Friday, August 29, 2008


Introducing young Skye and her supersonic Kayley all the way from Witham - we all enjoyed a lovely day in the Essex countryside.

Monday, August 25, 2008



< Our Town Council was delighted to host the BBC 4 Any Questions? live programme from Billericay's Emmanuel Church on Friday. An absolutely ‘full house’ welcomed Producer Lisa Jenkinson and Chairman Jonathan Dimbleby along with the panel: Bob Crow (General Secretary of the Rail & Maritime Union), Professor Frank Furedi (Professor of Sociology at Kent University), James Delingpole (author, broadcaster and critic) and my favourite - the author and film producer Carol Gould (pictured here with Rotarian Dorothy Cantrell and Councillor Terry Gandy), who all gave their lively opinions on a wide variety of current issues. Jonathan kept us all in order and the programme producer Lisa Jenkinson made the evening run perfectly. The programme can be heard again on line at BBC 4/Any Questions.

Saturday, August 23, 2008



Thursday, August 21, 2008


My thanks to Newsquest Essex Limited and to the Vaughan Williams' Society
New residents to Warley’s Clements Park development are often intrigued with their road names linked to England’s greatest composer, Dr Ralph Vaughan Williams. The late Frank Dineen, a local writer, could have explained, for Frank championed the idea when the Council were seeking road names for the new estate. Frank was an expert on the life of his favourite composer who came to Brentwood in 1903 and inspired Frank’s book “The Ingrave Secret", linking Vaughan Williams to Brentwood.

Vaughan Williams, then aged 30, was guest speaker at the Montpelier House School for Girls (later Brentwood County High) then in Queens Road. This was a time of decision for the composer who had been trying to compose music that drew on a specifically English tradition. Along with Cecil Sharp, he was currently collecting folksongs, many of which he felt were in danger of being forgotten.

While a guest at the Ingrave home of the local Rector, Henry Heatley, he met Charles Potiphar, a 74-year-old illiterate farm labourer who sang the old songs of Essex. So entranced with words and melody, particularly the famous Bushes & Briars, he later commented that “he felt it was something he had known all his life”. Vaughan Williams spent ten days cycling around Little Burstead, Ingrave, East Horndon and Billericay collecting songs, some 120 of them which subsequently were published in the Folk Song Journal, and used many of the tunes, not only in choral and orchestral works but also in the 1906 English Hymnal. He visited several counties in Eastern and Southern England, returning to Essex in 1909 when he made some recordings on wax cylinder. He returned many times to Essex in the ensuing years.

In 2003, the Essex Record Office marked the centenary of Vaughan Williams’ Ingrave encounter with a superb exhibition celebrating folksong in Essex and the composer’s role in preserving and handing on “that precious legacy”. On 26th August, music lovers the world over will remember our great composer as this is the 50th anniversary of his death.

Brentwood-based Sue Cubbin – Essex Sound & Video Archive Assistant at the Essex Record Office – celebrated the publication of her superb book That Precious Legacy - Ralph Vaughan Williams and Essex folksong – in 2006. Within, she traces the composer’s early links with our county, also outlining biographical history with details of his time in the Brentwood area.
Sue’s research uncovers many fascinating stories of the great man. We are also treated to a selection of typical songs from the Essex area which were collected by Vaughan Williams during his time here. Her book can be obtained from the Essex Record Office ISBN 978-1-898529-05 price £5.99 Contact 01245 244644

Sunday, August 17, 2008


With kind permission of Newsquest Essex.
Friday was a red-letter day for many people around the world. A global television audience of four billion witnessed the start of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Many of us won’t forget the magnificent four-hour choreographed spectacle of fireworks, dancers, musicians, singers that represented thousands of years of Chinese history.

Was it a coincidences that the date - 080808 was designated as the start of the Olympics? We know the Chinese consider number eight to be lucky. From dawn on Friday, radio presenters of the mighty BBC World Service, our own BBC Essex and the smallest radio stations around Britain focused on this fact. In many Essex town - at eight minutes past 8 o’clock on Friday morning, a cacophony of cheers, car-horns and bells reinforced the significance of the date.

Closer to home, Billericay folk will recall a more personal date-related event. Seventy years ago, the Billericay School opened its doors in 1938 - the last year of peace before World War Two began. A silver key, handed by the then Headteacher, Mr P G White to Admiral Sir Vernon Haggard, opened the doors of the school, completed a year earlier.

