The Necessary Aptitude by Pam Ayres

Who would think that a memoir of a mundane, prosaic, everyday life could be so interesting?

And who knew Pam Ayres led such an interesting life and held down such diverse jobs?

If those two questions sound contradictory, they are not. The dichotomy of life means it can be both banal and rich at the same time.

The accounts of Ayres’ early life, and the descriptions of village life in general, read like a tale of something older than the mid twentieth century: feudal, insular, limited mobility (in both social and physical movement), rural village poverty. This part reminded me of tales of a much earlier period of English history.

The descriptions of the deadly oppressiveness and tedium of various office jobs which stifled all originality in the workers were not tedious or boring to read. But, oh, you could feel Ayres’ desperation to escape.

The allure of military life, the opportunity it gives for the poor to travel, to escape their lives and even to get an education called Ayres, who followed in the footsteps of thee of her brothers. And what a difference Singapore clearly was; warm, lush, tropical, energising after the cold, dank, closed, cramped poverty of her life in England.

Ayres’ poetry actually came from a desire to entertain and to create pieces that used her own voice. She found, after roles in theatre and in the folk movement, that when she used her own voice, she was able to engage the audience and make them laugh. As there were limited pieces created for her distinctive accent, she wrote them herself.

This is an entertaining, engaging read with a lot of heart and honest self-reflection.



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