Anne B

Anne B

Anne was born in the north of Sheffield (Wadsley to Fir Vale) on 5 August 1944.

She is being interviewed by Sue Roe. 

SR: Did anyone read to you when you were young?

AB: Not that I remember but I am sure they must have done.

SR: What’s your first recollection of books when you were a child?

AB: I can’t remember reading much at home in my early years or even looking at books. I am sure I had them, [pause], I don’t really remember much about books at all until I got to school.

SR: So when you say school, do you mean primary school?

AB: Well primary, infant school, yes.

SR: Infant school?

AB: Yes.

SR: What sort of books did you come across then?

AB: I can’t remember. I just can’t remember at all, nothing about that. I only know that I was very good at reading by the time I was seven. I was way ahead.

SR: Do you know any reason for that?

AB: I just loved reading I think.

SR: So you read a lot?

AB: Well I must have done. I can’t really remember much until after I was seven.

SR: OK and what sort of books do you remember from then onwards?

AB: I honestly don’t know. I presume it was just the school reading books, [pause], I can’t even remember if there was a library there.

SR: That in the school?

AB: In the school, that we could borrow from.

SR: Which school was it?

AB: It was Firs Hill.

SR: Firs Hill Primary School?

AB: Mmm.

SR: And as you got older what’s the sort of book that you actually do remember reading?

AB :For the first time. I know I was always into fairy stories but I can’t actually remember a specific book but I knew all my fairy stories, all my nursery rhymes, which I have passed on to all my own children and [inaudible]

SR: Were there books at home?.

AB: Oh yes I am sure there were but I’ve just no recollection of them.

SR: Did you ever see your parents reading?

AB: No. Yes! Dad. Dad used to read all the time when he wasn’t at work. Mum has never been a reader.

SR: What sort of things did your dad read?

AB: War books. [chuckles]

SR: You don’t remember any authors?

AB: Not really. My husband might because he inherited a lot when dad died.

SR: When you went to secondary school, which secondary school did you go to?

AB: Marlcliffe.

SR: Marlcliffe. Do you remember any books from there that you read or from the time you were at secondary school?

AB: Well yeah. That was when I really star…I mean I started to…people must have started buying me books that I remember. I was well into Enid Blyton at a fairly young age and then as I got older I sort of went more on to the classics. I remember reading The Children of the New Forest when I was about 13 and that became one of my top favourites. I read that over and over and over again, [pause], but I was well into the, what do you call them? School, boarding school type books. You know all that sort of thing.

SR: The Four Marys.

AB: Yeah and I owned them all, you know. I’d got loads and loads of books, loads of them, oh but I stayed with that sort of level. I read Dickens, I read Jane Eyre they would top as my favourites I think, over and over again. I never really got into Jane Austen although I wanted to, I just couldn’t stick it.

SR: Where did you get your books from? You said you owned a lot.

AB: The Enid Blyton type stuff and lots of other stuff, the comic-y type books, probably step up from comics, were bought for me by the family. None of my family were readers really but as I was growing up I would spend all my spare cash on books. You see I was never encouraged to read what you might call good literature. It wasn’t until I got into the sixth form that I started reading decent books.

SR: When you said you read Dickens, Brontes, Jane Eyre – do you remember how old you were when you first came across those?

AB: I would be in my early teens I would think.

SR: So would you say, what were the first books you read that made you feel you were reading grown up books?

AB: Well those, those ones.

SR: Those.

AB: That sort of thing.

SR: The sort of classics?

AB: Yes, the classics, yes. I can remember reading…is it, you remember the Greek heroes, the Greek heroes, The Odyssey or the other one…

SR: Iliad?

AB: One of the others.

SR: Oh yes, about Odysseus?

AB: Yes and all those. I read all those.

SR: About the Greek myths. Why did you like those?

AB: I don’t know. I think it is the sense of adventure isn’t it? Being transported away from real life.

SR: So you say the first sort of really grown up books you were reading in your early teens, like the classics, Jane Eyre.

AB: Yeah.

SR: Did you read any other Charlotte Bronte, not Charlotte Bronte, yes it is Charlotte Bronte?

AB: Tell me what they were.

SR: Villette. [Inaudible]

AB: What was that?

SR: Villette.

AB: No I never read that.

SR: Did you read any other Dickens?

AB: Eventually, yes but I mean we’ve got them all up there, can’t remember what they all are now. I can’t read them now because the print is so small.

SR: Oh yes, it is isn’t it.

AB: I can’t remember what they are now but no, but I’ve never been …..[pause]. Jane Eyre, David Copperfield were the ones I read the most frequently. I think I’ve become familiar with the others mostly through TV.

SR: TV dramas?

AB: Yeah. I think I read Pride and Prejudice at some point.

SR: Jane Austen.

AB: Yeah. No, not really.

SR: When you say your family bought you books and you bought them yourself as well and sometimes presumably you read them at school.

AB: Yes, yes.

SR: Any particular ones that you remember from school.

AB: No. Not really, none that had any great impression on me.

SR: Did you go to the library?

AB: Yes.

SR: Which one?

AB: From quite an early age I used to go down to the children’s library.

SR: Can you remember how young you were when you joined?

AB: Well I don’t ever remember going with an adult so I bet I was, sort of, 8 or 9 by then because you wandered around on your own a lot younger in those days didn’t you? So I would guess then.

SR: Yes, you’d walk there?

