Judith Warrender

Becca Fisher: This is an interview conducted by Rebecca Fisher [spells it out]. It is the 8th February 2013. I’m interviewing Jude Warrender [spells it out]. Jude lived in Page Hall between 1950 and 1972.

To kick off I want to ask you about books from when you were really young, did anyone read to you?

Judith Warrender: My mum joined me at the library, Firth Park library, when I was five, I think, I don’t know. You had to be five to join, you couldn’t join at birth, which is what I think you can do now. So my mum joined me and I remember the first book we had out which was Teddy Robinson, which was a classic – you will find it on the internet. You know there was a series of Teddy Robinson books, so that was the first one I got out. I think my mum was determined I would read, you know, so she had books out of the library and mainly things like Agatha Christie. You know my Dad worked shifts, long shifts actually, as he worked on a tram – he was a tram driver. So he wasn’t around so much, because it was very demanding shift work – you know he worked nights. So Mum did read to me. I went to a good junior school actually, a primary school, Hucklow Road. We didn’t have a range of subjects taught to us that children do now but, you know, we were taught to read and write because we were put in for the eleven plus: English you know, English and Maths were main subjects. I’m not saying I read as much as, say, a middle-class child – reading lots and lots of books – was concerned. I think my reading material was mainly popular things like Enid Blyton, Famous Five and Secret Seven, I wasn’t into, you know, what you would class as middle-class books. I did have a middle-class friend actually, I mean people in my area were very mixed – I don’t know what their fathers did. But one of my friends (her father was a professional man who taught English at the grammar school up the road), he studied at Oxford, studying English under Tolkien actually, and he was a studious man.

So I went round to my friend’s a lot. She had elocution lessons and her father had an actual study in the house, which you know was completely alien to me as a working-class child. But you know her father had a study, and he had all the thirteen volumes of the Oxford English dictionary on the wall and you know, he was a very studious man and he was a published poet in fact. His name is Stanley Cook. You know he wrote poems for adults and he won a poetry prize in 1972.

BF: Did he give you those books?

JW: Yes, yes well he gave them to my children. That family was an influence on me actually in a way, because his wife was a teacher, and she taught me to swim. And we went round to their house. They had a big garden, and she was a very enterprising woman. She used to do little fairs, you know, fundraising fairs for Oxfam and things like that, and they actually bought books for their children. They had three children and they bought books you know, Puffin books, and they bought paper to draw on. Well my family, you know, just didn’t have the money to buy paper or buy books. So the only books I got really, as far as I remember, were Christmas annuals, you know, the comic and the annuals for the comics that you took all year. So, you know Sarah, Sarah Cook, my friend, she, you know, she was very well spoken and she had those elocution lessons and they had books in the house. So my reading material was kind of popular fiction. But because the library wasn’t far away, Firth Park Library, which is on Firth Park Road, I loved going to the library. I spend half of my childhood in the park, which was just at the top of our road, and half of it in the library. And also (this is becoming one and a half!) so maybe a third was church, because you know all of us went to church – we went to church and Sunday school. I went to church every Sunday, so I mean I read hymns every Sunday morning for example, and the vocabulary of hymns is just completely different, you know, adult vocabulary. But you know, you sang those hymns all the time so I think that gave you a different experience, you know, so I was a working-class child and I didn’t read really detailed books or books that won prizes and stuff like that. I did enjoy reading, I loved going to the library because it was a nice place to go and in fact you could as a child go to the library and become a helper, you would have your own badge to wear and I longed to be a library helper.

BF: Were you ever a library helper?

JW: I hadn’t got the confidence.

BF: Oh no.

