Wednesday, June 20, 2018


BBC Essex presenter - Sadie Nine
I received a little flurry of emails and calls following my half an hour or so with presenter Sadie Nine on BBC Essex this morning. We spoke about some of our iconic women through history, particularly Anne Knight, the anti-slavery and women's rights campaigner Quaker who, I believe, kicked off the movement championing the major social reforms of her age.  This was way before the fight for women's suffrage had even started and went on - not without travails - to success forty years after her death in 1862.
This plaque sums up the history of Anne Knight
It’s ironic that Essex is unfairly maligned when conversation turns to the Arts. Yet, it is the richest county in music, painting, literature and history, and boasts some of the world’s most distinguished authors. Essex folk also obviously have a huge love of reading which is evident when hearing the latest figures for reading groups in the county – there are now more than 600 groups - more than in any other English county. Some reading groups meet at local libraries during the daytime, but there are also many who meet in each other’s homes in the evenings or at weekends. Book clubs are now considered cool among the young (so I'm told). 

The Billericay Readers’ Group will celebrate their eighteenth birthday this year. There is also a great interest in writing circles and these are reporting increased membership. Here we have just some of our members of Brentwood Writers' Circle which was formed in 1941 with a notable vice-president of Vera Brittain - so it's great to know that reading and writing are alive and well and still flourishing in Essex. 

Just a glimpse of some of our members of Brentwood Writers' Circle


Monday, June 18, 2018


Of all my current writing projects, I very much enjoy meeting, interviewing and collecting memories from local folk.  These, in the past have often ended up in my regular newspaper and magazine columns and, more importantly, my books, some of which are regarded as 'evergreens'.  This collection of books was  published by The History Press based in Stroud, Gloucestershire quite a few years ago and I am back today signing a few for some new residents to our town.  It seems that even young people are keen to learn about the provenance of their special town.  Have lots of articles coming up in local press about times' past. More to come!  

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


For many years, I've written articles for Home Farmer and experienced the excellent work and co-operation with some of the the journal's superb editors Ruth and Paul. This current edition is great, not just because of my contribution, but generally for all who  grow and enjoy eating their own produce.  Growing your own food is a fundamental part of being self-sufficient, although time-consuming.  Like anything that's worthwhile, preparation is the key and time spent getting it right at the start will mean time saved for the rest of the year.  

This magazine's contributors are superb in each of their special disciplines.  Elizabeth McCorquodale has written a rather special feature this month showing how productive veg growing can be enjoyed as a leisure pursuit, rather than a necessary annual chore. Gaby Bartai, another excellent writer gives advice on growing French beans,  Pam Knight knows all about wool and now I know, too, as she outlines her report on this year's Wonderwool event which certainly made me think of my days of knitting, crochet, tatting, lace-making and all those creative crafts learnt so many years ago.

And here we are now with images of my own topic - making wine from the fruit, veg, herbs, flowers that grow so abundantly in our allotments and gardens. 


Sunday, June 10, 2018


"Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something"   Max Lucado

Volunteering is an opportunity of using your existing talents, learn new skills and support a good cause.  This I learnt when visiting Brentwood's theatre last week and met so many representatives from various organisations. The day was organised by Brentwood Council for Voluntary Service and it was lovely to meet so many interesting people, including Diane Fairchild, Co-ordinator, Arsen  Poghosyan, Funding & Information Officer and a host of other delegates who outlined their special worthy projects. 

It was enjoyable chatting with the folk from Futures in Mind, a service designed for people from across Essex who are looking for support with recovery from mental health problems linked as they are with Mind. Do pay a visit to  and learn more.

I was also delighted to meet a super informative representative from St Francis Hospice, email in Romford, Essex whose work with patients is incomparable. 

Riding for the Disabled has always been a wonderful charity, giving confidence for physically impaired and of course, with children.  

I also met Allison Watson, Co-founder of Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome, a rare epilepsy syndrome, affecting a very small number of people worldwide, but nevertheless needing voluntary help in contributing time, information and money for vital research.  www,
email: allison@ring20research

Friday, June 08, 2018


In my quest for interesting information for various journals about creative personalities, particularly in the business of growing food, it was a pleasure to visit the Brentwood allotments alongside King George's Playing Fields.  I was interested in the extra-steep raised veggie beds planted up by Joy Dunn and even more impressed by her work, alongside some lovely volunteers who keep the unique Sensory Garden so beautifully ordered, weeded and regularly maintained - not an easy job!  

