‘’Pride was an awkward character that the Thatcher Experiment was supposed to eradicate from the north, along with hope, joy and security. Nice to see that it failed.’’ So shoots the ever realistic Stuart Maconie - as is (luckily) the norm - straight from the hip and straight from the heart.
A facet which, when you think about it, is what good writing is all about.
Pies and Prejudice – In Search of the North could just as easily have been called Pride and Prejudice – In Search of the Truth; as although the book covers a reasonable amount of geographical and sociological terrain, it is essentially, a highly entertaining and crystal clear analysis of what constitutes as the North. And according to Maconie – who is himself a Wiganer - ‘’northernness is a cast of mind, not a set of co-ordinates […]. I’ve met people from Devon who had the right stuff and people from Preston who made my heart sink. It’s about appreciating that an afternoon’s snow is an excuse for sledging, not a state of emergency […]. It’s about embracing that life is short and work is hard and that London is not the answer to everything.’’
I couldn’t agree more, for just as a book ought never to be judged by its cover, a person ought never to be judged by their place of birth. Or accent - even if Bristolian does take some (philosophical) beating.
A Northerner in exile, our man Maconie has herein undertaken a colourful journey in search of the North. He travels from Blackpool Tower to Wigan Pier, from the Lake District to Newcastle’s Bigg Market - in search of his own, inevitable, Northern Soul. In so doing, he inadvertently unravels where a plethora of clichés end and a where a kernel of petulant truths begin. For along the way, the author encounters a kaleidoscopic cast of rebel yell northerners. Among them, Yorkshire nationalists, chippy Scousers, mad-for-it Mancs, topless Geordies and brothers in (southern) exile.
Reading Pies and Prejudice sets the record (as well as the bias) straight, from that of many a perspective, including that of the author himself; who doesn’t necessarily always believe that all things northern, are by far, superior.
Coming clean about food in ‘Mills and Bhuna’ - itself a chapter of notable jocularity - Maconie writes: ‘’Some people, particularly of the older generation, get very partisan about northern food. The more disgusting its provenance, the more robust they get in its defence. Take tripe, for instance. Ever had it? Don’t. It’s absolutely vile. But my grandmother was forever trying to get me to eat it. Currugated, slimey, cow’s stomach lining drenched in malt vinegar? Yummo! Hand it over with all speed, Gran!’’
This travelogue - simply dripping with wild’n’wacky witticisms – is, according to the Big Issue: ‘’A lyrical, passionate, humorous and argumentative tour de force.’’
And who is this great Southern Jessie to disagree?
Pies and Prejudice – In Search of the North
By Stuart Maconie
Ebury Press - £7.99