JW: So I used to gaze at other children. I just never had the courage to ask to be one. But I used to play at libraries at home. And I had a little chest of drawers, which I shall show you a picture of. It was a tiny spice chest, about this sort of size [9” x 6”], at home which a neighbour had given me, with tiny drawers with the spice names on. And I used to cut out little cards for the few books I had, so they would be in these drawers and I would get them out like this. [JW demonstrates flicking through cards.]  I mean the cards only filled one drawer, but I used to play library. I remember, I’ve still got this chest at home, I keep bits of, you know, drawing pins in, safety pins and things like that, but I used to play at libraries in that. But you know we didn’t have many toys and we didn’t have any books, but I did go to the library every week. And the other things that the libraries did in those days, I don’t know how long they continued to do them (and you can find photos on the internet, I sent them to Mary [Grover]) – they used to do film shows on a winter evenings for children.

BF: So like an open cinema?

JW: Yes, yes. You know, we used to go to the cinema anyway as there were three cinemas within walking distance.

BF: Oh really?

JW: Yes. There was one at Page Hall, one at Fir Vale, and there’s one at Firth Park. So there were tons of suburban cinemas, but the libraries ran film shows for children in the week. I can’t remember what the content was. I think they ran debating societies and things like that for adults. If you have a look at Picture Sheffield in the library, November, [?] there are photos and things that the library did run.

BF: So they were definitely at the centre of the community then?

JW: Well I used to go to them, I mean, pictures that I’ve looked at recently on the internet on Picture Sheffield, there are quite a lot of children there. And I remember my brother and I used to go our own. We used to go in the dark. Our mum trusted us to go together in the dark. It was about quarter of an hour, twenty minute walk. So, you know, with all those things together I did love going to the library and that continued really, well through my early teenage years really. I mean I got a paper round when I was about 13, 14, so I probably called in Central Library more than Firth Park from that point onwards actually.

BF: Did you notice the books you were reading at that age differed because…

JW: I don’t think I read so much then, because I lived at Page Hall and my school was at the other end of the city. If you went to grammar school in North Sheffield, there was only one grammar school in North Sheffield and that was a boy’s school [Firth Park Grammar]. If you passed the eleven plus you know you had two bus rides and that was an hour’s journey. It was Page Hall to Abbeydale and back. You know with my paper round, then my tea, then homework, then it was bedtime, it was a tiring day. So I don’t recall reading much as a teenager because we used have, like, three subjects homework a night.

BF: Could you not read on the bus journey?

JW: No, because you were with your mates. I remember reading A Tale of Two Cities a bit on the bus actually (do you remember that?) but I don’t recall reading that much when I was a young teenager. Then I did the equivalent of six A-levels, I did four A-levels and two ‘S’ Special levels, which were the same amount of work as a whole A level. My teacher put me in for them, so I had a lot of reading, coursework then, but it didn’t leave much time for…

BF: So it was purely academic reading you were doing?

JW: Yes, because I did German and French – I had five set texts from my A-levels, then another five set texts for each of my specials.

BF: Can’t remember what those set texts were, can you?

JW: What, my set texts? Oh yes, probably all of them actually but I’ll tell you those afterwards if you like…

BF: Yes please. It would be helpful.

JW: Well in English we did Emma, we did Othello, we did Antony and Cleopatra, we did a modern anthology of English poetry, twentieth century poetry, so Auden and MacNeice.

BF: So the classics then?

JW: Yes, yes classics. I mean the poetry was probably the most modern thing we did in English. I can’t remember, we did five, but I can’t remember what the sixth one was. Oh, Chaucer! And then in German we would have a selection of literature, most of which was eighteenth, nineteenth century, perhaps one earlier, and one twentieth century text. And similar with French, I know we did Camus and Sartre in French which I really enjoyed. But then we did Molière which you know, was more [word unclear] classics. I enjoyed the Camus, you know.

BF: Would you say they improved you as a person?

JW: I mean by then, between 16 and 18, obviously coming across very adult concepts, you know, with Camus and Sartre. You know we studiedLa Peste the play which is excellent… I don’t know if you know Camus and Sartre. You know I really like Albert Camus, existentialism sort of thing and such. That’s about like a plague infesting a town and the main figure, the main protagonist is a doctor, you know. So it’s about how he reacts to it all. Sometimes I think it’s similar to evil infiltrating. I forget when he wrote it – I’m dredging this up, you see.

