Easton's eye on the quirky British

'A' is for alcohol, 'Q' is for Queen and 'S' is for silly hats.

Easton book

Not the alphabet as learnt by young children, but the alphabet as interpreted by BBC News' Home Editor Mark Easton for his first book.

'I'd never thought of writing a book,' confides Easton, as he prepares for the launch of Britain Etc., on March 1. 'I bumped into somebody at a party who said 'You should write a book', and we had lunch and before I knew it I had agreed to do it.'

There may also have been an element of peer pressure. Easton's two brothers, his sister, father, grandfather and grandmother are all published authors, so last year he dedicated himself to rising before five, creeping downstairs while his wife and children slept, and spending two hours researching and writing.

Dogs define the nation

'I have to say, I really enjoyed it,' he enthuses. 'It's dead quiet, your brain is clear and I just used to sit there and work and work and work. It was also a journey of discovery, I would start with a blank sheet of paper and go from there.'

Britain Etc., as the chapter headings might suggest, is a sideways glance at things we take for granted and our relationships with them. For example, D is for dogs. Easton believes that when you delve into the subject of the British and the dogs they own what you find is an essay on class. 'The sort of person you are, the person you want to be, or the social class you are in or want to be in, is defined by the breed on the end of the lead.'

Start Quote

The person you are, the person you want to be... is defined by the breed on the end of the lead”

End Quote Mark Easton Author, Britain Etc.,

'S', as noted, is for silly hats. 'It's about our need for the irrational in our lives,' he explains. 'It's also about the importance of ritual. We invest certain things with great importance even though it doesn't really make sense. Take the State Opening of Parliament. It could be done with a press release, but we do it with a coach and men walking backwards in tail coats.'

Bite size information for all

This examination of the nation isn't the book that Easton set out to write. His first idea was for something like the content of his BBC blog, informed by his knowledge as Home Editor. 'But my blog is prompted by the news, so I needed a different peg for the essays. My first thought was 52 essays, one for each week of the year prompted by a quotation from a famous British person born in that week.'

It didn't take long for Easton to realise that this premise was going to produce a huge book, and require an enormous amount of research just to find his subjects. So he decided on the alphabet, 'You know, what does 'X' stand for…'*

Easton hopes that readers will dip into the book [after buying it] and find the information in it entertaining and useful. 'I hope there'll be a bit of 'oh, I never thought of it like that,' and 'I didn't know that'.' He says. 'I'm hoping they'll feel they've got a bite sized bit of information they can use in their conversation on these subjects.'

Mark Easton 'It was a journey of discovery' says Mark Easton

Britain Etc., is being published in paperback, as an audiobook and as an e-book. 'My son, who got a Kindle for Christmas, wants to be the first person to upload the e-version.'

Whether Easton will write another is, he says, dependent on how this one sells. 'My ambition was to write a book that people would pay money to read and if I succeed in that it's job done.' he says. 'Although if it also makes people think and gets talked about then I'll be really pleased.'

Britain Etc., by Mark Easton, published by Simon and Schuster March 1, £14.99, Kindle edition £6.99

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