It’s all about the people: why Virginia Ironside loves West London

Long-time West London resident, agony aunt Virginia Ironside, talks about community, civility and shopping

Virginia Ironside has remained a loyal fan of Shepherds Bush for more than 40 years. She says it’s the rich variety of shops, the neighbourliness of W12, and the civility of the population that appeal. “I’m just so used to Shepherds Bush being diverse,” she said.

“You can buy a single banana, 
and coriander is 50p a bunch… as opposed to Waitrose where it’s £1.50 for three leaves,” but it’s not just the retail mix she loves, the principal reason for her contentment with W12 is that ‘the people are very, very nice’.

The writer described a recent instance when, heading home with a weighty suitcase after a
trip away, a bearded man gallantly leapt to her aid and insisted on hefting her luggage all the way home. “There’s a civility about Shepherds Bush that I love,” she explained.

Virginia has lived in the same house off Uxbridge Road for 40 years, opening out the original cramped galley kitchen into a light, airy living space with the proceeds from her early books.

Yes! I Can Manage, Thank You

Now in her eighth decade, Virginia Ironside shows no signs of slowing down. Her one-woman

‘Granny stand-up’ show, ‘Growing Old Disgracefully’, was at the Edinburgh Fringe, she’s still doing weekly newspaper and magazine writing, including The Independent’s weekly ‘dilemmas’ column.

Her new book, ‘Yes! I Can Manage, Thank You‘, continues the day-to-day diary of Marie Sharp, a granny who finds older age oddly liberating, while celebrating the relationship with her grandchildren as probably the most

enjoyable aspect of life. “They do say that grandchildren are the rewards you get for not killing your children,” she chuckles.

The writing is lively and vivid, although there’s an underlying poignancy to aspects of Marie’s existence, and an acknowledgement that physical changes lead to some limitations.

Groovy Granny

Books from the Marie Sharp series, including ‘No! I Don’t Want to Join a Bookclub’ and ‘No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses’, have now been translated into 15 languages,

The title of her latest book, ‘Yes! I can Manage, Thank You’, emerged after her publishers suggested she be a bit more upbeat, and break the negative cycle of book titles beginning ‘No’!

“I find it easier to write in little bits,” she said, discussing the diary format of the books. “With the latest book I had an incredibly structured plot, so then I just had to join up the dots. The whole thinking behind it is that growing up is grisly; there’s nothing to recommend it.”

“We can all moan to kingdom come about it… but there are some huge advantages.

Virginia confesses that the one ‘dishonest’ aspect of her fiction writing is minimising the plague of lonely depression in later life, while her character Marie Sharp accentuates the joys of being alone.

“I feel depressed a lot of the time,” she admitted. “I think most people do. But we want to read something to make us feel that there’s someone else who feels like that.”

Virginia Ironside’s latest book, ‘Yes! I Can Manage, Thank You‘, is published
in hardback by Quercus at £16.99

Read the full interview with Virginia Ironside in our latest edition of Our Patch