Book Review – Between The Stops by Sandi Toksvig

First published, 2019

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Between The Stops is a sort of bus ride down memory lane. Part memoir, part travelogue, this book is packed with facts about the various luminaries and history of one bus route in London, the personal memories that are sparked by certain sights and people along the way, and very funny anecdotes of one of the nation’s favourite broadcasters and entertainers.

As a feminist, it’s quite true that history, as well as being written by the victors, is almost exclusively written about the men. There’s a great line from Mrs. Lintott in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys: “History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.”

I think all women should share in Ms Toksvig’s (who should surely be Dame Sandi by now) frustration at the obscurity to which women have been regularly relegated in the story of mankind.

I have read a great deal of Sandi Toksvig before, and have seen her in one thing or another for most of my life, so some of the stories were well-known to me but still joyous. I was shocked by how appalling her coming out was. I wasn’t really paying attention at the time (I think I was twelve), but it was a tale that threw me quite badly during the story.

To begin with, reading about one of my favourites, sitting on the top deck of a bus, largely ignored while the other passengers played with or answered their phones, I was saddened because I felt a tremendous sense of loneliness on her behalf. However, I was lucky, because Sandi was right there waiting to pull me through.

Heartrending in places, a delight in others. As ever, Sandi Toksvig feels like a friend. I particularly liked this part:

“I’ve been on television for so long that I think lots of people feel they know me, which is lovely, and they chat to me, which is also nice, but I never cease to be amazed what some folk think is appropriate to tell me. One of the strangest encounters was at a motorway service station on the way to Bournemouth. I was taking my elder daughter, Jesse, to the university there for an open day and we stopped at the services to get coffee. As soon as we entered the place Jesse did what young people seem to be trained to do: she rushed off to a retail opportunity presuming I was following with money. As it happened, I didn’t have any on me so I headed to a cash machine. I can’t read well without my glasses and I had left them in the car so I was leaning in to the machine and concentrating when a little old lady barrelled up to me. She was wearing something I hadn’t seen in years – a Pac-A-Mac, which makes the most marvellous early-warning rustling sound. She was very old indeed. I don’t know where she was going. Perhaps she was being made to go on a coach trip to see the sea one last time. She said, ‘Hello Sandi.’
“‘Oh hello,’ I said, still trying to focus my eyes on the ATM.
“‘You’re very funny,’ she went on.
“‘That’s very kind,’ I replied, continuing to attempt my transaction.
“‘But that’s not why I like you.’
“I finished what I was doing and turned to look at her. ‘No?’
“‘No,’ she declared. ‘I like you because you, like me, are not a specific shape.’
“And with that she left.”
p137, Camberwell Church Street/Camberwell Green, Between The Stops by Sandi Toksvig