After a month’s hiatus from blogging in order to meet some familial duties, I am back on the net and will be resuming weekly service.
There has been a spate of programmes celebrating how wonderful Britain is, beginning in 2005 with Coast and climaxing in 2007 with the Dimbleby series A Picture of Britain. At the time of their broadcast they seemed to be products of nostalgia, looking back to a time when every family would have experienced some of the Britain shown on the telly, when people spent their short holidays getting to know their island better. It now appears that they were in fact ahead of their time, anticipating an era when, after a 25 year embrace with international air travel, we have turned away from foreign countries and their formerly enticing exotic customs. Anxieties about terrorism, creeping xenophobia, falling sterling, globalisation making the world seem too familiar and therefore not worth bothering with are all offered as excuses for our sudden lack of interest in anything beyond Dover, but it’s not necessarily a phenomenon that needs defending.
For many, foreign travel meant focusing too much on ticking off certain hotspot destinations, the sort of twatbag travelling that made Max Gogarty famous. Forcing ourselves to look again at what’s in our own country can be of great value, and I had this in mind when I had a bit of a nose round in the north of England last week. I took in Lindisfarne, York Minster, the Bradford media museum, the model village of Saltaire; all fascinating places worthy of a visit, each with a culture worth investigating. The king of these investigations, the painstaking peeling back of layers on places that lack the visual excitement of Sunday night favourites, is Jonathan Meades. Watch his essay on Birmingham and its fixation with the motorcar for a masterclass in revelation.