AB: I’d walk there, yeah.

SR: Did you choose them yourself or did anybody help you choose?

AB: Oh no, I’d choose my own.

SR:  When people bought you stuff, did you ask them for particular titles or did they just…?

AB: The Chalet books in my early teens were my passion and I owned practically every single one at some point. I’ve still got a lot of them up in the loft. I remember asking people for specific titles of those.

SR: In the full range?

AB: Yes but other than those, no, I tended to choose my own.

SR: You said you read nearly all of those Chalet books, why do you think they made such an impression on you?

AB: I think because it were abroad.

SR: Yes.

AB: And also, I still do this, I like serials and you saw the development of the girls as they grew older.

SR: That appealed to you. And why did you read classics like Dickens?

AB: I don’t know, because I think at that age you are not aware that they are different. They are just books aren’t they? I just read anything I could get my hands on.

SR: Where did you read? Did you read in your bedroom?

AB: Downstairs, anywhere.

SR: As you got older, what books did you really like? As you got older?

AB: What are you talking about as older?

SR: Late teens or twenties?

AB: I read what you’d call children’s books right up to going into the sixth form. When I was 15 I moved across to City Grammar, for the sixth form, and that is when I became friendly with a girl who was doing literature and so was very much more into proper books [chuckles], adult books. She started taking me to the Central Library and I actually started to read grown-up novels. I got into Jean Plaidy, oh was that then? Yes, I think I did start with Jean Plaidy. Yes, I was doing history and I remember we were recommended it for the period, we were doing the Tudors. So I got into Jean Plaidy. I was also doing RE and so I started to read things like The Robe. I can’t remember what the others were but it started with things like that.

SR: Like Quo Vadis?

AB: Yeah, yeah. They were nearly always linked with whatever subject I was doing at school, at first and then when I got to training college, you know, we did literature then as part of the course. We were told we could do our essays on any aspect of literature and I couldn’t stand poetry at that time. So I tended to stick with novels and I wrote whatshisname Waugh?

SR: Evelyn Waugh?

AB: Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, he was a big favourite. Mmm, Oh I…[inaudible]

SR: Somerset Maugham?

AB: No. Oh gosh. Lord of the Flies! A lot of children’s things as I was training to be a teacher. A lot of them were children’s stories. I also got into the Cornish writer.

SR: [Inaudible]?

AB: No, a lady.

SR: Daphne du Maurier?

AB: Yeah, Daphne du Maurier. I read Rebecca and [inaudible] have I got the right author?

SR: Yes. When you say you started reading when you went into the sixth form and you read ones that were linked to your subjects initially, did you get any books from elsewhere apart from the library?

AB: Not that I recall. I probably did but I don’t recall. I mean we had the school…no, I didn’t use the school library, it was all subject based. I don’t recall ever going elsewhere.

SR: You did use the Central Library?

AB: Oh a lot. I used to go every week, yes. It was a way of spending your dinner hour with no playground.

SR: Did anybody encourage you to read?

AB: They didn’t need to. Apart from this friend. They didn’t need to because I just loved reading. I still do but my eyes let me down now.

SR: Did you read together, you and your mate?

AB: Not really, no. She was doing Chaucer and Shakespeare and all that, which was way beyond me. I wasn’t interested.

SR: Did anyone ever make you feel that reading was a waste of time?

AB: Oh no!

SR: Your parents, your mother, I remember you said, didn’t read very much.

AB: No, they were too busy, they ran a business. She has got time now, she’s never formed the habit so she sits there and doesn’t read.

SR: But she didn’t stop…

AB: But she didn’t stop…oh no, I mean she was an intelligent person, she knew the value of reading, she just didn’t do it.

SR: …have the time. Were you ever made to feel embarrassed about what you read or guilty about reading?

AB: No. Only when I came across the L C, D H Lawrence.

SR: Oh yes.

AB: I found my dad reading surreptitiously, which was totally…I mean it was when it was all in the papers about the …[laughing] I remember he pushed it under the pile of newspapers in the cupboard and I found it one day and I started doing the same thing and reading it surreptitiously. There was always a half hour part of the day, when I got in from school before they came back from work,  that I’d got to myself and I used to read it. I worked my way through it. That was the only time and I knew I shouldn’t be doing it so I never let on. I don’t think my mother knows today that I ever read it.

SR: Perhaps your father didn’t think he ought to be doing it either!

AB: Probably not, he probably kept it out of sight from me.

SR: So you never felt embarrassed about what you read apart from that one?

AB: No, yes that was just a naughty thing.

SR: How old were you then?

AB: Well it was when it was all in the papers, early sixties.

SR: Oh yes, the trial.

AB: The trial, that was why everybody read it! Everybody knew about it. I did some more D H Lawrence as well.

SR: Did you enjoy them?

AB: Not particularly. I read them but I wouldn’t say I’d want to read them again.

SR: Did you ever read anything because you thought it was good for you? That it would improve you?

AB: Only because I was told to from college or something like that.

SR: So like it was a classic or it was highbrow sort of thing.

AB: I mean probably Kath would have, when I was at school, Kath would have probably recommended a book.

SR: Is this your friend?

AB: Yeah, she would have recommended things to me. I don’t really remember her doing it but I can remember us talking about books and she still knows that she was the one that introduced me to adult literature. I have often told her that. I can remember us sitting, there was her and another girl, and we used to sit in a huddle and we’d talk about things like that. Perhaps in no depth but I’d be recommended to look at something.

