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Mild & Bitter Were The Days - Ken Barlow
By Andrew VaughanNo not that Ken Barlow but a fella that was sixteen and was living in Wigan and kept a diary. Oh and it was 1970 and that diary has now been published. It's published as it was written some forty years ago - with the author making some modern-day observations - and it's bloody lovely.
It's also awkward, embarrassing, raw, funny and sometimes it's sad. The book is billed "as a year in the life of a sixteen year old football fan" and whilst the author's love of Wigan Athletic seeps through the book, football is rarely mentioned. Sure, Barlow and his mates are that obsessed that they spend school lunchtimes at the ground watching the new tea bar being built but the match is rarely mentioned. If it is it's mainly to record the occasional rumbles on the terracing.
The book is essentially about Barlow's quest/desperation to get a girlfriend all played out against the backdrop of Tartan Bitter, Tamla Motown, Led Zeppelin, bootboys and the local clubs. Well the ones that would let him and his mates into. And you'll be right there with him. Being "knocked back" by the girls. Making the walk of shame back to the lads on the edge of the dancefloor. Eating cheese and onion barms, bored at school then bored at work and bored lying in bed until lunchtime. Because that's what being sixteen is about and Barlow puts a spring into the step of the mundanity of everyday life in a northern town.
For all it's themes, friendship and love are what lie within the book's beating heart. Barlow's close-knit family, his best mate Paul - a friendship that endures to this day - and of course the beautiful Sayes and Judith.. As I said earlier it's just a bloody lovely book ...
The beautifully-packaged Mild & Bitter Were The Days by Ken Barlow is available at all the usual places plus direct from the author at http://www.mildandbitter.co.uk/
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