Monday, 19 October 2009

Paved with.... Huddersfield

The book is out now. We had a very enjoyable launch at the Ilkley Literature Festival, which is gradually catching up with Hay-on-Wye. I keep working at The Guardian to transfer, or at least share, its sponsorship. Ian Jack and Lucy Mangan were great debaters, along with Helen Cross, whose novel My Summer of Love gets a mention in True North as an example of modern fiction which recognises the presence of the Northern middle class and does not present it in cliched terms. She is keeping busy in a properly Northern way: two more novels since My Summer of Love, which was also filmed successfully. I bought the latest, Spilt Milk, Black Coffee, and am much enjoying its portrayal of white and Muslim Yorkshire communities. No cliches, again.
Sorry not to have added to the bibliography lately. Publication means a busy search for publicity and I probably won't have time to update for a day or two. I had a fun outing on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, debating the North-South issue with Arthur Smith. It was the last item, which seems to stick in the mind, judging by subsequent comments from all sorts of bods. Mind you, it wasn't as good as the next day's, which featured Jeffrey Archer on his rewriting of one of his novels. Talk about Arnold Bennett's The Card... Still, when Arthur talked about London's streets being paved with gold, I managed to counter that they - or at least Regent Street from Broadcasting House to Oxford Circus - are actually paved with Huddersfield's finest stone. I did a piece some years ago on the quarry from which it came. I met a producer the following day at the new BBC North in Media City at Salford Quays and she said that she and her colleagues were all examining the paving stones, as I urged people to do. They are beautiful - swirls of brown, grey and caramel. Part of the South which is for ever North, because West Yorkshire sandstone lasts for a very long time.


  1. An excellent and readable book but does not fit its title which should be True Yorkshire. As a citizen of Todmorden, Rochdale and Newcastle upon Tyne over the past 64 years, the book is essentially one on Yorkshire which very much neglects Lancashire. There is more on the north east than Lancs which is surprising for a Manchester Guardian employee! This is a disappointing omission and Lancashire readers will be less forgiving than me, given my Halifax birthplace. The book's thesis and stance is however correct and commendable - we should market the north in a more positive light without too much of the mawkish, grit and broodiness of Alan Bennett, the Brontes, Ted Hughes etc.
    One small error - page 141. James Herriott, All Creatures Great and Small, not All Things Bright and Beautiful. You clearly spend too much time in church and singing hymns!
    PS You are not like your sister Hilary who was a real firebrand at the Newcastle Trades Council in the 1970s

  2. Hi and many thanks for this. Sorry about the Herriott blooper, which I will get corrected at the first opportunity. I was aware of the Yorkshire bias as I went along and, again, I may be able to rectify it when the paperback comes out or, if we sell enough, before then. I had a week Ennerdale earlier this month and picked up lots of fascinating information about the role of immigrants in bringing new industry - Seker, Marchon, Kangol - to West Cumbria when it was a 1930s distressed area after the collapse of coal-mining.
    I did put things right, just a little, when I did an interview with Radio Lancashire this morning and they asked me my favourite bit of the North and I followed HM the Queen is=n saying the Trough of Bowland (although actually I was currying favour, as I've far too many favourite bits).
    Yes, politically I'm diffferent from Hil, though we see lots of one another and she is working hard on my sons. I think she has a strong strand of liberalism in her, though, in the sense of independent-mindedness. She would not fit at all happily in any regimented form of socialism. Did you know her in the Newcastle days? I remember going up there from time to time and meeting lots of great colleagues/comrades of hers.
    I'm glad you agree about the gloom side of things. Alas, I am afraid that in literary eyes, cheerfulness is less interesting, but maybe we will be surprised one of these days. Thanks v much again and warm wishes, Martin