Pies & Prejudice (In Search of the North) ~ Stuart Maconie

The writing of Pies and Prejudice came to fruition when Stuart Maconie, a northerner of the Wigan persuasion, realised that since living in London he had become distinctly… southern. Once shocked to be asked by a southerner if he would go round to her house in his dressing gown and slippers to watch telly and eat cheese off his knee before retiring to bed (what other possible definition could there be for the word supper?), he found himself becoming a connoisseur of sundried tomatoes and cappuccino makers. Perturbed by this turn of events, the former “Woollyback” grabbed his notebook and headed north to rediscover his roots.

Cities from Chester to Scarborough come to life with a nostalgic thrill in this book. As Maconie visits each metropolis, he paints a picture so vivid it’s as if he’s taken you with him and shown you things you might not necessarily have looked at; as well as taking you to places you know and love, and loving them with you. And he does so with such self-deprecating humour that it’s hard not to laugh out loud at times. This is an easy read, a comically uplifting tale of one man’s trip to his homeland and beyond. From the physicality of each place to the history, through informed descriptions of political and emotional conflicts, I found myself nodding in sage agreement and shaking my head in wonder at discovering something new.

The three main effects that this book induced were sheepishness, homesickness and pride. Wigan, of course, was one of the first places Maconie visits on his northern tour and I have to hang my head in shame – to think that all these years I’ve been taking an entirely “southern” view of the place. My only knowledge of Wigan before reading the book had been The Road to Wigan Pier, which, it would seem, is most people’s skewed view of the place. To me it has always seemed grimy, grotty and deprived, hovering around as it does, almost as an afterthought, on blue motorway signs on the edges of my Manc world in a deeply uninviting fashion. Although I have not yet visited Wigan, having only just discovered my error in judgement, I do v.much feel that I now should. In just a few pages, Maconie has managed to convince me that a place I was born 25 miles from, and never had any urge to drop into, has all the sparkle and pizzazz of any of our other beloved northern cities. This is a book for Northerners to learn more about their neighbours and for ignorant southerners who believe that the world is small, flat and shaped like London.

One of the things I’ve come to realise about this book, on reading the copious reviews available all over the web, is that it makes people want to shout about their roots; my last blog post started out its life as this book review before I realised that it was, quite simply, all about me. Reading this book seems to make people recognise that being from the north is ok (nay, preferable) and once that lid is off, the only possible thing to do is shout about it.

And now I’ll sign off, because I’m on my dinner (which is in the middle of the day!)

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