Monday, August 30, 2010

Rewriting history

The moronic left still manages to find new barrels to scrape the bottom of. I can't be bothered to dignify this with commentary, but have a look at this attempt to re-write the history of the second world war.

Marple festival - looking good

The 2010 Marple festival kicks off in a couple of weeks.

The real coup has been securing the Hallé orchestra to perform on Sunday 12th September at Marple’s United Reformed Church with musical director Sir Mark Elder presenting and conducting. He's agreed to do it because of the support from the Peter Cunningham Memorial Fund for the Hallé, which gives money for education work.

The event has grown out of the successful food festival in Marple, including the prestigious Samuel Oldknow Pie Competition, and will have a whole load of events over a fortnight, not just a weekend. Here is some more information:

"Heritage is the theme of the first weekend. St Martin’s Church on Brabyns Brow is a gem of the Arts and Crafts Movement displaying magnificent architecture and embellishments which were designed by the masters including William Morris, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Edward Burne Jones, whilst the organ was built by ‘Father’ Henry Willis, the greatest of 2 the Victorian organ builders. During the fortnight there are talks on the canals, waterways and rise of Victorian Marple, all explaining the heritage of the area.

"For a town with over 25,000 population, Marple is proud to boast its own cinema and
theatre, diverse shops, 6th form college and secondary school, and a thriving cultural sector. It offers a mix of urban and rural, nestling on the edge of the Peak District yet only 12 miles from the bright lights of Manchester.

"The Festival programme is inclusive and promises great variety, all showcasing Marple, with something for all ages. Foreign film, drama, dance, poetry and literary events will appeal to art buffs. Music and song feature strongly with jazz, pop, swing, brass, classical, symphony, opera, folk…plus choirs, barbershop and youth bands at an open air Gig in the Park.

"There is art in the park one Sunday; children’s story times; author’s workshops; comedy and talent nights; painting and photography exhibitions. Then the Festival offers a wonderful array of events for gastronomes…and drinkers – a beerfest, wine tasting, cookery demonstrations and the popular Food and Drink Day on 25th September where local shops and tradespeople display their produce.

“The objective of the Festival is to showcase Marple and bring the community together” comments Chairman David Sumner MBE. “We want residents to realise what talent there is on our doorstep, whilst also raising awareness of the town, its heritage and culture, and what it can offer to a much wider audience.”

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fair play to Arsenal

Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that supporting Blackburn Rovers has its benefits, even when we lose. Seeing Arsenal yesterday was one of them. I thought we gave them a game, we could have grabbed a point, which I would have been thrilled with, but if being in a league like this is to mean anything it is to take defeat on the chin. It sounds defeatist, but yesterday I enjoyed how the game unfolded and it should make certain Rovers players better for the experience. Take Phil Jones, he can tackle, he can pass, but he will have learnt a thing or two about movement and passing from Cesc Fabregas. You also have to appreciate a talent like Theo Walcott. This theory that he lacks a "footballing brain" is idiotic. Even when he's quiet his positioning and looming threat created a headache for Gael Givet.

My eldest lad confessed yesterday that he quite likes Arsenal. I hope it was for an appreciation of that style of football.

I think over the last couple of seasons we've established the fact that our season tickets are value for money and a decent investment, so I won't bother with calculating quite how much value they represent. Yesterday, however, was also a reminder of how lucky we are to be able to watch such great players.

Friday, August 27, 2010

White Powder, Green Light by James Hawes reviewed

I enjoyed James Hawes' earlier book Rancid Aluminum, so did lots of people, including people who turned it into a film. But they didn't just make any film, but "the worst film ever made". In so doing they took Hawes from the status of "hot author of Brit lit" to a co-creator of this disaster. To be fair, I haven't seen it, but it must have hurt. White Powder, Green Light is his sweet revenge on the cocaine consuming tinsel Nero's of Soho and a sharply observed satirical swipe. There's nothing subtle about it, but I liked it for the savage portrayal of the film industry types, but also for some cheap shots at the Welsh media Taffia.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The club I supported as a boy

During an interview with Young Boys of Berne footballer Scott Sutter I gasped at the lack of awareness of many sports news journalists about how footballers think. Sutter, to recap, is a Londoner with a Swiss father who now lives in Switzerland and plays in Berne. He has been said to have uttered the dreaded seven words spoken with such disingenuous opportunism by so many players - "the club I supported as a boy".

