Semi-detached Griff relives freezing bus journeys to school and the impulsive stealing of that half-a-crown from Charlie Hume’s money box; sitting outside Butlins at Clacton (longing to be inside and on the Waltzer instead of stranded on the pebbles with his dad); hazy summer afternoons spent with feral gangs in the woods, or storming the mud flats singing extracts from the Bonzo Dog Dooh Dah Band. The memories are like Mivvis, frozen and fuzzy at the edges, but a sweet jam of pure recollected goo at the centre.
From birth to the BBC, this is a story of a confident middle child. Griff’s devoted parents Gwynneth and Elwyn gave him love, security and plenty of asparagus soup from a fake wicker vacuum flask with a plastic top. Griff’s father Elwyn, a retiring hospital doctor with a penchant for sweeties and ice-cream, loathed the tedium of English social ritual and hid behind his family and woodwork. From tree houses to boats, puppets to tables, he sawed and hammered his way into his family’s affections.
Griff left the bosom of his loving, irascible, eccentric, solid, all engulfing family for the firm embrace of real life; via the Upminster Fun Gang, the Direct Grant System and Party Sevens, losing his virginity down the back of a bunk in a twenty nine foot yacht, discovering the romantic advantages of shared babysitting engagements and the drawbacks of infatuation with identical twins.
If he hadn’t moved around so much as a child, would Griff have felt less like a voyeur, looking in on the lighted window across the square, the Georgian house glowing in the sun, the clink of glasses and the bray of public school certainties? Would he be able to tuck in his own shirt? Would he be fully detached?
A laugh-aloud buffet of baby boomer Britain, Griff’s self-deprecating, elegant, affectionate prose reveals a little bit better how on earth you got from there to here.
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In "Semi-detached" Griff Rhys Jones recreates his suburban childhood and adolescence in precise and evocative detail; every young trauma, embarrassment and joyous rebellion, hazily-remembered summer afternoons realised into the wild of the woods and forming feral gangs. He relives the freezing bus journeys to school and the impulsive stealing of half-a-crown from Charlie Hume's money box; holidays in the dreary exile of Weston-Super-Mare or outside Butlins at Clacton, longing to be in - images that are fixed in his consciousness, utterly fuzzy at the edges like a Mivvi but even more concentrated at the centre, frozen into a gooey sweet jam of pure recollected emotion. A confident middle child, Griff adored his mother Gwen and father Elwyn - a shy doctor and woodwork fanatic who loathed the tedium of English social ritual but had a penchant for sweeties and ice-cream and was constantly battling with his weight. These two people were the centre of Griff's young world, and so when he finally left the bossom of his loving, irascible, eccentric, solid, all engulfing family it was no easy process. If he hadn't moved around so much as a child, would Griff have felt less like an outsider? Less willing all his life to be a voyeur, looking in on the lighted window across the square, the Georgian house glowing in the sun, the blink of glasses and the bray of public school certainties? A real treat for anyone who remembers or want to know about Britain in the late 60's and 70's, laugh aloud at Griff's self-deprecating, elegant, affectionate prose, or understand a little bit better how on earth they got from there to here.About the Author:
Griff Rhys Jones was born in 1953. He was educated at Brentwood School and Cambridge University. He has worked as a security guard, a petrol-pump attendant and a television star and has written for hundreds of radio and television programmes, and in the press. His To the Baltic with Bob was published by Penguin in 2003.
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