SR: Did you ever feel that you were doing it to improve yourself?

AB: Just because I enjoyed it. I think I had grown out of children’s books.

SR: You were ready for something a bit more demanding?

AB: Yeah ready for something else.

SR: Were there any books that you read when you were younger, that you read with pleasure, that you wouldn’t dream of reading again now as an adult?

AB: Probably Children of the New Forest.  I did try to actually, a few years ago and I thought, “What did I ever see in this?” That is the only one that springs to mind. Obviously all the kids’ stuff although a lot of that I have since read because I became a primary school teacher and I read some of it to the children that I taught.

SR: What about the Chalet books, would you read those again?

AB: No I don’t think so. Only out of curiosity; it wouldn’t be because I wanted to.

SR: Why would you not revisit them as it were?

AB: Well I haven’t time for a start!

SR: Do you feel you have outgrown them?

AB: Oh yes! Way, way outgrown.

SR: Can I show you some books now? [Refers to a list of books brought by the interviewer] When you said you bought your own books where did you go to buy them?

AB: Probably any of the big shops in town but the one I remember using most is Andrews. The back of the City Hall.

SR: West Street.

AB:      Yes. No longer there. I remember they had huge floor to ceiling bookshelves, you couldn’t even reach the top ones.

SR: Did you go to any other book sellers that you remember?

AB: Not that I recall. I can’t even remember if W H Smiths was there then.

SR: Probably not. It was Davy’s café on the precinct.

AB: I remember Davy’s yes. I mean I probably did but that is the one that I recall.

SR: Did you get any second hand books?

AB: I wouldn’t have been allowed to read anything like that. I do now.

SR: Your parents wouldn’t have approved?

AB: Well no, we were in the food business and everything had to be super clean.

SR: Oh I see so you never know where they’ve been.

Did Marlcliffe have a school library?

AB: I can’t remember that being down at [inaudible] school.

SR: It was an intermediate school?

AB: I went to the intermediate school; we did have a library but it was very small. It were only about twice the size of this room and the only books I can remember we were allowed to borrow was when I did literature. I think it was the second or third year and this teacher was particularly inspirational and she really did encourage us to read but it was part of the course as well and I remember she had one of those big, wooden school cupboards. It was full of books which were allowed to go and choose from which I used to love to do.

SR:       Choose just for the lesson or to take home?

AB:      To take home. It would be part of your homework. Read it and then you had to appraise it.

SR:       Do you remember any of those books?

AB:      No. I can remember I did read a lot of them.

[AB:  talks to grandchild who is in the room. “Are you going? Can I have a kiss! Have you learnt anything, listening?” Then conversation continues about posting a letter.]

SR: We were saying you didn’t use the library?

AB: We did use it a little bit but I can only remember going a handful of times.

SR: Was that at Marlcliffe or at City?

AB: That was at Marlcliffe. City Grammar I don’t remember having…oh yes it did have a library but it was huge, a very shiny big oak table that we all had to sit round in our free period.

SR: When were you at City?

AB: Well I left school, I would have been 17 so that makes it about 1961.

SR: So it was still down on Leopold Street?

AB: Yes.

SR: The benefit was that was close to the library.

AB: It was the library nearby.

SR: Do any of these ring a bell? [Refers to the list of novels.] And you say “Ah, well I’ve read those.” Any of this sort of realist fiction?

AB: I think I did read some Somerset Maugham. I read J B Priestley, oh I read loads of Nevil Shute.

SR: What J B Priestley did you read?

AB: I don’t know.

SR: Good Companions? That is the only one I remember, and Angel, I think he wrote.

AB: Once I have read something I put it out of my mind.

SR: Nevil Shute?

AB: I read loads of Nevil Shute.

SR: What sort of titles?

AB: Oh gosh. What’s the one where he goes to Australia?

SR: A Town Called Alice.

AB: I’ve read that one.

SR: On the Beach?

AB: Lots of times, On the Beach, yes and I’ve read one or two others but none of them were as memorable as those two. Alan Sillitoe I read quite a bit of him in the sixties. He was the kitchen sink dramas wasn’t he?

SR: Yes.

AB: H G Wells, I’ve read a bit of him. Journey to the …

SR: Journey to the Centre of the Earth?

AB: Yes, that one. Mary Webb? Now that…

SR: Precious Bane?

AB: That name is familiar but I can’t remember.

SR: And historical novels?

AB: Georgette Heyer, yes, I read  a lot of those.

SR: Why did you like historical novels?

AB:Well I’ve always liked history. I still do and I remember being recommended to read Jean Plaidy when I was in sixth form. I was doing A level history you see.

SR: The Tudors?

AB: Yes and we were doing the Tudors and European history as well.

SR: And Georgette Heyer is more sort of eighteenth century?

AB: Yeah, I think I picked up on her as a sort of holiday read.

SR: Have you read any Anya Seton?

AB: Not that I am aware of.

SR: Any adventures?

AB: You are coming on to stuff I have read while I have been an adult rather than as a child.

SR: Well we are talking up to between ’45 and ’65. Would that be?

AB: You are probably going beyond that for me. I’ve read loads of them… [inaudible].

SR: Adventures?

AB: Yeah, there was series where he had Roger and his heroine. He was always after Georgina. There was a series of about six of eight books and I think I read all those.

