This is a story of make-do-and-mend in Fir Vale, a poor suburb of post-war Sheffield, during the 1950s. The defeat of Germany had been a hollow victory for working-class families right across Britain, and not least for the Glovers in north-east Sheffield. Six of them were left crammed into a two-bedroom terraced house at 45 Coningsby Road, without a bathroom and with just one outside lavatory.
Young Michael Glover grew up never knowing his father.
Sid Glover didn’t die on the battlefield, but the man who returned from Burma was quite different, in appearance and temperament, from the husband who had left to join the army in 1939. War left Dorothy Glover trusting no one and nothing: banks, foreigners, the family next door and, most of all, her husband (soon to be divorced).
Community rituals like Guy Fawkes Night and Whitsuntide parades, together with the week at Mrs Ansell’s boarding house in Blackpool, were the highlights of his young life as his family scraped a living.
Despite his insular environment, Michael Glover has fond memories of his childhood home, and he developed a strange attachment to that tiny, unremarkable house: the kitchen that was the hub of family life and its ferocious arguments over money; the unheated front room that was only ever used at Christmas; and the outside toilet with its neatly torn strips of the Radio Times attached to an old coat hanger. It was in that house that he first incubated his dreams of becoming a writer. This itself is remarkable. 45 Coningsby Road only ever had one book: a harrowing tale of Sheffield’s disastrous part in WW1 which Michael Glover’s grandfather, domineering Harold, miraculously survived.
Headlong Into Pennilessness takes you through the first nineteen years of his life in Sheffield – the astonishing impact of the sight and the sounds of the young Dylan, the Beatles and Roy Orbison at Sheffield City Hall; his stunned realization that Rolls Royce-driving Freddie Garrity, singer with Freddie and the Dreamers, was sharing an outside toilet in his Fir Vale back yard.
Inspired by his teacher at Firth Park Grammar School English , the story culminates in his winning a scholarship to Cambridge, and on to a life as editor of Mirror Books, award-winning poet, and art critic of the Independent in London.