Friday, 19 December 2008

Now that's what I call coffee

Those Italians: they know what they're about.

More of the Italian spirit in England please! And less of the feeble 'coffee.'

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Some good news for Christmas

Over two years ago, I wrote, in the Telegraph and the Ecologist, about a heroic local struggle in Oxfordshire between a multinational energy giant and a group of local villagers. German mega-corp RWE NPower, which runs Didcot coal-fired power station, not a million miles from me, was planning to dump its toxic waste ash - coal-burning produces a huge amount of this - in a local lake, which doubled as a beauty spot and a wildlife haven.

Having visited this lake a few times, I was gobsmacked that this kind of thing was still going on in the 21st century. It was yet another side of the coal-burning process that we're not aware of. Anyway - the local campaign to save Thrupp Lake was long and hard-fought; and it's just been announced that it has been successful. The lake has been saved, NPower have retreated and the people of Radley have been delivered a great Christmas present.

It's always worth dwelling on successes like these, because they show that determined and well-run campaigns can turn the tide against things that seem inevitable. Hurray for that. And happy Christmas.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Mysterious ways

In the latest example of the strange places your writing can get to without you realising it, former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey has been quoting me from the pulpit in Ely Cathedral. This follows on from David Cameron quoting from Real England in one of his speeches. I could do with Gordon Brown now, to get the set, but I've got a curious feeling it won't be happening.

Ten days ago I had a great session at the Edinburgh Radical Book Fair with Richard Wilson, author of the entertaining new book Don't Get Fooled Again. That's me done for events this year - and after doing about 20 of them I deserve a break - but next spring I'll be booked in again for, amongst other things, the Bath Literature Festival. And come June, when the paperback appears, I'm sure I'll be on the road again. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Triumph by the canal

Castlemill boatyard in Oxford has been saved - for a second time - from stupid, unnecessary 'development' by heroic local campaigners who deserve several medals for all the work they've put in over the last few years.

The campaigners hope that now they might be looked on sympathetically as they try to put together a bid to buy the land and turn it into a community boatyard.

First Sheringham, now Oxford ... I'm hoping my book brings about a kind of 'inverted curse', whereby every battle I wrote about will end up being won by the good guys. I'll keep you updated on that one.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Triumph by the sea

In Real England I followed the on-off tale of whether or not the Norfolk town of Sheringham, one of the last towns in England without a superstore, would be able to fight off a giant Tesco planned for its outskirts. At the time the book was published, it looked like being bad news. Tesco had stitched up the local council good and proper; for the full story, of course, you need to read the book.

But here comes some good news. For it seems that, at the long-awaited public enquiry, Tesco has been told in no uncertain terms to stay away.

As ever with these situations, it may not be over yet. Tesco has a history of grinding down local opposition. But this looks like it could turn out to be a test case and - who knows - maybe even a turning point in the battle to stop the destruction of England's high streets by the global behemoths. Fingers crossed.

Monday, 1 September 2008

New events coming up

I've just posted news of some new speaking events on the website. Have a look and see if any of them grab you. If you're in London, the highlight of this little batch is the debate at the ICA about whether the new' green' Tory party is for real, with Tim Yeo, George Monbiot and others. It promises to be a fun bash. Possibly literally.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Walls of Jericho

Comments on this blog are becoming more occasional than regular at the moment. Still, it is August. Doubtless I will be up to speed again soon but, pleasingly, it's been a really busy summer, and in a good way.

Those of you who have read the book will remember the story of the battle to save Castlemill Boatyard in Oxford from a heinous new development of 'executive apartments' which would have ruined the Oxford canal. That battle was won when the developer was denied planning permission. Now, though, another developer, having bought the site, is trying much the same trick. This week another planning enquiry is under way to scrutinise their equally hideous plans. Meanwhile, the local community has alternative plans for a community-owned and controlled boatyard and public space. In microcosm, it's the kind of battle for the soul of England that's going on all over the country. You can read more about it on their website - and you can also make a donation to help in the fight. it would be money very well spent.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Places to visit

Spent last weekend at Camp Bestival in Dorset, where I was giving a talk. It's a great little festival, and the sun stayed out. One of the musical highlights was the Imagined Village, who I've mentioned here before: a reinvention of the English folk music tradition with any number of strangely contemporary influences. Well worth a listen if you've not come across them.

