Eva G’s Reading Journey

By Sue Roe

Eva was born on 24 December 1925 and lived first in the Pitsmoor area of Sheffield, moving about ten miles to Bramley in 1962. Her father was an engineer before and during the First World War when he lost a leg. On his return he worked in the offices of Edgar Allen steelworks at Tinsley. Her mother worked in the warehouse of a cutlery firm until she was married and gave it up. Eva passed the 11+ to go to Greystones Intermediate School but her parents were not interested in education for girls:

. . . they didn’t bother with the girls then, you know. Boys could have anything, but …You get married, you don’t need to. That’s the attitude then. So it didn’t get you anywhere.

She started her reading journey at school: she learned to read there. At the age of seven she started to read Dickens, unabridged: ‘I read David Copperfield; that was my favourite.’

Dickens made a great impression on her:

I liked the characters. I mean, they were really interesting characters, weren’t they? True to life,  in a way, but funny as well. I loved David Copperfield. I think he went through a lot. I know Oliver Twist is a similar sort of thing, isn’t it, what happened to them when they were younger, but I liked the characters. I liked Peggotty.

Her parents did have books at home, and both were readers:

I used to get them from the library, mostly. We had got, luckily, at home, we had got here, you know, volumes of them. . . . he [her father] used to be like army books and war books.. and  she [her mum]  used to read love stories, you know . . .

When, much later, her mum lived with Eva in Bramley, she read in bed:

She used to go to bed in the afternoon. … Because she was elderly …  she was 38 when she had me …  I used to give her all sorts of books, she used to read them upstairs and then she used to have a little nap and then come down for tea.

As a child, Eva did not get many books as presents; she went to Burngreave Branch Library which was just down the road though she never got any help with choosing books:

I used to go regularly, yes, and pick my books, choose my books. … I used to read downstairs. If I started reading, it went over my head when everybody was talking, if I got really interested in a book.

Eva went to Burngreave Secondary School which she enjoyed.

I loved school. And our head teacher was Scottish, and she came from Carbrook School. She was always a miss – she never got married.

She was Scottish and tall. She used to have her hair trimmed short, and she used to always wear tweeds and suits. … But she was very interested in music, so we got that drummed into us. I’ll always remember her for that … and speech training, we had speech training. Elocution.

… when I was at secondary school, we had elocution lessons. They didn’t in most places, but we did. It was just like having proper elocution lessons, so we did a lot of Shakespeare, you know, so you learnt that off by heart, that sort of thing …  Hamlet … to be or not to be, that is …  I learnt that off by heart, that speech, but I can’t remember it all now.

Libraries continued to be important for Eva even after she married and had a family. Initially she used Handsworth Library but that was pulled down:

[we] had to either go down to Darnall, or go up to Manor Top. We often used to go there when the girls were young; we used to catch the bus. Or we used to walk it, and then we’d got the books … well, we got the bus coming back, because it was a nicer library, you know.

As she got older she read more widely: ‘I liked mysteries. I like murder mysteries.’

[Agatha Christie] : I used to read her books, yes. But once you’ve read one of her books …  I used to like them, but they seemed to be all … when you look at them closely, they all seem to be the same, don’t they?

Eva enjoyed Dorothy L Sayers and P D James as well as adventure stories like Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines and John Buchan’s Thirty Nine Steps. She also liked comedies: ‘Not silly, but funny.’

Cold Comfort Farm: I read that, yes. I’ve got it actually.

I’ve read Anita Loos, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Compton Mackenzie … I like his books [like] Whisky Galore

Like several of our interviewees, Eva read books which were seen as shocking at the time:

Lady Chatterley’s Lover … I’ve read that, that’s neither here nor there. … I’ve read  Edna O’ Brien – I like Edna O’Brien.

When asked if she was shocked by them, she replied, ‘Not really.’

Eva still reads, though the venue has changed over the years:

Now, of course, I only read in bed. If I wake up early I read, I have a little read at night. But I don’t read like I used to do, I don’t read downstairs. And I got into that habit when the girls were young and you couldn’t concentrate, and they were all there, so that’s when I used to read when I went to bed.

I often used to go to bed early when I was married because I was short-sighted, so it was handy for me. Because I had to have my glasses on, I could lie down in bed… he often used to find me in bed [asleep] with my glasses on, and he used to just take my glasses off!

