“The most unexpected journey can be right on your doorstep. Witty and deftly constructed, I much admire this true story of an adventurous and enterprising life” – Sir Ranulph Fiennes
With a life that epitomises the social history of Britain of the second half of the twentieth century – with all of its booms and busts – Neil Hall is an ‘everyman’ for the boomer generation.
An adventurous enthusiasm for trying new things lands Hall in the midst of changing British culture:
- Eccentric prep schools in the ‘50s - Marlborough College and the swinging ‘60s - The foundation of one of the first and best-known interior decorating retailers of the ‘70s - Booming financial services in Thatcher’s ‘80s - World travel and the bursting financial bubble of the ‘90s - And the energetic self-employment, start-up culture of the 21st century.
Fun, funny and always honest, An English Baby Boomer examines, though a single life, where we have been, where we are and wonders where we may be headed.
A path through a fog. December 2014. If you are aware that England has changed but are not clear on details this will provide a path through the fog. From a start that can be referenced in other books - I refer to English public schools of a certain era: eg Robert Graves, Goodbye To All That; Evelyn Waugh, A Little Learning - it opens into steep and adventurous terrain. Great courage and gumption is shown. After 'Peacocks', there are other adventures: a TOPS course in Doncaster and a ghost. A drive through mountains, that becomes suddenly frightening because of possible brigands. Car brakes that fail on a down hill.. a budget that shows signs of considerable strain, interesting Turkey and a mini cab `outfit' in London.Again and again Neil Hall finds his feet. Faces life, adapts, learns new things. His wife is a partner in these adventures, acquiring new skills as the occasion demands so that there is complementary dexterity. Nimr a favourite character.
Neil Hall dedicates this intriguing autobiographical history with the line: "To those from whom I have learned and continued to learn." Then, much later, on the final page of the story, p.521 of this chock-full autobiographical account, "Are we capable of learning more at our age?". The author was born into privilege, but in that transformative era, the Baby Boomer Generation, it was Neil's destiny, in his own words, to be born.... "Saturday's Child. Saturdays child must work hard for its living." And in Neil's case, Saturday's Child must also be about the business of learning while earning... learning while the pages of culture are turning..and learning while living adventurously, with the minimum of fear and trepidation, and making one's way through life with a sinewy optimism. There is a 'can-do' attitude exemplified throughout the story....sometimes, of necessity, a 'must-do' attitude, but in all cases an enduring determination to live life to the fullest, whatever the circumstances. The pages are teeming with items, incidents, historical details and anecdotes; interesting accounts of life in English 'public' schools, colorful descriptions of countryside and locale, acute observations of the changing cultural,political and economic circumstances of the time. And then, of course, the people, the many and the varied, the high and the low, the known and the unknown, the titled and the untitled...but for the author, never the 'un-intitled' to his or her own unique place in Neils' story. Having read An English Baby Boomer twice now, I have found even more therein to value, including Neil's own personal history; his upbringing, school, career, travels and philosophical interests; family life; his wife Lucinda, their life together, and with their sons Tarquin and Alexander; their many adventures. Throughout the book, the numerous anecdotes and notes about England and places-and-things-English hold account,in my view, as a valuable contribution to recorded English history...and in page after page, there is a further contribution.... to English vocabulary usage....I noted throughout the pages the expressive and expansive use of selections from the vast range of the English language heritage. For the sake of experiment, at random, while finishing up this review, I looked at the page that was handy ..516... and there I found, for example, 'provenance','burgeoning', and 'ochre'. When you read the book, try it out yourself; just pick a page and I predict you will find interesting...and potentially useful....words. And of course, beyond this, all these useful words add up to a vital and very interesting story...an intimate personal account, and implicitly, a broad encouragement to the reader to live life fully, wherever and however you find yourself, and to keep on learning throughout.