Wednesday, 27 January 2010

England on $10 a day

When I was at university I had a tendency to buy random books just because they looked interesting (this was before the web, remember - it was a sort of physical version of StumbleUpon).

One of my favourite purchases was a guidebook to the UK called England on $10 a Day. Leaving aside the cheapness, which even then was impressive, I just loved the idea of seeing my country through slightly alien eyes - and I was not disappointed. What's not to love about a guidebook that treats Scotland as part of England?

Ninety percent of the book is on the south of England, but as a Lancastrian I couldn't help but be delighted with its different approaches to the East and the West. The North West it eulogises about. The North East? 'Unless you enjoy untamed scenery and perhaps a visit to an ancient city or two, such as York or Lincoln, then this huge hunk of north-eastern England may hold little interest for you.' Quite.

It's difficult to find a specific quote that evokes the feeling it gives. But here's an example when talking about travelling by train in the UK: 'There is something magical about travelling on a train in England. You sit in comfortable compartments, on upholstered seats, next to reserved and inevitably well-dressed Englishmen and served your meal in the dining car like a titled aristocrat.' Hmm.

Just to get a real impression of how prices have changed (the book was published in 1973), one of the recommended London hotels is the Heritage House Hotel in Bayswater where Mr. and Mrs. Bailey R. Irani charge £2 per person for bed and breakfast. Want a meal? You can get "bangers and mash" (their quotes) at The Cockney Pride in Picadilly Circus for 25p. Or (it gets quite excited here) "faggots and pease pudding" for 28p. Yum.

I ought to stress that though I may be teasing it, this was a good book for its day. Here's its philosophy, which I applaud: 'This book has not been written for the North American tourist who likes only the expensive and the gaudy - who goes through Europe rudely demanding "a room, a private bath and a good cuppa coffee." It is, rather, for those who want to experience a country's true charm, it's precious traditions, its authentic food - and who hope to make new friends.' And though those 'traditions' may occasionally be a little caricatured, it still does a very entertaining job.

2 comments:

  1. Hi Brian, I enjoyed this post very much. I've been trying to decide whether this was the book I brought with me to Britain on my 1st trip in 1973. I think it was the earlier "England on $5 and $10 a Day." I would love to have a copy of either one. By the way, I ended up living in the North East (Teesside) although I later got my M.A. at U. of Liverpool.

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  2. Glad you liked it, Rhiannon. I do still have my copy, but I'm too fond of it to give it away, I'm afraid!

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