of spaghetti in solidarity by Heinz workers during the miners' strike, these unfamiliar culinary objects "were regarded with suspicion. Rumour had it they'd become contaminated with flavour and tastiness and contained no pastry whatsoever."

Anyway, an excellent and enlightening book, for anyone with the slightest curiosity about Northern England.

Posted via LjBeetle


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 14th, 2010 07:19 am (UTC)
Did he go to St Helens?
Oct. 14th, 2010 07:51 am (UTC)
He read the audiobook himself, if you ever feel like going back to 'read' it again. And yes, he's kept his accent although it's been smoothed off and sanded down a little - like most northern accents IME - by his time in the south.
Oct. 14th, 2010 09:51 am (UTC)
I'm currently reading his equally punning "Cider with Roadies." I wouldn't say its depth really compares to that of my current other reads (Paradise Lost and Finnegans Wake - please don't ask) but it's just the most amiable, lovely, verbose, enjoyable book.

He currently presents the evening Radio 2 slot with Mark Radcliffe (8-10pm, Mon-Wed, criminally reduced from Mon-Thu) and that's generally a joy to listen to as well. I don't know if you can get iPlayer to play nicely for radio outside the UK, though.
Oct. 14th, 2010 10:25 am (UTC)
The Radcliffe and Maconie show is one of the best things on the radio. A couple of times recently they combined it with walking tours (Hadrian's Wall, the Jurassic coast), with the show broadcast in the evening from a local hotel or suchlike, and often a live band and live studio audience. Fantastic for local colour.
Oct. 18th, 2010 10:53 am (UTC)
Listening to their walking tours sent shivers down my spine. It's British psychogeography of a sort that Graham Swift or Peter Ackroyd would be proud to have successfully conveyed through the medium of the modern novel; yet it's delivered by two Northerners who adopt bluffness as a sort of shield around their actually rather quietly erudite learning - Maconie for one taught sociology before getting his big NME break - delivered to an audience of millions who see it rightly as smashing entertainment and lap it up.

I'd like to think that Reith would be very impressed by what they do. I certainly am.
Oct. 18th, 2010 01:14 pm (UTC)

And as if on cue, Maconie presents the following on Inside Out - North West, tonight:

"Stuart Maconie follows in the footsteps of legendary Lake District fell walker Alfred Wainwright and reveals the surprising secrets of a marathon expedition he made along the length of the Pennines on the eve of the Second World War."


Oct. 14th, 2010 10:07 am (UTC)
He has indeed kept his accent, or something nearby, when I first heard him I thought Manchester, and despite him being from Wigan (I am from St. Helens, they are our dearest enemies) he's always been worth listening to, I shall have to grab my Mum's copy of this.
Oct. 15th, 2010 06:41 am (UTC)
Yay! Another St Helenser! *salutes*

despite him being from Wigan

The oldest and deadliest of our foes.
Oct. 15th, 2010 01:16 pm (UTC)
We appear to be slowly colonising cyberspace, 'cause I've met someone else from St. Helens on here too :)

We'll get Wigan next time.
Oct. 18th, 2010 10:55 am (UTC)
A little bird tells me - and who am I to judge? - that your glass... has the class. Is my information correct?
Oct. 14th, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
I've always enjoyed his radio work, and I do have a copy of Cider with Roadies, which I haven't read yet. I think, since I come from the north myself, this one is probably not going to be a high priority, but I might give it a go one day.
Oct. 15th, 2010 09:17 am (UTC)
I loved this one (despite, or maybe because of, being a Northerner; although he's not that keen on Newcastle). The rant on the ubiquitous High-Visibility Tabard is worth the cover price on its own. I'd recommend "Cider with Roadies" and "Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England" as well.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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