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'My name is Stuart Maconie, and I am from the North Of England. Some time ago, I was standing in my kitchen, rustling up a Sunday brunch for some very hungover, very Northern mates who were "down" for the weekend. One of them was helping me out and, recipe book in hand, asked "where are the sun-dried tomatoes?" "They're behind the cappuccino maker," I replied. Silence fell 'My name is Stuart Maconie, and I am from the North Of England. Some time ago, I was standing in my kitchen, rustling up a Sunday brunch for some very hungover, very Northern mates who were "down" for the weekend. One of them was helping me out and, recipe book in hand, asked "where are the sun-dried tomatoes?" "They're behind the cappuccino maker," I replied. Silence fell. We slowly met each other's gaze. We did not say anything. We did not need to. Each read the other's unspoken thought: we had become those kinds of people, the kind of people who had sun-dried tomatoes and cappuccino makers, the kind of people who did Sunday brunch. In other words: southerners.' A northerner in exile, stateless and confused, hearing rumours of Harvey Nichols in Leeds and Maseratis in Wilmslow, Stuart goes in search of The North. Delving into his own past, it is a riotously funny journey in search of where the clichés end and the truth begins. He travels from Wigan Pier to Blackpool Tower, the Bigg Market in Newcastle to the daffodil-laden Lake District in search of his own Northern Soul, encountering along the way an exotic cast of Scousers, Scallies, pie-eating Woolly-backs, topless Geordies, mad-for-it Mancs, Yorkshire nationalists and brothers in southern exile.


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'My name is Stuart Maconie, and I am from the North Of England. Some time ago, I was standing in my kitchen, rustling up a Sunday brunch for some very hungover, very Northern mates who were "down" for the weekend. One of them was helping me out and, recipe book in hand, asked "where are the sun-dried tomatoes?" "They're behind the cappuccino maker," I replied. Silence fell 'My name is Stuart Maconie, and I am from the North Of England. Some time ago, I was standing in my kitchen, rustling up a Sunday brunch for some very hungover, very Northern mates who were "down" for the weekend. One of them was helping me out and, recipe book in hand, asked "where are the sun-dried tomatoes?" "They're behind the cappuccino maker," I replied. Silence fell. We slowly met each other's gaze. We did not say anything. We did not need to. Each read the other's unspoken thought: we had become those kinds of people, the kind of people who had sun-dried tomatoes and cappuccino makers, the kind of people who did Sunday brunch. In other words: southerners.' A northerner in exile, stateless and confused, hearing rumours of Harvey Nichols in Leeds and Maseratis in Wilmslow, Stuart goes in search of The North. Delving into his own past, it is a riotously funny journey in search of where the clichés end and the truth begins. He travels from Wigan Pier to Blackpool Tower, the Bigg Market in Newcastle to the daffodil-laden Lake District in search of his own Northern Soul, encountering along the way an exotic cast of Scousers, Scallies, pie-eating Woolly-backs, topless Geordies, mad-for-it Mancs, Yorkshire nationalists and brothers in southern exile.

30 review for Pies and Prejudice: In Search of the North

  1. 5 out of 5

    Hilary

    I loved this. I found it hilarious, but humour is a very personal thing, and other readers may not crack a smile, I do realise. A tour of the North of England, witty, erudite, argumentative and loving, by an exiled son of Wigan. He knows a staggering amount about the music, the popular culture, the street life and the landscape, but he still has much to discover, which he does with wit and verve. This is my review on Vulpes Libris. http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/200... I loved this. I found it hilarious, but humour is a very personal thing, and other readers may not crack a smile, I do realise. A tour of the North of England, witty, erudite, argumentative and loving, by an exiled son of Wigan. He knows a staggering amount about the music, the popular culture, the street life and the landscape, but he still has much to discover, which he does with wit and verve. This is my review on Vulpes Libris. http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/200...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ape