Her husband didn’t object because he was a reader as well.

Eva enjoys reading well-loved books again.

I often read books that I am very fond of again, it doesn’t bother me. Revise myself on them. … Gone with the Wind, I’ve got that, naturally. Oh, I’ve read it two or three times. I keep coming back to it.

Gill Warren’s reading journey

Gill Warren, who was born in New Zealand, is Reading Sheffield’s first international blogger, and we are delighted to welcome her. 

I went to St Heliers Bay Primary School in Auckland when I was five years old, and stayed there for Primers 1 to 4, as infant classes are known in New Zealand. It was a public school, meaning free. I am not sure how I got there. Perhaps Mum took me as it was a 20 minute walk, and collected me again at the end of the half-day. I must have read books at home as there were plenty of books about – I had five elder siblings.

St Heliers, Auckland

When they were small, the elder children lived behind the hall door in their own nursery. They all had an English nanny and had their meals with her until they could converse and use cutlery properly. The eldest was born in 1940 and went to boarding school at nine years old. But Nanny had gone by the time Mum realised she was pregnant with me. Some of the older girls were at boarding school when I was born. Perhaps they read to me when home from holiday – I don’t remember Mother ever having time.

On Saturday and Sunday 6 – 7 am on the radio were stories for kids (where was the radio? I wonder now). There were stories like Jack and the Beanstalk, Sparkie, Peter and the Wolf and the Madeline series. And This is London, This is San Francisco and This is Athens – perhaps they gave me the travel bug. There was Noddy and Big Ears but never Dr Seuss – way too modern! I remember I had books like Tales from India, with pictures of fine-looking elephants and tigers, and A Bear called Paddington and Winnie the Pooh. I got Winnie muddled up with Winston Churchill as they seemed to be the same shape.

I then attended a private school (meaning fee-paying with uniform, a 20 minute walk to the bus, a half-hour bus ride and then uniform checks at the gate for hats and gloves). It was St Cuthbert’s College for Girls, and I was there from Standard One at age seven through to Standard Five at age 11. We had exams each term time from the age of five years.

Glover Park, St Heliers, Auckland

I remember going to the public library with Father on Friday evenings to choose books for the week. The five elder children had also done this with him.

Later I read the Secret Seven and Famous Five books. I wanted so badly to be in that group, with a wee boat and limitless adventures.

We were not allowed comics. (‘They are COM or common, dear.’) When the TV arrived in our house (I think I was about ten or so), I did not know what animation was and I think it was the Jetsons or some such thing on the box. In black and white of course! Then colour came – red, blue and green striped bands applied to the screen to give the illusion of colour.

At age 11 I was sent to boarding school 500 kilometres away from home. My father’s sisters had gone there and as we girls were said to be ‘unspectacular in the brain department,’ Mother hoped for ‘nice’ girls. It was Nga Tawa Diocesan for Girls – Forms 1 to 6 for 11 to 16 year-olds. We had a school library and reading in the ‘silent time,’ after lunch on Saturdays and Sundays for one hour, was obligatory. If caught talking, you had to stand for the rest of the hour. If you talked at night when lights were out, again you had to stand in the cold corridor for an hour or so.

At some stage the nursery at home was re-modelled into a TV room, where my Mother ironed while watching TV. (There was no TV in the drawing room – only reading and music.) There were window seats for the toys and one wall of books: Time Life, hard-covered picture books, numerous piles of National Geographic magazines (good for cutting up for school projects), novels plus maps of NZ and the world. The book I was fascinated by was a massive book about World Wars One and Two. There were pencil drawings of life in the tube stations in London and of the trenches – very scary. Lots of black and white images.

I went to Hawaii aged 14 with my parents. They could not believe I would not look out of the window as I was deep into Gone with the Wind.

When I was 19, I went overseas to Thailand and Kathmandu, then overland to UK. I took books out of the St Heliers library to plan for the trip and Mother was most disappointed when she saw them on the sofa table, and realised they were for me, not her and Dad!

The Auckland City Council now has multiple libraries and we can go to any of them but I think that, when I was growing up, you could only go to the one in your suburb. We lived in Cairns in Queensland for a while and there we could for the first time go to multiple libraries on the one card. I now mainly read or listen to stories online from the Auckland Library for free. I listen and read on my i-pad.

