Unearthing a treasure with Jo Norcup

The Detectorists, that excellent slice of telly that bought a gentle, thoughtful and very funny slice of bucolic rambling to our screens from 2014 to 2019, was a surprise hit. On paper, you can see why: the story of two shy men who spend their free time wandering around fields digging up ring pulls and old nails doesn’t exactly scream glamour and intrigue. As for humour – well, what com’ can be squeezed from such a sit’?

As anyone wise enough to tune in, gallons. Mackenzie Crook’s writing was light touch and observant in the way the best comedy is: letting the comedy realise itself by shining a light on those idiosyncrasies that make us human: male friendships, obsession, commitment and growing up. Watching would bring laughter, often accompanied with a lump in one’s throat. It is, like much of our country, a bubbling lake of weird and feeling beneath a seemingly trivial soil.

Great. But what has this got to with Beeston? Since it was set in rural Essex, and rarely strayed far from the small village it was set around, it seems not much. So step forward Jo Norcup, and her co-edited new book, Landscapes of the Detectorists (Uniform Books, ISBN 978 1 910010 24)

Jo has been a regular at The Beestonian, writing thoughtful and revelatory pieces on local trees and how they form part of our emotional as well as physical landscape. In this series of essays, she works with her collaborator Innes M Keighren to explore how the show embodied some deeper issues. Jo and her team sweep the ground to dig these up and give them a close examination.

If you’ve read Jo’s pieces in this magazine, you’ll be wanting this. Her essay on gender, expertise and knowledge is fascinating, whetting the appetite for a rewatching of the series, and once again getting lost in the mechanisms of Danbury Metal Detecting Club. Add in a heartfelt foreword by Mackenzie Crook himself, and an afterword by producer Adam Tandy and you have a real treasure. If you’re a fan of the show, buy this book. If you’ve yet to discover the show, buy this book, and you’ll soon be rushing out to find out what the fuss is all about.

MT

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