Category Archives: Granny Savidge Reads

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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Granny Savidge Reads 1941- 2013

Sadly over the weekend my lovely Granny Savidge Reads (or Dorothy Savidge as she was more commonly known, ha) passed away, she had all her children and myself with her.

Me and Gran

Out of respect for Gran, and whilst I get my head around it all, I am going to leave this post up for some time as a dedication to one of the biggest bookish influences in my life and a bloody brilliant Gran. I am really going to miss her.

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Catching Up With A Cup Of Tea…

Now I feel a bit rusty at this blogging malarkey so please bear with me. I thought, after my absence from the blogosphere, that it might be nice to have a bit of a catch up with you all. I suggest you quickly pop and make yourself a nice cup of tea, coffee or pour yourself some fruit juice if you are one of those lovely but crazy people who somehow survive without caffeine. I don’t think I could have survived without caffeine in the last few weeks, it may not be how I make it or how I personally like it, but the NHS tea has been keeping me going – possibly as it bears a slight resemblance to rocket fuel.

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As you may have gathered from my last post I had dashed to Derbyshire as Granny Savidge Reads was really, really poorly. I won’t lie, we all thought the inevitable had come. However, with the wonders of modern medicine two and a bit weeks later Gran is still really, really, really poorly and they can’t cure her but she has stopped constantly throwing up (this tended to be brought on by my arrival into the room, no lie – I have chosen not to take offense at it and instead think it was just excitement gone rife). Whilst her paralyzed side has now become pretty much paralyzed again we have in the last few days had her out and about in the sunshine in a wheelchair which seems to have boosted her spirits rather a lot. She did also, due to the drugs, go quite delightfully doolally for a week. Some of the stuff she was coming out with I have noted for future use one day.

I did come home for a break last weekend – and also because after two weeks I needed to show my ugly mug in the office really – yet this ended up an ironic break as guess who caught a stomach infection and wound up in A & E themselves over the weekend? Yes, me. Silly boy. Clearly can’t keep away from hospitals… maybe the tea has something in it, that addictive thing, MSG? I randomly got put on some drugs not dissimilar to Gran’s, though probably weaker as she is hardcore now, and was seeing giant spiders on the ceiling and my cats at the end of the ward – so no wonder Gran went a bit bonkers last week.

Do you want a biscuit to go with that tea/coffee/juice by the way? How rude of me not to offer. Let me just riffle through Gran’s treat cupboard which is normally brimming. Oh, someone seems to have been here before, there only seems to be some cappuccino flavoured wafer twirls, about four of them. Awkward. Let’s move on and not make a scene about it though…

Book-wise, and I know you come here for the books not my endless ranting waffle, I am slightly ashamed to admit that… I haven’t read a single book in THREE WEEKS. I read some of Gran’s new favourite author, Tarquin Hall, ‘The Man Who Died Laughing’ the second Vish Puri mystery. Though I was slightly grumpy about it as she was 3/4 of the way through and I hadn’t even read the first in the series (though I have started it now as spookily Gav chose it for June’s selection of The Readers Book Club). This grumpiness may have fed into me not reading it ‘with the voices’, though I also withheld for fear of being accidentally arrested for a mistaken hate crime rather than acting, whatever the reason Gran stopped asking me to do it after about four chapters. Thankfully the very kind publishers have sent me the audiobooks so we are going to give those a whirl imminently when I am here and the weather isn’t so stunning. Other than that (and starting Kate Atkinson’s ‘Life After Life’ which I thought was amazing, but at the time didn’t have the head space for) nada, nothing, diddly-squat!

So as you can see I have been a bit book barren. But sometimes that is a good thing isn’t it? We probably need a complete book break now and again to appreciate books and reading all the more I reckon, in fact I have been doing some reading re-evaluating on and off, more on that in due course. It has been the same with blogging and ‘social reading’ (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, GoodReads, etc) to be honest. In fact when I have gone back I have found social media really alienating after a break, everyone’s moved on, Savidge Reads is behind the times, maybe even past it? Speaking of Savidge Reads; I haven’t really had the time to blog in the main, or the inclination when I have been free as I  have been rather emotionally and physically drained, but the desire will come back gradually I am sure. Nor have I read anyone else’s blogs. But I will. At some point. Honest. I don’t want to be a blogger than never reads other blogs, I just need a bit of a break from that too.