 

 

Hybrid memories: Dorothy H’s reading journey

By Val Hewson and Mary Grover

Dorothy was born on 26 January 1929 and, one of a family of eight, grew up in Malin Bridge in the north of Sheffield.  She married Fred in 1953, having met him at the regular Thursday night dance at the City Hall.  They had no children because, she says, she ‘had had enough looking after her younger siblings’.  Dorothy studied book-keeping and typing and spent 40 years working in a small business, where she ‘did everything, did [her] own filing, quotations, invoices, statements’.    

Dorothy’s reading memories are bound up with film and television.  This is hardly surprising, as she belongs to the first generation to grow up and live all their lives with film, radio and television.  Talkies started in 1927, two years before she was born.  The BBC began broadcasting in 1922 and experimented with television in 1929, the year of her birth. In the 1920s and ‘30s, cinemas – some of them glorious Art Deco picture palaces – were being built around the country, and in the 1930s radio ownership grew quickly.  During World War II radio and film became even more popular, with people relying on them for both news and entertainment.  The television service came into its own with the coronation of The Queen in 1953, the year Dorothy married, and it has been with us ever since.

Gaumont State Cinema Kilburn: an Art Deco picture place (Photographed by Nathan, licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

Gaumont State Cinema Kilburn: an Art Deco picture place (Photographed by Nathan, licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War epic, is a good example of Dorothy’s ‘hybrid memories’.  She still has the copy bought for her 21st birthday by the sister of a boyfriend, but remembers enjoying the movie, and comparing it with the book:

Oh yes, I read it and of course when you see the film there is a lot cut out for the action, isn’t there? … until you sort of saw the adaptation into the film you don’t get the same feeling about it when you’ve read the book.

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh are Rhett and Scarlett in Dorothy’s mind, as they are for so many people of her generation. (She does, however, think that Elizabeth Taylor would have done a better job as Scarlett.)

Gone with the Wind

Rhett and Scarlett (public domain)

Change genre from epic historical romance to crime fiction, and Dorothy again associates actors and characters, book and adaptation.  David Suchet is Poirot, Humphrey Bogart is Philip Marlowe and Jeremy Brett is Sherlock Holmes.

Filimg Poirot, London, 2009. (By hairyeggg. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

Filming Poirot, London, 2009. (By hairyeggg. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

Then there is comedy.  Dorothy enjoys P G Wodehouse’s stories about Blandings and its porcine Empress, but is unimpressed by a recent television adaptation:

The television thing that was on not long ago, I couldn’t really put it to the actual stories that I had read. … No, I don’t think it was as good enough [sic].  I think they sort of set it a bit more modern than it actually was. … And you never heard about the pig!

Dorothy’s hybrid memories make us consider the relationship between screen and page.  The two media feed on each other, promoting the film of the book and the book of the film. In the 1930s, for example, the celebrity of the author could boost the popularity of a film as much as the allure of a Clark Gable could help make Rhett Butler a romantic icon. Between 1925 and 1939 over fifty of Edgar Wallace’s stories were filmed, but it is the author we remember, not the films.

Caricature of Edgar Wallace by Low

Caricature of Edgar Wallace by Low (public domain)

Dorothy appreciates the ‘double experience’ of film and book.  She has always been happy to engage with both page and screen, influenced by both in her choice of reading and viewing; and using her own imagination but also drawing on other people’s.

The Reading Journey of Florence Cowood

Florence was born in Huddersfield in 1923 and moved to Sheffield when her father got an engineering job there.  Later her parents ran a greengrocer’s shop.  The family lived in the Abbey Lane area; initially she attended a private school and then Abbey Lane Primary when it opened.  She passed the eleven plus examination at the age of 10, and went to Abbeydale Girls’ Grammar School.  At sixteen, after passing the School Certificate in English and Botany, she went to the Commercial College on Psalter Lane.  In 1939 she left school aged 16 and got a job with the LNER, the London and North Eastern Railway.  At the end of the war she married and gave up work.

florence-cowood-wedding-

Florence was always passionate about reading:

In fact, if I was ever naughty and I was sent to my room, my mother always made sure I hadn’t got a book because she knew it was no punishment if I had a book.

One of her earliest recollections is reading one of her grandmother’s books, Little Folks:

home-painting-copy

I read all sorts of bits out of it: school stories, adventure stories, little poems, letters from children who were stationed in India, letters to the editor.