In the last few weeks I've also come across a couple of new things which are worth exploring. Firstly, this blog - We English - is a real panoply of all things English, from any number of angles. it also has some great links and is well worth exploring.

Secondly, Albion magazine is similarly eclectic, and contains some thought-provoking stuff about the future of England. And I don't just say so because they've just interviewed me. Honestly.

More soon.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Return of the Native

Hello again. I'm back.

All sorts of things have been happening in my absence, most notably the writing of God knows how many articles. The book seems to have made commissioning editors look at me afresh, so that has to be a good thing (at least for me). I'll be updating my website in the next few hours, so it will all be there, and a fair bit of it relates to the themes of the book, not least this - on the 'English question' - and this - on the erosion of freedom in England.

I'm also restarting my other blog which will, like this, get up to speed intermittently over the next few weeks. In the meantime, here are a couple of other good local campaigns from around England that I have been alerted to: the campaign to stop a bypass through an ancient hillside (sigh; I have deja vu); and the effort of some locals in Brighton to fight off a new Starbucks. More power to their elbows.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Citizen Dave

I'm back. Thanks for your patience.

One of the things which I regret, in retrospect, not having written a bit more about in the book was the erosion of our basic liberties over the last ten years by this increasingly noxious government. I touched on it, but didn't go into depth.

Yesterday's 42-day detention vote was the last straw for me - and not only for me, it seems. David Davis's resignation today gives me some small spark of hope that the old radical concept of the 'freeborn Englishman' is not quite dead. That it should take a Tory to highlight this, in the teeth of opposition from a supposedly left-wing government, is a dark irony indeed.

Anyway. I have written about this at greater length in the Guardian today. See if you agree.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

May flower

Spent Sunday walking part of the upper Thames near Kelmscott, home of the great William Morris. if I had my way I would be somewhere like that every day this month. England in May is a wonder. Well, parts of it: Swindon I can take or leave at any time of the year. But somewhere like the upper Thames, with the spring flowers in boom, the cygnets on the water, the air full of insects and the smell of water and blossom - it can't be bettered. Living in Oxford, one of the signatures of the month is the flowering hawthorn - the ancient, mythical May tree - which grows all over the landscape round here. Just seeing this tree in flower seems to lift the heart.

Tomorrow, after my evening event, I'm off to make the most of it. I'm away for two weeks, so there'll be no blogging until early June. See you then.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Sent to Coventry (and London)

I've added a new event to my talks schedule for next week, for all of you lucky people who live in the midlands. I'll be speaking in Kenilworth, near Coventry, on Wednesday evening: details here.

The night before, on Tuesday, I'll be in Newham, speaking about the book with some of the campaigners to save Queen's Market, who feature in it. Fortunately, they seem quite pleased about it (you never know how people are going to react to you writing about them, even if you're trying to be nice). Those of you who've read the book might remember market trader Danny Woodards and green campaigner Saif Osmani. Here they are expressing approval of the result:


This should be a lively event: come along if you're in the area. There's more about it here.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

What's Dave up to?

Some news just in: David Cameron, in a speech about localisation yesterday, quoted extensively from Real England.

This is intriguing; and, of course, flattering. Does he mean it? Leaving aside both my ego and my doubts - the Tories have never been my cup of tea - the speech is full of intriguing suggestions: not least the idea of shoring up local shops against the supermarket onslaught. Mood music or potential policy it is, either way, a sign of how the political landscape is shifting. Watch this space.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Bedding in

It's a hot day and I have been planting beans on my allotment. May is my favourite month, just edging out October. It seems a crime to be inside.

Still, here I am. And I've enjoyed some of the book-related stuff that's been happening in my absence. In the next few days I'll post up more local campaign news that I've been sent from around the country from readers and activists. There's so much going on, it's actually quite exciting. If we could get together we'd be unstoppable.

Among my favourite things online at the moment, and possibly worth reading once the sun goes down are a review of the book on openDemocracy - the latest in a gratifyingly long line - a bizarre reference in a theatre review in the Guardian (maybe I should be writing plays instead) and - best of all - what is apparently supposed to be some sort of attack on me.

