Fraser McAlpine (Nicholas Brealey) 2015, 360pp, RRP $22.99
The Oxfordshire-born and Cornwall-dwelling McAlpine, the lead writer for BBC Anglophenia (and a specialist in Doctor Who), here offers a lengthy list of things that get Brits going (in a good way most of the time), and while that might sound light and silly there’s still much fun to be had, with plenty of barbed swipes at UK sorts – and some real wit too.
Opening with an introduction that offers a definition of what will qualify, for the purposes of this book, as a Brit (ie. denizens of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland probably, and whether they like it or not), we then get into the list of stuff. And it includes: the obvious (‘British History’; ‘The Royal Family’ – or mostly; ‘Doctor Who’, of course; ‘Tea’; ‘Comedy’; ‘Rugby’; ‘Pub Quizzes’; and ‘The Theatre’ – and please note the spelling); slightly embarrassing, neurotic or haughty truths about the British character (‘Talking About The Weather’; ‘Talking About Class’; ‘Speaking English When Abroad’; ‘Cross Dressing’; ‘Cheering The Bad Guy’; and ‘Quirks, Foibles And Eccentricities’); odd choices (‘Sarcasm’; ‘Curry’; ‘Queuing’); and a few surprises (like ‘Mythical Beasts’, which features a wonderfully funny rundown of bizarre British beasts from folklore, mythology, the supernatural and cryptozoology – and there’s that word again, so why not look it up?).
Always amusing, and at times cuttingly so (as when McAlpine none-too-reverentially describes five films that Brits like: The Great Escape, The Railway Children, Trainspotting, Kes and Four Weddings And A Funeral), this works best as a book to dip into for a quick laugh over an extended period, as surely longer exposure – or even daring to read the whole thing from cover to cover – risks turning the reader British. And one can’t have that, now can one?
This title is available through the Allen & Unwin website. Click HERE to purchase your copy.