    This isn't so much THE guide to the north of England, as Stuart Maconie's guide to the north. And in the spirit of 'write-what-you-know', he has done just that. There's also a massive chunk of the north of England missing from this book, but I'll come to that later. No book is perfect I suppose, and this is a good read. It's funny, it's interesting and there are things to learn. I've got a couple more places I've never been to yet that are added onto my native wishlist. And in all of this he is This isn't so much THE guide to the north of England, as Stuart Maconie's guide to the north. And in the spirit of 'write-what-you-know', he has done just that. There's also a massive chunk of the north of England missing from this book, but I'll come to that later. No book is perfect I suppose, and this is a good read. It's funny, it's interesting and there are things to learn. I've got a couple more places I've never been to yet that are added onto my native wishlist. And in all of this he is also trying to capture "northerness". Because, for people outside of the UK, there is a north-south divide in England, and it's not just the geography but a way of life and a way towards life. And for all the non Brits who have been to London and consider that they have now "done" England. Sorry. You've not even started. So this is Maconie telling us about the places that he grew up (hailing from Wigan to the west), knows well, and some he explored for the making of this book. I actually came to this book myself because of Wigan. In recent years I've been feeling that I need to see more of my own country (and I'll add that I've seen a LOT more of the UK that my average fellow brit). So a few weeks ago I went for a day trip to Wigan, to learn about the pie eaters of Uncle Joe's Mint Balls Land, and to stand on Wigan Pier. And also to meet up with my friend who lives there at the moment. I told one of my work mates about this trip, and he started telling me about this great book, which he then lent me. So there you go; you never know where these small adventures will lead you. There are chapters about the biggies in the north - Manchester and Liverpool - as well as a chapter on Maconie's home tract, then about the coast, and ending things off with Newcastle. There's a bit of history, a bit of randomness, a bit of biography, a bit of travel... also music history (I like my music so I didn't mind this) and a bit about football (yawn - not interested!). I'm going to quote a bit from the end which I really liked: "...I'm not sure that northernness is geographical. It's philosophical. I've met people from Devon who had the right stuff and people from Preston who made my heart sink. Just like Doctor Who said, lots of planets have a north. By which I like to think he meant that northernness is a cast of mind, not a set of co-ordinates. It's about appreciating that an afternoon's snow is an excuse for sledging, not a state of emergency. It's about realising that the best place to drive a Range Rover is Cumbria, not Islington. It's about embracing that life is short and work is hard and that London is not the answer to everything..." (p. 337) Now, Mr Maconie, I have a few quibbles, and this isn't just about you being from Lancashire and me being from Yorkshire. First off, this, as many books, suffers from a lack of maps. I love a good map. Seriously. Put maps in your books. My other issue is that in his search for the north, Maconie sticks to what he knows. This is an incredibly north-west orientated book. On the chapter about the coast, it's all about Blackpool and Barrow in Furness and the Lakes (ie. the west side). The ENTIRE east coast gets a paragraph. Given that Yorkshire is the biggest county in England, it only gets a chapter. Manchester and Liverpool get a chapter each. Plus the whole Yorkshire thing sees him clinging to the west side of things, always ready to flee back over the border. North and East Yorkshire may well not exist, for all that gets a mention is a bit of the Pennines, Leeds, Bradford and Sheffield. Is this why there were no maps? This isn't just me being niffed that my home county of N Yorks, and my current abode of York have been missed out... but come on, a book about the north of England and you don't mention York? Ye olde capital of the north? Regards to the north and east of Yorkshire, I first thought, oh well, these are very rural areas and he seems to be a townie, so perhaps he just doesn't do the countryside. But there's a big section raving about the Lake District, so I can't explain it away that way either. It's just a gaping omission. And for that, whilst I can say this was a grand old read and would recommend it to anyone interested in England beyond the bubble of London, I would also have to add that this isn't the complete guide to the north you might be looking for.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nick Davies

    I quite enjoyed the other Stuart Maconie book I have read (Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England) last summer - but was slightly underwhelmed by that book's attempt to define 'Middle England' as I found it all a little gentle and indefinite, and also slightly contrived. In this book, however, perhaps because Maconie is writing about a subject a little closer to his (and my) heart - defining and celebrating Northern England - I felt I got a lot more from it. The author's witty a I quite enjoyed the other Stuart Maconie book I have read (Adventures on the High Teas: In Search of Middle England) last summer - but was slightly underwhelmed by that book's attempt to define 'Middle England' as I found it all a little gentle and indefinite, and also slightly contrived. In this book, however, perhaps because Maconie is writing about a subject a little closer to his (and my) heart - defining and celebrating Northern England - I felt I got a lot more from it. The author's witty and kindly mocking style works well when describing the major Northern cities and counties, the people, the customs and attitudes. There was a lot I recognised and agreed with, being from the North East myself, and I thought it struck a realistic (not too saccharine, not too cruel) chord. The fact it failed to really pinpoint a definitive label for 'The North' or 'The Northerner' didn't bother me - it was just an entertaining, insightful, clever and pleasant little love note to the best part of the country :-)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I loved this. A beautifully written, warm and funny love letter to the North (although Yorkshire is a tad short changed)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    I was the only person in book club who didn't like this, having given up just over 100 pages in. I felt that for a book classified as 'travel' it had lost its way: it neither made me want to visit the places described (and let's face it, who could make 10 pages about Crewe do that?) nor return to the book itself. Much of the content I found irrelevant, such as long histories of bands or football clubs, and the odd nuggets of interesting fact or description were overwhelmed. Perhaps to truly appre I was the only person in book club who didn't like this, having given up just over 100 pages in. I felt that for a book classified as 'travel' it had lost its way: it neither made me want to visit the places described (and let's face it, who could make 10 pages about Crewe do that?) nor return to the book itself. Much of the content I found irrelevant, such as long histories of bands or football clubs, and the odd nuggets of interesting fact or description were overwhelmed. Perhaps to truly appreciate this book you need to be a similar age to Maconie, to have a sense of 'yes, I remember that' as he describes things. Perhaps you also need to be a northerner- all other members of the book club are, and said they felt comforted by the content and felt a desire to go 'home'. Personally I think I'll stick to the south, my coffee machine, and sun-dried tomatoes...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nicola

