Review of ‘Grandma's Pudding’, by Keith Staley

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Keith Staley
Published by Tempus
ISBN 978-0-7524-4483-3 (2008)

Keith Staley is one of a dying breed - a Derbyshire coal miner, born between two world wars into a now vanished, hardworking world, to live as well as funds would allow. His childhood was spent in the long aftermath of the Great Strike of 1926 but being the local 'Just William', Keith made the best of - and sometimes did his worst with - everything. He has known life with his country at war ('when the siren sounded, mam would place me in the bath, wrapped in blankets just in case a bomb dropped on us'), without a National Health Service but with two years' obligatory National Service.

But how much fun the lad enjoyed over the years, sneaking into the pictures to watch an A-film ('Hippodrome fleas were slightly larger than those of the Empire'), making tea with water from the stream and inadvertently boiling up a kettle full of frogspawn, passing a ballroom dancing exam to win the girl of his dreams, and a life-long love affair with cycles and motorbikes: 'Barry Sheene was in his cradle when we were raising hell'.

In the spring of 1956 Keith made it to Paris on his Velocette Venom with step-brother Ivor on the pillion, each in flat caps worn backwards and RAF goggles. This was their trip of a lifetime and provides a red-faced description of how two Derbyshire lads just couldn't cope with things on show in the Moulin Rouge.

With over 100 illustrations, Grandma's Pudding is full of humorous, heartbreaking and generally charming recollections from a Derbyshire man who has paid the price of working 35 years underground: 'My hearing gone, fizzled out with the coal dust and mining machinery ... my lungs shattered with coal and stone dust.'

Review by Julie Bunting

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