Sandi Toksvig is one of the UK’s most beloved presenters. I’m a fan. She often has me giggling because of some witty remark on Q.I. or at her antics with co-presenter Noel Fielding on The Great British Bake Off. As soon as I could get my hands on a copy of her memoir I did. I sat curled up on my sofa with tea and cake. I kept laughing out loud as Sandi shared her life stories on the page.
Between the Stops isn’t written like any other autobiography I have ever read. Sandi starts of by explaining that you shouldn’t expect it to be that either. The book literally maps out the journey of the number 12 bus which Sandi takes from her home in Dulwich, South London to where she works at the BBC in Central London. As you take the bus ride with Sandi she gives you little stories and histories about the places the bus travels through which then prompt her to give you tales from her life.
From her love of Alexander Pope’s poetry in her childhood to her experience behind the scenes on Bake Off you get to experience Sandi’s life as if you were the passenger in the seat next to her who she had just struck up a conversation with… except you are very much more of a listener than a talker. The way Between the Stops is written feels like a very human experience of the world. Our lives are wrapped in the hustle and bustle of our own chaotic little environments which is what you get from hearing these snippets of Sandi’s life next to accounts of who is getting on and off the bus as she makes her journey. The story telling isn’t linear which when you think about how we remember what we, as people, have done in our pasts is true to life. You never start telling a great story at a dinner party by going back to the very beginning. I think you would find it very bizarre if you asked someone about their last holiday in Greece and they took you back to the start of their existence on the planet. This is something that Sandi points out in her introduction.
For me reading this book was a pure delight. I’ve found out that there are a lot of similarities between Sandi and myself. We are about the same height. She loves a good library and a lot of our areas of interest are the same. As she talked about her love of theatre, history and London, my own memories came flooding over me. One particular story that came back to me was when she talked about her friendship with Comedian Noel Fielding.
Quite a few years ago I lived with my Nan in a block of flats near Highgate and Noel was our upstairs neighbour. I was a big fan of the Mighty Boosh at the time and my Nan knew this. One day while I was in the kitchen eating my breakfast my Nan was out on the balcony putting the washing out. She spied him going in the lift. She called me on to the balcony saying she needed help and then when he emerged from the lift on the ground floor she bellowed “Lisa, look there’s that bloke you like off the tele!”
To this day I have no idea if he heard her as I immediately turned beetroot red and hid inside the flat. If I saw him on the stairs after that I just kept my head down and ran past. I miss my Nan, she rather liked Sandi Toksvig too.
Between the Stops: The View of my Life from the top of the Number 12 Bus by Sandi Toksvig is published by Virago and you can buy it by clicking here.
This review was made possible by Netgalley with an advanced reader copy