Anyway enough about me, you’ve finished your drinks (and the wafer twirls, I have noticed) whilst mine has gone cold. Let me pour myself another brew and you tell me all about what you have been up to? What have you been reading? What books are you desperate to get your mitts on? You might all inspire more of a reading urge in me. What else has been going on with you outside of books?

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Savidge on Sabbatical

As some of you may have seen on twitter the other day or guessed from my absence on The Readers this week, Granny Savidge is sadly very, very poorly indeed and so I have dashed over to Derbyshire to spend time with her and I will be staying here for the foreseeable future.

Derbyshire

Gran is doing really well considering. Now the nausea is more under control we have been having some lovely chats (and some bonkers one when the drugs really kick in – and I mean the drugs she is on) and a few laughs, in fact I have been told off for laughing too much, oops! We have been talking quite a lot about books, including a fascinating chat with one of the nurses about how we visualise books as we read them in our heads – do they stay as written words or become like a film or series of pictures and when in the process of reading does it happen? Really interesting!

As poor Gran can’t hold a book or really concentrate on the words too well I have been reading to her. Well I am unimpressed; she has got me breaking the habit of a reading lifetime and reading a series out of order, and what’s more when I started reading Tarquin Hall’s second novel ‘The Man Who Died Laughing’ it was ¾ of the way through just as the mystery was solved. I have to say though with all the giggling we have done I am looking forward to trying the series from the beginning myself. We might not be reading together in companionable silence, but we are still reading together through the hard times in our own way.

Understandably apart from Gran’s daily dose or three of Vishnu Piru, whilst having brought myself some lighter reads for this trip, I don’t seem to be able to concentrate on books at the moment myself and so I am giving Savidge Reads a bit of a sabbatical. If I manage the odd book or have something bookish to say I might pop back on but really right now it’s time for family and Gran. I will be back at some point though, Gran would be furious if I didn’t… she feels she’s become quite the celebrity from it. Ha!

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Granny Savidge Update #4

I thought it was time for a little catch up post, as I know that many of you have enjoyed her appearances on the blog and since she has been sick have asked how she is either on the blog in comments or via emails and the like and having spent most of last week with her I thought this would be timely.

Poor Gran, she has had a rocky week or so. Her walking has deteriorated and so now she can stand up but that is about it, which is so irritating for both her sense of independence and also having accomplished so much over the last few months since her stroke-that-was-actually-a-tumour-bleed that left her half paralysed. I think it must be maddeningly frustrating especially after the rigmarole of radiotherapy (which we are all pleased she has had as it’s given us another 6 – 9 months and amazingly after losing some of her hair it is now growing back black, she says black hair with white around all the edge will be a new trend!).

She has also just been feeling generally unwell and not wanting to eat from a constant dizziness and nausea. The other thing, and I don’t mean to moan but sometimes a vent is helpful, is that to be honest the NHS are being absolutely s**t, we have an NHS Care Manager who doesn’t care and a District Nurse who tells us to contact her and is, erm, never there. I normally think we are very lucky for the NHS, and know this won’t be the same for everyone, but at the moment it is proving a nightmare. I spent 5 hours on the phone, when I could have been sat with Gran, sorting out a Macmillan nurse at the hospice for her simply because no other bugger had.

Sorry for the mild swearing there but it is just so infuriating, someone with a terminal prognosis of ANY length should be looked after and have the minimal admin, form filling, telephone calls and general sorting out of stuff to do. They should be allowed to do whatever makes them happy in their final months, seeing family and friends, eating ridiculous amounts of chocolate (and falling asleep so being caught in the act – see picture below) and just enjoying their time. Not spending hours and hours with bureaucracy and pen/paper pushing. Oh and don’t even get me started on the night time care, I wouldn’t normally slate charities but Marie Curie have been dreadful, they have pulled out of the last four nights of care last minuet… anyway, let us move on. End of rant.

Caught in the act...

Caught in the act…

As usual of course Gran and I have been talking lots about books. She has read and very much admired Laurent Binet’s ‘HHhH’ (which I need to pilfer back) and has started and absolutely loved Tarquin Hall’s series of detective mysteries featuring Vish Puri and set in India. She has just read her first Val McDermid, seems she is having a crime phase, which she found ‘very page turning’ and is now deep into the latest Philip Kerr. Oh and she liked the Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist (and has read a few of them, including the Mantel which she will not bash) though she did say ‘why has the name of the prize become so long, not catchy is it?’ Ha!

