Pip Granger was born in Cuckfield, Sussex, in 1947. Her parents
split when she was five, and her childhood was divided between her
teacher mother’s homes in and around Dagenham and her father’s
top-floor flat above the Two I’s coffee bar in Old Compton
Street, Soho. The singer Annie Ross lived on the floor below, but
Pip’s memories of Soho are not so much of the famous people
who drifted in and out of her life, as of the people at the heart
of the mulit-cultural community; the market traders, shopkeepers,
craftsmen and sex-workers.
Her father, who had made and lost one fortune publishing pulp fiction
in World War II, sold erotic literature from above Parmigiani’s
delicatessen on a corner of Old Compton Street and wrote for television,
a life-style that allowed him to fly light aircraft and holiday
regularly on the French Riviera. Later, he became a mail order astrologer.
Pip, known as Chip to her friends after briefly dating a boy called
Dale, followed her mother’s career choice.
Her first job was with the City of Westminster, teaching children
who had been excluded from school because of emotional and health
she worked as a literacy and special needs teacher in Stoke Newington
and Hackney in the 1970s and 1980s. After quitting teaching, she
wrote for a while on non-fiction partworks, including My Garden
and My Child.
Her first marriage ended in divorce. In 1988, she married Ray
Granger, and they moved from London to the West Country. All Pip’s books but the first
were written in a shed in the wildlife garden she and her husband
father always told her she was a natural writer and story-teller,
but she began to write fiction only in the 1990s. Her older brother,
Peter, was diagnosed with brain cancer, and she wanted to memorialise
their extraordinary childhood. The resulting book, Not
All Tarts are Apple, was the unanimous winner of the first Harry
Bowling Prize for London writing in 2000, and was published
in 2002. A sequel, The Widow Ginger,
was published the following year, and Trouble
in Paradise in 2004. No Peace
for the Wicked followed in April 2005.
Alone, a memoir of her extraordinary childhood,
appeared in Corgi in June 2007, and made the non-fiction bestseller
lists, as did Up West,
an informal ‘emotional history’ of London’s West
End in the two decades between VE Day and the birth of Swinging
London, which was published by Corgi in August 2009.
In June 2011, Pip was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and abandoned
plans for a book on the variety theatre, The Spice of Life in order
to concentrate on living fully what time she had left with her husband,
dog and latest garden. She died at home in Devon on 8 September
2012, leaving one complete, but unpublished, novel, Breaking Ground.
The story of her last 15 months can be read at the blog The Days
are Just Packed and the continuing tale of the gardens she created
is at Chip's Garden.