Pies And Prejudice: In Search Of The North, by Stuart Maconie

The same old clichéd look at the lives of our friends in the North
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

There are hazards attached to work as a North of England newspaper correspondent, which reveal much about London's general bafflement about all points north of Watford. One such individual was sent from Manchester to cover a story in Northampton (if Southampton was on the south coast, then where could it be but somewhere up there?) by a newspaper - naturally, not this one.

Stuart Maconie gets to the heart of Britain's one-eyed outlook on the North when he observes that "the BBC has no South of England Correspondent". However, the dangers of over-simplifying are revealed in his assertion that it does have a North of England correspondent who "conforms very much to type", as "a stocky man" with "bullishly hetero moustache". That will be Kevin Boquet, one of BBC News's most assiduous reporters, who delivered in textbook Queen's English until his retirement last year.

Don't let's get too earnest here. As the excruciating title suggests, Maconie's guide to the North is one for the lads, offered up as he thinks he is losing his northern soul amid the "cappuccino makers" of London life. Believe it or not, the cappuccino has actually arrived in some parts of this hinterland. Yet Maconie's journey back is worth following at times, if only to know of George Katsouris's deli on Bury market; to be reminded that Lowry's finest works are the seascapes on display in Salford; to revisit Lakeland walker AA Wainwright; and to be introduced to the incomparable Working Class Movement Library in Salford.

But like many a Lancastrian, our tour guide does not travel too well over the Pennines, and his search for the North manages to perpetuate more clichés than it nails. His Leeds, for instance, is about supporting the football team in the 1970s and a hotel that offers white crab meat and pancetta. Sheffield is about the failed National Centre for Popular Music; Rotherham offers "a bleak vignette from one of those forgotten chemical towns in the former Soviet Union"; while Alderley Edge is footballers' wives territory. Durham apparently "doesn't feel like the North" because of its "ancient wealth and grandeur". There's none of that up here, of course.

By the end of the odyssey, our guide professes himself to be "in love" with the North and ready to "go back and be a part of it". The facing page reveals all, explaining that the writer lives in the West Midlands.

IAN HERBERT

Comments