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At My Mother's Knee ... - Paul O'Grady

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Genre: Biography / Author: Paul O'Grady / Hardcover / 352 Pages / Book is published 2008-09-24 by Bantam Press

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    15 Reviews
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      03.03.2014 00:08

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      honest, humorous and interesting.

      I was given this book, I am not a huge Paul O'Grady Fan so would not have purchased myself but was one of those books that you can't put down. It had it all for me and is everything a biography should be, honest, humorous and interesting.
      At My Mothers Knee is the first autobiography from Paul O'Grady, I believe there is now a follow up which I have not read which focuses more on his later life whereas this is his childhood and beginning of his career.
      Brought up in a back to back terraced in the heart of Liverpool, where everyone worked and they worked hard, kids were out from morning til night and the cleanliness of your front step told a lot about the family living there.
      Paul spent a lot of time between his home and those of aunties and friends and had a fairly carefree child hood. Although he wasn't raised with money this was never an issue and he writes with humour of how the poorer people of the 50s and 60s got by.
      I did not find this self pitying in any way, which having read a lot of autobiographies I have found that many are. It was just a true account of how his early years were and it takes you through to the start of his comedy career and the coming out to Irish Catholic parents.

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      07.10.2013 14:16

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      A fantastic honest account of a working class childhood

      I am not particularly a Paul O Grady fan and aquired this book by accident but am so glad I did! I really enjoyed it, it's a completely honest and heart warming story of a working class background in the 50's 60's britain. There's no airs or graces it's very genuine and if you've had a similar upbringing you can relate to so much in the book from the aunties on the door step to the sayings from his mother. It's not an account of how poor he was or self pitying, it's him looking back with laughter at the average every day childhood and memories of liverpool in those days, through to his early career as in comedy as 'Lilly Savage' and all of the struggles he faced trying to make it. I fully recommend this book to anyone wanting a bit of history, nostalgia, comedy and heart warming read.

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      25.05.2012 21:24
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      Recommended if you like Paul!!

      At My Mother's Knee is the first (!!) autobiography from television star Paul O'Grady. The book was released in 2008. This book is currently available to buy from Amazon for a price of £5.99 which I think is ok value for money, although having said that, it is a little bit expensive considering the fact that the book was released four years ago. I actually received this book from my Nan after she had finished reading the book herself.

      Paul came across as being really friendly in the book and he seemed really 'warm' and 'welcoming'. The way the book was written was exactly how Paul is when we see him on the telly and his sense of humour really shone through in his words. I was actually surprised at how 'bad' he was when he was younger; I actually wanted to not-like him because of some of the things he did, but I just couldn't. I also loved the way he spoke about his mother and aunties with such humour - I was chuckling to myself at times. When I was reading the book, I could hear Paul telling me the story himself in that unique voice of his.

      I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with the ending. I knew that the book was quite long and so if it had gone up to recent times then it would have been a big massive book, although I was a bit disappointed that the book ended when he was still really young (I think in his twenties) with his 'friend with benefits' breaking some news to him. The book ended on a cliff-hanger which does obviously make the reader want to read on, although I just thought that it was a bit annoying that I would have to buy the 'sequel' in order to find out the whole story of his life,

      Also due to this reason, the book doesn't even mention his television career and so I was again left a little disappointed as whilst I was interested in his childhood and past, I was obviously looking forward to the part where he got famous although this moment never came.

      I found that Paul came across as being older than he actually was. When he kept talking about the old days I kept thinking he was an old man when in reality he is only in his 50's. Whilst I enjoyed this book, I would say that it is probably best suited to 'older people'. By that I mean people 40+ who will be able to remember the old times with Paul. However, that is not to say that no one younger will enjoy it as I am sure that there are many young fans of Paul's who will enjoy this book too.

      I was left confused at times as I found that the story tended to jump around a lot. For example, one minute he would be talking about him and his best friend at school when he was five and the next it would jump to when he was working at 'so' and 'so's, and so a lot of the time I was left guessing how old he was which was quite confusing.

      All in all I did enjoy this book to some extent and would definitely recommend it to people in their forties and above (unless of course you are a huge Paul O Grady fan).

