So, what to read?

Every so often I’ll read a novel, become engrossed by it, and then read other books by the same author: recent examples being Benjamen Myers and Sebastien Faulks whose books I picked up at random, usually in free book swaps. But I don’t read a lot of fiction. Last week I was reading Ranulph Fiennes autobiography in preparation for going to see him but who knows whether this event will take place now.

Last week I was browsing in a second hand book store in Todmorden and my eye alighted on a book by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. But next to it was a book – How to be a failure and succeed. It was the author’s name that attracted my attention – Sir Ernest Hall and I realised that it had been written by the father of someone I know who I’d met in a creative writing class in Hebden Bridge. I’d been invited to spent Christmas Eve with her family in a wonderful old hall dating from the 17th century. In one room was a grand piano. The book shop was closed and when I went again the following week although the shop was open the window display had changed.

The display in the Todmorden book shop

It’s one of those wonderful old book stores where the assistant sits on a stool surrounded by battered boxes overflowing with books. I explained my mission, talked briefly about ‘the virus’ and its impact on small businesses, and was told that if they could locate it they’d call me. On the very day I finished the Fiennes book Sir Ernest Hall’s book arrived in the post. Quickly scanning the chapters I learned he grew up in the same town as me, Bolton, that his father worked in the same cotton mill as my mum and her dad, Swan Lane Mill, that his father had the same job in that mill as my grandad!

A fridge magnet I bought a few years ago to commemorate my mum working at Swan Lane Mill

Then Ernest went on to study piano at the Northern College of Music in Manchester. I couldn’t believe the parallels between his life and mine and I called his daughter to share the story, and she called him to tell him! Over the following few days as I read about the similarities of his school experiences to mine I became absorbed in the book. He’d mention districts and streets that I knew well as a child.

Coming from a tiny village school in Affetside where there were 30 children in the entire school, divided into two classrooms and entering a large school with over 750 students when I was 11 was so overwhelming for me that i never came to terms with it. Coupled with the fact that for me to get to school each day I had to walk through three fields, usually full of cows, (in my wellies which I then changed for my ‘school shoes’, leaving my wellies in the porch of an obliging lady who lived next to the bus stop) then catch two buses, while many of the girls arrived at school in elegant cars, often driven by nannies.

My mum at work at Swan Lane Mill

I’m looking forward to continuing with the book