From the Introduction:
…Though much is taken, much abides. And although this book is something of an elegy, it is also a celebration of the remarkable and continuing distinctiveness of every part of England. It is the product of a three-year journey – to be more exact, a series of journeys, since real life did not cease – through thirty-nine counties and one capital: an average of just over one a month.
To others, my wanderings appeared unexotic. Once I sent a friend an email saying ‘Am in Grimsby.’ ‘Bloody hell,’ he replied. ‘You’re like some third-rate Henry Kissinger – couldn’t you have said you were in Rio?’ Another time I really was going abroad, to Crete with the family. But obviously part of my brain refused to believe it. So somehow I managed to start a message to a colleague with the words ‘Just off for a week in Crewe’.
As the project continued, people would ask me if I had a favourite county. But I soon ceased to answer. Since no one else seemed to cherish the counties, I found myself acquiring a mother’s fierce protectiveness. These were my forty children. Some had become gratifyingly more famous of late, like pushy Essex and tarty Cheshire, even though certain aspects of their celebrity might cause a little maternal concern; some found it ever harder to assert themselves and make their way in the world, so they needed my care even more; some were frankly exasperating. But I never had a dull day. And I never met a county I didn’t love.