Friday, March 15, 2019


I  reviewed this book by Frances Clamp, President of the Brentwood Writers' Circle, some years ago when it was originally launched. Published by Pen & Sword Military, it is an excellent reference to the vagaries of war, not only in Essex as the title suggests, but nationwide. Just recently I've had time to study the content more carefully. This is because I am working hard on my own new book and Frances has carried out the most meticulous research into the RAF at North Weald and at other places in our county.
Frances & Sylvia winning a fictional competition
One of the benefits in belonging to a local writing circle, is the friendship with members who can help with advice on almost any topic under the sun.  Although I basically write non-fiction, even with stories for magazines and competitions, there is still a need to research, particularly when writing historical narrative. I find that fellow writers are the kindest kind of people around and will always try to make life a little easier for their fellow members, especially for rookie scribes.  See

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


The Essex Book Festival team is delighted to announce the Top Twenty Books That Rock Essex – old and new – as part of our 20th Birthday celebrations in partnership with Essex Libraries and BBC Essex. The Top Twenty are either based or partially set in Essex, and have been nominated by readers across Essex over the last few weeks via an open call.
To find a winner, all you have to do is to email your favourite book from the list to  Winners will be announced at Essex Book Club Symposium in Chelmsford Library on Thursday 28 March.  Fingers crossed everyone!   
Heart of Darkness  – Joseph Conrad – Tilbury Dock
War of the Worlds – HG Wells – Essex Coast
Secret Waters – Arthur Ransome – Hamford Waters
We Didn’t Mean To Go Sea – Arthur Ransome
The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry – Colchester
Dracula – Bram Stoker – Purfleet
Oaken Heart – Margery Allingham – Tolleshunt D’Arcy
Starter for Ten – David Nicolls – Southend-on-Sea
Turn of the Screw – Henry James- Essex country house
The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown – Manningtree
Mehalah – Sabine Baring-Gould – Mersea
The Forgotten Seamstress – Liz Trenow – Braintree
Strange Magic – Syd Moore – Manningtree
Hiding From the Light – Barbara Erskine – Mistley
1984 – George Orwell – Colchester
The Peregrine – JA Baker – Essex Coast
Sharpes Regiment – Bernard Cornwell – South Essex
Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe – Colchester
Barnaby Rudge – Charles Dickens – Chigwell
The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie – Essex Country House

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


Elizabeth Haynes star writer of the evening at Billericay Library
This 20th Essex Book Festival is almost half-way through its annual exciting journey and so far, readers have packed out the events around the county. Tonight, we even entertained Look East Television team at Billericay and our guest was worth the wait. She was Elizabeth Haynes whose new novel THE MURDER OF HARRIET MONCKTON is proving to be another best seller in this psychological crime genre, certainly judging by the applause of her large audience at Billericay Library. 

Among the audience, I found a good half dozen keen readers from their group based in our neighbouring town of Brentwood and here they are pictured with our star of the evening, Elizabeth.  It was also great to catch up with news from our own special Billericay team of readers in a relaxed atmosphere. Could have stayed all night!  Details of next meeting will come up on Phoenix 98fm radio show on 28 March when our guest writer will be Wendy Pike.In the meantime, do check out and order tickets for events near you - for information and bookings call Mercury Theatre, Colchester, Essex  01206 573948

Monday, March 11, 2019


Currently working on some of my favourite 'cook from scratch' recipes influenced by Mary Berry, who is currently on BBC TV's The One Show programme. She has a new book and programme ready for us.   Here she is with her daughter on the left and my super Sally at one of the special events at Chelsea a couple of years ago. What a lovely lady with absolutely no peculiar hang-ups at being interviewed and snapped! Took lots of pics, much to the annoyance of some of the pros jostling behind me.  I forgot to tell her that I was given some of her cookbooks as wedding prezzies half a century ago and still adore cooking. 

Friday, March 08, 2019


Steve and Margaret

Such a sad week since we received news of the passing of Steve Bernard (Bernie), a most wonderful man and a dedicated husband, father, relative and friend. He really was a great inspiration and loved dearly by all those who knew him.  Mesothelioma was the terrible disease which, for two years, he has fought so desperately.

During Steve's illness, the nursing staff at the Hospice in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk - St Nicholas have been so wonderful during the time he was treated (four times) and they were there for him, night and day treating him and looking after his family with endless kindness and compassion.

Unfortunately, St Nicholas Hospice generally are understaffed and have to work with sub-standard equipment. The pressure is relentless, yet the superb staff never show the strain.  Steve's family would like donations in order to be able to buy some much needed equipment for the Hospice wards. Rather than donate directly to the Trust, they want to raise money to benefit these amazing people directly. 

Steve's eldest son Lee Bernard, will be continuing his fund-raising for this wonderful Suffolk Hospice by competing in the Rat Race 'Dirty Weekender', the largest obstacle course in the world - 20 miles! Check out their website:


Sunday, March 03, 2019


Congratulations to the Brentwood Writers' Circle committee for organising a fun writing afternoon yesterday at the Bardswell Club. We welcomed new members, particularly those who made long journeys to get to our gathering. 

Spring is almost here and new writing ideas were springing up all around. Everyone seems to be working on new themes, competitions, projects, books, articles and I feel that our BWC is very much a catalyst for our members' successes. Take a look at our website and learn more about our super circle which in a year or so will be celebrating its 80th birthday.
Can you imagine starting a writing group during World War Two!    

Tuesday, February 26, 2019


Our 20th anniversary is approaching for the annual ESSEX BOOK FESTIVAL, which every March is a fabulous bonanza GATHERING around libraries and meeting venues around our county. With more than 130 events taking place in 45 venues among 250 writers & artists, this is sure to please those who love to read (and write)!

Traditionally, each February, Michelle Ward, presenter at Phoenix 98fm, invites members of the EBF organising team into her studio to chat about why, what and who are making their journey to appear here, there and everywhere around our county. What a treat is in store for you!

Uncharted Waters is this year's theme and, as 2019 marks the 80th anniversary of Arthur Ransome's Secret Water, we will be welcoming three esteemed experts who will discuss Ransome's life, books and legacy.  So, let's take off to Harwich and Southend and the dozens of great venues, (twenty four of them libraries). Keep in mind, that we must use our libraries - or lose them! 

So, yesterday, the EBF was the theme for our February BOOK CLUB at Brentwood Phoenix 98fm studio, and we had the pleasure of meeting, once again, Seona Ford, Chair of EBF to outline some of the programmes planned throughout March.

Friday 1 March is the launch at Essex University site at Wivenhoe Park, Colchester. Lord Bragg will be appearing at The Forum, Elmer Square, Southend on 28 March 7.00pm and here he and I are at one of the earliest EBF events. Tickets selling out quickly.

Our Essex-based No 1 Sunday Times best-selling author Sarah Perry will be there to talk about her new book Melmoth. We still remember Sarah's huge success with The Essex Serpent and now is our chance to learn about her  latest masterpiece. 

How to book your ticket? Most bookings can be made through the Mercury Theatre Box Office online or at and there are some tickets available.  Open Monday-Saturday 10.00am-8.00pm

Mercury Theatre Box Office 
Contact: 01206 573948/ 

See you there!