Sunday, November 11, 2007

Pies and Prejudice

One of the sure signs of getting older is listening to Radio 2, not in some kind of ironic post-modern way but because, of all the options available, it seems like the best one. And if you listen to Radio 2 then it's pretty much required to like Stuart Maconie, since it seems like half their output involves him. Fortunately I fall into that category. The man's funny and it's always good to hear a Northern accent on the radio (even if it has been softened, presumably from too many years living in the South).

So when I saw his book 'Pies and Prejudice - In Search of the North' I was interested. When I read the back cover 'A northerner in exile, stateless and confused' I thought yep that's me and promptly bought it (OK I put it on my Amazon wish list and somebody bought it for me several months later).

And it's a great read. He writes like he talks, so if you like his shows you'll like the book. Any Northerner reading it will no doubt be disappointed by his lack of coverage of <insert name of place that is important to you>. I was surprised by the lack of mention of Lancaster, one of the more attractive towns in Lancashire and the Trough of Bowland, Lancashire's best kept secret. I wasn't so surprised by him avoiding Blackburn and Darwen, which even the most rabid Lancastrian would have to admit are dumps. And even when he does cover areas in some depth, anybody with some inside knowledge will probably think he's missed out some important parts.

But covering every little nook and cranny isn't really the point of the book. Maconie is attempting to redress the balance of the coverage of the North. It's not all terraced houses, grim weather, even grimmer food, unemployment and fighting, which is what you may think based on the typical drama based anywhere in the North. And he succeeds in doing that. Unfortunately he may have succeeded but I suspect the people who should read it, the people with those prejudices about the North, quite likely won't be the people buying it. And perhaps that's no bad thing. Do we really want the North to become yet another weekend escape from London, with property prices driven up by bankers who only ever visit every month? Perhaps it's best for the prejudices to remain intact, the people who matter know it's not true. Lets keep it our little secret.


Anonymous said...

You're wrong, It IS grim 'up North' the only good thing about it is the lack of Southerners, except for the odd 'banker' on holiday, as you say!

(Just thought I'd improve your comment score.)

Doogal Bell said...

Your sweeping statement aside, it's a bit hard to argue with what you've said, since I have no idea where you're comparing with. If you live on the beach of some tropical island, then I'm sure the North of England may seem somewhat grim, but if you live anywhere else in the UK, I'm sure you have your own fair share of grimness...