Florence’s family encouraged her reading: her grandfather was a headmaster and bought her the books for grammar school.  Her godmother was a teacher and gave her books for Christmas presents: ‘she once gave me a whole lot of Enid Blyton’.

Her mother also loved reading:

mary-anerly-book

I’ve got some of my mother’s books that she had as a young woman … [Mary] Anerley, two volumes of The Count of Monte Cristo. Little Women and Good Wives, yes.  That was my mother’s book.

Gone With the Wind was a present from her mother for her nineteenth birthday.

As a result of family circumstances, Florence spent a lot of time in libraries as she got older, especially in the Central Library :

‘That’s why I used to go to the library and that, because I think I was rather a solitary child, in that your parents are busy working.  And I used, on a Saturday morning, I used to go down to the [Library].  Have a little trot around Woolworths by myself, get myself some sweeties.  And I used to go to Central Library, get my library books, go up to the Art Gallery.  I used to like to go up there to look at the pictures.  And then I used to go down to the Reading Room.  You could read all sorts of magazines down there, and I used to spend the whole day, you know, really, and then come home on the tram you know, and read my library books.

Probably another reason Florence spent so much time in libraries was that she did not see much of her school friends:

I had loads of friends, but in those days, when you went to a grammar school … People came from all over the city …So my best friend lived at  Pitsmoor … another one lived out in Grindleford.

Reading was a private thing – Florence didn’t discuss her choice of books with anyone.

At school she read the familiar titles: Anne of Green Gables (she liked the struggle of the little girl); What Katy Did; Black Beauty (she loved horses); but as she got older, she graduated to more adult books.  Elizabeth Goudge’s Green Dolphin Country was a present for Christmas 1944 and Florence still has her copy, which she bought herself, of  Daphne du Maurier’s The King’s General.  Others she borrowed from the library, like A Tree Grew in Brooklyn and all Nevil Shute’s books (except Requiem for a Wren).

She read Jane Eyre but

some of the older books, you know, like Jane Eyre, they can be a bit fulsome, if you know what I mean.

Florence had what would be considered a modern view of education – not one recognisable to Mr Squeers or Mr Gradgrind!

Knowledge and education isn’t knowing a whole load of facts.  It’s knowing where to find the information you want.  And I think a book is, to open a book and you find things out that you never knew before.

She read for pleasure not for self-improvement or because she thought she ought to read them:

I’ve got a full set of Dickens, but I haven’t read much of him.  My godmother used to send me two or three every birthday, so I’ve got the full set.  I didn’t really appreciate it… quite frankly, a lot of them bore me to death.

After school, as a girl, her opportunities were limited:

Well, you had a choice.  You either went in a shop, or a hairdresser’s, or you went in an office.  No, there wasn’t this business about going to university and this, that and the other.

She wanted to be a reporter and got a job on the local newspaper :

I worked in the publicity department with Gloops* and all that sort, you know.  And then the war broke and … they closed the paper down …  And my father said, ‘You have to get a job’ and I went to work for the North Eastern Railway.

Florence stayed there throughout the war as it was a reserved occupation and then married in 1946.

I worked there until I got married.  And then I left, of course, when I got married.

However she still managed to keep on reading.

I did go on reading, but … I was occupied other ways then, you know, with cooking and all the rest of it you do when you’re married.

In some senses reading changed Florence’s life: she enjoyed reading about foreign places and travel which led to:

a love of wanting to explore, wanting to find out about things.  I’m always interested in people, how people live…

Different books stimulated interest in different parts of the world:

Green Dolphin Country, gave me a yen for Australia -…You know, the other side of the world.  I didn’t go to New Zealand, but I have been to Australia. … I used to like the Sundowners and all stories.

Her visit to South Africa was also stimulated by what she read.

The Valley of the Vines one gave me a yen for South Africa.  I eventually went to South Africa and saw the Valley of the Vines… I always was interested in [South Africa], in particular around the Cape, the Cape district, and of course I went there, but it’s a long time ago now. Well, Nelson Mandela was still on Robbin Island and there was still apartheid.  That was just after Sharpeville, I think

Florence was also a poet and painter – self-taught.

florence-cowood-higger-tor-

I went to the local art class … Well, my husband used to go fishing and I didn’t know what to do.  And I didn’t particularly want to knit, and I decided I’d try and paint a picture and it went from there.