The interviewer asked him who his "heroes" were and this gave the game away. He didn't have them, he said, but mentioned that Klinsmann and Ginola were playing at the time. That's it, you see, professional footballers just don't support teams the way you and I do. Their loyalty has to be transferable. Sometimes they get the dream move and the cliches come out - but how many clubs did Robbie Keane and Craig Bellamy support as kids? Sometimes they'll kiss the badge and look ridiculous when six months later they're playing for another team (HMHB reference alert).

But as the question goes deep into childhood, there's something else at work here. A professional footballer will have been playing lots of football from a young age. They are unlikely therefore to have been a regular attender of matches. There are kids who play and kids who watch. I was always a kid who watched. Even those who do get to matches have a different way of watching and appreciating football. If you aspire to play to a serious level you have a more respectful, less partisan outlook. So no, I don't buy the loyalty thing at all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Orwell Matters by Christopher Hitchens reviewed

George Orwell was right about the three great issues of the last century: empire, fascism and communism. So argues Christopher Hitchens in this terrifically well argued and pacey defence of one of the best known British political writers.

It seems remarkable to think that so many left wing activists defended the Soviet Union and were blind to its brutality right up until the collapse of the Berlin Wall. I remember a fellow journalist in 1989 mulling over the demise of a "fascinating experiment" in economic planning.

As a teenager I devoured everything he wrote. We studied 1984 for A Level, but it was Homage to Catalonia and his collections of articles that stirred my youthful spirit. I was always taken with his direct style and his independence of mind. I'm not sure if Hitch is a true heir to Orwell or not, I rather suspect he'd like to be, but this is a fine tribute nonetheless.

Shopping in Marple

One of the strengths of Marple is definitely the number of shops catering for pretty much everything you need - butchers (2), car parts (2), hardware (1), grocers (2), banks (4), delis (3), bakeries (5). There are a few gaps - we could do with a shoe shop, I'm not struck on any of the Chinese takeaways or the men's clothes shops and the only off-licence beyond the supermarkets is a Bargain Booze, but it is a down-to earth suburban location afterall and the British high street is under pressure like never before.

Other than that, if anything, the issue is oversupply. There are four barbers on Stockport Road, two petrol stations and soon to be a third convenience store. This is really poor planning and stretches my faith in the free market.

So, a new Spar opened opposite Rose Hill train station. The guy who runs it seems like a nice bloke. It's what it is - a small Spar. Next door was a large Wine Rack which closed down when Thresher went bust. Now it is to be a convenience store, not a Spar but another branded store selling food, sweets and chocs and milk. I'm not sure who's served best by this, but it must be galling for the people that opened the Spar. The talk on the train tonight is of loyalty to Spar.

A great face for radio

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The BBC Radio Manchester Business Podcast is one of the most downloaded programmes on regional radio. I'm very proud to be part of the team who take it in turns to come on and talk every Monday night. The presenter is Steve Saul, a smashing lad and a first rate broadcaster. He runs the desk flawlessly, is ultra-professional and always manages to judge an item perfectly. Our studio hand signals and eyebrow movements when a phone interview or a guest in the studio is coming to the end of their useful contribution get more subtle as we go on.

The strange thing about the programme, however, is the music. We're interviewing some local business about how he's made a fist of it in the recession before we cut to travel and then on comes some Phil Collins or Coldplay.

Anyway, you can download it here.

Friday, August 20, 2010

They paved paradise

I had a full and busy day in London yesterday. I'm always amazed how things change in any place I go to and London is as fast changing as anywhere I know. I remember playing football in what is now the trendy Spitalfields market. There used to be a street market area behind Bishopsgate, which now looks like a very modern central business district. Shoreditch has come on some, the tube extension towards Stoke Newington is nearly there. The food court outside Euston station is a massive improvement - anyone remember Casey Jones Burgers?

But trendy media Soho was remarkable for how much it hasn't changed in the ten years since I regular stalked its streets. There are still newsagents and coffee shops that have always been there. I saw many of the same names of post-production houses and film labs too, which is a good thing. It's an area that could have gone like anytown, but London's position as a capital on the edge of the new has kept a very sharp and unique identity - where being different isn't just about shops and brands, but the industrial ecology of our capital city.

