It began with an accidental day trip to an intriguingly awful resort on the Thames Estuary and ended 3,812 miles later: one man’s journey through deep-fried, brownfield, poundshop Britain, a crash course in urban blight, deranged civic planning and commercial eccentricity.
Here’s a new genre to add to your collection, anti-travel. Tim Moore chooses to visit all the rubbish parts of Britain as voted for by various online polls, his own personal and ill found prejudices and other sources. Not only that he chooses a Bulgarian built Austin Maestro to drive around in, whilst listening to the worst pop music ever and he stays and eats at the worst hotels and restaurants as voted for by online commentors on that glorious tool the internet. He boldly goes where no one wants to go.
It’s a noble idea, taking in the parts of Britain that are unloved and never get any sort of press but the wrong kind. Especially in these times of recession, it seems more important to share the pound around. In fact anyone voluntarily travelling around for any length of time with Ozzy Osbourne’s voice on their sat-nav telling them which ‘effing’ way to go is downright heroic.
Be in no doubt that the places he picks are grim, Tim’s going to the places with industrial estates, soviet style council houses, dying industry and unemployment. there is none of that war-time Blitz spirit just depression and stagnation. This is thankfully not an ad asking people to holiday in Britain.
There is a melancholy air to most places he visits and it does beg the question how can we have become so poor as these places are now (in our respective nations), the book depresses as much as amuses, from the worrying growth of huge warehouse sizes supermarkets to sitting in a tavern in the middle of Scotland that featured on Britain’s Toughest Pubs and is renowned for its dislike of strangers.
It’s not all bad though, there are the odd success story or interesting histories about the towns visited (Gateshead has three Talmudic colleges and is recognised as the most important centre for Jewish learning outside Jerusalem and the US).
Tim has done some great books, his earlier ones especially, (Frost on my Moustache, Continental Drifter and French Revolutions), this one is not up to standard though. His target audience is naturally the Brits but to my mind it may be impenetrable to anyone outside these shores unless they have an arcane knowledge of fairly obscure British culture (Orville the Duck, The Chuckle Brothers or Jim Davidson, anybody?). Maybe it can be followed without express knowledge of these Titans of entertainment or maybe I am to optimistic.
There is much swearing in this book which I don’t recall from earlier books, perhaps this is just me but it seems like he is trying to appeal to the people in these places he writes about (i.e not the South of England) in doing so it comes across as talking down to or at least aiming his book at the lowest common denominator, Maybe this is unfair but the language is pretty needless unless quoting Ozzy or some local person. The authors commentary seems to move from the gently ironic to the almost offensive at times, which makes the tone of the book hard to work out.
Sadly he didn’t come to my town Mansfield, although he did travel to the cities either side, Sheffield and Nottingham, so coming soon I shall review my town and possibly offend local people (purely in the spirit of Tim Moore of course).