      Thanks for reading!
      May 2012
      Xdonzx / xd-o-n-z-x

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      10.09.2011 21:18
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      A realistic and interesting read

      I regulary watch the Paul O'Grady show and was interested to learn more about his life, so decided to buy this book. At the moment, it costs around a £5 at the moment from Amazon. It has 384 pages.

      Throughout the book, Paul gives an honest account of his life. You feel as if he is speaking to you due to the way it is written; you can imagine him saying it from the pages as it is written in the way he talks. I really liked this and made it feel more realistic.

      Paul talks of his working class, Northern roots growing up in Birkenhead to growing up, including his influences for his Lily Savage character. I have found the book really interesting and realistic, where Paul talks honestly, bluntly and humorously about his life where the situations are easy to relate to. It is easy to imagine yourself in Paul's circumstances, and you can't help but laugh or cry along with him in different parts of the book.

      The chapters flow nicely into one another and I found it hard to put the book down. I would recommend this book to anyone.

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      26.09.2010 22:47

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      Paul takes you on a hilarious journey through the early years of his life & career.

      A Brilliant Read and a real page turner. I litterally could'nt put this book down. As a big fan of reading biographys and auto-biographys and also a huge supporter of Mr Paul O'Grady, i was really looking forward to reading this 1st installment of his life story. And it certainly did'nt dissapoint. it is a hilarious, emotional, roller coaster of a ride. And its not even half of his life story! Paul talks about his life growing up in poverty, his sexuality, all the different jobs that he had. The book takes you on a journey from his childhood through to his teens and early 20's. From start to finish this book has you laughing out loud one minute and sobbing the next. One thing that i love about this book is also the way that as your reading it you can almost hear Paul speaking the words in your head. I can't wait for the 2nd installment of his life story if this 1st taste is anything to go by... and the end is such a cliff hanger!!

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      07.01.2010 11:07
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      Lily Savage would be proud

      A corker of a book! You feel as if you are part of the O'Grady family. It helped that I know the area Paul describes very well, as I could see in my mind his journey to deliver papers, and hear the outrageous comments being yelled by neighbours. This book works through your emotions, with humour never far from the surface. It paints a very colourful picture of life in a certain period, highlighting how attitudes were so very different then. Never maudlin, we are given the opportunity to follow everyday life with its highs and lows. Paul's obvious love for his family is at the centre of this book - the old maxim of being able to poke fun at those you love rings true. It certainly leaves you wanting the next episode as it ends in a bit of a cliff hanger, which I wont spoil for you.
      Lily Savage would be proud!

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        26.10.2009 13:06
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        Paul grabs you by the scruff of the neck and never let's go...but in a nice way! Totally engaging.

        'Put your hands together..let's hear it' for Mr. Paul O'Grady!
        The title 'At My Mother's Knee ( and other low joints) certainly fits the bill as Paul takes us on an intimate adventure into his childhood, formative years, growing up as a Catholic lad in working class Birkenhead, the daily banter in the corner shop where his mum forever 'bigged' him up to the odious shopkeeper who thought she was ' a cut above' the rest of the proletariat who frequented her little empire. Paul regales with tales of swinging the incense as an altar boy, (it seems he really went for it...as one would expect from Paul), his episodic journey to London for work in a hotel which turned out a near disaster as he ended up in the Magistrates Court (through no real intention of deceit...you have to read the book...)
        Strong females feature strongly in Paul's life from his mother to his beloved Auntie, 'Our Chrissie' ...'The pride of Birkenhead Buses' who wore her 'warpaint' or 'slap' as Paul would call it like a badge of honour and he describes how he would watch Chrissie applying her make-up, an early precursor to Lily perhaps...certainly, some influence there.
        Paul's description of his mother innocently enquiring about a wad of cannabis or 'Marihaji' as she called it is hilarious and of how she goes onto smoke it, getting 'high' on a freezing cold night in Birkenhead!
        There is so much information in this book that Paul manages to place in an appropriate social contect that evokes the era he was brought up in and reflects the beliefs and social mores of the day. I was sorry to reach the end of the book, it was so absorbing and one could hear Paul's voice throughout as if he was reading the words off the page.
        Paul left me wanting more.... which I understand we are going to get in the next part of his autobiography.
        A highly recommended read, You will laugh and cry with Paul. A thoroughly absorbing memoir.

