on 20 January 2000
In this brilliantly timed and executed departure from poetry Simon Armitage has opened up his private world like a wound for all to examine. The result is one of the most precise and poignantly written declarations of Northerness since Lancashire last won the County Championship. In a series of short but descriptive chapters Armitage conjures up a world far removed from the cloth cap and whippet image of Northern England and instead gives us an insight into recording for the BBC, watching Huddersfield Town and commuting across the tops into deepest Oldham. This is a book with a decidedly local humour with plenty of "in" jokes which will soar 747 like over the heads of anyone not born within a 50 mile radius of Marsden. It will infuriate the cognosenti of Camden and Hampstead and I love this book all the more for that fact alone.
on 20 February 2008
I have to confess to being slightly alarmed and very disappointed by some of the Amazon reviews of this book. There is no doubt that Armitage has a great way with both poetry and prose - I have taught his poems at GCSE for several years and have heard him give readings which never fail to amuse and make me chuckle wryly at the vagaries of life. The reason I am concerned is the way that people have depicted life in The North of England - I grew up in Sussex and only moved to Sheffield in 1996 - after over a decade here I can honestly say that I would never move back down South. I encountered far more 'parochialism' as a 'Southerner' and a Grammar school education in Tunbridge Wells left me in no doubt as to the inherent ignorance and small-mindedness of many in the 'Home Counties'.
Armitage depicts the kind of daftness, naivety and sheer buffoonery that is encountered from John O' Groats to Land's End - but he does it through the eyes of an intelligent individual who is utterly at ease with himself and his upbringing. One of the best parts is Simon's recounting of an amateur dramatics staging of 'Camelot' and the all-male cast's sheer enjoyment and unfettered enthusiasm from start to finish. It does help that I know many of the places mentioned - I have family in Marsden too - but even without this I can recommend 'All points North' as a great read and perhaps even an eye-opener for anyone who claims knowledge of life beyond Birmingham.
on 18 November 1999
I had never had heard of this poet/author either, but since my wife is from Huddersfield and I love it up there I had to buy it. It's a wonderful book and I don't think you have to be from the North to appreciate it because I'm not and I loved it. Simon Armitage writes simply - not a criticism - and he engages you in his subject and his love for where he is from. He comes across as a very likeable, self-effacing man. This book would be a great Christmas present ! Buy it !
on 23 June 1999
Simon Armitage has already made a name for himself as a poet. Well-known as presenter of Radio 4's Stanza, and to devotees of Mark Radcliffe's former Radio 1 evening show, his first collection of prose shows himself to be a master of that medium as well.
Taking as his point of reference his home town of Marsden in West Yorkshire, Armitage takes us on an engaging tour of the geography, people and places of his area, and offers us an insight into what it means to be a Yorkshireman. But this is no dusty travelogue. Dusty travelogues of Yorkshire, after all, tend not to include accounts of day-trips to Iceland from Leeds Airport, or of amateur dramatic productions. Let alone meeting John Peel and Teenage Fanclub. And it's a strange travelogue indeed that would describe Richard Whiteley as 'the I Claudius of broadcasting'.
While it contains some fiction ('Jerusalem', you suspect, is influenced as much by The League of Gentlemen as by Alan Bennett), the bulk of this collection is autobiographical, from tales of literary cricket matches to intruding on film sets. It's carried off with humour, and yet compassion. Armitage doesn't point and laugh at his subjects - he just observes. One of the great strengths of this book is that it's up to the reader to decide whether the situations described are amusing, tragic, pitiful, or a mixture of all three. This makes for an extremely engaging read.
So it's difficult to know who wouldn't appreciate 'All Points North'. And if Simon Armitage continues to write collections of prose, poetry, or indeed anything, chances are they'll be every bit as good as this one.
Let's hope he does.
on 20 February 2005
This book is a collection of prose, poems and snatches of news reports capturing the essence of all things northern, more specifically all things Yorkshire.
This is quite a rare kind of book because it includes so many different styles of writing. Also unlike say, Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island or Theroux's 'The Kingdom by the Sea'it is written by a native and allows the reader to make their own interpretation of the text. He does not appear arrogant or aloof, but becomes part of the landscape he describes.
Armitage is a wonderful writer. He writes about a variety of issues from Saturday Night out in Leeds (this chapter is quite superb)to discarded tractor tyres in the moors. He can make even the dull things in life have a kind resonance.
Some things I will always remember with a smile. His sports report when he likens 80's football shorts to 'skin-tight satin knickers'. When he was told there is no need to go outside and watch the total eclipse because 'it is on Channel 66'. Or the man who spent 26 days up a tree to set a new world record when he realised the record was 26 years- 'I did feel a bit of a prat when I heard'.
