I grew up in a house full of books and children.
Born in the front bedroom of an East Midlands’ council house in the 1960s, I was number five of the six children who made up my first family. Both parents came from a working class, socialist tradition of valuing education and bettering yourself through reading. Both of my grandfathers – one in the East End, the other in Yorkshire – had improved their lot in life through knowledge of the written word and as I grew up, our house overflowed with the books their pared-down retirement homes couldn’t hold.
One of the books we children knew and loved was ‘The Family from One End Street’. Published in 1937 by artist-cum-author Eve Garnett, it was the first children’s book to feature urban, working-class children as characters. I doubt very much that I noticed this as I read it, though I remember recognising my brothers and elder sister in the Ruggles family and their adventures. My mother’s nostalgia for her own childhood was very evident as she talked about the book, and she often referred to us with exasperated humour as ‘the Family from One End Street’.
It was difficult growing up in a large, boisterous family getting by on a working man’s wage. It was wonderful, too. As a writer, my thoughts turn more and more to memories of my childhood; stories from it chatter in my brain.