Category Archives: Granny Savidge Reads

Saying Goodbye to Gran…

I may just have issues with letting go but I have found it very odd to think that as my reading life, and this blog too, goes on I won’t really mention Gran so much anymore. She was such a huge part of my life and my reading it doesn’t feel like it’s over. It had seemed strange to me to possibly end it all on merely the books that she has left behind that I will now go on to read; it didn’t seem like an apt ending, not quite yet.

So I thought I would share the final physical farewell we had for Gran ourselves a few weekends ago when we did her ashes, a weekend I have to say I was dreading as it loomed ever nearer. I think I am still quite raw about her death and her knot being here. I still often think of something I must ring her to tell her, even though I was with her as much as I could be after we discovered she was terminally ill, with her when she died and even though we have had the funeral. Yet we do have to move on, we have to find that dreaded cliché of a thing called ‘closure’.

It was with this in mind that we Savidge’s, just Gran’s children and me, met up for the weekend to do the final clearing of the house and of course the ashes. Well do you know what, I think Gran would have been really proud because even though it was very sad in many ways it often ended in hysterics, partly because when you are highly emotionally charged everything ends up in hysterics. For example before we had even left the house we had been in hysterics at the fact that when we went to get the remainder of my Granddad’s ashes, as Gran wanted them with hers, from the garage I discovered not one set but two, making twice the amount of Gran and leaving us all wondering if (as one had a mere post it note with his name on, the other was very professional) actually we might have someone else with us.

After much pondering we finally made a move and packed our rucksacks and off we went to an unnamed location which involved a mammoth (well for me who used to do 11 miles a day walking holiday and now walks twenty minutes to the station and back each day) hike up a hill to a spot that Gran had said was where she wanted and somewhere she could see from her house when she was poorly. The view as you can see was quite serene and quite, quite stunning.

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We did the deed and then in true Gran style we cracked open a couple of bottles of cava, raised a toast to Gran, had a bit of a cry and then (which we thought she would have liked as a bit of a techno-gadget Gran) with much laughter tried to capture a moment of all her offspring on camera, introducing one of my aunties to the concept of the ‘selfie’…

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Well, once we started we couldn’t stop and tears were falling down our faces from laughter. She would have liked that, it was oddly bonkers which seemed rather apt. We then decided it was time to head and see the house which we were all brought up in and keep the nostalgia and laughter going, a happy walk down memory lane which nicely leads to another apt selfie – I said once we started we couldn’t stop.

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Yes that really is my uncle, aunties and (on the right) my mother. No one seems to believe me, but it is true I swear. Anyway… The walk took us through the woods that we all used to often go on big family walks (I can still hear Gran saying the immortal words ‘get your boots on’) in and then at last to where we used to live.

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It was so odd going back and peering at the neighbourhood houses we played in before of course going to the house we live in itself.

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Note – we didn’t have the really tacky balcony someone has attached, I used to say I wanted to buy this house back when I was much younger (after I had cried for about a week when it was sold) strange how going back I loved it, missed it yet couldn’t imagine being in it again. No, not because I could barely make it up the hill – cheeky.

After this a well-earned pint, or three, seemed due and so we decided we would (again as Gran would have thoroughly approved of it) have a bit of a pub crawl and dinner in our old town and put the world to rights and spend time with each other without all the madness that we had last year, it was just really nice being with each other and while we missed Gran we had all the lovely memories to share. One thing that did happen, which we afterwards we found hysterical not initially, was that the pub we had dinner at got raided by the police. The sniffer dogs came in and we were all looking at our bags, which may have had traces of ashes in, with mounting panic. Would we be arrested? We thought gran would have found this a hoot. In fact all in all she would have loved the day had it not been the occasion that it obviously was.

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Even though she is no longer with us physically, she was making new funny and bonkers memories and because we are all her offspring, or her offspring’s offspring, we will continue to do so. That and all the reading ahead. By the way, I found the picture above the next day and couldn’t not share it.

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So it has been a farewell to Gran though it still doesn’t feel final, but I don’t think it ever will because she is living in me, both in the genes and in the memories and I can’t be thankful enough for that, even if I miss her like mad. So maybe we never really do say goodbye, only goodbye to the sad or difficult memories. Those we love, and the lovely memories we have of the best moments, stay with us for good.

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The Inheritance of Books…

So today is going to be a bit of a strange day as we scatter Gran’s (and half of my Granddads, which seems strange too) ashes and say a final farewell to her. It’s sure to be a day of mixed emotions and knowing us Savidge’s there will probably be hysteria from all extremes, laughter and tears.