    Enjoyable but not consistently entertaining. Maconie is from Wigan and the north west gets a pretty thorough treatment, whereas Yorkshire and the north east are very rushed. As someone brought up in Yorkshire who is now living in Newcastle I was a bit disappointed, but after all, what can you expect from someone from the wrong side of the Pennines ;-) Despite this complaint though it was a good read and at times had me laughing out loud which is always a good sign. Oh and it also made me really h Enjoyable but not consistently entertaining. Maconie is from Wigan and the north west gets a pretty thorough treatment, whereas Yorkshire and the north east are very rushed. As someone brought up in Yorkshire who is now living in Newcastle I was a bit disappointed, but after all, what can you expect from someone from the wrong side of the Pennines ;-) Despite this complaint though it was a good read and at times had me laughing out loud which is always a good sign. Oh and it also made me really hungry for meat pie...

  7. 4 out of 5

    Rob Kitchin

    Like Maconie I’m a northern exile and the opening few pages were entertaining enough. The basic premise is that Macione heads north from his new southern life of sun-dried tomatoes and his cappuccino machine to discover what makes the north what it is, why it differs from the south of Britain, and to rediscover his inner northerner. He starts by stating that he’d ‘like to think that it could be enjoyed by the fine people of the south too’ and then launches into a broadside against the south and Like Maconie I’m a northern exile and the opening few pages were entertaining enough. The basic premise is that Macione heads north from his new southern life of sun-dried tomatoes and his cappuccino machine to discover what makes the north what it is, why it differs from the south of Britain, and to rediscover his inner northerner. He starts by stating that he’d ‘like to think that it could be enjoyed by the fine people of the south too’ and then launches into a broadside against the south and its people. It’s a curious way to start a book about the north – the first 30 pages discussing the shortcomings of the south. It then moves onto Crewe, a kind of frontier town, not quite the midlands, not quite the north, before finally arriving at the north proper. And when he does arrive, what we get are his observational notes describing the place he’s visiting, a couple of anecdotes, and one or two abbreviated historical stories. One can get a sense of a place through its geography and history, but what is crucially missing from the narrative are people. There are a couple of thin anecdotes, but one never meets the people of the north. Maconie describes the people he sees, but we barely get a snippet of a conversation (mainly because he doesn’t actually talk to them – he sits in a pub or café or wanders a street, but doesn’t engage those around him other than when he is served), and of the very few voices reported (often people he already knows) none of them are asked what makes the north, the north, or what makes them a northerner or a Geordie or Scouser, or what it is like to live in a place, etc. Surely one of the key things that makes the north, the north, is its people? It’s as if he’s wandered around, often visiting a place for just a couple of hours, and that was enough to form a coherent impression. It leads to a strangely anaemic read. Having waded to the end, I’m no wiser about the north than when I started, although I know Maconie likes pies and is happy to dole out his prejudices. Travel writing is about people and place. It’s a shame we never met the people.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Stuart Maconie is from Wigan. This may not mean anything to someone not from Britain, unless you've read George Orwell, but it's a post-industrial Lancashire town. In a word, northern. After living down south (ie London and the midlands) for several years, he realises he's forgotten his inner northern-ness and sets off to rediscover what makes Northern England different and shapes its identity. It's a funny and touching look at cities and countryside from Staffordshire to Hadrian's Wall. He tries Stuart Maconie is from Wigan. This may not mean anything to someone not from Britain, unless you've read George Orwell, but it's a post-industrial Lancashire town. In a word, northern. After living down south (ie London and the midlands) for several years, he realises he's forgotten his inner northern-ness and sets off to rediscover what makes Northern England different and shapes its identity. It's a funny and touching look at cities and countryside from Staffordshire to Hadrian's Wall. He tries to avoid sentimentality, but occasionally his jabs at the snobby south (and art critics like Brian Sewell, who says all the good art should be brought to London, because northerners can't appreciate it) illustrate that the North-South divide is alive and well. A fun and informative read, especially for one who's landed 'oop north' and wants to understand a bit more about life and people in this rather misunderstood part of Blighty.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Another good book from Maconie. Interesting trawl around the north

