Secret Truro: Don’t panic, we’ve got you covered!

Don’t Panic but there are only a few more shopping days until Christmas!  Here are some of our top Christmas gift ideas for friends and family which all have a Truro or a Cornish link. You might recognise some of our roundup from previous posts.
It’s OK, we’ve got you covered!


 Fraser McAlpine – Stuff Brits Like


IMG_3896You might be familiar with Fraser’s album reviews on Jo Whiley’s Radio 2 show.  He also writes for the BBC America blog Anglophenia which helps educate our American cousins in all things British, from Downton to Doctor Who.  As a result, he’s written a fantastic book called ‘Stuff Brits Like‘.  This could prove to be the perfect present for the Christmas holidays. Each of its short chapters can be picked up, read easily and will provide many topics of conversation over the requisite turkey sandwiches.  If you’re wanting to promote good cheer among your various relations, you might choose chapters with titles like ‘Comedy’ or ‘Sheds’. If you’re wishing to lob a verbal hand grenade into the room you might choose chapter with titles like ‘Drawing Willies on things’ or ‘Arguing over what to call meals.’  You can tell Fraser is local as all of the photos have been taken in and around Truro.

14 December 2015

Via Secret Truro



Fraser McAlpine to appear at Brixton Book Jam this Monday, 7th December


Fraser will be talking about Stuff Brits Like this coming Monday, 7th December at Brixton Book Jam. The wonderful free event starts at 7:30 p.m., but he is scheduled to start later in the evening.

You can pick up a copy of Stuff Brits Like at nearby Clapham Books.

As the lead writer for BBC America’s Anglophenia website, Fraser McAlpine (a man assembled from almost every region of the UK) spends his life explaining Brits to foreigners. Now he lifts the lid on our Marmite pot of nations and takes you on a journey from the Isle of Wight to Inverness, Belfast to Bangor, exploring the joyful enthusiasms (and pet hates) of an endlessly multifarious Britain.

Find out more about Fraser on Twitter @csi_popmusic 

Lost in the Pond’s Halfway Planet Podcast: Stuff Brits Like — A conversation with BBC’s Fraser McAlpine

fraseratvonnegutlibraryFraser McAlpine sitting in Kurt Vonnegut’s chair at Vonnegut’s typewriter, Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, Indianapolis, Indiana, 5 November 2015

From the Indianapolis-based British expat blog Lost in the Pond (5th November 2015, Bonfire Night edition):

This week on Halfway Planet, we had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with BBC writer and broadcaster Fraser McAlpine to discuss his new book Stuff Brits Likea brilliantly comprehensive book that covers virtually all facets of British life, including sarcasm, needless apologies, and the British propensity for putting Union Jacks on things! Press play below to get Fraser’s insight into Doctor Who, the NHS, Bonfire Night, and a wealth of other British subjects.

For more information about BBC America Anglophenia contributor Laurence Brown and Lost in the Pond, visit him on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.


Fraser McAlpine to appear at Taunton Literary Festival this Wednesday, 25th November

litfestFraser will be speaking about Stuff Brits Like at the fifth annual Taunton Literary Festival in Somerset at 8:00 p.m. this Wednesday, November 25th, sponsored by Brendon Books, Taunton’s independent bookstore. Tickets are available here. More information on the festival is available on Twitter and Brendon Books’ Facebook page.



Review: The Clothesline

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?

Reviewed by Dave Bradley

This title is available through the Allen & Unwin website. Click HERE to purchase your copy.

Via The Clothesline  (Australia)

Review: Two Islands: Tales from Great Britain & Iceland

One of the things I like most about living here is the British humour. Brits are specialists at making fun of themselves and that I absolutely love.

Stuff Brits Like: A Guide to What’s Great About Great Britain is a new book by author Fraser McAlpine. The introduction of the book says it ‘celebrates why we like puns and pedantry, decorum and drawing willies on things, Trainspotting and Downton Abbey, apologizing needlessly (sorry) and cocking a snook. We cheer both the underdog and the bad guy, we adore melancholy types like Morrissey and grumpy Eeyore… and we love being told off by scolds.’

It didn’t surprise me one bit to read that the Queen was regarded as the most iconic Brit and that tea is the nation’s favourite drink. A bit more unexpected was that the Sunday roast and Curry beat Fish and chips in the competition of the favourite British dish. 

Some of the British traditions rub off on you. After three years I find myself apologizing needlessly a lot more than before. So much in fact that when I’m visiting Iceland my friends sometimes look at me as if I’ve turned into a an elf or a troll. I still don’t understand the love Brits have for boybands, soap operas and Marmite though.

Reviewed by Sigridur Petursdottir

Via Two Islands: Great Britain & Iceland

Review: The Book Bag

Stuff Brits Like by Fraser McAlpine

With over 100 chapters on different aspects of Britain and Britishness, this book is both fascinating and hilarious. Just looking at the list of subjects is enough to produce a sardonic twist of that stiff upper lip: the chapters cover topics that range from offal to curry, from pedantry to banter, from conkers to rugby. There may be many chapters but this is no academic tome — each chapter is just two to three pages long, each is written with endearing affection, each is easy and satisfying — and quirkily funny — to read.

Many of Fraser McAlpine’s observations could be applied more generally to other countries as well as Britain. Reality TV, for example, exists in all four corners of the globe, while the Speaking English Abroad chapter could, with a couple of adaptations, apply equally to the US as to Britain. And football is, well, football the world over. But most of the subjects covered are quintessentially British.