This latter is published on the Guardian's site too, and is written by an academic who - judging by her surname - needs to be a bit more careful with the class analysis. I confess that I can't actually work out what her point is, but perhaps this is because I don't know what 'normative' means. What I do like is how she has bracketed me with Billy Bragg as one of two people who clearly need to be taken on. Little does she know how flattered I am!

Finally, my next speaking event is coming up this Friday, in Bristol. Come along, if you're in the area. A few people have emailed me asking why I'm not doing many events in the north of England. To which I reply: I'd love to, but no-one's invited me to do one yet! If you'd like to, let me know.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Culture in decline

I'm back, trawling through emails and post. Much to post here, which I will do soon. But just for now, I notice someone has written a nice review of the book on Amazon, to which they tag on some lyrics which turn out, on investigation, to be by Joni Mitchell:
In every culture in decline
Watchful ones among the slaves
Know all that is genuine
Will be scorned and conned and cast away
We are, I suppose, the 'watchful ones among the slaves.' Somebody's got to do it. It's not a bad job.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Break in transmission

I'm off on a well-deserved holiday tomorrow - via a speaking event in Grasmere. I'm back in early May, when this blog will spring back to life again. Until then, there will be a short break in transmission.

There are a few things to watch out for in the meantime, though. This coming Friday, the 18th, I'll be appearing on You and Yours on BBC Radio 4, to talk about the privatisation of our public streets. I also have a feature in next week's New Statesman (also published Friday) about the need for a new, radical variant of English nationalism. And on Saturday, I have a St George's Day feature in the Daily Telegraph.

Next week, of course, is St George's Day itself - on Wednesday 23rd. I'll be popping up on a few radio programmes around the country on the day, though I'm not yet sure which ones. If you want to avoid me it's probably best to watch the TV instead.

Finally, if you want to amuse yourselves until I return you could always pop over to Amazon and write a review of the book. Though only if you like it, of course ...

Keep those local campaign stories coming in while I'm away. I'll post any new ones up here on my return in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Battle lines

Begun the Clone War has

Over the last few weeks, as extracts from the book appeared in the press, the book itself was published and I started giving talks around the country, I've been contacted by people from all over England with stories to tell. Many of the issues in the book, from the privatisation of city streets to the death of small farms, have touched people - and many of them, of course, are happening where they are too.

What I would really like this book to do is give people all over England a sense that they are not alone; that what they thought was an isolated local incident - a new superstore; the destruction of an old boatyard; the demolition of a pub - is actually part of a national trend. That there are reasons for it and ways to stop it.

Perhaps this is starting to happen already. Either way I would like this blog to encourage the process. So if something is happening in your area - good or bad - which relates to the themes of the book, do let me know. I'd like this blog to become something of a compendium of local and national campaigns and news, good and bad, which help define the battle against the bland.

Here are some cases I've been told about since publication:

Here in my home town of Oxford, people are mobilising in an attempt to fend off the arrival of a vast new shopping centre - three times the size of the current model - which threatens to finally convert this medieval city into a clone town par excellence. More about that here.

In Crystal Palace, London, the local Community Association is fighting Ken 'green' Livingstone's plans to flog off parts of Crystal Palace Park to private developers, who want to build - surprise, surprise - 176 luxury flats (quick thought: the looming credit crunch and ongoing collapse in house prices might turn out to be a rather good thing in two ways: it could make rural properties more affordable to local people, and it might stop the insane 'luxury apartments' boom in its tracks). More on their struggle here.

Also in London, artists and actors in Covent Garden are fighting plans to clone the ancient market. Covent Garden Market has got itself a new corporate 'branding director' who wants it to attract 'high level shoppers' rather than the sort of people who like little market stalls and chaotic buskers. You can sign a petition about that here.

In Lancaster, a Carnival of Culture was held last month both to celebrate the city's character and to protest about a coming cloning project. Our old friends Centros Miller (more about them in the book) are planning a huge corporate 'regeneration' scheme. There's a film of the carnival here. The campaign's website is here.

The rapacious Centros, meanwhile, are after the Somerset city of Wells too - here's what locals are doing about that. Maybe, like the noble knights of Bury St Edmunds, they should resort to extreme measures.

Finally an honourable mention to a non-English but nonetheless excellent and important local campaign to save a valuable community pub in Cardiff from redevelopment. Visit the community's website and lend your support to the fight to save the Pantmawr Inn.