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Maconie admits at the end of the book that he fell in love with the North while writing it. He claims that he started with a strong intention of not just writing some piece of Northern bombast or Tourist information fluff. Both of those statements are believable. He clearly likes the North, both the landscape and the people. He does go for objectivity, but says something nice about just about everybody (most importantly, he says lots of good things about Geordies, which may colour this review). H Maconie admits at the end of the book that he fell in love with the North while writing it. He claims that he started with a strong intention of not just writing some piece of Northern bombast or Tourist information fluff. Both of those statements are believable. He clearly likes the North, both the landscape and the people. He does go for objectivity, but says something nice about just about everybody (most importantly, he says lots of good things about Geordies, which may colour this review). He writes well, he's funny, I liked picking up on the stories about the bands which I've missed from being away and I liked his politics. I did jump forward in the book at one point as I was getting tired of reading about Yorkshire and Lancashire, even if it was funny. I suspect that people reading his book (and they would probably be Northerners too) would do the same. For me it was the section titled, The Great North, you can take your own pick. I would say that I liked the fact that he could tell me details about the history of my own region that I didn't know. Apparently, the Makems joined with the Scots to fight against the Geordies in the Civil War, and won. Difficult thing to decide what to think about that. The Geordies were on the side of the King (boo, hiss)while the Scots and Makems were on the side of Parliament (though I suspect the Makems were just on the other side to the Geordies). I couldn't cheer for Charles and I am partly Scottish, but celebrate a win by Sunderland over Newcastle? Hard to do. Still, a good read, even if you might want to miss some of the chapters (You want to read about Manchester! Why?)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Nicholas Whyte

    http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1553711.html 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 http://nwhyte.livejournal.com/1553711.html 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.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I found this an interesting read..I'm from the Midlands myself but there's much in this book I can identify with particulary the 'Working class' aspects and the cultural inheritance I share sue to this. The north of Maconie's visitation is a hotbed of pop culture and politics (generally left leading..Marx and Engels get a mention as does the Sufragette movements etc) as such it gained more interesting with me as both I find riveting subjects. It's been a while since I visited many of the Northern I found this an interesting read..I'm from the Midlands myself but there's much in this book I can identify with particulary the 'Working class' aspects and the cultural inheritance I share sue to this. The north of Maconie's visitation is a hotbed of pop culture and politics (generally left leading..Marx and Engels get a mention as does the Sufragette movements etc) as such it gained more interesting with me as both I find riveting subjects. It's been a while since I visited many of the Northern books in the town..in fact apart from Liverpool last year we are going back to my childhood ..but truth be told I need to visit many of the areas in this book as the history,culture and social change comes accross as fascinating. All in all an enjoyable book and one wherby Maconie revisits his past from the point of living in a self imposed exile from the north...his love of the area and people shines through without resorting to mawkish cliches and the like.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I love the north of England and enjoyed viewing it through Stuart Maconie's eyes. From his clearly tongue-in-cheek comments it would be easy to believe that he really doesn't think much of Southerners (well Londoners, as he clearly classes anyone from south of Watford Gap as being). I imagine some people who were - purely by accident of birth, - born in the south would have given up on this because of the way he often refers to us, and that would be a shame as it's a great book. I can't wait for I love the north of England and enjoyed viewing it through Stuart Maconie's eyes. From his clearly tongue-in-cheek comments it would be easy to believe that he really doesn't think much of Southerners (well Londoners, as he clearly classes anyone from south of Watford Gap as being). I imagine some people who were - purely by accident of birth, - born in the south would have given up on this because of the way he often refers to us, and that would be a shame as it's a great book. I can't wait for my next trip North now! Excuse me whist I pop off for a prosciutto foccacia and a glass of Prosecco!!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    As a fan of BBC radio 2`s Radcliffe and Maconie show, and so used to the on air banter, I`ve found it easy to slip into the flow of this book. I can`t help but hear Stuarts voice reading aloud to me in my head as I read which adds to the warmth. As an exiled Londoner living in the North, and having lived in a number of northern cities, I`m finding it refreshingly honest. As a fan of BBC radio 2`s Radcliffe and Maconie show, and so used to the on air banter, I`ve found it easy to slip into the flow of this book. I can`t help but hear Stuarts voice reading aloud to me in my head as I read which adds to the warmth. As an exiled Londoner living in the North, and having lived in a number of northern cities, I`m finding it refreshingly honest.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris Rigby