BF: It’s brilliant how you can remember it all!

JW: Well you know it made a big impression, I did enjoy my literature then. I did enjoy my sixth-form literature actually. I did enjoy the classics, you know, the German poetry and Camus stand out. And I enjoyed the English modern poetry.

BF: Do you read any of them now?

JW: Not really, no, no.

BF: What do you read now?

JW: What do I read now [laughs]. I’m very eclectic. I’m very fussy. I don’t read a lot. I have read a lot of non-fiction. I like biography, I quite like biography. You know I could get into that. It’s very sporadic, my fiction. I’ve just read an Ian Rankin actually and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Before that I read The Secret Scripture which was about an Irish Catholic experience. What can I remember? I like Graham Swift, is it Graham Swift? Waterland: I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the The Hare with the Amber Eyes, which is biography.

BF: So you like collections . . .

JW: My husband bought books – he bought a lot of books. But he was very well read. He left school at 16, with only two O levels then he did an English A level as a mature student. And he, he was very much self taught actually. He was very well read actually. I mean when he was ill, three years ill, he read the whole of Proust, which you know is about 6 or 7,000 pages odd. He read the whole of Proust and then read Ulysses, James Joyce’s Ulysses. And he was working his way through it again in the annotated version when he died. So you know we have lots of books in the house. And you know when he was ill he volunteered for Oxfam doing the valuation of their books to get the best price. So we have got a house full of books. We didn’t have a television for 30 years, so I’ve read a lot of non-fiction, things like about gardening. I’m a keen gardener and erm, you know popular history, erm, natural history, documentaries. I’m doing a botany course at the moment and I’m reading about botany, but it’s not going in very well! You know it’s very mixed. And I read magazines, you know, I buy the Big Issue.

BF: So you have quite a wide…

JW: Yes I have quite a variety.

BF: Where do you tend to buy most of your books?

JW: Charity shops. Yes, but I do like hardbacks, you know, because you can curl up with a hardback. I don’t feel I can curl up as well with a paperback. I do quite like light fiction sometimes. The author I do like is Annie Proulx. I’m very fond of hers. I’ve read all of hers, Annie Proulx. [Spells it out] P R O U L X. Annie Proulx, she is American. She used to be a journalist, amazing vocabulary, and she researches her subjects. She writes about America, you know the wide open spaces, you know, people in the mid west. She wrote Brokeback Mountain, a short story. She wrote The Shipping News and Accordion Crimes. I’ve read all of hers. But I wouldn’t say I’m a good reader. Some of my friends, they are in book clubs, but I’ve never managed to join a book club. I don’t know why. So, it’s a bit hit-and-miss, my reading. I’ll just see if a book appeals to me in terms of subject matter then try it. I like being taken into another world with a book. So I read Tibor Fischer’s Under the Frog for example, as it’s just won a prize. If I see that a book has won a prize, that tempts me as I think it must be a good read if it has won a prize. And I’ll look at the review and think, you know, if James Naughtie or someone that I respect has rated it, then that will be a recommendation for me actually. So I do look at reviews and whether it has won a prize. The Hare with the Amber Eyes won the Costa prize. It’s a biography really. So those might be criteria, I don’t know, but I do quite like wacky stuff as well. My daughter who is at university is at Aberystwyth and there is a series of books by a bloke, don’t know what his name is actually, Graham someone or other. [Note: Malcolm Pryce]. And they are spoofs on detective novels like Raymond Chandler, and there is one Last Tango in Aberystwyth and Don’t Cry for Me Aberystwyth and Aberystwyth Mon Amour, funny and so witty. There are about five of them, so I’ve read most of those.

BF: Did you get to meet him?

JW: No, no he didn’t actually live in Aberystwyth; he moved to Bangkok. He was at school there, but they are funny; they are actually something called Welsh Noir, like detective, there is a detective and someone who keeps the donkeys on the front. The evil baddies are, like, the cleaner, the cleaner who scrubs his step, but you know it’s just totally mad. I just love wacky stuff like that!

