There is, reckons Jonathan Meades, a certain ‘placism’ surrounding Essex. He hardly bothers at all with the county of ‘Towie’, deciding that there’s a more interesting story to be told. Much about Essex reflects a retreat from London. That’s true now, but the tradition goes way back: William Booth offered communal salvation for drunken delinquents and various experiments in alternative living have thrived and faltered under the county’s big, empty skies. Then there’s the architecture – Meades locates a certain outlaw spirit in Essex’s various flirtations with modernism. As a TV presence, Meades remains gloriously difficult to pin down – politically he seems neither left, right nor centre’s neither populist nor deliberately elitist. Instead, he’s singular; the kind of querulous, revelatory eccentric we should cherish.