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        02.09.2009 14:31
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        A great all round good yarn

        I have to admit that i actually bought this book for my mum as a christmas present, i was not actually that bothered about reading it myself.

        When she opened it she was quite surprised as she had actually asked for John Barrowmans autobiography (opps!)

        I love to read and although iam not a great fan of autobiographys i decided to give it a go.

        Most people have heard about mr O'Grady from his teatime programe on channel 4, i first heard of him when was his alter ego the fabulous Lilly Savage, one of the best drag acts around.

        Paul O'grady - At my mothers knee and other low joints was published in hardback in 2008 by Bantam press RRP £18.99

        First of all the book in written in a narrative style which i loved and it feels as though you are sitting having a cuppa with paul himself while he tells you some stories, especially as some of it is wriiten in his liverpool twang. it does not follow any set pattern such as years and dates, it really is like a coversation and he tells you just whatever comes into his mind.

        Quite often through the book it jumps from a story about his present life to one that is in is past.

        It goes through highs and lows and you meet some colourfull characters such as his mam and aunties and the strong female influences that have stayed with him all his life.

        It also takes you through Paul discovering his sexuality but does not play on it at all.

        It has some sad parts that will bring a tear to the eye and some laugh out loud ones that made me look strange sitting on a train!.

        It really gives you an insight into what made Paul the man he is and where the wonderfull Lilly Savage may have come from.
        As like a lot of comics Paul has used to comedy to cover everything from shyness, sadness and insercurities.

        I know i have not told you a lot about the actual contents of the book but i feel that thats something that would spoil it.

        If you like a book that is funny, sad, heartwarming and written with honesty and humour than please give it a go.

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          27.06.2009 21:24

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          Very entertaining read

          At My Mother's Knee.. and Other Lower Joints by Paul O'Grady, this book is his autobiography it came out in 2008 and I brought it for £18.99. Paul O'Grady is best known for his chat show The Paul O'Grady Show, which was one ITV1 and was soon moved to channel four as the show became more popular. Paul O'Grady was born in Liverpool 14 June 1995, and the book takes you through how he was a altar boy and then eventually how he makes the leap to become a drag queen called Lily Savage. He tells his story of how he made the move from pubs to the television. Like Paul O'Grady is on his chat show gossipy, colourful and shap he brings all this into the book which makes it a very entertaining autobiography and definity worth a read. With only 340 pages you will want to read more.

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          19.05.2009 10:53
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          Great read, for fans and non-fans

          I LOVED this book!
          what an absolutely great read, another one I got for Christmas, but one of the last I read as I didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as the others, how wrong I was.

          I didn't really know much about Paul O'Grady, I had seen Lily on Blankety Blank when I was young and then had caught his Channel 4 a few times (which I'm now addicted to!).

          His life was hard, but at no point does he try and make you feel sorry for him, he tells it like it is and I think he realises without the life he had he probably wouldn't be where he is now. The characters he grew up with, his parents and aunts have really inspired his creativitity and alot of Lily too!

          The ending is really sad, and I get the impression there are more books to come!

          Paul is a very real person, you can see this on his show and definately feel it when reading the book.

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            17.05.2009 19:11

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            Great book highly recommended

            This is quite simply one of the funniest books I have read and gripping from start to finish. Paul O'Grady is as funny in print as he is on TV.
            I didnt realise that this is part 1 of his autobiography and I cant wait for part 2.
            Dealing with Paul's early years in Birkenhead, you can clearly see where the ideas for Lily Savage came from. Paul's family, particularly his aunties and his mum are simply priceless. The one liners, the sarcastic put downs are all classic Birkenhead housewife, and these were the inspiration for Lily.
            The book also deals with Paul's school years and his struggle with his sexuality, all dealt with in typical Paul style with humour and common sense (with a little help from his mum - when Paul finally came out his mother simply said "Well you'd better not be wearing my clothes"!
            Highly recommended and worth reading over and over again.

