Reading has always been a big part of my life.

As a kid I’d hide in Middle Earth or Narnia, spending quality time with the folk there. It was a better place to be than the erratic ever shifting world on the other side of my book.

As an adult it gave me the company I missed living on my own. A social life is only good while its happening.

Life in the last 10-15 years has taken me away from my favourite pastime.

So I resolved to get back into it.

Alan Bennett has always amused me. His early work was superb as he teamed up with the biggest names in clever comedy. Later his Talking Heads were mesmerising in their accurate portrayal of Northern folk.

He, or rather his media portrayal, is interesting too. A sort of bitter old aunt of a man with a razor tongue and a withering stare.

Reading his reluctantly written memoir shows us how a bright kid in an intellectually impoverished family can flip from cute-smart cherub to bitterly disdainful almost hateful young man – he stayed in the car when his aunt attended her husbands funeral.

He details the main players in his life with a loving condescension that tries to justify his outlook. They seem to morph into ee-by-gum caricatures with glaring faults seemingly put there as writing fodder.

Now in his dotage, he has donated his life’s work (a large pile of hand written exercise books) to the Bodleian in Oxford who have found a bookshelf for them in a small room at the end of a long winding tunnel.

As a man, his media persona fails to impress. He entertains WI meetings with his readings and seems unchanged over the last sixty years. He strikes you as essentially lonely and bitter. He has a long term partner though and has survived a cancer scare.

It’s wrong to judge someone from what you see in the media. These days we all think we know someone because they appear on screens every day. If we are to comment it can only be on what we see, what they present to us.

This said, as I read his memoir, it’s his voice which talks to me. My guilty pleasure is that I chuckle along with him as he snips and snipes at those around him. He is a talented man.


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