What Da Cover Says: There is a Britain that exists outside of the official histories and guidebooks – places that lie on the margins, left behind. A Britain in the cracks of the urban facade where unexpected life can flourish. Welcome to UNOFFICIAL BRITAIN.; This is a land of industrial estates and electricity pylons, of motorway service stations and haunted council houses, of roundabouts and flyovers.; Places where modern life speeds past but where people and stories nevertheless collect. Places where human dramas play out: stories of love, violence, fear, boredom and artistic expression.; Places of ghost sightings, first kisses, experiments with drugs, refuges for the homeless, hangouts for the outcasts.; Struck by the power of these stories and experiences, Gareth E. Rees set out to explore these spaces and the essential part they have played in the history and geography of our isles.; Though mundane and neglected, they can be as powerfully influential in our lives, and imaginations, as any picture postcard tourist destination.; This is Unofficial Britain, a personal journey along the edges of a landscape brimming with mystery, tragedy and myth.
What I Says: Well this book was certainly an eye opener for me, it wasn’t long ago that I found out the kid from Home Alone was 40 and I felt really old…now I find out the the buildings of my youth are old enough now to potentially be haunted, I feel positively ancient now.
In this book Rees explores those places that are right in front of us but at the same time are almost hidden, multi-storey car parks, industrial estates, pylons, flyovers and hospitals. These are the sort of places we take for granted, we have grown up around them and think of them as landmarks only, not many people realise there is so much life happening around or under them. To me the spaghetti junction is a nightmare of a road to navigate, but there are many who have found peace living beneath it, the way Rees describes things, it almost feels tranquil.
As a young lad I was a scout and we used to go exploring a lot, night-time walks into the countryside to find a farm, it was so eerie, large structures and abandoned machinery gave us a great time. Quite often we’d find ourselves pulled towards a large pylon, usually to listen to it’s crackle and pretend we could hear voices. I have not explored like that in many years, my focus is usually looking for a bit of quite and some wildlife spotting, but after reading this I do fancy a walk around the local industrial estate and maybe a trip to the town centre to check out the car park.
One very interesting side of this book is Rees’ many references to music, film and books which have all been inspired by these structures, most notable are the books by J.G. Ballard and any movie with a young lady being stalked in a car park. Rees meets many interesting people and manages to get some great stories from them.
My favourite part of the book was his trip up the M6, I have travelled that road many times on journeys up to Scotland and so far have missed out on so much….next time it will be different.
Absolutely loved this, such a strange idea for a book which makes perfect sense when you get to the end. Give it a go because Rees’ words can be quite beautiful at times.
Click HERE for info about the book.