SR: You like series don’t you?

AB: I seem to, yeah. If I read one that I like, I like to follow it through.

SR:  Did you read any Rider Haggard?

AB: I’ve read Jack London. I’ve read some of Victor Hugo. Rider Haggard, now what has he written?

SR: King Solomon’s Mines

AB: Oh I’ve read that. I’ve read Richard Hughes because I have read The High Wind in Jamaica. That was one of my entry books for college so that would have been in the sixties.

SR: John Buchan?

AB: I‘ve read some of the Tarzan books but only because there was nothing else to read at the time. I’ve read John Buchan but I can’t remember what.

SR: The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle?

AB: I think I’ve read The Thirty-Nine Steps.

SR: You like adventure stories?

AB: Probably, yes.

SR: Thrillers? Do you read any thrillers?

AB: No. Well I suppose I do because I have read loads of Graham Greene.

SR: Some of those aren’t thrillers.

AB: No.

SR: Do you remember any Graham Greene?

AB: I haven’t read any for years. They were mostly when I was at college in the sixties.

SR: [Inaudible]…in phases. Our Man in Havana?

AB: Yeah, I read that. You name me the books and I will tell you if I have read them!

SR: The Quiet American?

AB: I think I read that one.

SR: The Heart of the Matter?

AB: Yeah.

SR: So you read quite a few Graham Greene? I can’t think of any more.

AB: Yeah. I think I must have read half a dozen.

SR: Of Graham Greene?

AB: Yeah.

SR: And did you like them?

AB: I must have done, yes. I remember writing a couple of essays on them.

SR: What about crime fiction? Did you have an interest in crime fiction like Agatha Christie or anyone like that?

AB: No, I never bothered with that. Dorothy Sayers, I’ve read one or two of hers.

SR: Peter Wimsey?

AB: Yes I think that she’s written a religious novel and I can’t remember which one it was but I’ve read that.

SR: Oh, because you did RE A level?

AB: Yeah. I did RE A. I trained as an RE teacher you see but I can’t remember.

SR: Any funny books?

AB: I’ve read one or two bits and bobs.

SR: Cold Comfort Farm, Don Camillo books?

AB: I think I’ve read some Chesterton.

SR: Father Brown books?

AB: No. I don’t know what I’ve read but I’ve read some of his stuff.

SR: Did you read P G  Wodehouse?

AB: I’ve had a go at one or two of his but I could never get on with them.

SR: They don’t do it for you?

AB: No.

SR: Have you heard of Mazo de la Roche? I’ve not come across him at all.

AB: I don’t think so, no.

SR: Any romance? Do you like romance?

AB: Yeah. That is what I tend to go for now. You don’t have to think.

SR: Are you a Mills and Boon person?

AB: No. Definitely not. What I like at the moment, when I can get hold of them, are these … [inaudible – talks as she walks away from the microphone to the bookshelf] …read all the…

SR: Ah yes. Sort of confessional.

AB: Yes, she’s our age but she was in the sixties. The one that I really like but I can only read at intervals because they are so intense, Jodi Picoult.

SR: Oh yes. I’ve heard of her.

AB: Yes. I really like her. I like the way she writes. I tried to get on with Danielle Steel but I don’t like her.

SR: Catherine Cookson?

AB: I’ve read a lot of Catherine Cookson, again, a holiday read.

SR: You know you said shocking books, well I said shocking books like D H Lawrence, that is what you were talking about? Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

AB: Yes. I didn’t want to say it in front of them! [her grandchildren]

SR: No, no, I gathered that. Any of the others?

AB: I’ve read The Blue Lagoon. I’ve seen the film and then I read the book. Now whether it is the same one I don’t know.

SR: The Blue Lagoon?

AB: It’s where these two children are cast on a desert island, first of all with a chap that teaches them how to live. They are very young and then they grow up and you see them developing. They have a child.

SR: And the relationship there. So that probably would be a quite shocking book for that period I think.

AB: It certainly doesn’t come over like that in a film.

SR: No. [inaudible comment]

AB: No, no, I wouldn’t read stuff like that.

SR: But you’ve read Lady Chatterley’s Lover and how old were you then? About 17?

AB: I‘d be about 14, 15.

SR: And how did it strike you when you’d read it?

AB: I didn’t know what the fuss was about for most of it.

SR: Were you shocked?

AB: Oh yeah because I was totally innocent in those days.

SR: And you read Dickens in the period we are talking about?

AB: Hmm and I’ve read some Conrad and I can’t remember what.

SR: Heart of Darkness, Nostromo?

AB: Mmm.

SR: Any of these [inaudible]?

AB: I’ve read Lucky Jim. I can’t remember what it’s about though. Catherine Cookson. I think I’ve read one or two of his.

SR: Darling Buds of May? That’s one.

AB: Yes but that wouldn’t be what I’d read. I’ve read Christopher Isherwood. I think I have still got one of his on the shelf.

SR: That in Berlin?

AB: It rings a bell but I’m not sure. Nevil Shute I’ve mentioned. George Orwell, I’ve read Animal Farm.

SR: You’ve read Animal Farm. What about the other one, 1984?

AB: Yes. Oh yes. That was a college one.

SR: When did you read those?

AB: 1984 was at college. Animal Farm was probably about the same time. George Bernard Shaw, I’m not aware I’ve read that.

SR: More a playwright.

AB: Yeah, I didn’t really read plays.