She was interested in books about shipwrecks and painted the wreck of the Royal Charter ‘… and that is mentioned in Dickens, in Uncommercial Traveler’.  She used books for  reference for both her painting and gardening.

florence-cowood-the-golden-wreck-

florence-cowood-Golden-Wreck-at-Anglesea

The following is a fitting tribute to the power of books and to the zest for life which Florence showed so clearly:

This is my own bit of things, and I found it, I saw it in the library van once.

I’ve travelled the world twice over,

And met the famous saints and sinners,

Poets and artists, kings and queens,

All stars and hopeful beginners.

I’ve been where no one’s been before,

Drawn secrets from writers and cooks,

Always with a library ticket

To the wonderful world of books.

 

I would like to say that books have been me life, all me life, and without them, my life would be nothing like as good as it has been.  Because books have been there.

 

  • Gloops was a cartoon cat who appeared from 1928 until the 1980s in the Sheffield Star.  There was a Gloops club for children.  Gloops was hugely popular.

Written by Sue Roe

Access Florence’s audio and transcript here

 

Hazel’s Reading Journey

Hazel was born in Sheffield in 1929, one of four children.  Her father died when Hazel was very young and her mother brought the family up.  Hazel worked as a seamstress at a shirtmaker’s.  She married in the 1950s and had two daughters. 

HazelH01

Hazel has no memories of being read to and certainly had no books in the house. ‘There were no books, no. No money for anything.’ Hazel’s father had died when Hazel was two leaving her mother with two young children and another on the way.  Her mother struggled to feed the four of them so there were no extras. The generosity of two relatives in particular kept the family fed. ‘But we had a good childhood, friendly, good neighbours; they weren’t intrusive at all.’

School too was a happy experience. At the Junior School there was Enid Blyton in abundance. ‘We loved school. It wasn’t a bit strict and things like that, it was lovely. Everybody wanted to go to school.’

Hazel’s older sister, Cynthia, probably helped Hazel find her way down from Wadsley to Hillsborough Library, but after she was eight Hazel made her way there herself. Hillsborough is one of the most elegant of Sheffield’s Libraries, a late eighteenth century house set in parkland. In his autobiography, A Yorkshire Boyhood, the MP, Roy Hattersley, who also grew up in the Hillsborough area in the 1930s, described it as ‘our constant joy. It was part of our lives, a home from home’,

20150717_132805

During her teens the one book that Hazel recalls as a constant favourite was Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind – not the film because the family had no money to go to films, but the book. But by the time Hazel was a teenager her mother had enough money to buy a few books.

Somebody came round to the door and she ordered these books and she paid for ‘em weekly. She did do well ’cus she didn’t have cash in them days. We had these books and there was a collection.

Hazel obviously admired her mother’s ambition for her family and her success in supporting them, alone. However she wasn’t so keen when her mother mapped out her future when she was 14.

We had an interview at school and they asked us what we liked doing and of course I was shy and didn’t like saying anything. So mum chipped in. She always did because I were always backward at coming forward. “Well she likes sewing”. So they said, “Oh well, they want somebody at the shirt factory.” Well I came home furious. I didn’t want to make shirts! Oh I came home and I were angry, you know, “I’m not going there”.

However Hazel soon started work in a dressmaker’s in the affluent suburb of Broomhill, the workshop having being bombed out of the centre of town, and she never regretted the trade her mother had chosen for her.

With dressmaking came dancing which left little time for reading. Though Hazel read to her own children, personal reading became a pleasant memory rather than a present resource. However, the words that have remained her for ever are the poems that she learned at her secondary school, Wisewood. I met Hazel at the Wadsley exercise club, Slightly Sprightly, and interviewed a group of women from the club who had all been to Wisewood School. As children they had all lived within walking distance of Wadsley Common, still known for the richness of its dawn chorus and the wildness of the undergrowth that only half conceals the spoils from the ganister mines worked there until the 1940s.  Independently of Hazel, her three contemporaries did exactly the what Hazel did when I asked them if they had read any poetry at school. ‘Meg Merrilies,’ they exclaimed and embarked on a word-perfect performance of Keats’ poem.

Old Meg she was a gipsy;
And liv’d upon the moors:
Her bed it was the brown heath turf,
And her house was out of doors.