I like to trumpet the Manchester rhetoric as much as anyone. And I love my adopted home city like nowhere else. But it is always useful to get a sense of perspective and yesterday I did. For energy, ideas and innovation there is nowhere quite like London.

Occupational Hazards by Rory Stewart reviewed

This is a terrific book. A real eye-opener and quite a unique portrayal of Iraqi in the immediate aftermath of the invasion. Rory Stewart was a deputy governor of two provinces and found it hard work. His biggest challenges were the anger and distrust of the locals. The coalition officials never quite got their heads around the fact they weren't greeted as liberators. Despite his well meaning interventions, in the teeth of corruption and hostility, Stewart was never accepted by the people he was trying to help. Were Saddam to have been ousted by a coup, or a civil war, or invasion of the provinces of Maysan and Basra by Iran then there is every possibility the outcome would have been bloodier and nastier. But that is supposition, the fact of the cock-up by the US Army and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is not.

Now a Conservative MP for Penrith, he maintains warmth, humanity and good humour throughout, which he's finding he'll need in politics. My favourite passages were his account of the siege of Nasiriyah and his dealings with the preposterous Italians. But there were lighter moments too, such as the special forces stakeout of a disused factory, frequented by small groups of furtive men in the dead of night. An Al Qaeda bomb factory? No, a secret location for gay sex.

In the week that we've seen US combat troops leaving Iraq and rather tastlessly whooping that they've "brought democracy" to the country, it serves to remind you how much has changed since Stewart's account, but also how little. His major conclusion is that peace can only come to such a troubled land when western forces leave and let Iraqis, for all their baffling differences and bitter rivalries, to get on with it themselves. Let's hope so.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Uncle Jack - never forgotten

For all Blackburn Rovers fans today is the day we remember the passing of the great Jack Walker. It coincides with the early moves of the takeover by a man from India, who now lives in Bahrain and Switzerland who we know nothing about. I've written a business piece about it on the Insider In Focus blog.

But someone on the Rovers Mad site has found the poem written 10 years ago that was read out at Ewood at the following home game.

Uncle Jack's Poem.

I have never written a poem before; I don't see any point in rhyme.
It never appeals to us working class; It's just a waste of time.
Well now is a bit different, I need to tell you how I feel.
And in some small way pay tribute to the Blackburn man of steel.
It's vital not to miss the point; football is not a bit of fun.
It's pride and passion, skill and strength all rolled into one.

It's not about Man Utd, Chelsea and some foreign fancy Dan.
It's Blackburn, Preston, Burnley, that's where it all began.
Where what you see is what you get, but don't show how you feel.
But I'm making my exception for the Blackburn man of steel.
I really need to thank him for the pride he gave us back.
Just for a while we were the best, thanks to Uncle Jack.

Few people have the vision to make a dream come true.
For the beauty of Jack Walker's was - we got an invite too.
Some saw him as a rich old man who bought a winning team
But for me they miss the point; he bought us all our dream.

I think it's maybe true to say it could not last forever
But then again I'm certain that it's better once than never
And even if those winning ways never do come back
They can't take away the memories, thanks to Uncle Jack.

Hendry, Sutton, Batty, Shearer, the names roll of the tongue
But "There's only one Jack Walker" is still the Rovers' song.
So forget the players' agents in their smart Armani suits,
And raise a glass to Uncle Jack, a man who knew his roots.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Youth of St Ives

On a very special day of our holiday in Cornwall we went to St Ives. It was one of those days where a good feeling permeated everything that happened to us. We agreed to meet friends who were staying down that way, and even though it took us the thick end of two hours to get there, everyone was in good spirits.

We also met, by chance, my favourite living artist - Liam Spencer. He wasn't exhibiting in the Tate or anything, or painting by a cliff top, he was heading out to surf with one of his sons. One of the sons featured on Watching Pingu, one of his gorgeous paintings which adorns our home.

After a day of fun and seaside frolics at Gwithian Beach we headed for St Ives. The evening light and warm air made it feel positively Italian. Loads of families meandering the shops and the harbour. We ate posh fish and chips as we walked and fought off the interests of seagulls.