As she was such a big part of the blog, as regular readers will know, and of my life on and off the blog I thought I would mark the day in some way. What could be more apt than sharing the books that I have inherited from her.

032It has to be said that when I was asked to go through her books and take what I liked there were three thoughts. First, I just wanted to regime them all because the idea of them going out the family bothered me. Secondly, I thought how she loved lending books and buying second hand books and wouldn’t it be nice to continue that tradition with her books. Thirdly I thought about how bloody many she had, even after my mother and aunts had been through them, and so I decided to pick books in a certain way. Initially I decided to take the books of hers I had read and had on my shelves but were her editions.

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There seemed something rather special and pay about this until again I realised that we’d read so many in common. So I changed tactics and took ones I had read and lent and never got back from other people, or books I had but her edition is nicer. I love the idea of our personal libraries merging.

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Next I turned to any books by my favourite authors. Now you might think there would have been hundreds of these but I have a bad habit, if I love an authors book I invariably go on a hunt/spree (second hand shops then readitswapit then regular trips to a bookshop) to find all the others of theirs. I’ve curbed it somewhat but it still happens and Anne Tyler and Nevil Shute, as you can see were two top choices. The Shute’s are particularly special as Gran used to have these editions by her bed in our old house Sunbury when I was really little till I was about 12 so many memories there with those.

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After that it may look a bit like a free for all but there was still method to my madness, what books had I not read that a) Gran had told me I must read b) would have liked me to read. These I split three ways; classic, modern…

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And of course non fiction, something that I’m not the best reader of, Gran was especially stuff around WWI and WWII, but want to improve with.

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I do have to admit I did take a selection of books just because they looked pretty. Any special series Penguin do are generally a treat to behold, Great Ideas are no exception. I probably won’t read them but I don’t think Gran ever did either, no disrespect Gran. Ha!

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What has been lovely is since getting them home I have been sorting them (into hardbacks, paperbacks and then in alphabetical order) and as doing so I have discovered more of Grans reading habits. She often wrote her name in the front and the date she got it and then the date she read it. Occasionally other relatives (my mother or aunties Caroline and Alice) names appear in the inlay, I’ve not told them. Oops. What’s been doubly lovely are the books that are inscribed by her friends and indeed my Granddad (as you’ll see below on her 43rd birthday when I was 3) which conjure lovely images of relationships and friendships don’t you think?/p>

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I was sad I couldn’t take the remaining ones with me, there is only so much WWI and WWII literature anyone can stomach though. Ha. Jokes aside the idea some shared reads we had and now in a combined library is a lovely one. Even more lovely is that with all the books I’ve not read and have ahead, I can think that Gran was flicking those pages and reading those words before me, so we are still reading together in a way.

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The Greene For Gran Gang!

So back at the end of July I decided that in honour of my lovely Granny Savidge Reads, who sadly passed away last month after a courageous battle with a tumour, that as she was such a bookish influence on me I should do something to commemorate that and her here on the blog, where she came to know some of you and vice versa. Her favourite author, well one of them, was Graham Greene and after the eulogy I gave at her funeral ended with me telling everyone to ‘go and grab a Greene for Gran’ I would do the same here and so Greene for Gran was born.

Well I have to admit, I was utterly blown away by the response and how many of you said you would spread the word and give Greene a go. Brilliant. I decided to go Greene crazy and read four very different novels of his. Well, I didn’t quite manage to complete the #GreeneForGran challenge that I set myself, but three out of four isn’t so bad – especially considering I have been working on an inaugural month long music festival. Plus, as with my experiences of his books before, Greene is one of those authors that I really, really like and sometimes find a little bit baffling. I utterly LOVED ‘The Ministry of Fear’ and yet really didn’t love ‘The Quiet American’; you will have to wait a teeny bit longer to see how I got on with ‘Travels With My Aunt’.

I haven’t managed ‘The Heart of the Matter’ but actually I think that is a good thing. Because I don’t want to only read Greene for Gran just for one month, I want books and an author (along with Kate Atkinson, Margaret Atwood, Andrea Levy and many more) that I can read from time to time and will make me think of Gran (I had a slightly emotional moment starting Atkinson’s ‘Life for Life’ the other day as I wanted to phone Gran and tell her how great it was and how she should read it) in the future, and I think a lot of books will.

Anyway, before I get too mushy, here are some links to those of you who have been reading some Graham Greene books and who may, or may not, get you dashing off to do the same – if you haven’t had incentive enough already – I am calling them Gran’s Gang, ha!