Keep 'em coming...


For those who aren't already members, I should mention that Real England has its very own Facebook group, which you can join here.

You can also sign up to my mailing list by sending a blank email to, with the word 'subscribe' as the subject.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Decline is official

The front page of today's Telegraph highlights an Oxford University study which confirms in general - with facts attached - what Real England notes in the particular: the ongoing and precipitous decline of rural England.

At this stage the response is often to throw up hands and shriek 'but what can be done'? The answer is: plenty. Some of it is in the book so I won't repeat it here. The real question is: who is going to do it? Not New Labour, that's for sure. Anyone else prepared to step up to the plate? Before it's too late?

The word spreads

Even the New York Times can appreciate the value of a good English pub (and they quote from a piece I wrote in the Guardian three years ago!) All we need now is a bit more appreciation from the authorities in England.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

All the news is good

A whole clutch of reviews has come rolling in this weekend - and they're all good! Some of them, in fact, are great. The Guardian, for example, is fulsome, as is the Times. The FT is good too, even if it does gently chide me both for not being an economist (guilty: I got a D at A Level) and for failing to include a chapter on the 'financial services industry'. In London, Metro make it their book of the week, while in Glasgow the Sunday Herald enthusiastically draws parallels with the situation north of the border.

Best of all, though, has to the be the Independent review. According to this, Real England is 'a watershed study, a crucially important book; the most significant account of today's England I have read.' As a writer, I can tell you that during the dark, dark days of writing the damn thing, all alone but for your thoughts, and wondering if anyone will ever read it, this is the kind of reception you fantasise about. Thank you Nick Groom. And I didn't even pay you.

Finally, if anyone is interested, here is a film of me introducing my book/begging you to read it. It might be good, it might not. I hate watching myself, so I don't know.

I'll be back soon with that promised catalogue of local campaigns around the country, just so you're assured that it's not all about me.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Real America?

Apologies for the slight blogging lull. My book tour began last night with a very successful evening in Oxford and there's another event tomorrow in London. This, plus writing plenty of related articles, plus the fact that I'm going on holiday next week, is leaving little time for anything else.

In the next couple of days, though, I'll be reporting here on some of the new stories I've heard about since my extracts started appearing and the book started to sell. I've been contacted by people from all over the country with stories of their own local battles to save their own little slices of the real England. I plan to mention these up here as they come in, as well as add them to the permanent list of links on this site. With any luck it can become something of a directory of the many battles to save the local, the particular and the diverse all over England.

Speaking of which, I was today sent a link to this fascinating website, which charts and beautifully illustrates a process of spectacular decline in Detroit, in the US, where a decades-long economic collapse is razing the city's character on a heartbreaking scale. It puts what's happening to England in a wider context and is well worth a look just to marvel at some of the architecture.

Anyway - more very soon when I get some of my head back. In the meantime, I'm told that the Guardian and the Times will both be reviewing the book this Saturday. This is the one part of the creative process that the author really has no control over. Pray for me ...

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Roll up, roll up

I'm hungover this morning (oh, hang on - it's the afternoon already) after a very successful book launch last night. Now comes the start of the promotional tour!

For anyone in Oxford or London, I will be doing two events next week. First off, on Tuesday evening, I'll be speaking at the Corner Club in Oxford, at 8 o'clock. You can find more about that here. Then, on Thursday lunchtime, there's a session at the RSA in central London: more details here. That one's free, so you'd be a fool to miss out!

Come along, tell your friends ... and I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

The time has come

Real England is officially launched today. You can celebrate with yet another Guardian article. You lucky things.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Two pieces

For those who missed it, yesterday's Guardian book extract can be read online here.

And today I have a piece about the thorny old 'English question' also up on the Guardian's website here.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Keep your eyes peeled

As the tension mounts (really) in the buildup to the official launch of Real England next week, there'll be some more media this weekend to look out for.

First off, the Guardian's Weekend magazine will be running an extract from the book on Saturday 29th. Over the weekend, and on Monday, the Guardian's Comment is Free website will also be running two articles by me which pick up on subjects covered in the book.

Meanwhile, my list of speaking engagements is growing, with new events added in Oxford, London and Grasmere. Hope you can make one of them.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

The eyebrows alone would be reason enough

Following on from my various posts about pubs, below, I though I should share the heartening news that Alastair Darling is being barred from an increasing number of locals across the land.