Along the harbour wall about a dozen or more local lads in wetsuits were enjoying high jinks of the highest order: jumping off the lighthouse, the jetty and into the sea below. They were boisterous and hearty and clearly this is what local teenagers did in this part of the world. Some could do somersaults, backflips or just dive bombs, but all seemed so full of adventure and joy.

As the father to a pack of lads of my own I admire such courage and spirit. We liked too that they were friendly and keen to impress our brood with their daring. Capturing these memories is important and I saw in our boys and my friends' daughters a suitable admiration.

I have some good photographs to remember the day, but imagine my surprise when I found a painting of three lads in wetsuits called Jumping off Rocks. I have to have it. The artist? Yep, Liam Spencer.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Football predictions 2010/11

Having poured over the Guardian Guide, FourFourTwo and various websites I've tried to get my head around the new season.

I must say, the Championship looks much more exciting and looks much harder to predict. I can't see Burnley coming back up with a manager like Brian Laws and the Trevolution at Preston is still in its early stages so it will be a mid table season in Lancashire. I fancy Leicester to do well, but as outsiders alongside the likes of Norwich and Coventry. The top two will be Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest.

As for the predictable Premier League I have to at least hope something new and fresh can happen, so here goes.

1. Manchester City
2. Chelsea
3. Manchester United
4. Liverpool
5. Arsenal
6. Tottenham
7. Everton
8. Aston Villa
9. Bolton Wanderers
10. Sunderland
11. Blackburn Rovers
12. Fulham
13. Newcastle United
14. Birmingham City
15. Wolverhampton Wanderers
16. West Bromwich Albion
17. Stoke City
18. West Ham United
19. Wigan Athletic
20. Blackpool

Other predictions: Real Madrid to win the Champions League, Liverpool to win the Channel 5 Thursday night cup.

Manchester United to win the FA Cup and Chelsea to win the Carling Cup.

Morecambe and Accrington Stanley to be mid table, but Stockport County will do well to stay out of the bottom two.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rainy days

I have long subscribed to the optimistic view that there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. Maybe it's to do with being a Mancunian for most of my adult life.

The theory is tested to its limits on a day like today in Cornwall when it has hurled it down. According to the BBC weather the rain would stop before hitting North Devon. Well, it didn't, it got worse. Driving so far in the rain along winding roads made me feel queasy, but still, we found a nice pub with a thatched roof for a spot of lunch. And then stumbled on the Saltrock outlet, which the older lads liked. We then stopped at a bowling alley and arcade, my idea of complete hell. Sadly for the kids plenty of other people had the same idea for a wet weather day and it was full.

The private village of Clovelly

We've joked for a while that Marple is cut off from the world due to a curfew at night caused by the one main route being closed from 7pm.

Heading back from a day out today we saw signs for the village of Clovelly. Optimistically, we thought we might round the day off with a meander around a lovely coastal village just as the rain had receded. We may even have bought a few things for tea later. We didn't, as it would have cost us £23.40 just to enter the village and it was 4.30 in the afternoon. I'm sorry but this is just appalling.

The owners justify this by saying the following:

"It has cobbled streets" - so does Nelson.

"It is famous for its donkeys" - so is Blackpool.

"It is privately owned" - is it? The houses might be, the nasty looking visitor centre may be too, the car park may be as well. But the roads down to it aren't.

A quick search into the background to this found a fairly strident view that this amounts to a rip-off. Like this from Devon Link.

Then there's this from Wikipedia:

Visitors are told that revenues raised from the entrance fee are used to fund the constant maintenance of the village's cottages and cobbled street. However, there are discrepancies to these claims, and indeed to the justification of charging a fee to walk down the village street. The street is owned and maintained by Torridge District Council, therefore the claim that funds from the village are used to maintain the street are questionable. Additionally, critics of the post-1988 management claim that the Clovelly Estate Company has no legal basis in imposing a charge for visitors simply wishing to walk down the street (and not to visit or make use of other facilities such as the museum or film show), because it is a public street owned by the council. Likewise, visitors are stopped from walking down the road to the harbour in order to avoid using the visitor centre and paying for admission. This practice is legally unenforceable as it is a public road and any person may therefore use it free of charge.