The Ministry of Fear

Some guy named Simon of Savidge Reads
Heaven Ali
Nose In A Book

The Quiet American

Harriet Devine
That pesky Savidge Reads again

England Made Me

Annabel’s House of Books

Stamboul Train

Harriet Devine
Heaven Ali

The Third Man/No Man’s Land

Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings

Doctor Fischer of Geneva or the Bomb Party

Annabel’s House of Books

Now as I mentioned I still have my thoughts on ‘Travels With My Aunt’ to come and I am pretty sure that I have missed lots and lots of reviews, my brain is addled after the last week, so if you have blogged about Greene or when you do please let me know and I will add you to the gang. If you don’t have a blog let me know what Greene books you have read and what you thought of them down there too, is lovely to see Gran’s love of a good book spreading, I just wish she could have a good natter with us about them!

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Greene For Gran Update…

So my plan for two posts went completely out the window yesterday, I am time poor at the mo, and you are only getting the one today. The response to  my idea to start ‘Greene For Gran’, or if you are down with the tweets then #GreeneForGran, has just been incredible and I genuinely didn’t expect so many readers (some who I know some who don’t) along with bookshops and booksellers to take to it the way that people have, very heart warming stuff.

One of the things I was thinking is how on earth to keep up with all the reviews and the like if people decide to give it a whirl as I would really love to collect all of these for the last day in August and so people can go and read more reviews and hopefully read even more Graham Greene, as would be Grans want. So could I ask you all very nicely if you would email me your reviews to savidgereads@gmail.com or link your post to the first Greene For Gran post here, then I will be notified and can keep tabs on it all. Also let me know if you have spread the word on the whole project, because then I will love you all the more ;)

Now I did state that there would be no pressure for you all to readalong, and there still isn’t, though I am going to throw the option out there. I have decided I am going to read four Greene’s in total, one for every remaining week of the month, including this one, and pop posts on them up on set days. This is so that IF YOU WANT TO, no pressure honest, you can join in with the discussion of that title on that day should you decide to read it. So here are the four books and the dates.

   

  • The Ministry of Fear (Saturday 10th of August)
  • The Quiet American (Friday 16th of August)
  • Travels With My Aunt (Friday 23rd of August)
  • The Heart of the Matter (Friday 30th of August)

Then have some kind of Greene and Gran love in at the end with all the posts and a giveaway from the lovely ladies at Vintage Books who think that all of this is a rather lovely idea. Hooray! Sound like  an idea, a no pressure on of course, to you all?

Whilst we are on the subject, how are you all getting on with your Greenes?

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Life Is Too Short

Well hello to all of you and hello to August, how on earth did we suddenly get to the EIGHTH month of the year already? As you will no doubt be aware I have had a bit of a break from the blog over the last few months now I am back, back, back. I probably sound like I am stuck on a loop at the moment, but I don’t care, as I just want to say thank you again and again and again for all the support you have given me through everything with Gran and also the way you have all embraced #GreeneForGran, I have found it all rather overwhelming and very touching, so thank you, again and again… and again! Ok, I will stop now. So let’s talk about the new ‘life is too short’ turn Savidge Reads is about to take.

While Gran was ill and in the lead up to her sadly passing away (and I won’t go on about that forever, honest) my reading time was really limited, and so I didn’t read much, and also my patience with books was much lower. Any book that landed in front of me needed to bowl me over fast and then have me with it the whole way through and not let go. You would possibly therefore assume that it was mainly the crime novels that were the books that worked far above any other. What I found interesting, because I would have thought the same thing, was that some ‘literary fiction’ had me completely spell bound when I wasn’t expecting it and also that some crime books just didn’t interest me at all and the thrills and spills the authors tried to put on show left me colder than one of the cadavers in the book. Seriously!

So I have made a pact with myself, I will only read the books that hook me and win me over straight away. Life is too short for the books that you feel ‘meh’ about; I would rather enjoy loving a book, and equally enjoy really despising one, than just feel a bit nonchalant about the experience. So from now on books that aren’t fully grabbing me, and this isn’t to be confused with books that are challenging me as I love that, simply won’t get finished. This will hopefully mean that I find myself trying a lot more books I normally wouldn’t as if I don’t like them I will stop and move on. How liberating!

I have also decided to stop saving books for a bloody rainy day which I am the King of. Reading, and of course blogging by default, should be all about enjoyment and reading that book you are simply desperate to. It shouldn’t be about making sure you have read the latest ‘buzz’ book before everyone else does or be reading a prize longlist if you don’t genuinely fancy reading any of them unless you want to try a book you hadn’t heard of before but piques your interest. I have a new term for this, I call it ‘book blagging’ not book blogging. Having become a spectator of Twitter recently rather than a participant I have been watching, and laughing, at how much this goes on and I have no time for it. Say no to ‘book blaggers’! Maybe I should start a campaign?