BF: You’re definitely a fan of satire then?

JW: Yes, I don’t like science fiction, although I liked Douglas Adams.

BF: What appeals about him?

JW: Oh, just really witty and a good sense of humour. You know I wouldn’t say I was well read, I’m actually very active. I do a lot of stuff, so, knitting, gardening. I’ve done a lot of community activities over my life. I have to admit I haven’t sat at home reading. It’s kind of around the edges of the day.

BF: Yes I can appreciate that. Were there any books that made an impression on you?

JW: Do you mean as a child?

BF: At any point.

JW: Ulysses actually, because I was training in languages. I think Ulysses is an amazing book. I meant to reread it again since my husband died, and I listened to it on the radio last year because it was for an anniversary you know. They did a version over a day on the radio.

BF: I would like to hear that.

JW: They probably still have it, I saved it, you see.

BF: Is that on the BBC?

JW: It was on Radio Four throughout the day on Bloom’s Day which is the 16th June. So Ulysses made a big impression on me because I think it’s such an epic novel, you know it works, and the use of language is brilliant.

BF: Are there any other novels by Joyce which you’re fond of?

JW: I’ve not read that many, I’ve not read Finnegans Wake, and I’ve read the short stories but I quite like poetry sometimes. I very much like Rainer Maria Rilke – he is an early twentieth century German poet, I really like his poetry. So I read that over again quite often. Erm, I’m trying to pluck them out of my mind.

BF: You really have to think, don’t you?

JW: In terms of adult books, I’ll probably come up with things afterwards. Actually, another book which did make a big impression on me (I suppose it appealed to me in a different period in my life, early twenties) was an anthology of North American Indian writing, I think it’s called Black Elk Speaks. I was getting interested in the environment and ecology and because I had my head so immersed in languages and academic stuff, my actual general knowledge wasn’t very good, you know. I mean I had done languages for O level then A level, so I was kind of still learning about the world really and you know we were moving into a different period. So that book of sayings about the natural world did really speak to me in a different way actually, the way that they viewed the world, nature and everything. That was a big influence on me really. You know I used to write quotes down and things like that. ‘You know if you look in the book of nature’, you know, ‘if you have a book it will wither and fade and rot, but you’re looking in the book of nature, you know you will see everything that you want’ kind of thing. You know the way they looked at learning, what they valued. That was really revelatory to me actually in a different way from literature.

BF: Taking on a whole different mindset then, is that what you read for then?

JW: No, no. Sometimes I like to read for entertainment, you know it might be Aberystwyth books you know, I’ve read. I was going to talk about this one actually; I wouldn’t say this was an influence, but I was telling Mary [Grover] about these. This is a series that I read when I was young from the library that I borrowed from the library…

BF: You haven’t taken it back [laughs].

JW: [laughs] No I haven’t pinched it! But I like this series, it’s a bit like Famous Five and The Secret Seven. You know it’s about this family, they have got a car, they were middle class, and they had all these adventures. The father would always be devising all these adventures for them. I mean they are very tame really. The stories aren’t very long but I just loved them!

BF: At what age were you reading these then?

JW: Probably when I was eight or ten, I can’t remember, probably about eight or ten, but they come in chapters.

BF: What was it called?