So the owners want people to enjoy the village but pay for its upkeep, but they haven't had it protected through the National Trust, which we're members of. Maybe we'll go back for a guerrilla raid tomorrow.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

It's Not What You Think by Chris Evans, reviewed

About ten years ago I read a nasty hatchet job about Chris Evans. My anonymous One Star Amazon review is still there.

But here are ten things I learnt from Evans' own book - It's Not What You Think.

1. If you want to write a BEST SELLING book then write it so it will be accessible to people who don't normally read books. Make it lite, easy, full of celebrity anecdotes and LOTS OF TOP TEN LISTS!!!!

2. He's made his peace with his daughter, who he didn't have anything to do with for most of her life. I was genuinely wondering about that. There have been some withering tabloid splashes about that over the years.

3. He admits he was a bit of a tosser for large periods of his life.

4. The book ends before his marriage to Billie Piper and just as he's about to buy Virgin Radio.

5. In his quest to be a GREAT GUY he doesn't name people who took over from him - Mark and Lard, people who come across badly in anecdotes - Dave Lee Travis, or even old friends.

6. Radio people are slightly nicer than TV people and more technically minded.

7. TV people don't half fanny about. In entertainment TV every effort has to be directed towards making the presenter look brilliant - anything that doesn't is dealt with ruthlessly. You just know he reduced dozens of people to tears.

8. Danny Baker is a genius.

9. Commercial radio has been destroyed by the advertising sales people.

10. Top Ten lists are BRILLIANT!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

What would Jack Walker have wanted? - an open letter to Ahsan Ali Syed

In June I wrote an open and welcoming letter to Saurin Shah, one of the supposed bidders for Blackburn Rovers. Takeover talk is in the air again. This time the bidder is being touted as Ahsan Ali Syed. His investment business confirmed their interest to Insider today. I have a natural suspicion of anyone who blabs before a takeover is complete. And I still have the lingering fear of the Portsmouth scenario.

Here's an open letter to anyone else sniffing round.

Good luck in your efforts to buy our wonderful football club! I just wanted to mention a few things that might not pop up in your commercial due diligence.

Our fans are the future of this club. Their loyal support has kept this club in a special place. To make it work for you, you need to engage with them and help that support grow even more.

They are frustrated at the moment because there haven't been any new signings. The manager is frustrated too. But make sure we sign the right players.

Be patient. Our local talisman, David Dunn, is an injury prone genius. Our goalkeeper was a reject who was written off but has missed out on the World Cup because he plays for an unfashionable club. But they are stars. Our stars. So is our centre half - a teenager from Chorley. They are adored. And Steven N'Zonzi, our player of the year, is a young man plucked from obscurity, who has just signed a new contract.

Our fans are usually right. When Jack Walker owned the club he didn't like a certain type of flash player and blocked some transfers. There are players who just aren't Rovers players, learn about that and treasure it as a core value. El Hadji Diouf should have no place in our club.

The season can seem long and a grind. When we lose at Everton, Man City and Stoke it tests your faith. You will look at these wealthy players who don't seem to be able to perform and despair. But you have to stick with it. Form can dip, the manager can seem negative and grumpy, but at heart he's a good man. He has a good scouting network, he finds gems, like our player of the year. Don't get your head turned by younger managers with fancy methods, something good is building at Rovers. The Academy at Brockhall is a treasure trove. Extend it. Make it the place the best kids want to come to. That's the place where investment is needed.

Blackburn is a multi-racial town, but Rovers supporters are mainly white working class men. This has changed a bit over the years, but don't expect to see much of an affinity with the local Asian population without a long hard effort to win hearts and minds and don't expect them flocking overnight. The current marketing and management team have been focused on shoring up what we have, but with your help greater links with India, with Asian communities and with other sports can expand Rovers as a brand.

You will have seen other owners of football clubs in the Premier League see their dreams shattered because they splash the money and lose it. Rovers have a heart and soul and a family spirit that is very much in touch with the roots of East Lancashire life. But it is just one aspect of our community. Build on that, extend deeper into that, and build the links with your own heritage - it could well yield commercial rewards and enable this club to move further forward.

