Everyone talks about 'Middle England'. Sometimes they mean something bad, like a lynch mob of Daily Mail readers, and sometimes they mean something good, like a pint of ale in a sleepy Cotswold village in summer twilight. But just where and what is Middle England? Stuart Maconie didn't know either, so he packed his Thermos and sandwiches and set off to find out...
Is Middle England about tradition and decency or closed minds and bigotry? Is it maypoles and evensong, or flooded market towns and binge drinkers in the park? And is Slough really as bad as Ricky Gervais and John Betjeman make out? From Shakespeare to JK Rowling, Vaughan Williams to Craig David, William Morris to B&Q, Stuart Maconie leads the expedition, with plenty of stop-offs for tea and scones, to discover the truth.
Adventures on the High Teas is magnificent: sprawling in its research, illuminating, quirky, saddening, fun, often angry and always intensely readable.
Stuart Maconie discovers whether Middle England is a place or a feeling... all described with his usual charm and wit.
Maconie's gift is finding beauty in the most unexpected places and after reading this you'll want to call up Google maps and plan your own journey. It's a wonderfully enriching read.
Taken as a whole, the book amounts to a time capsule of England as it is now; it is, in its quirky offbeat way, a celebration of this country's extra-ordinary capacity to accomodate change while remaining essentially the same.
It is these juxtapositions of the high and the low, the hip and the furiously unfashionable, or, if you like, the sublime and the ridiculous, that make Maconie such an entertaining tour guide.