He can be funny/serious and strikes the right balance. He deals with a lot of issues here, including the homeless and Politics.
There are also pieces on the art of writing as Armitage alludes to his influences. These pieces are really inspiring and anything that encourages poets in this day and age is a good thing.
Armitage comes across as a sound bloke with a wonderful everyman talent. The North? Well, it will always remain a mystery to me.
on 31 May 2016
An open, personalised and often heart warming read at times but most of all I found it very witty and extremely funny. A very good short read for those who love travel literature, especially literature about the wonderful north!
Yorkshire poet Simon Armitage has, with 1998’s All Points North, penned what is a delightful set of anecdotes, painting a picture of his childhood and early working life. There are some typically excruciating moments here (that we can all probably relate to) as the child Armitage goes on holiday with his family, a particularly interesting tale of the poet visiting the film set of Regeneration (a film about the WW1 poets, Sassoon and Owen) and a number of examples of the author’s own poetry. Armitage’s staunch Yorkshire heritage always comes to the fore whenever sport (football – Huddersfield Town, cricket – his home county, of course!) is mentioned, plus the rivalry with neighbours is touched on in a series of episodes entitled Over the Top into Lancashire. This collection is always engaging and never less than amusing – for me, Armitage is more in the ‘chuckling to oneself’ mould rather than (say) Bill Bryson’s periodic ‘loud guffaw’ mould, but the book is none the worse for that.
on 26 December 2003
As a hardened northerner from County Durham, to hear West Yorkshire described as anything other than south was a great surprise to me. Joking apart, the book is absolutely wonderful in places. Not only does it embody a true northern community spirit wonderfully, and recount village stories in a lively and amusing way; but some of the social observation is put in language that almost made me cry it was so beautiful. Often it is little comments such as the section regarding the cricket County Championship and TV coverage of football that is the best. However, by the end of the book it becomes too much a trail following Armitage's life and not enough of the observation on a community it was at the start. This does not stop it having some incredibly funny moments, though - particularly good is his encounter with the shop assistant when trying to photocopy his own work. Overall, a very good book, well worth buying - even goes someway to explaining why Yorkshiremen are so contrary.
on 30 June 2002
Okay, I'll be honest: I HATE the North of England with quite a passion. I lived the first two years of my life in Liverpool and the last fifteen in W Yorkshire. So my whole life i have been up here, passionately hating it. I look forward to going to University in a few months in Cambridge with a fervour. I hate almost everything about where I live. Seriously.
And yet, a couple of years ago, when I first read Simon Armitage's poetry, and even though so much of it is based around...not parochialism (because S.Armitage HAS travelled about, it's just that, bafflingly, he's settled back up here again)...but a (to me) strange love of The North, and that love is something completely alien to me, I couldn't help but get sucked into the language, the subjects and the new way in which Simon Armitage communicates his love of where he lives.
Perhaps it was the silly thrill of reading placenames, even shop names (like Bronx Clothing in Huddersfield, which I walk past every college day), and thinking...I know there. I've looked at that too. I've looked at somewhere that Simon Armitage has looked at. But when he looked he saw something poetic and beautiful, but when I looked I saw something ugly and hardfaced.
Or perhaps it was the dizziness of that I SEE, every day of my life, where the poetry comes from, but I disagree so much with the essence of it. but the stunningly skilful way in which it's written makes me want to read anyway, to disagree.
It's also, maybe (and for me, worryingly!) that I know S.Armitage is completely sincere with all his feelings for this place in which he and I both live. I've met him, several times. He's a lovely man. He IS everything Northern, but minus the ugly, hardfaced, parochialism that is so trademark up here. If everyone from Yorkshire were like Simon Armitage - blunt, amusing, intelligent, creative, friendly - then I'm sure I'd be as enthusiastic about living up here as he is. I've seen him reading his poems and prose. I've seen him read out lines about his love for this place, while we were actually IN this place. The wonderful thing about him is that he means every word of it.
So perhaps that's what makes this book so special to me: I think every positive thing written is the opposite from the truth, but that's probably part of the attraction. But Simon Armitage could write about a WHEELIE BIN and make it sound transcendental. This book is a must: whether you share Simon's thoughs of The North, whether you share mine, or whether you're lucky enough to be well away from here!
on 16 October 2011
Simon Armitage makes you laugh and philosophise at the same time. His visions of the moors, beside his equally incisive observation of people and occasions, portray the obvious, mixed with the underlying subtle. Many situations show the ludicrous juxtaposed with tragic, which is real life. Anyone who has worked with any organisation that employs "facilitators" for "ice-breaking sessions" will revel, as Armitage reveals his all too real professional experiences. It's poetry in plain clothes.