Mustn't Grumble: In Search of England and the English

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Fifteen years ago, Joe Bennett left England for a holiday, but now it's time to come back. But how is the England of his memory different from the England of the motorway? Identikit High Streets, imported cheeriness, and chicken tikka poker machine pubs—things aren't what they used to be. The longer Joe travels, the more he wonders whether things were ever what they used to be in England. Even a century ago, H. V. Morton, the nation's most celebrated eulogiser, was In Search of England. Crisscrossing the country ...

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Overview

Fifteen years ago, Joe Bennett left England for a holiday, but now it's time to come back. But how is the England of his memory different from the England of the motorway? Identikit High Streets, imported cheeriness, and chicken tikka poker machine pubs—things aren't what they used to be. The longer Joe travels, the more he wonders whether things were ever what they used to be in England. Even a century ago, H. V. Morton, the nation's most celebrated eulogiser, was In Search of England. Crisscrossing the country by varying means of transport and with varying degrees of enthusiasm, Joe Bennett delivers a dazzlingly funny and poignant portrait of his homeland—part love letter, part eulogy and part diatribe, it is a wonderful memoir that establishes Bennett as one of the most engaging travel writers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Any travel collection that seeks depth and authenticity should get [this book]."  —Library Journal

"In the face of waning traditions and modern tensions, [Bennett] still manages to capture the essence of England."  —Kirkus Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Bennett, who's written several funny books about his adopted home, New Zealand, decided to roam his native England in the footsteps of H.V. Morton, a good-old-boy who traveled England in 1926 for his popular In Search of England. Bennett, remembering the footloose wanderings of his youth, had planned to hitchhike, but after hours and days just standing by high-speed motorways, he took a few trains before borrowing his buddy's car. He visited the durable tourist destinations—Bath, Salisbury, etc.—as well as many spots notable in Morton's day but barely interesting to modern visitors. Still, some detail always catches Bennett's eye, from the way modern football uniforms resemble "a sort of sexy lingerie," to the "lachrymose drunk" wandering the pub, "hugging anyone she can, like a blowsy octopus." Bennett feels there are "few truly remarkable places"—and most "are more significant when imagined than when visited." In the end, he stumbles on the filming of Antiques Roadshowat Norwich Cathedral—a perfect example of the commercialization of history. Readers will enjoy Bennett's understated, ironic humor, whether or not they plan to visit England. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
An expatriate rediscovers the country he left behind and lets the chips, including the one on his shoulder, fall where they may. The author, a former teacher who left England somewhat accidentally for New Zealand, returns quite calculatingly after 18 years to write a book about what he will discover. His mission is to recreate a 1926 motor tour taken by once-popular British writer H. V. Morton, who drove "a Bertie Wooster car [and had] Bertie-Woosterish encounters that he reported in Bertie-Woosterish style." Morton's aim was "to find the real England," and Bennett follows in his tire tracks from London west to Cornwall, Wales, the Midlands, the industrial North and back again. This circuit encompasses some of the country's most visited locales, including those depressingly "tarted up" (in the author's view) for the tourist trade. Bennett provides a candid impression of these byways and the people who now live there, waiting to welcome-or not-the casual visitor and share-or not-their revered-or not-heritage. The landscape has changed since the days of Morton. The growth of street crime is reflected in police warning signs posted in even the most secluded villages. The culture of the motorway itself, with BMWs and Volkswagens streaming off the major routes into local car parks, has been permanently altered. Bennett travels across empty windswept moors and private green glades. He visits pubs and has random encounters in the streets. In the face of waning traditions and modern tensions, he still manages to capture the essence of England. Acerbic but entertaining: a good read for Anglophiles and prospective visitors.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416526032
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
  • Publication date: 7/1/2007
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.73 (d)

Meet the Author

Joe Bennett was born in Brighton and since leaving Cambridge University has taught English in a variety of countries including Canada, Spain and New Zealand. He lives in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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Table of Contents


Introduction     1
Going, Oh My God, Home     3
In Pursuit of a Bowl     10
Walking to Swans     22
Wheels     34
Old Stuff and Rooney     49
Conceal Your Wants     62
Writer Way     74
Hoe Hoe     87
Nice Place     98
Banging in the Rain     106
The Bloody End     116
Dead Poet with Golf     127
Afternoon Toggles     134
Crusties and Teacakes     143
The Tethered Goat of Happiness     153
Cider with Romance     161
Back to School     171
Pork Juice     182
Democratic Yawn     192
Where they Borrow Whippets     199
What a Lovely Pier     208
Football for Girls     218
Look What They've Done to Mah-Jong     225
I Will Nae Have a Headache Tonight     232
Across the Neck     241
Wot Larx     250
Up the Stump     263
I Twitch     270
Whatever You Do, Don't Smile     276
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