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            26.03.2009 22:12
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            A real must for either fans of Paul, Lily or vibrant characters.

            If you enjoy watching Paul on television, then you will enjoy this book. You can almost hear him reading the words to you.

            It becomes obvious where Lily Savage came from as you read about the strong females that shaped Paul's life. The characters are so vibrant you wish that you had known them, in fact by the end you feel you did know them. His mother in particular just comes alive as you read about her and her many sayings.

            Paul's discriptions are so vivid and he seems to have a real flair for capturing the whole feeling of an era gone by. I really felt he could be writing some early episodes of Coronation Street as the images he conjured up were so evocative. I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion and can honestly say that I have never read such an autobiography that is so able to conjour up such a feeling of reliving times past and that demonstrates so clearly what has formed a person - two in fact if you count Paul and Lily! This book does only take Paul's life up until his late teens/early twenties, he is currently writing the next book.

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            05.03.2009 12:52
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            Warmly written, Engaging, Thorough. Although it only covers Paul's childhood and teen years

            Paul O'Grady is one of the few personalities I really enjoy watching on British TV; from the acerbic wit of the blonde bombsite that is Lily Savage, to the affable persona that exudes warmth on his tea time chat show. This was a man I knew had led a colourful and rich life, a life of which I wanted to read more. It was with much anticipation and joy then that I received his autobiography - 'At my Mothers knee... and other low joints' as a gift this Christmas past, I set about the three hundred and forty pages with relish to find out about the life and times of someone who is gradually becoming a national treasure.

            Paul James O'Grady arrived in this world kicking and screaming on a storm ravaged night in 1955. The youngest of three children, his conception and subsequent birth came as quite a shock to his parents Paddy and Molly, who had thought their days of childcare were behind them after the arrival of Paul's older Brother some thirteen years before. His siblings seemed to resent him, annoyed at this new intrusion diverting their parents time and attention. As such Paul didn't seem to bond too closely with them, preferring to spend his time in the company of the predominantly female members of his immediate family. Particular fondness was lavished upon his dear Aunty Chrissie, a woman of immense beauty and a temper to strike fear into anyone that crossed her or wronged those she cared about. She was the pride of Birkenhead buses; in her perfectly quaffered uniform and immaculate hair and makeup she ruled her bus round with an iron glove as a conductor.

            And it seemed Paul gleaned a great deal from this lady, indeed he freely admits that his alter ego - the blonde bombsite that is Lily Savage - was based firmly on the females in his life, with Aunty Chrissie supplying more research material than most as she sat at the kitchen table, fag in hand, religiously applying her war paint. From his early days remembering with fondness sitting on his Mothers knee every lunchtime for 'watch with Mother' to his schooling under the strict disciplinarians known as 'the Christian Brothers' at the local Catholic school, and his search for a job and career path that would sate his appetite for a challenge and give him some direction in life, this book chronicles that journey in a wonderful, sad, joyous and heart-warming way.

            Now I'm not usually a fan of autobiographies; I bore easily as they follow a well trodden route of growing up, hitting the big time, discovering drink, drugs and sex, and a bout in some rehab centre for the rich and famous. With this book though it was refreshing to read about a real man, who has lived a real life, surrounded by real people. I could relate to his upbringing, with one parent being strict while the other less so, and the growing pains encountered at school, at home and on the streets. Scraping money to buy records and cool clothes from a paper round, working in bars to immerse himself in the local gay scene in Liverpool, and dodging the brutality of 'the Christian Brothers' at the local school, all richly described. One section worthy of mention that really had me chuckling is when Paul's Mum found a lump of Cannabis Resin in his pocket, what follows is an amazingly funny and warm dialogue, which - it's fair to say - does not go as Paul expects.
            A broad smattering of colour photos break up the narrative nicely, family members smile warmly and scenes of Birkenhead life play out to add colour to the words. These are no showbiz type poses; these are real people living real lives captured for prosperity in Kodak form; trips to the beach and countryside, weddings, christenings and get-togethers, times of family harmony, of bygone days.