I think I’ve read something of Waugh. That rings a bell.

SR: Virginia Woolf?

AB: Not that I recall.

SR: And science fiction, you said a couple of H G Wells?

AB: H G Wells, yes. I went through a phase of liking science fiction. It didn’t last for long.

SR: John Wyndham?

AB: Triffids.

SR: The Day of the Triffids?

AB: Yes.

SR: You said when you went to college you were allowed quite a lot of freedom to read what you wanted and write your essays. How did you go about that? Did you have any system for it?

AB: Just because I enjoyed reading, I read all the time…[someone enters the room and domestic discussion takes place]…Ok love, see you.

SR:       I was just saying how did you choose your books for your essays?

AB:      I don’t know. I just read anything I could get my hands on basically. If something grabbed me then I would write about it.

SR:       Where were you at college?

AB:      When?

SR:      Where?

AB:      At Leeds.

SR:      At Leeds.

AB:     Training college.

SR:      And there were plenty of facilities there.

AB:      There must have been. Yeah, I don’t recall using the library there particularly. I think I bought my books or we borrowed from each other. Again I had a friend who was very much into literature as an English student, that was her subject. She sort of helped me with a lot of stuff.

SR: And you continued this reading habit?

AB: I’ve always read. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read.

SR: And when you had your family did it alter?

AB: Oh no because I read to them. I used to have them on my knee as tiny babies and read from books. Their books, not my books. Yes.

SR: Did you find working and with a family, did you have less time for your own reading?

AB: Yes.

SR: Were you still able to?

AB: I think I did a bit but nothing like I would have liked to have done. It has really come back since the girls have grown up and left home, well grown up. Now I’m retired I read a lot.

SR: Would you say that there are any ways in which reading changed your life at all?

AB: I don’t know because I don’t know what it would be like if I didn’t read, do I? I was always very shy, I didn’t mix well so I suppose reading was something to fall back on. I was never a typical sixties teenager either because mum and dad kept very tight restrictions on me. The only social life was Guides so I suppose reading was something to do at home.

SR: Escape into?

AB: Probably, yeah.

SR: Do you think it helped you because you went from Marlcliffe in to the sixth form? Do you think reading was part of that?

AB: How do you mean?

SR: Did it help you, the reading when you moved?

AB: Oh I moved because I wanted to do A levels. I didn’t want to go out to work, I wasn’t mature enough to go to work and everybody said, “You’d make a good teacher” so I just believed in them and got on with it.

SR: And went to City?

AB: And went to City to get A levels and I suppose, yes, in a way because I don’t know how I would have gone without this friend Kath helping. She sort of drew me in and helped me with other books and I wouldn’t have got that help at home. So probably that would make a difference.

SR: With you getting your A levels and going on to teacher training?

AB: Yes. Well no, just for reading for its own sake.

SR: For its own sake?

AB: Oh yeah.

SR: It’s a lifelong love of reading?

AB: Yeah, I have always loved reading.

SR: And you say you have passed that on to your children?

AB: My eldest daughter seems to read a lot. The younger one, who is the parent of those two, has never been a big reader, even growing up and now she doesn’t have time. She’s child-minding when she is not bringing her own up. It’s hard work.

SR: I mean was there ever any pressure at home for you when you were at home to be getting on with housework or doing stuff instead of reading?

AB: No, no.

SR: Not helping out at home?

AB: I did help out at home but [inaudible].

SR: But you managed to fit in your reading as well?

AB: Oh yes. I wasn’t a big scholar. I sort of did what I had to do and that was it.

SR: Have you got a favourite book from that period? The sixties, the Chalet series?

AB: Oh no I was out of that by the time…mm…no, I can’t really remember. I don’t tend to latch on to books, more authors mainly.

SR: And their works?

AB: I mean the…what’s his name? The ones I was telling you about, Roger and Georgina?

SR: Dennis Wheatley.

AB: Yeah. I really enjoyed his books when I was in my teens and I sort of tried to read lots of them and this series of them.

SR: So that’s what you identified, rather than one particular book, it is a particular author?

AB: Yeah. It’s authors rather than books. Once I find a book that I like, I think presumably his other books will be in a similar vein.

SR: Were you ever in a book club or anything like that, like Readers’ Digest or anything like that?

AB: When we first got married we joined one of these book clubs and we were in it for about eighteen months. We got loads of books and most are in the loft now. They weren’t really that good. We did and then decided we could spend our money on better things.

SR: Can I ask you some biographical details and fill in any gaps just to make sure we have got all the details we need?

Can you just repeat to me when you were born?

AB: 5.8.44

SR: 5.8.44. And where were you born? You were born in Sheffield?

AB: I was born in Sheffield.

SR: At home?

AB: At Beauchief Nursing Home.

SR: Oh yes?

AB: Me mum went private. It’s a story now.

SR: Oh dear.

AB: Apparently the doctor hit the ceiling when she told him where she was going but never told her why. She had me and had the most horrible experience and it was about a month after she had come home with me that the nursing home was closed down because of rats. Apparently the rats had actually eaten a baby.

SR: It’s just as well your mother didn’t know actually! How awful.

How did the family come to be in Sheffield? Your parents?

AB: My generation?

SR: Your parents?

AB: Mmm, mum had lived here all her life and her mother and father had come to Sheffield when they got married in their twenties and they stayed in this area and her father built up the family business, bakery business. My father had lived his early life in Australia. They emigrated out there, it wasn’t successful, came back when he was [13 or 30 inaudible] and came to work in the business and then married the boss’s daughter.

