I love to read on holiday and I received another free book to review from the Britmums Book Club just in time for my recent week away in Bournemouth. This was Hippy Dinners by Abbie Ross and it is about her own memories of her childhood in rural North Wales, where she lived from age 2 – 12.
This is what it says on the back cover.
In 1972 Abbie Ross’s cosmopolitan parents move the family from London to rural North Wales, exchanging a town house in Islington for a remote farmhouse on a hill.
Abbie’s Liverpudlian grandparents – dedicated followers of Liberace, sleek in scented mohair and patent leather – are sure they’ve lost their minds. For Abbie, though, the only cloud on the horizon is the nearby hippy commune and its inhabitants. There are worrying signs that this is the sort of ‘better life’ that her parents have in mind.
Brilliantly evoking a particular time and place, Abbie’s memoir re-creates a world of dens and pineapple chunks, of John Craven’s Newsround and fishing for sticklebacks – and the joy but also the burning powerlessness of being a child. Disgusted by her father’s ‘yogic flying’ and her mother’s taste for brown bread and billowing cheesecloth (with no bra), Abbie is desperate not to be different. Far better, she thinks, to fit in with shouting, pathologically nosy Sara across the fields,or stay close to Philip next door – paralysingly shy and with a preference for orange food and no trousers (‘nice to have a bit of air’) …
Rich with detail that reveals a whole world, Hippy Dinners is very funny and full of heart. It is also a delicate and astute portrait of the brutal realities of ‘a simple life’.
I really related well to this book and it started triggering long forgotten memories from my own childhood. I only occasionally stayed for school dinner at junior school. Mostly I went home for lunch. But just like for Abbie, the school dinner ladies wouldn’t let us leave the table until we had eaten everything. Spanish meatballs were my worst nightmare, closely followed by spam fritters and pink custard.
I love houmous now, but don’t recall being aware of its existence prior to the 1990s. However I liked the description of the other children giving Matthew the nickname “Hippy Dinners” from having houmous and homemade brown bread for his packed lunch. Glad that he wasn’t bothered by it as I remember hating the nickname “One pea at a time” started as a taunt by older kids after I struggled to chase peas round the dinner plate.
We never went gathering mushrooms, but our family certainly followed the food for free mantra. Blackberries were the main thing for us, but we also used to gather windfalls – damsons, crab apples, etc which my mum made into jams or jellies.
And of course I remember watching John Craven’s Newsround, although I can safely say I never wanted to be John Craven. I love how Abbie perceived John Travolta to maybe be even more handsome than John Craven
Thank you Abbie for sharing your memories. I didn’t live in rural North Wales, but your book has brought back many memories buried for years in my own sub-consciousness. My parents were definitely many miles from the hippy culture, but I was still very embarrassed by them as a child and desperately wished they fitted the mould of friends’ parents.
“Hippy Dinners” is the first book by Abbie Ross and is published by Transworld. The paperback edition is currently on sale on Amazon for £8.99. It is also available in hardback and kindle format. I really enjoyed reading it and thoroughly recommend this book. Abbie is currently writing her first novel and I will be very interested to find out what it will be about.
This is my fourth book from the Britmums Book Club. Previously I have read the following for Britmums.
The Silent Hours by Cesca Major
The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings
Above All Things by Tanis Rideout
Want to find out what other Britmums book club members who also read Hippy Dinners thought of the book? Check out the linky here.
Disclosure. This post is a review of a book I was sent for free. All opinions are my own.