To clarify, if I read the latest Margaret Atwood book, which as it has just arrived is a prime example, it is because I am a huge fan of her and all her works not because I want to read it before everyone else or am hoping to gain loads of hits off the back of it. It will just be because I bloody well want to read it and read it now! Or I won’t! Can you tell I have come back a bit blunter?

Reviews will also be changing, not long ago Gran said how proud she had become of how the blog had changed, the reviews she felt were becoming stronger and, I quote, ‘less like those awful Amazon reviewers’. She might have questioned my taste sometimes but she felt I had really found my feet in the last year or so (it has only taken me almost six years of blogging to get there, ha) and also that my ‘often wicked’ sense of humour was beginning to emerge more. ‘You’re a very unique person Simon, you should have a very unique blog’ and so that is what I will be doing. Even now she’s still influencing me and the way I read and even write.

So that is the latest with me and the blog. I will be back much more regularly and tomorrow I will be telling you about my thriller of the year! It makes ‘Gone Girl’ seem a little tame, but what could it be? What have you all been up to whilst I have been away? What have you been reading and loving or loathing, no ‘meh’ books please! What are your thoughts on life just being too short?

Note: I would like to apologise for the lack of pictures in this post.

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Greene For Gran…

Again I can’t thank you all enough for your lovely comments here, on Twitter, Facebook and in my inbox about Gran and the bit of her eulogy I featured on the blog recently. One of the things that has been really lovely to see/hear is the fact that many of you have been out and gone and bought/borrowed (using Gran as an excuse, which she would love) a Graham Greene book in her honour. After having a natter about it with Stu of Winstons Dads Blog and Simon of Stuck in a Book on Twitter I have decided to start ‘Greene for Gran’ or #GreeneForGran throughout the whole of August as a fitting memory to Dorothy Savidge, I guess explaining exactly what that means would help wouldn’t it?

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Well as Gran loved Graham Greene so much, and as she frequently reminded me – bless her – that I was prone to reading too many modern books, I thought I would go and try a few more of Graham Greene’s novels on and off throughout August, maybe one a week. This will culminate in some kind of Greene-a-thon on the last few days of it and, as a nod to Gran, I would love it if you joined in. Let’s face it you have quite a selection of novels, short story collections and non-fiction to choose from, so many in fact I am just going to link to his bibliography and save my fingers!) You can read as many or as few as you like, there are really no rules apart from giving Greene a go, or another go… for Gran!

I have had a chat with the lovely ladies at Vintage books and they have kindly agreed to give a few copies away here and there too. I just love the idea that Gran would love the idea of you all reading him because of her, she would get a real kick out of it especially if we make sure that we natter about it in the comments over a cup of tea and a nice slice of cake as Gran and I often used to…

Speaking of cake, nice sedge-way there Savidge, I think the Greene I will give a whirl to first will be ‘The Ministry of Fear’ which has my favourite title and sounds like a hoot. “For Arthur Rowe the charity fete was a trip back to childhood, to innocence, a welcome chance to escape the terror of the Blitz, to forget twenty years of his past and a murder. Then he guesses the weight of the cake, and from that moment on he’s a hunted man, the target of shadowy killers, on the run and struggling to remember and to find the truth.” Genius! Yes, that will do me nicely.

So who is up for trying something new, revisiting an old favourite or giving Greene another whirl? Which title will you go for? Let me know in the comments, I will share everyone’s reviews at the end of August so hopefully people can discover even more. Do spread the word here and there if you can and #GreeneForGran on a certain media site. Would be lovely to have lots of you joining in! The more the merrier, as I am sure Gran would agree.

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Dorothy Savidge; The Woman Books Built

On Wednesday this week we all said our final goodbyes to Granny Savidge Reads, aka Dorothy Savidge. I thought I would share the speech I gave as part of her eulogy with you all as it is fitting and also because it does show the importance of books in people’s lives. You can also hear Gran talking about books in an episode of The Readers that I recorded with three generations of the reading Savidge’s here. Thank you all so, so, so, so much for your comments, emails and tweets about Gran, the support has meant so much to me and my family. Savidge Reads will be back properly on August the 1st, I will leave this as a fitting interim post until then…

To say that my Gran, Dorothy, quite liked a book would be something of an understatement. She loved books. Gran once said that “one of the wonderful things about books is that despite reading being a solitary activity, in the main they can bring you together with other people”. Gran proved this often, with family, friends, neighbours, people in libraries younger than her whom she then founded book groups with, potential son in laws who liked Philip Kerr and random strangers on her travels. You name them, Gran could talk books with them.