SR: And that was local?

AB: That was down in Hillsborough. Not very far from here, about half a mile.

SR: What was the business?

AB: It was a baker’s and confectioners.

SR: Not Dora Webster?

AB: No they were our big rival! No we were much better than them, high class [in posh voice and laughing].

SR: And you’ve since childhood lived in this area?

AB: Yeah. Well, mum and dad, when they first got married, they went to Fir Vale. Dad was away in the war and mum was burgled not long after I was born and so she got nervous obviously and she came back to live at her mum’s with me, at Wadsley. They were down on Crofton Avenue We more or less stayed with them until dad was demobbed.

SR: That’s the next question. How did World War Two affect your family? You were born in 1944.

AB: 1944, the end of the war.

SR: And your father was in the forces?

AB: Dad was in the forces, he went in more or less straight away. He lied about his age so he got in at 17, 16 or 17.

SR: What did he do?

AB: He was in the catering corps.

SR: In the army?

AB: Yeah. He was in D-Day but he wasn’t sent over there until the day 4. He took them their first square meal, set up the kitchens on the beaches.

SR:  Some sights there, I should imagine.

AB: I am sure it was but he never, ever talked about that.

SR: It wouldn’t have been very pleasant would it.

AB: He only ever talked about the fun side of war, the playing football and his mates.

SR: Having a laugh.

AB: Just enjoying being with the blokes, you know.

SR: Not the sights he probably saw with it being D-Day.

And you went to Fir Vale Primary School?

AB: No, Firs Hill.

SR: Firs Hill, that’s it, Firs Hill Primary School.

AB: Left there in Junior 1. I think I came to Marlcliffe I think it was after Easter.

SR: You were at Marlcliffe Primary School.

AB: After that, yes.

SR: And you stayed at the Intermediate. Did you do…

AB: I did the 11+ and what do you call it, failure, or I was borderline or something.

SR: If you are at intermediate school, yes.

How long were you there?

AB: I was there five years.

SR: Five years. And then you went to City? [A grammar school]

AB: Hmm.

SR: And how long were you there?

AB: Two years.

SR: Two years to do your A levels? So you left school in…?

AB: It was my eighteenth birthday just after I’d left so ’62.

SR: And then you went to teacher training college in Leeds. How long was that for?

AB: Three years.

SR: Three years. Did you get a job straight away?

AB: Yes.

SR: What did you do?

AB: When I left college, before I got my results, I worked in Darnall for the last month or so of the term. I then got a job at Philadelphia.

SR: Oh?

AB: Do you know where I mean?

SR: Yes I do.

AB: I worked there for about six years, six and a half years. Then I got a part-time job because I wanted a family and couldn’t have one. Everybody decided it was because I was always tired so I went part-time and worked at Oughtibridge.

SR: Primary School?

AB: Yes.

SR: And did you go back to work once your children were born?

AB: No. I never went back full time. When Ruth, the youngest, was seven, I started doing supply and I did that ‘til ’95 and I hated it. Over the years it just got worse and worse. Awful.

SR: You’d just do odd days?

AB: Yes and as little as possible. I just kept Alan happy by doing a little bit! [Laugh] I’m much happier doing voluntary work.

SR: What was your maiden name?

AB: Anne, oh sorry, Crookes.

SR: Anne Crookes. And you married. Did you tell me when you married?

AB: No. 1968.

SR: 1968 and your husband Alan, was he a teacher?

AB: No, he was a civil servant.

SR: The reason we ask these questions is it helps build up a picture of the people reading, the researchers have only the paper to go on…

AB: I don’t know whether this is of interest to what you are saying but I never, ever enjoyed poetry as a child and growing up in school, I hated it. Same with Shakespeare. It was a chore that you had to do and then when I got to college and started doing my own research and then started teaching and had to teach poetry, I found I enjoyed it.

SR: That’s interesting isn’t it.

AB: I started reading children’s poetry and making kids write poetry and I found I really loved it but I never really got into adult poetry. I loved children’s poetry, still do.

SR: Any particular authors?

AB: No!

SR: Just children’s poetry.

AB: Just children’s poetry, yeah.

SR: And teaching children, getting them to write poetry.

AB: Yeah.

SR: Did they write good poetry?

AB: Some of them did, some of them got it published.

SR: Really!

AB: Yeah, research stuff and this was slum children.

SR: And Shakespeare?

AB: I discovered Shakespeare even though I’d been doing it at school, by going on a school trip to Stratford, and I don’t know what it was we saw. I can’t remember but I was absolutely spellbound. It all made sense when you heard it spoken and acted.

SR: When you heard it spoken?

AB: It just made sense. In a book it’s horrible. I think it is even now.

SR: Did you ever do it at school where you read parts in the class?

AB: Yes! Yes! Oh I don’t remember reading parts but I remember having it all explained and it was just so dry and boring. I hated it.

SR: Whereas on stage it comes to life.

AB: Now I would go and see it quite happily, you know, and do, but reading it, no.

SR: So that’s from sort of college time and teaching?

AB: Yes.

SR: Did you ever do any Shakespeare with the children?

AB: No.

SR: Too heavy?

AB: Oh I couldn’t have…[inaudible]

SR: But poetry?