JW: Well there are about fifteen of them, called The Cherries. Mary hadn’t heard of them, I hardly meet anybody who has heard of them actually. And in fact, they are quite rare, I mean if you look on the internet, if you search websites, you can pay up to £500. Honestly, I’m not kidding. It’s actually quite a nice story, I’ve got a friend, her husband did my husband’s funeral; actually he was a minister – Methodist minister – and she, she was a real book worm when she was little, similar age to me, she may have been a bit younger. She had never heard of The Cherries and she had a whole collection of books from when she was young, as her mum bought her books. But she never heard of The Cherries and the year my husband died, we went to stay at their house as they were retiring to somewhere up on the North West coast, Maryport in Cumbria. She’s got all the books there as Methodists don’t have fixed houses, you know; they are moved around by the church from house to house you know, so my friend and her husband had only got a small house so they were going to retire to this house in Maryport. And erm, we were talking about The Cherries and she had never heard of them, and I just got it into my head to find them because I haven’t any books, I could never find them in charity shops like Famous Five or Secret Seven. I was looking after my husband quite attentively. It was that winter of the horrible snow you know, and the month that he died he kept on asking, ‘Has the post come?’ And there were lots of things from Amazon that were delayed. Do you remember? Things weren’t being delivered because of the snow. And sadly he died on Christmas Day and right up to then he was asking, ‘Oh has the post been?’ And he was sending for stuff on the internet himself; he was mobile until just before he died. I never thought. ‘Oh he is just asking where’s the post’, but then he died on Christmas Day. And three weeks after he died, there was a knock at the door and it was a parcel. And it was a Cherry book that he had bought for me. It’s not this one though; that one is at home. But he’d remembered – that was the kind of man he was – and he remembered about The Cherry books and bought one for me. I don’t know how much he paid for it. But you know, I just wept when I opened it.

BF: I bet!

JW: Because it was three weeks after he had died. But in fact I bought this one and another one since, I have about four now – this one is from Scotland. You see they are hardbacks; this one is from Scotland, in St Andrew’s.

BF: Is it based in Scotland?

JW: Well, this one was a prize given to a child at St Andrews. And, I mean, they were five shillings.

BF: It has got a heritage of its own that book, hasn’t it?

JW: The other one is from Scotland actually so I don’t know, you understand, if they are more common. I mean the chap, the author actually lived in Kent in Herne Bay.

JW: So, that’s a hardback book. I don’t know whether they appeared in soft back. I was looking at this this week and I was thinking, I wonder what my father earned, what his wage was? He was a tram driver actually.

BF: Was that on the forum link you sent me?


JW: I started looking up, and as far as I can see my father would have probably earned about £3-ish a week.

BF: What would that have bought you?

JW: Well, obviously you can look it up but I think the fact is, if it’s five shillings it’s an indication of why working-class children wouldn’t have bought books. I mean my pocket money when I was little was threepence, an old threepence. I don’t know if you’ve seen one. I forget whether they are eight sides or twelve sides. I got threepence to spend and threepence to save. Sixpence in old money was two and a half pence.

BF: What did you buy?

JW: Sweets.

BF: Of course!

JW: It just bought me a few dolly mixtures, rainbow drops or something like that. Or another thing I would get was rainbow wool; I used to get a little ball of wool from the toy shop for a threepence piece, an old threepence. So it just puts it in perspective, doesn’t it? That is, five shillings, which would have been… 20 shillings in a pound… [JW thinking aloud here… ] My father earned £3 then – that is a twelfth of his weekly wage, if you take it as £3. It may have been a bit more, but that’s what I’ve been able to find. But a tram driver’s wage would be £3 and a bit more. They got a uniform provided, you know, but a sixth of a wage especially for a hardback book. I mean! I found a Puffin book from the fifties [1950s] and I think that was 3/6, 3/6, soft back, you know those were the ones that were more affordable, which is not that much different than that. So, 3/6 is actually 17 and a half pence in today’s money.

BF: Maybe that’s why you have the hardback now?

JW: Well this is it… I prefer a hardback because you can bend it without ruining the spine, reading it in bed, you know and things like that. Whereas a soft back, you break the spine… so you know, reading in bed…

BF: Have you ever considered getting a Kindle?

JW: Erm, not at the moment I wouldn’t. If I went travelling I would actually, if I wanted a long read, but at the moment, I quite like the pleasure of…

BF: Holding it?

JW: A book, yes. So anyway, that’s interesting I think, because of the price. [referring to The Cherries book] They had these lovely diagrams in here, they have these lovely maps and there were sometimes little word puzzles. I don’t know if there is one in this one. Oh that’s like a treasure hunt thing where they have to follow a route.

BF: Brilliant.

