Way back in 1972 when Abbie Ross was two, her parents upped sticks and moved from metropolitan Islington to rural North Wales in search of a better life. Spring forward five years and this memoir begins with a vivid description of the impending visit of splendidly groomed and determinedly suburban Grandparents. The children eagerly anticipate presents and sweet treats that are usually banned, whilst the parents rush round getting out previous gifts that have languished in cupboards since the last visit. You can feel the Grandparental disapproval of career, home décor and fashion choices being met with exasperation from Abbie’s parents. These passages are the book’s best.
Hippies; in popular imagination rural Wales was awash with them in the 70’s. Colonies of teepees and communes around every corner. Whilst this maybe a vast exaggeration, there were some folk seeking an alternative lifestyle. These exotic creatures aroused interest and distrust in equal measure from the locals. Abbie’s parents, although not hippies, were friends with some of them as fellow incomers. Like all children she just wanted to fit in and would hang back from such alliances.
Elsewhere we meet Abbie’s friends who live as nearby as country neighbours get, down lanes and across fields. I too grew up in the country, the child of parents who had moved in. Mine was an East Anglian childhood and about a decade earlier than this book is set but many of the details ring true. This was the downfall of the book for me. I have many happy childhood memories of playing on friends’ farms and generally roaming wild but I prefer reading matter that takes me somewhere new.
DISCLOSURE: I was sent a copy of this book by Penguin as part of the BritMum’s Book Club.
HIPPY DINNERS by Abbie Ross
Published by Transworld Publishers
Paperback £8.99, Kindle £4.35