AB: I loved poetry. I can’t say I sit and read it but I read it to my children. Both my girls love poetry but I read a lot to them and bought poetry books for them but I’ve never ever been encouraged to read it as a child. So maybe that contributed, I don’t know.

SR: Did you ever read, we have talked about novels, any non-fiction, any sort of biographies or history books or anything like that?

AB: I must have read it probably to do with what I was doing at school. I don’t think I searched them out to read for pleasure, no.

SR: And similarly when you were at college?

AB: Not that I am aware of.

SR: Unless it was on a booklist or something?

AB: Yeah.

SR: But not necessarily for pleasure as you’ve said.

AB: Not really, no.

SR: What about libraries? Are you still using them?

AB: I don’t. Indirectly, Alan chooses books for me. He knows what I like. He goes to the library every week and brings about eleven books home.

SR: So you’ve got a lifelong love of…

AB: Alan?

SR: No, yourself, well both of you I suppose.

AB: Me, yes. I have always had a lifelong, yeah, I love reading, still do.

SR: Do you take them on holiday?

AB: Yes.

SR: Read on the beach or…?

AB: In the caravan.

SR: Very portable.

How are you with Kindles? Are you interested in Kindles, you know, the electronic books?

AB: Oh, I couldn’t be doing with that!

SR: What is it about that?

AB: I don’t know. It’s electric int it. I’m allergic to anything electric [laughs].

SR: People always say you can’t read it in the bath very easily. Turning the pages, there’s something about a book, holding a book.

AB: That’s right. I know there’s a lady at the gym that I go to. She’s got one and she puts it in front of her when she is on the machine…[inaudible] and I think that is so boring. How can she possibly enjoy it and switch off. It seems crazy to me.

SR: Did you keep all your books from when you were a child?

AB: I did yes. I hoard everything but we have thrown a lot away now and given a lot away. There’s still trunks full in our loft.

SR: Any encyclopaedias or anything like that?

AB: My mother bought me a set of encyclopaedias but I never really used them.

SR: When did she buy you those?

AB: I can’t remember. Some time when I was growing up.

SR: At school?

AB: Yes.

SR: And you can’t remember using them?

AB: Not particularly. My nan had some really ancient ones that probably dated back to my own mum’s childhood and I remember I used to enjoy reading those.

SR: Did you visit your grandma much?

AB: Oh yes, it was a second home.

SR: And did they have books in their house?

AB: That sort of thing. No, again she was running the business, she didn’t have time to read.

SR: But they had sort of encyclopaedias, that sort?

AB: She’d got a big bookcase that was full of books but my grandfather, she kept all his books, he was a, he wasn’t an ordained minister but he was a minister in the church.

SR: A lay preacher or something?

AB: He had loads and loads of stuff and he was into a lot of scientific stuff that is now regarded as rubbish…. reading skulls and this sort of stuff.

SR: Phrenology.

AB: Yeah. She’s got all, well she did have, they’ve all gone now.

SR: You say it was a second home for you. Were you allowed to look at the books?

AB: Oh yes!

SR: Did you take advantage of that at all?

AB: Well there was nothing much else to do when you were there really.

SR: Did it have much fiction or was it mainly…?

AB: No, it wasn’t fiction. He didn’t do fiction.

SR: That was your grandfather, your grandfather was in the business as well?

AB: He started it. He died before I was born.

SR: Oh so you never knew him.

AB: He died in the forties. I never knew him but my grandmother kept everything.

SR: Did your parents have a bookcase at home?

AB: My own mum and dad?

SR: Yes.

AB: No, I don’t think so. Books didn’t feature very heavily at all at home.

SR: With a bakery you have to get up early don’t you?

AB: Dad was at work for five.

SR: If it’s a confectioners as well you are open quite a long time.

AB: Oh yeah and then there was catering for weddings and that at the weekend.

SR: Very busy.

AB: Very busy. It was only Sundays and they were just exhausted and sleeping most of the day. They didn’t have much fun really.

SR: Did you have any siblings?

AB: Yes. I have a sister, younger sister.

SR: Did you read together?

AB: No. She was far more academic than me. She went on to big things. No, I was always the practical one, she was the academic one. She was a grammar school [inaudible]

SR: You didn’t share books or anything?

AB: Probably. Yes. Oh yeah.

SR: When you were at home?

AB: At home probably yes.

SR: Can you think of anything we might have missed out? That you think might be relevant or slightly relevant.

AB: I’ve kept interrupting for things like that.

SR: No, no that’s…

AB: No, nothing comes to mind at the moment. I am afraid I have a butterfly mind at the moment these days.

SR: Well it’s hard to remember…[inaudible] well thank you very much. That was really helpful.

AB: Did you finish that because I interrupted you?

SR: I got to you got married in 1968 and you were a primary school teacher and your husband was a civil servant.

AB: Yes.

SR: And did he work in the Town Hall?

AB: No. He worked in, it was in the Inspectorate of Mines originally but that became Health and Safety.

SR: And your maiden name was…

AB: Crookes.

SR: And you have got two children?

AB: Two daughters, yes.

SR: No, I think that is about it. Thank you very much.

 

[End of first recording

Start of second recording]

 

AB: …get books out relating, you know, retelling the story. Not just from the Old Testament from the

SR: So just say that again.

AB: Sorry.

SR: You were really interested in the Bible from an early age.

AB: I used to like the stories in the Old Testament particularly.

