Anyway… I finished reading “Rebecca” which was very good and am now reading Pies and Prejudice by Stuart Marconie, which is a non-fiction book about the north of England. I have to say that I am not too impressed with it so far. Why not? Well, writing about the North seems to have to involve slating the South. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of things that could be said about the South, but why can’t you praise something without denigrating something else? Also, and I say this as a Londoner myself, London is not representative of the whole of the South of England – and in fact the entire first chapter of the book which was about the rubbish South was mainly about London but not a London that I actually know. He seems to have an obsession with cockneys.
“Chelsea Pensioners and Pearly Kings for instance. What is it about London that even the old codgers and marker traders have to ponce about in ridiculous costumes doing what can only be described as “showing off”? Northerners […] are generally inoculated against showing off by slaps administered in childhood. Pearly Kings and Queens: really, what is all that about? They are market traders, the people who sell you knock off batteries and pressure and snide versions of Nike tracksuits.”
What part of London does he frequent? Do I stumble across Pearly Kings and Queens on the tube each day? Erm… No… Are they on the market stalls round the corner from my office? Erm… no… When did I last see one? Probably as a small child and it was most likely at some sort of school fete. This chap has been watching too much Mary Poppins.
The book then moves on to talking about The Krays and the infamous pub the Blind Beggar and that after he visited it he looked up some reviews on the internet and people described the pub positively and one person said how nice all the staff are that there’s never any trouble. A point that Stuart Marconie is incredulous at because some 40 years ago someone was notoriously murdered there. Who here seems to be stuck in the past and unable to let stereotypes go?
Or how about “We don’t really get the Londoner’s much vaunted love of the royal family”? Er… all Londoners love the Royal Family? I don’t have much of an opinion on the Royal Family and I’m not sure I know many Londoners that do, but most people who have a strong view about them seem to be anti-monarchy not pro them.
But the bit I really couldn’t get my head round was when he wrote about seeing the musical My Fair Lady.
“But halfway through, something really quite dreadful happened. The scene changed from Park Lane to what was unmistakably some theatre director’s notion of a ‘cheery’ down-at-heel street scene in Lambeth or the Isle of Dogs. Slatternly woman in a shawl shrieked horribly as ‘cheery’ costermongers pinched them on the bum. Scamps and scallywags ran about nicking apples from barrows; chestnuts were sold and the contents of chamber pots flung about. Fear and apprehension began to grip me as it does when you hear the whine of the dentist’s drill or the opening music to Last of the Summer Wine. But in this case, I was the fast approaching whine and clatter of Dennis Waterman and a troop of choreographed ‘geezers’. The clatter was the sound of the dustbin lids they had attached to their feet as they stomped and hoofed around. The whine was the awful version – I’m not sure there is a good one – of ‘Get Me To The Church On Time’. When Dennis and co. got to the bit about ‘having a whopper’ and actually hooked their thumbs, behind their lapels, that inexplicable Cockney gesture of, well, ‘cheeriness’, I could feel the blood drain from my face. […] At heart, northerners feel the Cockney lower orders shouldn’t be so happy with their pathetic lot but organising a whelk stall strike and staging a violent revolution, whatever the Queen Mum might think.”
Right, perhaps I have missed the point here, but isn’t he taking a musical and suggesting that it is an accurate portrayal of Londoners? Do people go and see the musical Chicago and think that if they go to the Windy City that there will be lots of scantily clad women who commit murders? My Fair Lady is a musical and is meant to be a stereotype and is about a London that never existed – and I’m pretty certain that not only was there not regular singing and choreographed dancing in London markets of yester-year but also that people who were like Professor Henry Higgins didn’t break into song in their drawing room over an afternoon cup of tea. Any comments he has about the portrayal of London is a reflection on musicals not on London, surely??
Funnily enough on Tuesday I had been discussing Land’s End with my boss and how you have to pay to visit parts of it and then that evening the book in its very brief (two sentence) mention of the place it did actually cover where to park your car and the £3 admission charge to see the exhibition, and how you can wander half a mile down the road and see the wind and the waves for free. That’s helped with the holiday planning at least.
I did learn that the only football team in England not to be named after a place is Port Vale FC. Remember that if you’re into pub quizzes - and give me a share of any of your winnings.