I bought, or perhaps stole, because I am sorry to say I used to steal quite a few books from shops and libraries in those days, my copy of Beckett’s Happy Days in 1971. This was a great time to live down the road from Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre and I joined the Youth Theatre Workshop there when we lived in the pub in Parliament Place. Do I owe that to my old school friend Lorna Tanklovtich? I think I do.
I saw Waiting for Godot at the Everyman there at about age 14 but cannot remember if that is what led me to Happy Days, a book I became almost obsessed with during the summer of 1971. I was a pretentious 15-year-old. I carried it everywhere with me, and would read or recite long monologues to myself or preferably to others whenever I got the chance. Like all Beckett, it is very serious and very funny. It made me laugh my head off and I can recall sitting in the upstairs bar at the Liverpool playhouse one saturday afternoon, reading and laughing to myself…
Why is it a book to make a woman?
Well, there’s Winnie, stuck up to her neck in sand, and useless Willie, free but no good to her at all, just round the back. Something about that situation struck me as true. I loved Winnie’s mad brave attempts to keep going. To keep herself together. Oh, in the pub where we lived things were going crazy. My mum was beautiful and very witty but beginning to drink too much. She had a boyfriend with whom she fought when drunk. Nights were hard, trying to calm them both down, and then… my girl’s grammar school by day. Odd disjunctions. I recognised Winnie’s self-delusion, but I loved her. Winnie was my mum. And me. I was laughing but I was looking to the future. Happy Days.
Winnie: (turning back to front, joyful). Oh you are going to talk to me today, this is going to be a happy day! (Pause. Joy off.) Another Happy day.