Lyttelton's Britain, By Iain Pattinson

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The Independent Culture

It was at a restaurant in Upper Street, Islington, that Tony Blair met Gordon Brown to debate which would be prime minister first. Brown lost, and had to pay for lunch too – although he refused to pay the 15 per cent service charge. Such nuggets make up Iain Pattinson's amusing collection – subtitled "A User's Guide to the British Isles as heard on BBC Radio's I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue". The book ranges across Britain, shedding light on little-known as well as renowned places, with a blend of wit, history and invention.

Did you know that the Romans record the village of Tarrentford as home to the Tarrent people – "a blonde-haired tribe of over-rated irritating gits"? That Coventry was known for the manufacture of fine timepieces? That Beorma was a Saxton chieftain who had ham in his sandwiches, hence the name "Birmingham"? That during the Industrial Revolution the phrase was coined: "What happens in Manchester today, happens in the rest of the world tomorrow"? Does that mean that tomorrow we should all expect drizzle?