I discovered some unusual shrubs there with fabulous textured perfumed flowers, trees with the most attractive bark, delicate grasses that wave in the breeze, even the sound of the special variety of bamboo rustling through the leaves makes the visit an interesting experience, particularly for people with sight and disablement problems. Easy for access and wheelchairs.  Joy and her team deserve a medal for what they do for the community.  




Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Off now to our super local Billericay local library, one of Essex's busiest and which is vital to all readers and writers, helping me particularly when researching my current local history project. This photo, is of course, very old and the actual library is in a connected, but modern building - will post an up-to-date image when I get home.    

Monday, May 28, 2018


Just a glimpse of the enigmatic front cover of Vivien Brown’s novel Lily Alone will intrigue the reader who will want to discover what the image represents.  And from the first page, we enter the scary world inhabited by a bewildered child whose mother appears to have suddenly disappeared. This is the gripping introduction to young Lily’s story and we all start to worry and wonder about Ruby, her mum. Where has she gone?  When will she return?  What has happened to her? Where is her dad? 
Seen through the eyes of an almost three-year-old, anxiety and misunderstanding take over for both the protagonist and the reader, for we can all feel apprehension for this little girl.  It is not long before young Lily finds herself in danger and we long for someone to step into her solitary frightening world and sort out the terrible state in which she finds herself.

Author - Vivien Brown 
The various other characters in the story are gradually and cleverly introduced, so realistically drawn  and many of us will identify with that very odd British neighbourly custom of keeping ‘oneself to oneself’, but, oh, the damage this can, and often does, bring in to certain sad circumstances.

I very much enjoyed the descriptions of Fiona and Laura, the nurses who figured so much in the lives of Ruby Baxter and little Lily. The nurses continuing search for love and companionship gave us a glimpse of modern day romance,  particularly with the introduction of Paul, the young curate – and those nurses - well!  Life has certainly changed since the introduction of 'finding love on line' and the author obviously has researched the world of hospitals and nursing staff.  
So, Vivien Brown's fast-moving story unfolds and I can say that I enjoyed every one of the thirty six chapters and would recommend this book to all reading groups who enjoy a ripping page-turner, particularly my own Billericay Writers' Group. Additionally, I thought the story would lend itself very well to a film script. 


The  Indomitable Chiesa Di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz OBE
I’ve always loved the idea of visiting Tuscany, so was delighted to be asked to read and review this beautifully written book which captures not only the Florentine culture, but also educates the readers about the history of this fascinating part of Italy.
The author, Daniel Peltz OBE.  Takes us quickly into the life of the student, Molly Cavendish, who worked in Florence as a museum assistant, while studying for her doctorate in Art Renaissance. I was delighted to learn about Warwick University where one of my own family members studied.
From the start, I was hooked on the author’s fast-moving narrative, spanning six centuries of this fascinating city. We are allowed to view the trials and troubles of that special little church Chiesa Di Santa Maria  dating from the fourteenth century through the time of the Napoleonic and later wars and the devastation brought to this lovely place and other parts of Italy.
Daniel has seamlessly woven many famous iconic characters through his book, although the dialogues were purely imaginary.  Yet, it didn't take long for me to visualise the Santa Maria church paintings, so beautifully described, and the colourful lives associated with this building. 
I found this an interesting and well-written book, from which I learnt so much more about Italy generally and about Florence’s little-known episodes during the Second World War. Then came the the terrible floods of 1966 which destroyed so much of this beautiful city and its frescoes.   An absolutely  fascinating read.  

Author Daniel Peltz lives in London and is CEO of London Freeholds Ltd. He is an Honorary Fellow of King’s College and Birkbeck College and sits on King’s Campaign Board and on the Estate Committee for both colleges. He is Chairman of Technion UK and Treasurer of The Anna Freud Centre. Daniel is a Trustee of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Oxford.