    Good travel books have several things in common : 1. there's a good strong reason behind the journey 2. the approach is quirky, personal and subjective (unlike old-fashioned guide books) 3. there's a generous helping of humour and personal anecdote 4. the bad is lambasted while the good is lyrically celebrated. "Pies & Prejudice" meets all those criteria. The gold standard for me is "Notes From A Small Island" (Bill Bryson) which has an additional perk that Maconie's book cannot match - the "outsider Good travel books have several things in common : 1. there's a good strong reason behind the journey 2. the approach is quirky, personal and subjective (unlike old-fashioned guide books) 3. there's a generous helping of humour and personal anecdote 4. the bad is lambasted while the good is lyrically celebrated. "Pies & Prejudice" meets all those criteria. The gold standard for me is "Notes From A Small Island" (Bill Bryson) which has an additional perk that Maconie's book cannot match - the "outsider's view" of a place which Bryson, an American who'd lived in Britain for many years, could impart. But in all other respects Maconie serves up a concoction whose triumph is that you simply enjoy his company as he staggers from one part of Northern England to another on a variety of trains and buses (he doesn't drive). The topography is more thematic than logical : having more than sufficiently well covered the twin metropolitan behemoths that are Liverpool and Manchester, he turns his attention to smalltown Lancashire, then West and South Yorkshire, the wealthy old-money and new-money attractions of places as diverse as Harrogate and Alderley Edge, then up to Blackpool, the Fylde Coast and into the Lakes, and so on. On the way he demolishes a few myths, revisits childhood haunts, eats, drinks, shops, explores out-of-the-way corners and takes in more than his fair share of 'visitor attractions'. If I had one criticism, it's that some places - e.g. Liverpool and Manchester - are covered with a long chapter apiece, while other admired places - e.g. Sheffield - get quite short shrift, so there's a slight unbalanced feel to it. But then, it doesn't set out to be a guide book as such, so maybe the criticism is misplaced? Maconie's intent is to reveal the true North of England especially to those who not only believe it begins at Watford Gap, but that the said Gap has anything to do - spiritually, geographically, or culturally - with that nondescript suburb on the edge of North London. I'm reading it now for the first time, so it is in a few places dated (published 2006) but the quality of the writing and the quirky humour behind his vision, lets it transcend the iPhone/iPad age. It deserves a place on your bookshelf, alongside Bill Bryson (and if you don't like Bill, then a) you may not like Maconie, and b) what planet are you from?)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Russell George

    I quite like Stuart Maconie. His erudite enthusiasm for ‘stuff’ is, on the radio, quite compelling. I even like his show ‘The Freak Zone’, where he plays self-consciously avant-garde, often atonal music that he himself probably hates. OK, I don’t seek that show out, but if it’s on while I’m doing the washing up then I’ll leave it on for a few minutes. And I liked this, for a while. It reminded me at first of Pete McCarthy’s work, which I enjoyed about 20 years ago. Stuart goes ‘in search of the N I quite like Stuart Maconie. His erudite enthusiasm for ‘stuff’ is, on the radio, quite compelling. I even like his show ‘The Freak Zone’, where he plays self-consciously avant-garde, often atonal music that he himself probably hates. OK, I don’t seek that show out, but if it’s on while I’m doing the washing up then I’ll leave it on for a few minutes. And I liked this, for a while. It reminded me at first of Pete McCarthy’s work, which I enjoyed about 20 years ago. Stuart goes ‘in search of the North’, revisiting his roots having now settled in that there London. And there are some nice asides about the cultural history of the places he visits, initially Liverpool, Manchester and towns like Bury, Wigan and Oldham. Stuart clearly relished his brief. But after a while I wondered whether Stuart actually had anything to say, apart from ‘the North is quite good really, better than the South, even if the South thinks itself really good’. I stopped reading about half way through. Stuart was about to go into Yorkshire, where I know he’ll talk about perceived differences between Lancashire and Yorkshire, but that at the end of the day Yorkshire is really good and although some people aren’t friendly, others are really friendly. And the food is hearty and it’s often cold. It just felt a bit tired really. He’s quite a funny writer, but there’s also a smugness that is slightly annoying. Travel writers do tend to be omnipotent as they recount their travels, but Stuart’s asides about spending time getting smashed with indie bands in Manchester, or ticking all the working class boxes in his childhood and adolescence, started to grate after a while. Then again, you might like this. It's the sort of book that a lot of people will, and I feel slightly misanthropic for giving it a minor slagging.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Johanna Breen