Though something tells me he's probably a wine bar man anyway.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Institutional identity

There are very few national newspaper columnists who are regularly worth reading, but Simon Jenkins is one of them. In my view, this is because he turns his gaze often onto subjects that his peers consider beneath them. Most columnists tend to think of themselves as Very Important People. They write about what cabinet ministers said to them in corridors, what the opinion polls tell them about the latest political wheeze and what the real story is behind the PM's relationship with his chancellor.

They mistakenly imagine that this makes them not only important but relevant, and they are usually wrong. Most people, I would wager, don't give a stuff about such things. What they do give a stuff about is how political decisions actually affect their lives. On this subject, our 'opinion formers' are often curiously silent. This may because they don't actually know.

Anyway, Jenkins had a piece in the Guardian a few days ago which took on the current wave of Post Office closures with gusto. It interested me because his findings were very similar to mine: rising anger all over the nation about the destruction of local communities by an alliance of big government and big business - and a rising tide of resistance to it. Also, and crucially, a recognition that the small, the local and the everyday matter hugely to people - because it is where we all live. Jenkins, for me, sums it up nicely in his last paragraph:
The government's Orwellian hostility to the institutional identity of British communities can only promote alienation and indiscipline. It turns communities into bleak, car-reliant dormitories, devoid of places of casual association. It removes the informal leadership of the resident teacher, doctor, police officer, shopkeeper. What central government may think it saves in the general, it loses in the particular. It is in the particular that people live.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Talking points

I'm getting plenty of responses to my Daily Mail extract yesterday. There'll be another one along tomorrow, Monday 17th, so look out for that.

All of the emails and comments I've had so far have agreed with my take on the homogenisation of England. Expats from Brazil and the USA have written in sadness to agree, one saying that he left England fifteen years ago because he 'saw it coming.' Others have asked what can be done: there are some thoughts about this in the book, though I can't claim to have any comprehensive manifesto or batch of easy solutions.

Emigration is certainly tempting sometimes. I often wonder what the country will look like in another fifteen years. How many more roads, runways, power plants, housing estates? How many remaining pubs, local shops, small farms, marketplaces, hidden spaces? Will there be any sense of English folk culture remaining, or any feeling for the genius loci? Or will there just be thousands more pointless 'celebrities' being shuttled around in 4x4s proudly run on biofuels?

But emigration is no escape. One of the points I make in my book is that the forces affecting England are affecting the world. The spread of the global consumer economy leaves none untouched: in this sense I am taking up where my last book, which explored forces of resistance to that economy worldwide, left off.

One of the commenters on my Mail piece took me up on this. 'Paul doesn't seem to have grasped', he writes, 'that the Economy is a voracious, completely invulnerable monster that is ravaging everything human and humane that lies in its path.' Hopefully he'll read the book, where he'll see that I have grasped it, and all its implications. After Cobbett, I call it 'The Thing' - it stalks the world, devouring people and places and spitting out money, and I really don't know what to do about it. But I'm open to ideas.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Media whoring

Anyone out there who has not yet pre-ordered a copy of the book (shame on you) will be pleased to know you can cheat by reading some extracts in the media instead. And then buying it.

First off, the Daily Mail (yes, really) are running the first of two extracts tomorrow, Saturday 15th. I say 'extracts' - 'rewrites' would actually be more accurate. But they get the point across, which is the main thing.

If that's not quite your cup of tea, then you can buy the Guardian instead which, on Saturday 29th, will be extracting the book too.

It's interesting to me that two papers with diametrically opposed politics have bought the rights to the book - and very pleasing. I've deliberately written a book which aims, in its language and approach, to appeal across the political spectrum rather than to a specific narrow interest group. My message is a fairly radical one - certainly one that the political establishment doesn't want to hear - but it's also one that appeals to people on a local, human scale, whether they consider themselves to be left or right or neither. In that sense, the subject matter is political, but not Political.

It works for me. But does it work for anyone else? I am about to find out.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Preserve beerdiversity

As predicted by others on this blog (see below) the Chancellor decided to use his budget to raise over a billion from new alcohol duties. Apparently this is to tackle 'binge drinking', by making drinks more expensive.