            Nothing other than the full five stars from me then; this book offers a unique and no holds barred look at Paul O'Grady's early life, often demoralizing, occasionally maudlin, but ultimately heart-warming and amusing; this is amongst the best autobiographies I have had the pleasure to read. The characters within are given depth by Paul's words - a cast of rogues and rascals - all bringing colour to an utterly absorbing book. In closing, It is worth mentioning that this book is not a complete history of the man that is Paul O'Grady; those wishing to read about the rise and fall of Lily Savage or Paul's work as a chat show host will be left disappointed; this book is purely focused on the early life of Master O'Grady - from a babe in arms in poverty stricken Birkenhead to a young man leaving school and trying to find his way in the world. I didn't realise this, as the pages went by I started musing that there was an awful lot of his life to squeeze into the last fifty pages or so. Thankfully I have since found out that Paul is hard at work on a second book, no doubt covering the second half of his life, maybe tentatively entitled 'The Savage Years' or 'Travels with Buster'; I for one can't wait to read it.

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              25.01.2009 16:53

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              newly found respect for a former drag artist thank you

              i didnt know much about Paul Ogrady only that he used to do a drag act and now is on tele at 5 on c4 but when i heard he had a book out i brought it for my girlfriend who is a big fan but it was just sitting on the shelf untill i just picked it up and started to read it i just couldnt put it down its not my cup of tea as such but he is someone i know a lot about now. he tells tales of a young boy who grows up in the wirral (tranmere) with his mom and dad and close family, he just tells the story from his heart and memorys and he has made me understand how it was not a long time ago that a lot of things were different to being excited about being in his headmasters car after he got caught running away from school on his first day.

              i dont want to spoil this for you so just read the book you as i will be pleasantly suprised.

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              04.01.2009 19:54
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              Forget his 'official' biography - the TRUE story of Lily Savage starts right here.

              I love reading, which is why I usually avoid the biography section in book shops. All too often it's a choice between misery memoirs or celebrities with nothing to say except "Buy Me - I'm a biographer." Whilst I have every sympathy with the survivors of childhood tragedy, I've had enough of my own, thank you very much - the last thing I need is to be reminded of it. As for those celeb biographies - all too often they are rehashed old news cobbled together by some journalist with little interest in their subject. Besides, to me a celebrity is someone who's had more of a life than being thrown out of Big Brother.

              Occasionally, of course, there is a real gem. A genuine set of memoirs written by a celebrity who has something worthwhile to say. Paul O'Grady's book is such a gem. Within its 340 pages he has plenty to say, and all of it is entertaining even if you are not an O'Grady fan.

              "At my mother's knee ..." chronicles his early life in working class Birkenhead - before the days of Lily Savage and fame. Yes, it is a memoir, but even though it tells of a life full of hardship and poverty this is as far removed from misery as it is possible to get. There are poignant moments but there is plenty of sunshine among the tears, and Paul's unique gift for narrative brings it all vividly to life.

              For those who are not in the know, Paul O'Grady first hit our screens as the outrageous drag queen Lily Savage, first as a guest on shows like Good Morning and Big Breakfast, and later as a star in his (or her) own right. From 2000 onwards he was increasingly seen as 'himself' in such series as The Paul O'Grady Show and Paul O'Grady's Orient. But it is Lily for whom he is best known and, even though she ditched the heels and boa for good in 2004 - going to a convent, of all things - she remains a firm favourite in the nation's hearts.

              There are many conflicting accounts of how Lily's persona came to be created, most of them inaccurate. This is the first book written by Paul himself, and is the best place to start if you want to know the truth about his life; of the humble beginnings which shaped his stardom. (The pre-existing 'official' biography, penned by journalist Neil Simpson, is full of inaccuracies - many of which have found their way onto the pages of Wikipedia) This, though, is the real McCoy - or rather, O'Grady; a delicious read through his early life as a Catholic lad in Birkenhead, Wirral.

              The book opens with a clever premise - that of sorting through a box full of family memorabilia, with a story to tell about each. In this way, Paul introduces us to the trials and tribulations of the O'Grady and Savage clans (Savage being his mother's maiden name) as well as his own exploits - both sexual and otherwise. Thus, as well as learning about his early years at a run-down inner city primary, and the short spell at an all-male private school which followed, we also hear about his mother's "posh voice" on the telephone, and her first - and only - experience with false teeth, something which gave Paul a phobia of dentists that has endured throughout his life.

