You Are Awful (But I Like You): Travels Through Unloved Britain by Tim Moore
|You Are Awful (But I Like You): Travels Through Unloved Britain by Tim Moore|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A sobering look at what it's like going to see what went wrong with Britain.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 288||Date: January 2013|
|Publisher: Vintage Books|
This is not the first book I've read about the scummy, unloved corners of our country, and I approached it in just the same way I did with the last - I looked to see if it might feature Leicester, where I live. The opinion seems to be that you can only like Leicester enough to be proud of it if you're not from there originally - and as I grew up on the edge of a village in the middle of nowhere, it suits me fine. But no - despite its problems (thanks, Labour councils) it doesn't count. It's not grotty, ugly, run-down and unappreciated enough. It still has some semblance of life, unlike too many towns and cities in Britain where the industry, the jobs, the life and the thought have been sucked out, seemingly beyond repair. After stumbling upon the nightmare that is the out-of-season, redundant English coastal town, our author has valiantly journeyed round many of these grot-spots, and found the story of decrepitude only exacerbating.
To mention for the last time the other book I could only compare this volume to, it was called To Hull and Back, by Tom Chesshyre. I can well believe that with just six months separating the two books' initial release, neither comedy travel writer knew what the other was doing, but the similarity is strong. Both go to the same dumps - Hull, Slough, etc, both see the same monotonous spread of pound shops, betting shops, booze shops, and both see the same problems, cause and effect.
In a way then you could say that Moore's decision to inundate himself in all that is dire is a gimmick too far - he chooses the worst British car (via Bulgaria) and demands of himself that he listens to the worst British music, eats the worst British food and stays in the worst British hotels (hello, Pontins Southport) throughout his lengthy sojourn of suffering.
This however could be said the most amusing strand to the book, for there is nothing humorous about urban decay. So many of these places had it pink once, but the people painting the town red once upon a time merely stay away now, or decorate their own town centres with vomit every weekend night. This is where Moore shows his mettle, and his intelligence, in discussing how and why every place went wrong. It night be the death of the fishing industry, the closure of the mines or just horrendous town planning that caused the problems, but these are major problems that would appear to be quite irreparable.
The book fills the armchair traveller in with all the necessary images - although some photos would be an improvement. I would also really like to see a TV version, but Moore finds to his horror that the book was written in the middle of a downward slide - he tries to go to museums and stay in hotels that have closed before he could reach them, while places he wishes to write about shut for good on his departure. Nor is he a jinx - it's just that this is an ongoing tragedy.
As a result, however much we find Britain of interest as regards travel journalism, this is a very good book. Whereas those travelogues that inspire the 'rather him than me' response do it normally in light of the author, here it also applies to he who lives in these places. Yet Moore also finds, courtesy of his self-punishment, just how strong is the British trait of seemingly falling into, if not like then acceptance, of the bad - perhaps one of Leicester's problems, then.
I think from memory that the Chesshyre book (OK, so I lied) taught me more about the places he featured, but Moore is stronger on the nitty-gritty histories and sociology of the decline. This depth and scientific intelligence to the book is what you won't be expecting in a seemingly lightweight journey journal, but this is proof that from the darkness can come forth light.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
I Believe in Yesterday: My Adventures in Living History by Tim Moore has our heroic author searching for a unique sense of past life syndrome. On a different tack, Britain for Sale by Alex Brummer is just as approachable in discussing some of the reasons British life is so parlous.
You can read more book reviews or buy You Are Awful (But I Like You): Travels Through Unloved Britain by Tim Moore at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy You Are Awful (But I Like You): Travels Through Unloved Britain by Tim Moore at Amazon.com.
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