    Maconie accredits Wallace and Grommit to Wigan and Dickens' Coketown to Manchester, while many Prestonians I know would argue that both of these belong just as much to their city. However, I didn't let it ruin my enjoyment of what is essentially a really good book. This isn't as amusing, nor as well organised as Bill Bryson's travel writing but it's stuffed to the rafters with passion and interesting facts so who cares? (I've already had much fun boring friends in the pub asking them which is th Maconie accredits Wallace and Grommit to Wigan and Dickens' Coketown to Manchester, while many Prestonians I know would argue that both of these belong just as much to their city. However, I didn't let it ruin my enjoyment of what is essentially a really good book. This isn't as amusing, nor as well organised as Bill Bryson's travel writing but it's stuffed to the rafters with passion and interesting facts so who cares? (I've already had much fun boring friends in the pub asking them which is the only football club in the English league not named after a place). As a half Northerner myself (I'm a Preston/London half-breed) I was somewhat baffled that Maconie should feel so strong a need to defend the North to ignorant Southerners. I know such people exist, but they do exist in the North too (a Northern friend suggested that a friend from Plymouth and a friend from Ipswich should make more effort to get together because after all 'they both live down South, so there's no distance between them'). An interesting debate in the book centres around where the North actually starts and Maconie asserts that the North begins at Crewe. Yet this seems plausible only if you are dividing the country into North, Midlands and South. Surely the North/South divide starts a little bit further South? The book concludes by saying that being Northern is a state of mind - a kind of joie de vivre - and that even some Southerners have it while he's met people from Preston (yeah, that's enough Preston bashing Maconie!) that don't. How come Northerners get the monopoly on that? But what's a book about the North without a bit of controversy? All in all an enjoyable read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Meo

    A witty tour around the North of England - with a bias for the North-West, given that Maconie hails roughly from Wigan - taking in music, football, posh food, chavs, WAGS and Gormley. Maconie supplements his survey of the current state of the Northern Nation with nostalgic looks back to times gone by (not necessarily including flat caps and whippets). His writing style is light and friendly, but makes sharp points with the timing of a ninja. Bonus points for including lyrics by The Icicle Works A witty tour around the North of England - with a bias for the North-West, given that Maconie hails roughly from Wigan - taking in music, football, posh food, chavs, WAGS and Gormley. Maconie supplements his survey of the current state of the Northern Nation with nostalgic looks back to times gone by (not necessarily including flat caps and whippets). His writing style is light and friendly, but makes sharp points with the timing of a ninja. Bonus points for including lyrics by The Icicle Works when discussing Liverpool, and his dissection of Wilmslow's lunch culture is sublime. This is a book which could only be written by a Northerner, as anyone else would be accused of sneering. As it is, Maconie falls in love with a land he moved south from.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    This book would have been fantastic if the author hadn't spent half his time complaining about London/the South. The information, descriptions and history are truly interesting, some of his anecdotes are hilarious - but every time you start to enjoy finding out more about the North he wades in and ruins it by making sweeping generalisations about the south. Mostly by categorising people in the South (by which he seems to mean only London) as either rich media types, trendy Shoreditch hipsters, or This book would have been fantastic if the author hadn't spent half his time complaining about London/the South. The information, descriptions and history are truly interesting, some of his anecdotes are hilarious - but every time you start to enjoy finding out more about the North he wades in and ruins it by making sweeping generalisations about the south. Mostly by categorising people in the South (by which he seems to mean only London) as either rich media types, trendy Shoreditch hipsters, or cheeky chappie cockneys. This is rather ironic, since forcing an entire half of the country into a few unflattering caricatures is exactly what he complains about 'southerners' doing. It is all a bit boring and distracts from what could have been a really enjoyable read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Terry Clague