Be realistic about what that could be. Be modest, be strong, value quality and there is a good chance that in the future there could be a statue of you next to the one of Uncle Jack.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall

"Margaret Attwood's the Handmaid's Tale, meets Cormac McCarthy's The Road. In Cumbria."

That's what I reckoned The Carlhullan Army was trying to be like before I got stuck in. And it's not far off my assessment now I've finished. Set in the future with an oppressive government, food shortages, war, environmental disaster and the forced sterilisation of women, the book is based on a statement from a nameless woman prisoner "Sister" on her experience on a women's commune on a farm in the northern Lake District. And while the world she's escaped from is bleak and oppressive, she thinks Carhullan will offer a freer idyllic release. Obviously in a post-apocalyptic world morality is a sharply subjective concept.

So yes, there's plenty of sisterhood and bonding in Sarah Hall's creditable addition to a steadily growing body of futuristic horror literature. There are lingering accounts of what an unimaginable life could in fact be like. She conveys effectively the power of its charismatic leader Jackie Nixon, and how she manipulates the community she has established (recalling Alex Garland's The Beach). She also builds a picture of how zealotry for an ideal ultimately destroys it.

But much as I enjoyed The Carhullan Army, and much as I stuck with it through its 209 pages, I thought it fell down in two aspects. First, it suffers from the restrictions of an odd structure - seven sections of a statement, which doesn't read like a statement at all, with chunks deliberately missing. And until the very sudden and rushed and utterly unsatisfying ending, the second big failing, it added nothing to the way the story hung together.

Yet another reason for enjoying this book was the location. My mother grew up in Penrith (where the book starts and changed to "Rith") and knows the setting of Carhullan very well - the range of peaks from Penrith to Ambleside which the Romans called High Street.

With a bit of a polish it would make a good TV series (but they've probably been there already with Survivors). It has been made into a Radio 3 play - with some excellent casting.

East of Eden

We first went to the Eden Project in 2006. It was an enjoyable enough day out, but not so good we made a trip back last year. We went yesterday and my first overwleming impression was how much it had grown. The plants were thicker, taller, fuller. There also seemed more things to do that connected kids like ours with its creative, ambitious ethos. Like a dome devoted to building a den out of sticks, rope and fabric.

I looked around in awe at the detail and thought that has gone into this incredible site. Each dome, each nook and each cranny has something to offer and to stimulate young minds. We probably only touched the sides of what the whole experience has to offer.

All the staff seemed delightful as well. Most of the punters were a cross section of the British middle class - we bumped into two families we knew and therefore they were gentle and polite.

Yet there is a massive, massive but coming up here. Firstly, I kept thinking the place is crying out for a nasty piece of attack journalism from the Daily Mail or Daily Express, sneering at the piety of it. Secondly, lovely though it all is, it isn't as commercially aggressive as, say, Legoland, another sprawling theme park of differing hue. Thirdly, and this is the big doubt that gnawed at me, it's a product of a passing era, the age of public sector largesse. European grants, lottery money, Regional Development Agencies and the other pots that its energetic and charismatic founder Tim Smit has plundered and prised open over the last 10 years. Good luck to him, it is a triumph. And long may it survive in these austere new times.

Itching for football, even on holiday

Our attempt to sample a bit of Cornish non-league football came unstuck tonight. To start with, I got the date wrong for Launceston's midweek friendly against Ottery St Mary. I mean, it's not on their website or anything. Bude Town's friendly against Halwill was on though, according to this website. Sadly it was called off. Me and the lads had to settle for chip cones and the Bude brass band in the town square as the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean. Lovely.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Voodoo Histories by David Aaronovitch reviewed

David Aaronovitch is on a hiding to nothing with a book like this, which seeks to explain how conspiracy theories take root. Or as the sub-title rather teasingly hints - how they in fact "shaped modern history".

Part rebuttal of all manner of loony theories, part sociological analysis of how and why certain tales capture widespread imagination when they do. He manages to pull it off because he's a witty and lively writer, but the proximity to such dense and turgid source material make it tougher going than it should be.

The essence of it is summed up when, exhausted, he pauses in the chapter Holy Blood, Holy Grail, Holy Shit, and asks: "Why do we read bad history books that [are badly written as well as being junk] and not buy in anything like the same numbers history books that are often far better written and are far more likely to give us an understanding of who we are and where we came from."