So that is the latest with Gran really, I will keep you updated and pass on your thoughts. I am off mid Literary Festival on the 6th as, bless her, she has to have one of her teeth extracted and a root canal, as if having a brain tumour wasn’t enough hey? Back with bookish bits tomorrow… In the meantime if you know any books like the above Gran might like do please let me know!

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Other People’s Bookshelves #1: Dorothy Savidge aka Granny Savidge Reads

A while back I said I wanted volunteers for a new series of posts called ‘Other People’s Bookshelves’, as you may know things have been a bit manic of late and so I simply haven’t gotten back to anyone who said yes (I will be emailing you all though, you have been warned) as yet. Though when I was sat chatting with Gran I suddenly thought ‘ooh, I must get her to do Other People’s Bookshelves. She seemed the perfect person to start it off with. So instead of emailing her the questionnaire, as she is quick on an iPad with one hand but not for too long, I thought I would ask her over a cup of tea, and she trusted me enough that my notes would ‘sound like me, and not like you’. So here goes…

Do you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

I used to keep all of my books on one set of bookshelves, whether I had read them or not, though eventually they became full and so I have had to change it. Mainly the ones in the lounge are the ones that I have read though I think there are some exceptions, Barbara Cartland for instance which I think you bought me because I had never read her and for some reason I felt I should. Funnily enough I still haven’t read that one. I don’t keep every book I read but then I don’t buy every book I read now.

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Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

Alphabetical order yes, well except non-fiction. As I mentioned I used to keep them all together on one set of shelves but now they are almost overflowing. So now though new books tend to go in the study, by my bed or in a pile in the lounge or dining room now. Oh, and I keep my non-fiction separate. As for culling… once a year I tend to have a tidy up.

What was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

I don’t think so, no. It would have been an Enid Blyton novel though I would imagine, probably one of the Famous Five. I have a few here but I doubt they are the original that I bought.

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

I do not! Have a separate bookshelf I mean, no shame. I don’t tend to feel guilty about books, it seems a silly idea, books are to be enjoyed. I would be more ashamed if I didn’t have any books at all, imagine! Oh… well there is that Barbara Cartland we mentioned.

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Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick, your brother, gave me as a child? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

I thought that was a bit of an odd question at first. Uncle Derrick would be delighted about you still having that book I am sure. As for prized books, I don’t think I have any fictional ones, most you can replace and fiction is a wide subject, how can people say they have a ‘favourite’ single book. I would save some of your Grandfather’s, Bongy’s, art books as some of them are quite rare, if battered. Yes, those I would save in a fire.

What is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

Hmmm. ‘Eastern Approaches’ by Fitzroy Mclaine, which has become a classic, I have now read it and really enjoyed it. There was an edition of ‘Home Doctor’ I used to be intrigued by though I never read that but do have a modern version of sorts. Oh and Margaret Mitchell’s ‘Gone With The Wind’ which I started to read in my teens whenever I was sick, I have that on my shelves now but I think it is the only one of them. I suppose actually I would like the editions of those I remember on my shelves.

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If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

I wouldn’t buy a book after I had read it unless I really, really loved it. I doubt it. Especially now the shelves are so full. It would have to be really special. I try and borrow books from the library or from friends now, or get them from a certain family member. I would only buy a book now if I heard it was a real classic, like ‘The Good Soldier Svejk’ by Jaroslav Hasek which is a classic no one seems to like. It is rare though. You don’t have to own a book to remember how much you love it do you, unless I suppose you plan on reading it again one day.

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

I think it would be someone else who would have added them to my shelves now I suppose. It was Journey’s End… no, ‘The Casual Vacancy’ by J.K. Rowling which you gave me. I liked it, it got better again by the end.

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

Apart from some really antique ones, or editions from my childhood, no not really. I think I am quite lucky in the fact I could get any I really wanted, should I need to. Oh actually… I wish I had all the books I have lent people and they have not returned.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

That I was “discriminating, but universal in taste”.

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A big thank you to Gran for letting me grill her, and trusting my note taking and typing up not to be too different to what she said or would have liked to have written if she could. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to) in Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Gran’s responses and/or any of the books she mentioned?

*Note: I know lots of you emailed about taking part in this, I am struggling to find these emails, could you email me again? Sorry, very embarrassed!*

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