              As the book progresses, it is obvious that Lily's creation was not based on any one person, but rather a pastiche of many, so it is no surprise that so many of Paul's stories feature female relatives. Thus, as well as his devoutly Catholic, decidedly Lily-ish mother (who swore like a trooper, yet was a member of the devoutly religious Union of Catholic Mothers) we meet his beloved Auntie Chris. She had the looks of Marlene Dietrich and should have been bound for Hollywood stardom; instead she found a different fame - as a clippie on the Birkenhead buses. And then there is sister Sheila, who has a cockroach-like birthmark on her leg the exact copy of one which terrified her pregnant mother during an air raid. We meet members of his father's family, too - including Uncle James and Auntie Bridget, who live in a rural Irish farmhouse with no sanitation whatsoever - not even a toilet. You simply found a patch of ground and a handful of dock leaves, and made do.

              Paul's sexuality is evident from an early stage in proceedings, yet "At my mother's knee ..." is never fey or self-effacing. He tells of his sexual encounters, both male and female, with the same mirth he uses when discussing his experiences with drugs (one hilarious sequence involves his mother and a wad of Cannabis, but Paul's first drug 'trip' was a terrified reaction to the effects of downing two ProPlus) Through it all, we feel the same confusion he must have felt, growing up in a family where - like many of that generation - homosexuality was a dirty word. He was forced to hide his true preferences in public, as well, as much to keep predacious "queens" at bay as anything. Unable to speak the truth either in his own home or outside of it, it is no wonder he felt so torn between the two worlds.

              The book uses 'flashback sequences' a fair deal, with Paul frequently going off topic before returning to it some pages further on. But this is so skilfully done that it rarely gets confusing for the reader. Rather, it comes across as a conversation between friends would do, with an interweaving pastiche of independent events seamlessly anchored by Paul's steady eye for detail - and always cut with the delicious rasp of his native Wirral. His skilful and metaphorical grasp of narrative, and his unique phrasing of dialogue, bring his early years vividly to life, and introduce us to a Wirral peninsula that, sadly, has all but disappeared.

              Through these pages we learn of his first brush with the law, his first fumbling sexual encounter - at the age of nine, with an invitation to have a feel down a local girl's top. We learn of dismissals and disasters (his short but eventful safari into London territory, in particular) We enter seedy bars and upper-class restaurants. We meet handsome but unavailable coppers and available but unwilling girlfriends (unwilling because they were toured around the gay quarter of Wirral, that is.) We meet engaging landlords, loveable rogues, - and malevolent and predatory 'queens' unable to take "No" for an answer. Oh - and we meet Diana Dors and Marlene Dietrich, as well - before he'd ever played his first gig. No wonder he developed such a thirst for show business.

              Throughout it all, his patient but despairing parents hover in the background. The last two chapters see Paul embark on a new chapter in his life with - despite his criminal record -a new career as a clerk in the Liverpool magistrates courts. This introduces him to a very important character - a repeat offender called Marlene, who was undoubtedly the biggest influence yet on his future persona of Lily Savage. Despite a fling with a girl called Diane (the unwilling gay bar attendee) Paul has at last come to terms with his sexuality.

              However, all this is overshadowed by his mother's near fatal heart attack. While she is still critical, Paul's father dies unexpectedly. This is heart wrenching stuff, and proof of what a skilful writer O'Grady is. His return to an empty home, the heartbreaking sight of his father's pipe and football coupon just as they were left, is not just a statement of loss - it makes us realise just how far we have travelled together. The book ends with a telephone call from his old girlfriend and the revelation that he is about to become a father.

              Even if you are not a Paul O'Grady fan (and, truth be said, I used to place myself in that number) I would urge anyone to give this book a go. It is the perfect antidote to the sterile 'official' biography that preceded it, and perfect for anyone looking for nostalgia, humour and humanity in one package. The end chapter suggests there is more to come - I certainly hope so.

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