Dan Sandman

05: Four Stories by Alan Bennett

In Books, Fiction, Short Stories on 30/01/2015 at 12:00 pm

Four Stories by Allen BennettFor the past week or so, my mother and I have been watching an Alan Bennett  DVD box set, and I have been reading this signed book. Mr. Bennett (1934 – ), our neighbourhood dramatist and actor and short story writer, lives only a stone’s-throw away from our house, and is celebrated in my country as a national treasure. He is a well known public figure, with strong connections to the National Theatre, the BBC and the British film industry. To my mother and I, he is a friendly neighbour who says hello, and a local hero who helped save our library.

This edition of Four Stories was published to celebrate Allen Bennett’s eightieth birthday. It puts these four funny and strange short stories into one readable place. The first story is a about a celebrity masseur; the second about a married couple; the third about a school teacher; and the last – the most well known – about a lady who lived in a van. Each story accurately captures everyday speech, and includes a good joke – or a heartbreaking line – on almost every page.

I can remember reading The Lady in the Van (1989) in Rose Bank shopping centre, Johannesburg. The book I had taken with me was Untold Stories (2005) – a large volume containing all sorts. Sat by myself in a foreign cafe, drinking English breakfast tea, I traveled back to Camden Town in my mind. Somehow, the warm Yorkshire accent of Alan Bennett comforted me, and got me thinking about my mother. I felt like an old friend was sitting opposite me at the table, telling me his best anecdote, and the song – called JHB Homesick Blues (2012) – I had just written melted into album track obscurity.

Where the story takes us is where we are.

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