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on 16 May 2017
A grand read: a sterling record of a magnificent challenge. Packed with social and cultural history effortlessly told.
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VINE VOICEon 11 November 2006
The Humorous Travel Book, a genre fathered by Bill Bryson et al, has grown into something of a monster. Straightforward travel books, it appears, no longer sell like they used to; a dash of humour or a funny twist - pulling a dishwasher around the Hebrides, say - will open up whole new galaxies of readers.

And so I approached The Longest Crawl with trepidation. Would it perform to stereotype with quaint country taverns lining up like suitors at a debutantes' ball to get their name, location and list of amenities in print? Happily, no. Instead it provided me with four hundred or so pages of brilliantly observed detail, painstakingly researched history and geography, a cast of characters for whom the term 'colourful' was invented and a knowledgable and endlessly interesting narrative which held my attention right to the final paragraph. And yes - there was humour, lots of it.

Mr Marchant appears to have approached his trek with the sole intention to inform rather than necessarily impress. Hence we have the no-holds-barred descriptions of a Sunday night in Great Driffield, a heroic pub crawl around Leeds and a search of Glaswegian off licenses for Buckfast Abbey tonic wine ("Buckie") and its partakers. The resulting narratives are as eye opening as they are entertaining.

Great swathes of the Kingdom were bypassed in Marchant's month long journey from the Scillies to the Shetlands (no Blackpool, Newcastle or Southwold) but it is still jaw droppingly impressive that the author drank his way from one tiny island to another without, seemingly, missing any of the detail on the way. We can only assume that he either used a dictaphone and the patience to translate its alcohol-induced contents afterwards or he possesses the sort of memory completely immune to the most severe of brain cell slaying benders.

My hat goes off to Mr Marchant and we can only hope that his liver and his thirst for adventure have not now deserted him as The Longest Crawl 2 should, by now, be in the planning stages. And this time don't forget Southwold!
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on 14 July 2006
Booze may have given us the rolling English road - it's also given us this rollicking good read. Once again Ian Marchant sets off on adventures picaresque around the British Isles; his last book was guided by the railway network, this is driven only by the shortest journey from pub to pub and is consequently a less structured odyssey (but none the worse for that). What's becoming his trademark mix of learned erudition (mostly on alcohol related matters) and the utterly personal makes this another highly compelling, entertaining and - though I sense he'd hate anyone who said it - improving yarn. Should be hung in every pub toilet. The book, that is...
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on 14 August 2006
What a treat - a month-long pub-crawl from the most southerly to the most northerly pub in the British Isles accompanied by the kind of chap you'd be happy to bump into at the end of any bar. Marchant's book is essentially a kind of love-letter to the joys of the English pub. And a funny one at that, with some truly laugh-out-loud moments. He has a great turn-of-phrase and can segue readily betweem moments of extreme humour and more explanitory passages about the process of brewing, say, without loosing the reader's interest.

A must for anyone who's ever enjoyed a shandy or two in their local.
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This book follows part time musician/writer Ian Marchant and his equally middle aged mate/driver/photographer, Perry, from the Scillies to the Shetlands, a month long winding and intrepid pub crawl from the South to the North. Part historical, part personal and part factual it's an alcohol fuelled jamboree bag of a book that drags in parts, informs in others and makes you smile and feel jealous you weren't there too for the remainder. It took me a while to really get into it to be honest, but as our er...heroes warmed to the task so I found myself reading it more and more.

Speaking as a Londoner, I'm afraid to say it got better the further North it went, particularly the Scottish Island and Highland parts. I really wanted to be on one of the numerous ferries enjoying a plate of Calmac lasagne and chips before finding an even more remote pub and enjoying a "half and half" (whisky and ale). The Southern stages were more about box ticking landmark pubs and my heart sank when they approached London and I just knew they were going to Smithfield's Fox and Anchor and the Lamb in Leadenhall market. Could have shown a bit more imagination in a city of thousands of mad, bad and great pubs chaps. Whilst I'm on my high horse, Wetherspoons aren't responsible for all of the UK's problems and where were the notes about the photos ?