The other thing she said recently was that “books can have the power to educate people and make you walk in their footsteps”. She would often read veraciously about places she was going to before she went and sometimes read a guide book so closely you would have to remind her she was actually in the place she was reading about. Yet Gran didn’t come from a bookish background, she was predominately a self taught reader.

Gran grew up in a house that only had three books, though a saving grace was that one of those was ‘Gone With The Wind’. Her father was away at war, her mum busy with all Gran’s siblings and so it was her eldest brother Derrick who would read Rupert Bear adventures to her and her younger brother Gordon from the Daily Express. However on his return from the war her father took Gran to the library often, it was there that she discovered the page turning addiction that is Enid Blyton and the adventures of the Famous Five.

From the library Gran progressed to Broadhurst’s book shop, which is still running, in Southport. Gran said “I couldn’t afford the books but I could sit in the corner and read, hopefully hidden”. She wasn’t as well hidden as she thought, thanks to a kindly bookshop owner though Gran was allowed to sit and read as she pleased from ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ onwards.

I don’t know much about Gran’s reading life when she was courting my Grandfather, Bongy, and had moved away from home to the suburbs of London. I do know that he influenced her reading, partly with his love of Anthony Trollope and how often he re-read ‘Barchester Towers’ which Gran soon caught. I also know that a discussion with Bongy made Gran read Hardy as, for some unfathomable reason, he mentioned there was a book in which a man sold his wife at a market like she was cattle’. Make of that what you will but it certainly made Gran read ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ even if out of incredulity.

Reading to her children Louise, Caroline, Alice and Matthew and helping them learn to read was something which gave Gran a great amount of joy. My mother, Louise, can remember hours with Peter and Jane and ‘This is Pat. Meet Pat the dog. Watch Pat run’ a little too well. It was the same with her grandchildren. I remember many an occasion cuddling up to Gran with a good story, even until quite recently. I still get that same feeling of excitement walking into a Waterstones as I did as a child. Trips to Scarthin Books with Gran have been a highlight of the last twenty years, or more, of my life.

Gran and I bonded over lots of things, books were a particularly constant source of conversation. She could be a book snob on occasion, only months ago asking if I had thought of reading ‘anything of any actual worth’ this year, scary. She often broke this snobbery though, sometimes by force like when she had to read all Philip Pullman’s ‘Northern Lights’ trilogy as Bongy had done the awful thing of only allowing Gran to pack four books for a whole four weeks away… she unashamedly cried her way through the final book by the pool, secretly loving every moment of it.

Mainly her love of reading was infectious. I’ve Gran to thank for my love of Kate Atkinson, Andrea Levy, Margaret Atwood and many, many others. Sometimes her enthusiasm could also be overzealous. For example when I was about halfway through the aforementioned Margaret Atwood’s complex and lengthy tome, ‘The Blind Assassin’, Gran suddenly said ‘Oh that is the book where **** happens at the end isn’t it?’ Then the awkward silence followed before an ‘oops’.

No matter what was going on in our lives, good, bad or indifferent, we could talk books and did so several times a week. She was always up for recommending something or have something recommended to her. Though I have recently noticed that a copy of a Barbara Cartland novel I bought her as a slight joke over a decade ago is still looking rather pristine.
It was the challenge of wanting to try new books and her love of discussion and bookish debate that led Gran to book groups. Some might say that joining three was slightly excessive, not for Gran. It seems she was a popular member of the groups whether she co-founded them or simply joined them. “Her opinion on a book was always looked forward to, even if sometimes with baited breath” her fellow member Jim told me. She was often seen as something of a book encyclopaedia, often called upon to name an author or book title that had slipped someone else’s mind. Invariably Gran would know exactly what they meant.

In the last few months I know it was hard with Gran not being able to read so much. I tried reading her new favourite series to her, unlike her big brother Derrick I didn’t do the voices and so in the end we had to settle with the audio book or episodes of The Archers.

Books still brought her joy in other ways during this time. Be it talking with friends and family about books or recommending them. We had marvellous discussions with nurses at various hospitals about books including a lengthy one at the Whitworth where we discussed what happened to the books in our heads. Did we just see the words, hear voices or watch a film playing in front of our eyes? There were also all the friends who visited who she had made through books and via book groups and all the laughter and smiles that they brought with them.

Gran’s reading legacy will live on through her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren when they arrive one day. Also through all the friendships that she made through books and reading and the book groups she started and joined. She loved getting any book recommendation, so on behalf of Gran, when you can, go and pick up one of her favourite authors, Graham Greene.

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