This might be more convincing had the government decide to tackle the places and the drinks that cause genuine problems in towns on Saturday nights. That'll be the vast corporate booze sheds known as 'high volume vertical drinking establishments' (for reasons I go into in the book); the cheap supermarket booze; the mega-cheap shots and those who encourage mass drinking of them for quick profit before they turf the drinkers out into the vomit-stained streets.

Instead they've decided to hit every drink going, and the impact on the traditional pub will be great. CAMRA reckons it will add up to 20p to a pint of real beer. Cue more pressure on landlords, in addition to those catalogued in the post below and in chapter 2 of my book. Cue more pub closures.

The irony being that a traditional community pub is the last place you will get hordes of anti-social 'binge drinkers'. Real pubs foster community spirit; closing them destroys it. But the government seems to have its heart set on finishing off the traditional English local. Where will we drink then? Yate's Wine Lodge? Mine's a triple Bacardi Breezer. And a fight. With Alastair Darling.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Summer tour

The Real England sumer book tour is beginning to take shape, as you can see here. I've just added a fun date at Camp Bestival in Dorset in July, on top of events in Devon, Bristol, north Wales and Herefordshire already announced. Grasmere, Oxford, London and a few other places are looking likely too. Keep popping back for updates.

It's fun this. If I close my eyes I can pretend to be a rock god. If you're lucky you may even get some extra dates due to unprecedented public demand. Though you would have to demand them first.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

The death of the English pub

A landlord activist I know (how many of them can there be?) today sent me this link to a deeply depressing story about the current fate of the English pub. Chapter 2 of my book focuses on the decline and potential fall of the English pub and it's not a cheery story.

Forget the monarchy, the church, the House of Commons - if you want an institution which truly represents and distills England, it's the pub. But for how much longer? This article suggests that the anti-democratic (and classicly NuLabour) smoking ban has added to the ongoing woes of the local boozer - woes that include inflated beer prices, changing demographics, an increasingly puritanical culture (how the English love to revert to their Roundhead tendencies every few decades) and predatory pub companies. As a result, a shocking 27 pubs are going out of business every week. It's enough to make you turn to drink

Read more about this in the book - but don't forget to do something about it too. For starters you could lend your support to CAMRA and to Freedom For Pubs. But you should also take direct action by going down to your local and drinking as much beer as possible. Real beer, mind. Carling or Fosters will only make things worse.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Hurray for the media. No, really.

Good news for people who'd like to read some of my book but don't want to buy it (hang on, why would I be telling you this?) Towards the end of this month, two separate newspapers will be running extracts from it.

Even better, these newspapers cover the entire political spectrum, so you can buy whichever one you feel least embarrassed being seen with in public. First off, the Daily Mail will be serialising the book over two weeks, sometime between the 15th and 24th of March - I'll let you know if and when I have something more specific. After that, the Guardian will also be running an extract in its magazine on Saturday 29th March.

There is more media stuff in the pipeline too, and I'll let you know when it comes out of the other end, as it were. The theory behind all this is that excited newspaper readers, having been tempted by my silky prose, will then rush out and buy the book. Naturally, I like this idea. Let's see if it translates into reality.

Monday, 3 March 2008


My name is Paul Kingsnorth, and I'm a writer, environmentalist, journalist and poet. My new book, Real England, is published on 10th April, and this site is its cyberspace companion.

The book is an account of a journey I took through my home country - a country that is being colonised and homogenised by corporate power, an over-centralised state, money and indifference. It's a nation of clone towns, second homes, superstores, privatised streets and disintegrating local cultures. But it's also a nation of people resisting these trends, and of places that stubbornly refuse to have their character erased in the name of progress. I went searching for the real England: I found it, and my book is about how it can survive and why it should.

I'll be updating this blog regularly - not just with news about the book itself and accompanying events and articles, but with discussions, arguments, links and doubtless a few rants relating to the issues covered in the book. I'd like it to turn into a place to talk about all things English: political, cultural, geographical, historical. Come and help make it happen.

In the meantime, the links on the left allow you to read an extract from the book, have a look at some of the early reviews (many more to come I hope), catch up with events planned around it (ditto) - and, of course, buy it (which is obviously the most important bit).

More from me soon as this blog gets up to speed.