Between the Stops: The View of My Life from the Top of the Number 12 Bus, Sandi Toksvig

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Every now and again a break from crime fiction is sought, and everything I've ever seen written or heard spoken about Sandi Toksvig, and every time I've heard her on TV or the radio, makes me convinced that time spent in her company on those mediums is just better. So this was an immediate purchase when I heard people talking about it recently. BETWEEN THE STOPS reads EXACTLY as you'd expect something from Sandi Toksvig to read. You start out on the Number 12 bus, looking out at a streetscape, which leads you to a bit of a chat about somebody from history who did something or had something to do with that place, which leads to an anecdote from her life, which nearly always included something that made me laugh, that made me seriously annoyed with the world, and that really made me think.

For those in Australia who aren't as welded onto the ABC, BBC or UK-TV as those in this household, Sandi may or may not be as well known, but she is the guest who became presenter when Stephen Fry left QI; she, and Noel Fielding, took on The Great British Bake Off when they abandoned ship and moved to another UK tv station; and she often appears on English comedic panel shows and The Last Leg. She's funny, extremely erudite, an outspoken and articulate feminist, an activist, and, it comes as no surprise, incredibly well read, and knowledgeable about history, with women's history a specific interest. The way that she has woven observations of human nature (particularly pertaining to bus travel), the history of the places that the Number 12 passes, and the major events in her own life is not just entertaining it's profoundly enlightening.

Loved this book. Loved every single thing about it. Can not recommend it highly enough. (Those who are used to receiving books from me at Christmas may find their parcels contain one that comes as no surprise now....)

Year of Publication

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'.

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