When I Was A Nipper by Alan Titchmarsh

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When I Was A Nipper by Alan Titchmarsh

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Category: History
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: It's as good as nostalgia gets - a personal look at the way it was in the fifties broadened out to a wider look at society. Recommended - particularly if you have connections with Ilkley!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 336 Date: April 2011
Publisher: BBC Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1849901529

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There's something about Alan Titchmarsh that you can't help liking. He's got a wry sense of humour, seems unfailingly positive and, best of all, was born in my home town of Ilkley. You really can't get much better than that, now can you? 'When I Was A Nipper' is a look not just at his life in the fifties (although there is a lot about him) but about the way that things were then. There's an unspoken question about what we can learn from how we lived then and how we can apply this to our lives today. It's pure nostalgia only lightly seasoned with the reality of outside privies and harsh working conditions.

He was born in 1949 and shortly after moved with his family into a terraced house in Nelson Road, Ilkley, with his grandmother living just around the corner in Wellington Road. The fact that there are streets nearby called 'Nile' and 'Trafalgar' will tell you a lot about them. The houses still stand proud today although they're as likely to be owned by people commuting into Leeds as a plumber and a former Addingham mill girl. These days the roads in this area are thickly lined with cars but Alan remembers playing in the streets when there was very little traffic and children regularly and safely played in the streets.

The book is a hymn of praise to the way we lived, holidayed, travelled, were educated, worked and shopped. It is gloriously accurate and brought back a lot of memories: the frost on the inside of the windows of a cold morning, the red routemaster double-decker buses, the smell of the school room and the games we played. There was a post-war air of possibility and joy of something as simple as returning to your home of an evening and being certain that it would still be standing – and the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II put a positive spring in our step.

If you live in a village – as I do – many of the institutions remembered with nostalgia are still there – the village hall and the pub as the centre of people's social life – but it points up that we're lucky to live the life we do and few people are as fortunate.

It was a stroke of genius to ground so much of the book in Alan's personal life but to broaden it out into a broader perspective. There's something there that we can all relate to and a lot of social history snuggled in amongst the personal anecdotes: it's an easy, enjoyable and entertaining way of learning, or remembering how things were.

I'm aware that the book was particularly special to me because of some surprising and unlooked-for personal connections. Alan's grandmother worked in the Bluebird Café as a nippy at the same time that my mother worked in the kitchens. He played cricket against the bus station wall where my father worked as a conductor and returned home via Wellington Road where my parents lived for several years. But even without this connection it's still a great read and I'm grateful to the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag for review.

For a more scholarly look at the fifties we can recommend Having It So Good: Britain in the Fifties by Peter Hennessy. If you'd like to know more about the end of the nineteen forties, try Nella Last's Peace.

Buy When I Was A Nipper by Alan Titchmarsh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy When I Was A Nipper by Alan Titchmarsh at Amazon.co.uk

Buy When I Was A Nipper by Alan Titchmarsh at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy When I Was A Nipper by Alan Titchmarsh at Amazon.com.


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