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My aim in writing “Cheshire Cheese and Camembert” was to take some of the younger characters who appeared in “Blessèd are the Meek and “Twenty-six Nil” and place them in a more modern setting, ie. the early years of the 20th century. The turbulence of the period between 1913 and 1919 made for a vibrant background: the suffragette movement, the Easter Rising in Ireland, the Russian Revolution, not to mention the Great War.

Inevitably the war had the greatest impact on families like that of my narrator, Charlie Knott, but I did not want to turn my novel into a war story. Reports of events in northern France come only from newspaper reports or more graphically from letters from Charlie’s son Alfred.

As Charlie has left Hyde for work by the docks at the eastern end of the Manchester Ship Canal, the town of Hyde is less of a feature than in the previous books. However, perhaps I should have made at least a brief mention of the sacrifice Hydonian men and women made at that time. 710 men of Hyde who gave their lives are commemorated at the cenotaph on Werneth Low, a windblown hill overlooking the town and the great pattern of distant boroughs. It is one of my favourite places in the world.

  • Writer's pictureBrent

Werneth Low

I have just finished reading Stuart Maconie’s The Pie at Night, a companion piece to the much loved Pies and Prejudice. The new book offers a look at how folk in the north of England spend their leisure time, mainly after dark, and is a nicely written, breezy series of essays which entertain and inform in equal measure. To a northern reader it reinforces a sense of worth, to a southerner I can imagine it comes across as a little self-congratulatory in parts. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, as Mr Maconie references a myriad of places I know well and not only does he put them in a historical context, he brings them vividly to life in the present day (or night).

He had me in line one, page one: Stalybridge (not Shillingstone!) Station. He had me in the first paragraph of chapter 7: Hyde United and the list of Northern Premier League teams Wigan Athletic played against in the early 1970s. I saw them all, and many under the brand new floodlights at Ewen Fields. But mostly he had me late in chapter 8: admiring the view from the cenotaph on Werneth Low (“the finest war memorial in Britain”, according to the writer), a mile or so from the bit of Hyde in which I spent the first eighteen years of my life.


It’s the first time I have ever seen its name in a book of this kind, and he beat me to it: I daydream that one of these days a collection of my short stories will be published which will include Just the Way it was / Memorial, written in 2012, a dialogue between two women set on top of the (unnamed) Low. The view I describe is my interpretation of the similar picture painted by Mr Maconie.

Meanwhile I have recently completed the new draft of Bailing Out, a revised, extended, improved (I hope) version of the story I originally wrote in 2011/12. It is currently going through the proof-reading and editing process. Watch this space.

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My aim in writing “Cheshire Cheese and Camembert” was to take some of the younger characters who appeared in “Blessèd are the Meek and “Twenty-six Nil” and place them in a more modern setting, ie. the

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