    "The Thames is a wretched river after the Mersey and the ships are not like Liverpool ships and the docks are barren of beauty ... it is a beastly hole after Liverpool; for Liverpool is the town of my heart and I would rather sail a mudflat there than command a clipper out of London" Former Poet Laureat John Masefield (from Maconie, S: Pies and Prejudice) "The Thames is a wretched river after the Mersey and the ships are not like Liverpool ships and the docks are barren of beauty ... it is a beastly hole after Liverpool; for Liverpool is the town of my heart and I would rather sail a mudflat there than command a clipper out of London" Former Poet Laureat John Masefield (from Maconie, S: Pies and Prejudice)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Robbie Williams

    When it's good, it's excellent... He's got some of the most genuinely funny turns of phrase around. But the musical name dropping was irritating; the before-the-bust reportage is already dating fast. Also, weird choice to start a book about the north in London, and with Londoners views about the north... Not really a marriage of form with content. When it's good, it's excellent... He's got some of the most genuinely funny turns of phrase around. But the musical name dropping was irritating; the before-the-bust reportage is already dating fast. Also, weird choice to start a book about the north in London, and with Londoners views about the north... Not really a marriage of form with content.

  22. 4 out of 5

    F.G. Cottam

    Worth reading if only for his dad's observation that there are few social situations not significantly improved by the presence of a pie. Will strike a chord with anyone fortunate enough to have been born and brought up in the north of England. Very funny and well written Worth reading if only for his dad's observation that there are few social situations not significantly improved by the presence of a pie. Will strike a chord with anyone fortunate enough to have been born and brought up in the north of England. Very funny and well written

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mags Delaney

    Being 12000 miles further south than Mr Maconie but hailing from the same town originally this book made me laugh and feel very homesick all at the same time ... this is the first book of his I've read and it won't be the last! ! Being 12000 miles further south than Mr Maconie but hailing from the same town originally this book made me laugh and feel very homesick all at the same time ... this is the first book of his I've read and it won't be the last! !

  24. 5 out of 5

    John

    In spite of the many sporting and (obscure) music references, I really enjoyed Maconie's writing (reminding me quite a bit of Ian Marchant, another great author). Definitely recommended! In spite of the many sporting and (obscure) music references, I really enjoyed Maconie's writing (reminding me quite a bit of Ian Marchant, another great author). Definitely recommended!

  25. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Sinclair

    I loved this: a warm but clear eyed tour of the North. Maconie is a lovely narrator: passionate, informed and funny. As a Geordie, it made me homesick!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura Harker