SR: It is a history book, isn’t it?

AB: Of course.

SR: And you were interested in it also because you did RE.

AB: Yes I did O and A level and then it was my main subject when I was training.

SR: Did you notice your parents reading the Bible at all?

AB: Oh no. Anything but! No it is from my grandmother and other people.

SR: Was your grandmother religious?

AB: Well yeah. My grandfather who died before I was born was a lay preacher and we went to church when I stayed, which was frequently.

SR: Did you have a family Bible, sometimes families have…?

AB: There was a family Bible but we didn’t discover it until recently.

SR: You talked about Guiding. How long were you a Guide?

AB: I joined when I was seven and I left when I was in my 50s, late 50s. It was continuous in that time.

SR: Were you a…..?

AB: I started as a Brownie, Guide, Cadet and then became a Guider and then I had all sorts of positions in the movement.

SR: So you had your own…?

AB: I had several companies, yeah.

SR: Companies, that’s the word I am looking for. Would you say that your reading was influenced by that?

AB: I mean you were asked to read Scouting for Boys, which I read.

SR: A Baden Powell book?

AB: Yes but I loved it and I read it several times. There were lots of other historic, not particularly well read things, but interesting things, factual histories and so on. I can’t remember their names, I’ve passed them all on now. Again, which I just loved because I just loved everything about the movement.

SR: Is it the sort of excitement of it? The adventure?

AB: Well, yes, possibly and being part of it as well and trying to sort of pass that on. I don’t know really, it was just part of being a Guide.

SR: And it fitted in with your job? You were a primary school teacher.

AB: I was a primary school teacher and believe me and I stuck with Guides because of the age difference and they were there because they wanted to be there.

SR: A bit different, yes.

And the Guide magazine?

AB: I can’t remember a lot about it but I do remember I read it.

SR: Religiously as it were?

AB: I can’t remember whether I took it personally or if I took it for my patrol. Possibly the latter but I know I read it and I kept it. I had loads by the time I left Guiding but [inaudible]

SR: You encouraged the others?

AB: We passed it round you see.

SR: Do you think that helped them with their reading as well?

AB: I wouldn’t like to put that aspect on it. I don’t know how well they read it or anything. I can only tell you what I’ve just said really. Yeah.

SR: The historical books relating to girl guiding, what sort is that?

AB: Well, while I was a member we had our 50th Jubilee, ’73, and each time they brought out different books which sold quite well I think, which I read. There was other stuff as well but I can’t remember the names, I really can’t but I did read quite a lot of stuff relating to that. It was mainly historical.

SR: This book by Baden Powell, I’ve not read it myself, so what was that about?

AB: Well it is really how the whole movement started. He came back from India and wanted to do something for the kids of this country. He was asked to write this pamphlet, which he did, and it was published in some well-known newspaper in fortnightly episodes. Each section was complete in itself and was all about these adventurous things that lads could get up to and apparently these lads around the country got hold of these pamphlets or newspaper and started doing the things that he had suggested. It grew on its own momentum really. He was then asked to start the Scout movement and that opened I think it was 1908. Then the girls wanted to join in and they turned up at the Crystal Palace rally that he helped begin, I think that would have been 1910 and it all sort of went from there. They tagged on to the end of this huge march past the glass [inaudible] all dressed in this crazy assortment of uniforms that they’d made.

SR: Made themselves?

AB: Made themselves. He asked his sister to then do a sister movement and it grew form there.

SR: They still have Guides, but can girls be Scouts now?

AB: Yes but the Guides don’t want the boys in! [laughs]

SR: I wonder why that is!

AB: I’ve just lost touch now. I’ve moved on. Since I left I decided that was it, I’ve moved on and I don’t really keep in touch with them.

SR: Is there anything else that you remember? Obviously sometimes people remember things after I’ve switched the thing off or even after I’ve gone.

AB: Well most of it’s there when I talked about the Bible I thought I ought to mention.

SR: Well the Bible is very interesting, lots of stories in there, quite eventful, quite bloodthirsty some of them.

AB: Horrible. Kids love that sort of stuff don’t they? Saul and Jacob and all of that sort of thing.

SR: David.

AB: David and Goliath. Daniel and the Lions.

SR: Of course, yes. Quite an angry God sometimes.

AB: Oh yes. From an adult perspective, I don’t know whether you want me to say this?

SR: No, no say.

AB: From an adult perspective when you, now, you can see the whole development of people’s thinking towards God and the development of attitudes towards it developing through the centuries. Human sacrifice in the early part of the Bible, you get the Israelites and this idea that they are special, a special nation and they can stand up to anything because God’s behind them or with them. The development of their attitudes and of course then that all changes completely when Jesus comes along.

SR: With the New Testament.

AB: Yeah.

SR: A very different God isn’t he.

AB: Very different.

SR: It’s quite a powerful book.

AB: Oh it’s a very, very powerful book, yeah.

SR: OK. Well thanks a lot.

Recent Posts

The Lord Mayor visits In Praise of Libraries

 

The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Councillor Anne Murphy being greeted by Mary Grover,  founder of Reading Sheffield.

Chatting with historian Loveday Herridge, Reading Sheffield treasurer.

With Val Hewson, Reading Sheffield social media editor.

Visitors to the exhibition perusing the books. A selection of children’s annuals, novels and factual books, pamphlets and magazines published in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Listening to the Sheffield Readers voices.

 

 

 

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