A prequel to the Bev and Carol adventures, this is a fun and funny memoir set in the sixties and seventies, in the market town of Bridgnorth. As a young girl, Bev is not as slender as she wants to be – she likes eating Curly Wurly bars, jam doughnuts and batter bits.
‘Overweight Schoolgirl Poisoned by Lard Overload Slips into Coma’
Against the odds, she gains a place at Bridgnorth Grammar School, where she becomes interested in boys, French and netball (not necessarily in that order). Bev remembers her hometown, her teachers and her first kiss. She takes us to her first Motown disco – a mind-blowing experience of epic proportions. All of this is set against the background of her parents’ divorce, her unconventional family life and her penchant for unhealthy snacks. If you were born in the fifties or sixties, remember pineapple chunks, The Man from U.N.C.L.E and going to the cinema with sixpence in your pocket, you might enjoy Bev’s brand of unsentimental nostalgia and her whimsical style of writing.
I’m partial to the occasional memoir, because, I’ll admit it, I’m nosy and like to peek into someone else’s private life. However I tend to avoid the musings of the rich and famous not least because in this multi media age there’s often not much we don’t already know, and the bits we might want to read are the very things they don’t want to tell us. Consequently I quite like to read about the experiences of people who might otherwise go under the radar. Some ‘ordinary’ people have extra-ordinary lives or they might simply have lives that resonate with our own experiences, but either way they can transport us to somewhere new, or back into our own past.
When I had the chance to read this memoir, I anticipated the latter and I wasn’t disappointed. The author’s youth was in many ways very different to mine. Our family circumstances and experiences were totally different, I lived in a city and went to a comprehensive school, while Bev lived in a small town and went to grammar school. But it was the life experiences and shared cultural memories that struck a chord. From the first day at school, through to the first disco, first boyfriend and first kiss – we’ve all been there. Bev captures those universal memories, a heady mix of fear/dread and excitement that comes with each long anticipated event. Of course the result is often an unexpected disappointment – but that’s life.
Being of the same era as the author, I enjoyed a stroll down memory lane with reminiscences that echoed my own. I’d forgotten the simple excitement of those early school days; the distinct smell of the thick wax crayons that seemed to be unique to the classroom; the first day back with a new pen and notebook; and the days when we did indeed, “make an occassional yet embarrassing trip to the front of the class, where there was a table-mounted, state-of-the-art appliance that performed magic”. Oh yes, the youth of today will never know that joy of merely sharpening a pencil!
The cultural references will also resonate with many, the upside of being ill as it meant Lucozade, the anticipation of Man from U.N.C.L.E. – which girl wasn’t in love with Illya Kuryakin, and discovering the Monkees, or more specifically Davy Jones. Of course they were only the fore-runners, the real damage was done by David Cassidy. No wonder boys proved a bit of a disappointment – they were doomed to failure having to step into those hallowed shoes. When we were not watching telly, we were reading, Enid Blyton and Bunty being our favourites, no doubt accompanied by a Curly Wurly (when did they shrink to the size they are today?)
In short, this memoir is a nostalgic, funny and sensitive look back over the author’s early years which makes an interesting read, that is further heightened by the universality of her experiences. I can happily recommend it, and for anyone with an interest in the 60’s and 70’s, just make sure you’ve got a bar of Caramac nearby for an authentic experience. As I write this, you can buy it on Kindle at the offer price of 99p.
I received an ecopy from the author to enable this review.