    Stuart Maconie is definitely one of my top humans. This book ain't so bad either. A heartwarming and humourus read. Stuart Maconie is definitely one of my top humans. This book ain't so bad either. A heartwarming and humourus read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    I must admit, I found this book a bit tricky. Don't get me wrong, it was beautifully and eloquently written, witty, well researched and educational. It was just the subject matter. In the end, reading about the north of England just wasn't enough to grip me for a long period of time, so I dipped into it, little and often, and that was great, the perfect solution. It was a bit like reading a mush up of a history, sociology and geography text book combined; very interesting, but not as satisfying t I must admit, I found this book a bit tricky. Don't get me wrong, it was beautifully and eloquently written, witty, well researched and educational. It was just the subject matter. In the end, reading about the north of England just wasn't enough to grip me for a long period of time, so I dipped into it, little and often, and that was great, the perfect solution. It was a bit like reading a mush up of a history, sociology and geography text book combined; very interesting, but not as satisfying to me on a personal level as a plot and character rich novel. I couldn't escape into this book and lose myself in the same way I can with a fictional novel, not that that's a bad thing or a criticism, just a personal foible. If the text books we were given to read at school were anywhere near as entertaining and absorbing as this one, maybe a generation of underachievers (including myself!) could have been inspired, motivated and excited to learn more and get more from the educational system. It's a fresh approach to education, a relaxed and informal ride; subconsciously absorbing facts and information while enjoying the rich, colloquial descriptions and observations of Maconie. I initially wanted to read this book for 2 reasons: I adore the North of England, and champion all things Northern, as that is where I come from and naturally bias towards. Secondly, because I got Stuart Maconie mixed up with Mark Radcliffe another Radio 2 DJ, who I worship! So all the way through, I kept hearing the glorious Mark Radcliffe's voice narrating the text. About 3/4's of the way through, I realised that Stuart Maconie was the author, and the whole tone of the book changed after that. It is a testament to the skilful and very entertaining writing of Stuart Maconie that I continued to read and enjoy this book after the crushing disappointment of my author mix-up gaff. He brought fairly tedious subject matter to life, and made me smile a lot reading this book. I am now a huge fan of his. An example of his writing, describing Newcastle, a city I adore: The Rough Guide to England describes the place as "the largest cattle market in Western Europe". That seems harsh to me and more than a little insulting to its clientele, however bovine. But I find it hard to get partisan about the Bigg Market. I feel about it a bit like I feel about that other rambunctious northern playground, Blackpool. I'll defend it to London trendies, whose idea of a good night out is drinking a small bottle of wheat beer in a basement bar modelled on ironically on a seventies living room, but I wouldn't want to spend my free time there. Neither does a great deal of Newcastle, preferring to hang out on the Quayside or neighbouring Collingwood Street. But if an unpretentious piss-up - and possibly a fight and a knee trembler behind Supasnaps is what you're after - make haste there. Another [bar] was called Pop World, where a pallid youth with an earring and a phenomenally bad haircut smoked a fag furtively by the bar - perhaps unaware that the pub smoking ban was still a year off- while two blonde girls in black leather hot pants shuffled around with self- conscious and defensive irony to music I couldn't hear. I was outside watching through the window. Which made me even more tragic than them, I guess. Viz magazine - a bracingly rude, trivia- obsessed, nostalgic and sometimes very funny parody of classic British comics- began as a crude ( in every sense) stapled photocopy sold in local pubs. The first twelve-page issue was written and drawn by Chris and Simon Donald and friends Jim Brownlow and Hugo Guthrie and sold for 20p (30p to students), and was soon a word-of-mouth cult initially in the north-east before becoming distributed by Virgin as sales grew. Then in 1987 the Virgin director responsible for Viz, John Brown, set up his own publishing company to handle the comic and it rocketed to popularity to the extent that it was briefly the best- selling publication in Britain. At one point 1.2 million people bought Viz, though that's now down to 300,000. John Betjeman was too busy getting all moist-eyed about Suffolk beach huts and waiting rooms on the Metropolitan Line to write much about the north but he did manage one sentence on Newcastle. He called Grey Street the finest crescent street in England and praised "that descending noble curve" which links the old and new parts of town. Ian Nairn, editor of the Architectural Review thinks it better than Regent Street and has called it "one of the great planned streets of Britain". In fact, Nairn has described walking through Newcastle as " an ennobling experience". At the top of it on Eldon Square is Grey's Monument where Earl Grey, more famous now for poncey tea than electoral reform, gazes down on the late night revellers, not all of whom seem significantly ennobled at this hour. There are the girls falling from the heels of the vertiginous heels of their "fuck-me" shoes, the haggard men with their Asda bags clinking with tin and glass, the vomiters both quiet and forlorn or loud and proud and the couples making their way from the brightly lit foyer of the Theatre Royal to their cars or houses, or like us, to the very special hotelish pleasure of crisp laundry, fluffy towels and an absurdly big bed.' I love Maconie's humourous, down to earth writing style. He writes as a Northerner. I love that he can see the negatives about the places and people that he loves so much. I love his balanced, steady, tongue in cheek views. An absorbing, sociological snapshot of contemporary Northern England which truthfully, and at times brutally, shows us its flaws, charms and glory. Good job, Maconie!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kayleigh

    Makes my heart ache for the North. I need to move back. 💔

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    Did not finish. Bored the poop out of me. I was hoping for an entertaining read about places I could feasibly visit (what with living oop north and all) but was given a lot to wade through about music and football neither of which I want to read about. I guess it was just not my cup of tea.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Somnath Sengupta

    Sadly, this book was very difficult to get through in places. The fault is not of the book or the author, though he tries too hard to be funny at times. Maconie crams in so many pop culture references that it is extremely difficult to understand all of them if you are not an English. I also got lost when he got into detailed descriptions about streets and local landmarks. Thankfully, I was saved by considerable number of football and rock music stories, which I was able to grasp. This book is wr Sadly, this book was very difficult to get through in places. The fault is not of the book or the author, though he tries too hard to be funny at times. Maconie crams in so many pop culture references that it is extremely difficult to understand all of them if you are not an English. I also got lost when he got into detailed descriptions about streets and local landmarks. Thankfully, I was saved by considerable number of football and rock music stories, which I was able to grasp. This book is written for an English readership and not for everyone. Loved some of the anecdotes, especially how Hartlepool folks got the nickname of "Monkey Hangers".

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