Her apples were swart blackberries,
Her currants, pods o’ broom;
Her wine was dew of the wild white rose,
Her book a church-yard tomb.

Her brothers were the craggy hills,
Her sisters larchen trees;
Alone with her great family
She liv’d as she did please.

No breakfast had she many a morn,
No dinner many a noon,
And ‘stead of supper she would stare
Full hard against the moon.

But every morn, of woodbine fresh
She made her garlanding,
And every night the dark glen yew
She wove, and she would sing.

And with her fingers old and brown
She plaited mats o’ rushes,
And gave them to the cottagers
She met among the bushes.

Old Meg was brave as Margaret Queen,
And tall as Amazon:
An old red blanket cloak she wore,
A chip hat had she on.
God rest her aged bones somewhere–
She died full long agone!

 

By Mary Grover

Josie Hall’s Reading Journey

Born in 1942 Josie remembers her home as a place full of curiosity and knowledge about the world, but no books. ‘Because there couldn’t be. It was just after the war, and working class people, they just didn’t have books in the house. I don’t remember anybody, ever, reading to me.’

Josiehall1955-web1

After the war Josie’s father returned home from two years in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp and worked as a crane driver in the steel works. He had passed his 11+ and went to the grammar school ‘but he had to be fetched out because he was the eldest of six and he had to go to work … he was really cheated.’  A remarkably able man who never found a job to match his talents, he brought what reading matter he could into the house: Reader’s Digest magazines, and then, one day ‘a pile of second-hand comics, manna from heaven; I just used to fall on them. And it wasn’t particularly because it was the comics. It was the written word, I suppose.’

Josie-hall-front-room-

The shelves of books surrounding Josie today are the legacy of her father’s encouragement of her reading and her own natural curiosity. She is open to every kind of book, fact and fiction.  The written word helped her get to know her husband because soon after she married at 18, he too was sent to the Far East, one of the last men to do their National Service. She remembers writing to him every day and receiving his letters as often as he could find an opportunity to post them.

The notebooks that record Josie’s reading show a great surge of reading in her early twenties, then in 1965, after her son was born, nothing. So when the twin girls came along in 1967 she said ‘they’re not doing that to me again’ and determined to keep reading which she did, as her notebook testifies.

hall-list-1

Diana Gabaldon books, Tess of the D’Urbeyvilles, biographies of Charles II and Martin Luther, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Doctor Zhivago, Tale of Two Cities, Forever Amber, Catherine Cookson, Howard’s End, Crime and Punishment, Dennis Wheatley’s science fiction, Gone with the Wind, George Orwell, Michael Bentine ‘oh and Utopia’s in there, Thomas More. I don’t know how I got my hands on all these.’

hall-list-2

She reflects that many were borrowed from Attercliffe library. A few were given as Christmas presents and Sunday School prizes.  Later Josie also bought paperbacks from second-hand stalls, newsagents and booksellers: they are all listed in her compendious notebooks. Only detective novels and horror fail to figure.

One book she particularly goes back to: Jane Eyre. ‘I can see Jane sat in the window seat hiding from her cousin, reading the book and I presume maybe I was a bit like that … hiding away, reading a book. Not wanting anybody to find you.’ This absorption in what she reads is sometimes overwhelming. She had to keep putting down Black Diamonds because she was so upset. ‘It took so much out of you.’ And  ‘Lady of Hey: that one spoilt a holiday for me.’ She left her companions playing Bingo downstairs in the hotel lounge and didn’t come down again till the next morning. Fortunately her husband shared her addiction so they could be anti-social together.

Josie has only recently realised that she doesn’t have to read all the books she is given. People just give her their books when they have finished with them, ‘piles and piles. So nowadays if anyone gives me a ton of Mills and Boon I just shove them to the Salvation Army. I don’t have to read them.’ This ability to leave a book unread has obviously been dearly bought. Josie’s instinct is to treasure every book. She was horrified to learn that someone she knew had burned her books when they moved house. ‘You do not burn books.’ So even ‘silly Mills and Boon’ would not be consigned to the flames.

When the children were older she did A levels and then a degree. For a while the scope of her reading narrowed so that she could focus on her studies. But now she has returned to her omnivorous habits and has a different book on the go in every room in the house.

‘Where other people have to have a cigarette, I have to have a book.’

Reading Journey by Mary Grover

Access Josie’s transcript and audio here.