A Life Like Other People's

Been reading and relishing Alan Bennett's funny, moving autobiographical book: A Life Like Other People's, not least because - although I knew that Bennett had lived in Leeds - I hadn't realised where he had lived, and how close his house had been to the place where - albeit some years later -  I spent the first few years of my life. There is something uniquely satisfying about recognising a place with which you are intimately familiar, in the work of a fine writer - although I'm not sure quite why this should be! But when Bennett describes Tong Road, and Green Lane, Bruce Street and Wellington Road, I am back there again, walking hand in hand with my mother, up Hall Lane, on the way to my little primary school: Holy Family. To get there, we had to pass close to the massive, looming presence of Armley Gaol, and in those days I hardly knew what it was, thinking it some magical, sooty castle.  Even more moving, though, are his depictions of his family, his  'aunties' and their attempts at glamour, their thwarted ambitions and unexplored talents, and these too have echoes in certain members of my own family, now long gone.  The picture above shows my own 'aunty' looking a mite sultry, my handsome Uncle George - and my little gymslipped mum, standing in Whitehall Road, Leeds, some time in the thirties, I think.

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