Fraser McAlpine hits exactly the right note and he certainly knows his Britain. He observes every foible of the great British public with such good-natured wit and candour that only the most dour among us could possibly take offence (and yes, there is a chapter on Melancholy). In fact, he has been excessively kind in places. He waxes positively lyrical about the BBC (and two programmes it has spawned, The Archers and The Shipping Forecast), without a whiff of cynicism, despite all the bad press the BBC has suffered in recent years. But perhaps that’s not so surprising – he has, after all, worked for the Beeb for many years and, in any case, one shouldn’t be rude about one’s favourite Auntie. He’s only marginally more mocking about reality TV, from the endless singing/dancing/baking/sewing competitions to what he calls ‘augmented reality’ shows such as Made in Chelsea. His approach is understated, gentle, rather… British. (See his chapter on Social Reserve and Decorum… we Brits really don’t get hot under the collar much at all, it seems.) Sometimes, though, I’d like him to be a little less nice, a little more cutting, just for the fun of it.

There are some surprising omissions in Stuff Brits Like. The Call Centre, for example, is an inescapable – and much loathed – fact of Modern Britain. Rhyming slang, too, is curiously absent: it would have made a marvellous addition to a book such as this, and would have proved richly satisfying to American readers.

There are some delightful nuggets of information in the book – useless facts with which you can bore your friends in the pub. Did you know, for example, that the Lyle’s Golden Syrup tin features a picture of a dead lion and a swarm of bees, along with the Biblical quotation ‘Out of the strong came forth sweetness’? A reference, of course, to the Old Testament’s Samson who killed a lion and discovered a nest of bees in the carcass. You’re going to go straight to your store cupboard and search out that crusty old Golden Syrup tin now, aren’t you?

All in all, this is a most enjoyable read. It’s probably not a book to read from cover to cover in one go — it’s more a book for dipping into when you’ve got ten minutes, so you can read and fully savour the writer’s winsome turns of phrase and careful observations. So it’d be a great bedtime table book, or a book for a day when you just need a little cheering up without having to make too much effort.

For another account of Britain and things British from a more American viewpoint, have a look at Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson or The Anglo Files: A Field Guide To The British by Sarah Lyall.

Reviewed by Liz Green

4/5 stars

Via The Book Bag



The Yorkshire Post: Don’t listen to the cynics — why the NHS is a real national treasure

 When Fraser McAlpine began writing a book charting what’s great about Britain, alongside dunking biscuits he knew there was one thing he had to include – the NHS.

To put it bluntly, the only reason there is a National Health Service is because of the Second World War. With families giving up their husbands and sons and homes, sending their children off to live with strangers in the countryside and pulling together to try to fend off the unpleasant attentions of the Germany army, there was no possibility that society would simply go back to the way it was once the fighting had ceased.

Everyone played a part in the war effort, and everyone would continue to play a part in pulling Britain back together. The NHS is not a hallmark of a socialist state; it’s reward for a country that made a supreme effort to unite in order to prevent invasion and then had to keep pulling together once the threat had gone, because too many doors had been blown open. Sometimes literally.

That’s not to say it was welcomed with open arms when it started or that it continues to operate free from criticism now. There will always be people who maintain that nationalised industries breed inefficiency in a way that would never be aceptable to privatised firms and who complain the service is abused by people who won’t take care of themselves.

Moaning about the NHS is definitely a thing Brits like, but that’s basic human nature when presented with something that appears too good to be true. But if the NHS is threatened, that’s when the rows break out, especially when it started to look like private firms had secured NHS contracts to do, in effect a worse job, for the same money. Public money.

And the last few years have seen the heat go up a notch as the media narrative got stuck on austerity and then went looking for spongers to attack. That’s individual spongers from a poor background, you understand, not those private firms.

There again, Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony for the 2012 Olympics in London featured a section devoted to the NHS, placing it alongside beloved children’s characters and the best of British pop music as institutions to be proud of. And that ceremony was the single biggest catalyst for the Brits to take off their sceptical spetacles and get unreservedly excited about themselves, after months of moaning about gridlock, bus lanes and ticket allocation. Had the inclusion of the NHS sounded as a wrong note, this would not have happened.

Yes, there are people who treat it like a particularly frustrating safety harness on the rollercoaster of life, people who have lost loved ones or been treated shabbily by NHS staff at the point of the greatest vulnerability and people who have become enraged by having to wait hours in Accident and Emergency to be seen by medical staff who simply have to keep the conveyor belt moving as fast as is humanly possible. But these criticisms, now matter how forcefully stated or righteously felt, can’t compete with the positives.

By which I mean this: find me a British person who hates the NHS after his or her partner’s life has just been saved; after she has just given brith to her first child, or her third; after he has just been told a beloved relative has come out of a coma or woken from a life-changing operation.

Find me someone who set off for the day in normal shape, had an accident, and came home a month later in an entirely different condition – having spent time being carried aloft by the dedication and diligence of doctors and nurses who are clearly doing the best they can under extraordinarily trying circumstances – and still complains of gross inefficiency and socialist handouts.

I’m not saying those people don’t exist. I’m saying their the ones you may have to wait longest to get a thank-you card from after Christmas.

Fraser McAlpine is the Grimsby-born author of Stuff Brits Like, which is published by Nicholas Brealey, priced £9.99.

From The Yorkshire Post, 5 August 2015.