JW: So there were always puzzles all the time, different types of puzzles and challenges and things like that. They seem very tame now, but when you are little…

BF: You appreciate it more, don’t you?

JW: So that was a series I enjoyed when I was little.

BF: Have you re-read that recently?

JW: I have read bits of it you know, they are all similar. I quite like A Child’s Garden of Verses – Robert Louis Stevenson. I think they are classics, because we were taught to read poetry aloud at school, to read poetry aloud. There was one called The Train? It starts ‘Faster than fairies, faster than witches’. Is it called The Train? Oh ‘From the [a] railway carriage’ – that’s it, shall I read it to you?

BF: Yes go on then.

JW: And our teacher, our teacher actually had a mark on his head, and he was quite a fierce but small man and the story was that he had been in a Japanese concentration camp in the war. I don’t know whether he had or not, but I remember him pumping us to read this poem because it’s very onomatopoeic – so:

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

We would have that kind of fast and fading, faster than witches… You know I can remember him making us do it over and over again.

BF: Was that his favourite, do you reckon?

JW: I have no idea but it’s a good poem to learn aloud. It gets the rhythm. So they are very simple but…

BF: So your teachers really encouraged you to read then?

JW: Well, you did read stuff aloud. I think they are very sweet, innocent poems actually. Robert Louis Stevenson, you know they are kind of innocent, you know, like the Blake poems, Songs of Innocence and Experience you know, they have a similar effect so I enjoyed those. Another one I really liked was The Family from One End Street.

BF: Oh no, I haven’t…

JW: Because they are a series about working-class children whose father is a dustman. And they, they got the Carnegie Medal, and they were kind of a breakthrough in literature because they were stories about working class children.

BF: So when was that published?

JW: What, this one? I’ve got an old version of this, but I bought this recently. It was first published in 1937, published in Puffin books in 1942. I mean Eve Garnett. I mean she did the illustrations as well actually. She was an illustrator by training. It says she wrote Family from One End Street because she wanted to give ordinary children from poor areas of London some stories which reflected their own way of life. I think that is more common in children’s literature now, but then obviously it wasn’t. She was probably middle class and educated but they are charming, they are really charming.

BF: When did you read them?

JW: Oh, I read them as a child. You know as a child I loved them because they are just ordinary stories, they are lovely. They are charming, absolutely charming. There are about three or four books on them. I have got an old one, I found an old one in a charity shop, but they are absolutely delightful.

BF: Who are they by?

JW: Eve Garnett, I brought that one along… I can still read those as an adult. I even told my own daughter about those as well. I suppose I like that they are homely, I like the homely nature of them. Although another one I did enjoy was The Silver Sword,which is a children’s classic from the fifties [1950s].

BF: What is that about?

JW: It’s about some Polish children after the war trying to find their parents.

BF: Quite distressing then!

JW: Yes, yes! I mean it’s a real adventure; it was serialised on television, if you did have a television, and I was seven or eight when I got a television. But it was serialised on television actually and that one is a classic – it is recognised as a classic. I forget the author now but that’s an amazing story, because I think one thing that did impress me, not just in literature, but films as well and television were stories of hardship, heroism and things like that, which I did like. There’s a film called The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, which was Ingrid Bergman going over the mountains with these Chinese, rescuing these Chinese children on this mission. And you know, so all those types of stories of heroism and bravery and you know, people being rescued, I like that, and The Silver Sword is the same. That’s in Poland, war-torn Poland actually; you know I was a post-war child, but I can’t say the war made much of an impression on me, you know. I was born in 1950 so, you know rations were still around in 1950? We didn’t have many kinds of luxuries, sort of thing, but we didn’t have much money but, and there were bomb sites around places near where I lived, you know, places had been bombed.

BF: Can you remember them?

