The Pie At Night: In Search of the North at Play – Stuart Maconie

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I’m Northern and proud to be so, I’m also fascinated by what is often referred to as the North/South divide in the UK. In one of Stuart Maconie’s earlier books he explores in depth the much contested notion of where the North ends and the South begins – or vice versa if you’re already taking sides. He, rather tongue in cheek, suggests that “The north begins at Crewe station, beyond which point the geology becomes harder, the accents flatter and the climate wilder. And the surface of the M6 turns from tarmac to cobbles.”

In The Pie At Night: In Search of the North at Play Maconie analyses Northern cities, examining their cultural DNA. Harking back to the history of places such as Stalybridge, Salford (which was particularly significant for me as it’s my home town), Liverpool, Blackpool – to name but a few. He unearths with great detail and wit what makes these places tick and how they have evolved over the years, highlighting their heritage and social significance in a varied North. You’ll find one of my favourite quotes from the book below.

An English pub is very different from an American bar or a German beirkeller or a French wine bar. That difference, though, can be as nebulous and unfathomable to foreign guests as our plurals and past tenses. It is an invention of the British people that reflects our national character. Learning the etiquette of pubs is a great social leveller. We all must learn that the note held unshowily  but prominently in the hand will alert the hawk-eyed bar staff member as to your place in the serving order. Waving it about, however, will indicate that you are an over-entitled arse. Some of us learn quickly that the occasional ‘one for yourself’ will get you remembered favourably for a future visit for the modest outlay of about 50p.

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New Year’s Resolution

They say gym memberships increase by 30% in January. Supermarkets swap the monolithic pyramids of Quality Streets for Weight Watchers ready meals. If you listen carefully enough you can practically hear the ripping up of takeaway menus across the UK. People tell themselves this year is going to be my year. Self proclaimed abstinence from all things fatty, alcoholic and tobacco filled is a shared goal amongst many.

My usual stance on New Year’s Resolution falls safely in the ‘indifference’ category. Why wait for Big Ben to chime before ditching the kebabs? Why not demand a fitter, healthier you any time of the year? Before I go on I should make it clear this isn’t a healthy food or motivational speaking blog. I’m fond of a real ale and shudder at the thought of a 336 calorie Hot Pot for one. You’d sooner catch me repeatedly stabbing myself before carrying out the same action on the plastic film suffocating those anemic, low fat microwave meals. So I made a much more achievable yet, in my opinion, worthwhile resolution this year. To read more. Yes it may not be a challenging resolution but it will be an enriching and worthy one for number of reasons. You can travel space, battle in a trench, become a wizard, solve a crime all from your armchair.  I’ll document such journeys along the way and hopefully highlight some good reads for those struggling to choose their next literary adventure.

The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you – W. Somerset Maugham