Anyway, this book isn't about jolly japes and drunken antics, more about ex-student slightly hippy beer (oops, ale) lovers discovering the pubs, the drinks and the people of the UK. There's plenty of words like "mash tuns" and "sparging" for the Oz and James amongst you, the whisky distillery passages being far more interesting than the brewery trips for some reason. I learnt a lot about single malts and shall put my new-found knowledge to the test this Christmas.

Marchant compares to Bryson or perhaps Pete McCarthy but is not wet yourself funny like the American or as goofy as the late Pete, but he is prepared to name names and bear his soul - his reflections on his less than perfect past make this book good if slightly uncomfortable reading at times. I warmed to the author greatly on reading about his previous life, a man once dragged out of a deep depression by pub quizzes of all things. His musings on blokes, beer, family and pork scratchings (in no particular order) were often insightful and humorous. Most 40+ year olds of the male variety will relate to a lot of this and nod accordingly before taking another slurp. It is just a shame that the Northern most bar (on Unst) was a bit of a let-down but as they say it's the journey not the arrival that counts and this was a long and mostly enjoyable journey.
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This is an extraordinarily well-written book treating an outwardly lighthearted subject with great wit and in great depth. Ian's month long trip from the Scillies to the Shetlands didn't cover hundreds of pubs but his account encapsulates British society. Since I bought this I've dipped into it again and again- it's an object lesson in how to be funny, thought-provoking and moving all at once.

If you wanted to send someone a book that perfectly captures modern Britain, yet celebrates some of its past this would do the trick. Beautiful photographs that wouldn't be out of place in an art gallery are the final deft touch. This deserves to be a classic.
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on 25 September 2006
This book is simply the most enjoyable ramble I have read for a long time. It made me want to pack up and follow his trail across the country. It is a mine of useless information as well as bringing many memories back to life. the pub quiz chapter made me smile as I could see our own team in his writings. I have yet to finish the book , but I already know that I will simply start again as soon as I do. Well done mr Marchant..... Cheers!!
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on 3 August 2017
The most convincing polemic for temperance I have ever come across. Top marks!
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on 12 August 2012
Ian Marchant decided to set off with his mate Perry Venus and document his month-long British pub crawl from the two fartherest apart pubs he could find. Witty, informative and thirst-inducing, this is the authors journey both personal and researched, reflecting an integral part of British Life - the Pub. When I came to England, I was amazed by the role the pub plays in British life, straight out from work, you gather in the pub to moan, cry and laugh at life. A man's local is his paradise.

What I enjoyed: This is a long, slow burning read, perfect for rainy Sunday afternoons (accompanied by a beverage if desired - highly recommended). I loved the sheer enjoyment and whimsy of the author as he meets up with his many friends along the way, but also explores the fantastic history and processes of various pubs, monasteries, breweries and stills around the British countryside. I ran a pub for the first year I was here in England, and witnessed first hand the close relationship that can develop in a friendly local - I met my husband working behind the bar, and one of my (other) favourite regulars even brought in his fiancee to meet me!

The only trouble is: I've now bookedmarked about a dozen places to check out for ourselves. Road trip here we come! It's also not a great commuting read (in printed format) as it's a little large, so this baby lived mostly at home. I've not yet succumbed to an e-reader as I'm a little dubious.

Definately a must-read, great as a travel read, a rainy day read and a slow-burner read, you feel like you are accompanying the author. Marchant is beautifully, chummily written author, and I am going to be on the look out for further works.
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on 29 September 2006
This book is a fascinating combination of travelogue from the trip, cleverly combined with thoughtfully researched asides on drink and pub-related subjects. These are not just the obvious topics like the brewing process but also how pork scratchings are made, the role of monasteries in pub history, hop growing, pub rock and much more.

From his perspective as a "bald, speccy" 47-year-old, the author also poignantly intertwines the narrative with visits to pubs that have intimate connections with his eventful and varied life.

While the landscape of this country has (for the time being) statutory protection, the book makes clear that our culture is inextricably bound up with the pub and the traditional drinks consumed within. The book presents a mixed picture of the health of our national drinking culture - under siege from big business and its witless moron customers.
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