JW: Yes, I mean a bomb fell on the bottom of our road. But, I can’t remember now, I did know that then, I would have just accepted them as derelict sites. If you look at the map, you know Sheffield was obviously one big target. I don’t think there were that many civilian deaths from bombs, but then I’m not really a specialist on that. So I wasn’t really aware of the war, and it didn’t really impinge on our lives very much, because it was over, you know, people were in work. My dad didn’t talk about it that much, well he didn’t talk about it at all. I suppose people wanted to forget it and get on with their lives, you know. And again you forget it was a long time ago. But certainly as a child I didn’t feel, ‘Oh my life is dominated by the war’ because the welfare state had started. So that story of the Second World War, it might have been my first experience of the Second World War really.

BF: So you accessed it through literature – no one really spoke about it at all?

JW: No, not that I remember. No we didn’t talk about it. I remember there being a series about the First World War on television, very gruelling. It was on a Saturday night, and I can remember crying uncontrollably. My mum had to comfort me because I was so upset because what had happened in the First World War, but that was the First World War you know. So, bit of a digression really! [laughs].

BF: Yes but it’s very interesting.

JW: But you become accustomed to how you grew up with that type of literature. I liked homely stories, you know Milly Molly Mandy. It was the same you know, thatched cottage, and she lived in a thatched cottage you see.

 BF: Bit of escapism then?

JW: Yes, and they were very homely, lovely illustrations. Just an extended family? Just delightful little stories about races and baking at home and things.

BF: Did your parents read a lot?

JW: Well only my mum; she read Agatha Christie, she loved that. She had got bad arthritis, so when I went to the library she used to say, ‘Oh get me an Agatha Christie out. Well my dad used to read the Pears Encyclopaedia [sic] actually, and the Bible, because of his brother. They were probably the only books in our house, adult books, perhaps we had a dictionary. My dad used to read the Bible, as his brother was a bit fanatical, his brother in South Africa.  So he read the Bible and Pears Encyclopaedia which was like an encyclopaedia that was issued every year with, like, potted facts in. Otherwise we would watch telly, as we all lived in one room, you see. That was another thing, we didn’t have our own bedrooms where we entertained friends… We all lived in one room with the telly on. So that again conditioned what you did.

BF: So when did you get your telly?

JW: When I was about seven or eight. So we all lived in one room, and my dad would have the telly on, the telly was on from teatime to bedtime.

BF: So could you read with the telly on in the background or did you focus too much on the telly?

JW: I’d probably watch telly, to be honest, I don’t really remember. But your bedroom was where you went to sleep, and my bedroom, I had my granddad’s feather double bed in it, as my granddad lived with us until he died in 1947. So, in all, I had my grandfather’s double bed, my dressing table, chest of drawers and a wardrobe and I’d just have room to walk around my bed. I was actually very jealous of my friend who lived in a council house in Firth Park, as they had a big through bedroom. Her parents had a big through bedroom, and we could actually play in her bedroom, which I thought was bliss. And her mother had been a dancer. She was working class and a cleaner working in a house at Fulwood. But her mum in her youth had been a dancer and she had a chest full of clothes and we used to play dressing up in the bedroom and I thought that was fantastic. So friends did come to my house but usually I either went out to play or I’d go out. If we played in the house we would play, when I was very little, we would play under the table, or, because we only had a little garden. The things I do remember doing at home, I do remember playing a board game. Or, the other thing that I would enjoying with my friend Sarah, who was Stanley Cook’s daughter, they used to buy paper, nice sheets of paper and they had carbon paper. So me and Sarah used to make these little magazines, with carbon paper you know, because it was magic. It just used to be like magic, so we made like these little comics, I suppose it was just little bits of writing, I have no idea what we put in them. But you know, we would do it with a bit of carbon paper, do you know?

BF: Yes.

JW: Two or three, you have to have two or three kind of versions. I used to enjoy reading, writing. I used to enjoy that.

BF: Did she ever let you borrow some of her brand new books?

JW: Not that I remember no. I mean, I’m not saying she wouldn’t but I probably didn’t ask. I probably had my own from the library, so you know. I don’t recall borrowing her books.

BF: I’m afraid I’m going to have to wrap it up there.

Jude’s reading journey is to be found here on our blog. Please note that there is no audio file of the interview.