Between The Stops: The View of My Life from the Top of the Number 12 Bus is Sandi Toksvig’s quirky memoir which I recently listened to on Audible. It’s a bit of an unusual memoir in that it’s not just simply about her life. Instead, she takes us on her regular journey to work in London on the number 12 bus route and tells stories on the way linked to each bus stop.
Rather appropriately, this audiobook has accompanied me on my own recent journeys either by foot or in the car and I loved every minute of it. Each chapter reveals a little about the journey Sandi Toksvig makes on the bus, the experiences she has and the interactions she has with her fellow passengers, some of which are more welcome than others. She talks about the present day part of London relevant to the chapter and then about the history of the area. She also reveals a bit about her own life in a more or less chronological manner. And what an incredibly interesting life she has led. As a child, she and her brother travelled a lot as her beloved father was a leading Danish journalist who was frequently foreign correspondent in one part of the world or another. And so it was that when Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the moon, she was holding his secretary’s hand.
The book is full of fascinating stories and anecdotes whether about the author or some of the people or events she uncovers when researching each area. As you might imagine with Sandi Toksvig, some of these are quite hilarious and you may well find yourself laughing out loud at some of the situations she finds herself in or some of the stories she tells about historical characters. Yet it’s not all light-hearted with many more serious themes included such as equality for women, gay rights, politics, social justice and misogyny. One particular theme she returns to often is the lack of women represented and memorialised whether in the history books, in statues or in place names. Happily for us, she seeks to redress the balance in this book and thus we learn about all kinds of strong women whose stories might otherwise rarely have been known.
This is a hugely enjoyable, warm, witty and educational memoir from someone who I think it is fair to say is a national treasure, though I suspect she’d be bemused to be described that way! I am so glad I chose to get this as an audiobook because, while I am sure I would have enjoyed a print edition, hearing Sandi Toksvig read it herself made the story come to life. I thoroughly enjoyed it and shall miss listening to Sandi when out and about myself.
Between the Stops is published by Virago Press and available in hardback ebook and audiobook (Hachette Audio) formats. It should be available to buy or order from your usual book retailer or you can order a copy online here: Between The Stops
From the back of the book
This long-awaited memoir from one of Britain’s best-loved celebrities – a writer, broadcaster, activist, comic on stage, screen and radio for nearly forty years, presenter of QI and Great British Bake Off star – is an autobiography with a difference: as only Sandi Toksvig can tell it.
‘Between the Stops is a sort of a memoir, my sort. It’s about a bus trip really, because it’s my view from the Number 12 bus (mostly top deck, the seat at the front on the right), a double-decker that plies its way from Dulwich, in South East London, where I was living, to where I sometimes work – at the BBC, in the heart of the capital. It’s not a sensible way to write a memoir at all, probably, but it’s the way things pop into your head as you travel, so it’s my way’.
From London facts including where to find the blue plaque for Una Marson, ‘The first black woman programme maker at the BBC’, to discovering the best Spanish coffee under Southwark’s railway arches; from a brief history of lady gangsters at Elephant and Castle to memories of climbing Mount Sinai and, at the request of a fellow traveller, reading aloud the Ten Commandments; from the story behind Pissarro’s painting of Dulwich Station to performing in Footlights with Emma Thompson; from painful memoires of being sent to Coventry while at a British boarding school to thinking about how Wombells Travelling Circus of 1864 haunts Peckham Rye;from anecdotes about meeting Prince Charles, Monica Lewinsky and Grayson Perry to Bake-Off antics; from stories of a real and lasting friendship with John McCarthy to the importance of family and the daunting navigation of the Zambezi River in her father’s canoe, this Sandi Toksvig-style memoir is, as one would expect and hope, packed full of surprises.
A funny and moving trip through memories, musings and the many delights on the Number 12 route, Between the Stops is also an inspiration to us all to get off our phones, look up and to talk to each other because as Sandi says: ‘some of the greatest trips lie on our own doorstep’.
About the author
Sandi Toksvig went into theatre as a writer and performer after graduating from Cambridge. Well known for her television and radio work as a presenter, writer and actor, she has written more than twenty books for children and adults. She also writes for theatre and television: her film The Man starred Stephen Fry and Zoe Wanamaker and her play Bully Boy starring Anthony Andrews opened the St James Theatre, London in 2012. She was Chancellor of Portsmouth University from 2012 to 2017. In 2016 Sandi took over as chair on QI, and in 2017 she started presenting The Great British Bake Off. She lives in London and Kent.