Over the years, thousands of pupils have been educated there under the guidance of hundreds of teachers. This year sees another anniversary. It’s forty years since Mr Arthur Lingard came as headteacher, piloting the school through initiation into comprehensive education. Determined to show that Billericay was not only one of the first large comprehensives in Essex, but the best, Mr Lingard welcomed the media at every opportunity to ensure that the school was also one of the best-known. At least twelve of his appointed staff went on to headships locally and nationally.

Mr Lingard retired in 1991, to be replaced by Mr Robert Goodier who took the school from management by the LEA to being self-governing. It has since grown and prospered under the supervision of Mrs Susan Hammond.

Although not on Olympian scale, the Billericay School staged its own spectacular event in August 1988. Pupils and school staff downed chalk and pens to flock outside to do their own bit of choreographing to create this remarkable panorama marking the conclusion of F Block Building. This £1.5 million Business Studies, Craft, Design and Technology building was then state-of-the-art. The occasion also celebrated the early anniversary of the school’s twenty-first birthday since becoming a Comprehensive. Ron Case, that intrepid Evening Echo photographer, took this fascinating photograph from a helicopter hovering over the school. The event, organised by Steven Bownes, Head of PE was also filmed by John Walker, Head of Media Studies, making this the first Billericay School video.

Yesterday, Mr Lingard was delighted to be contacted. “I have such wonderful memories of the school, pupils, staff and governors and am so very proud of all they have achieved – long may it continue!”

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


For Jane Austen lovers, our trip to her home at Chawton last month was great. Having studied just a little of her life and work beforehand was a good idea and what we didn't know, was provided by the lecturer just before the tour began. The cottage gardens are gorgeous and the village itself is fascinating.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


While the Olympics are on, makes you think back to our Fatima Whitbread and Kelly Holmes - here are some pictures taken a couple of years ago at Chafford Hundred, Essex - such a lovely day!

Nice link to Nicole Cooke, first of the gold winners in Beijing. Wish I could ride a bike like Nicole. She was a classmate of our lovely Louise at Brynteg School in Bridgend. Few details below:

Nicole Cooke - World-beating cyclist
Born:13 APR 1983
Place of Birth: Wick
School: Brynteg Comprehensive School, Bridgend
Famous For: World-beating cyclist
Trivia: At the age of 12, Nicole declared on television that her ambition was to win Olympic gold.
Biography: A world-beating cyclist who now has an Olympic gold medal to go with her Commonwealth and World Cup honours.
Nicole has every major title under her belt including World Junior Mountain Bike Champion, British Senior Women's Cyclo-Cross Champion, Senior British Road Racing Champion and the World Junior Road Race title. But she reached new heights in August 2002 when she won gold for Wales in the road race at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

Nicole proved her consistency by winning the World Cup in August 2003 - the first Briton to take the title and the youngest ever victor at the age of 20.

The √Člite Cymru member hasn't neglected her studies - she passed her A-levels (Maths, Biology and Geography) in 2001 with flying colours at Brynteg Comprehensive, whose past pupils include rugby star Rob Howley and legendary long jumper Lynn "The Leap" Davies.

Having been deemed too young to go to the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Nicole geared up for Athens 2004 by winning the Giro d'Italia - considered the women's version of the Tour de France - in July 2004 at her first attempt.

Her moment of Glory? Yesterday, of course!


Billericay Air Cadets enjoying gliding, flying and a visit to Imperial War Museum at Hendon.

The Billericay Squadron (2393) is recruiting for September. The Air Cadet Organisation is thriving nationally. Each year more than 60,000 cadets, volunteer staff and civilian committee members help engage in pursuits and rewarding opportunities such as championing good causes in local communities, pursuing sporting events at a national level and becoming international youth ambassadors.

Air cadets, boys and girls aged 13 - 19 are given the chance by our team of staff and volunteers to learn to fly, develop skills to lead expeditions, tour foreign countries, become target shooting marksmen, join a band and learn about aviation and aerospace. This is only a small list of the many activities and opportunities available all whilst making new friends. The ACO is continually searching for high calibre like-minded volunteers to keep it at the top of its game as one of the top youth organisations in the United Kingdom.

For further details: 01277 652794

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Captain Edward Clack is a good friend. He is the well-known pilot and aerial photographer. He has written many fabulous books and articles and was once a regular contributor to national and regional magazines, illustrating his work with his superb photographs. From an early age, Edward has had a lifelong love affair with aerial photography and his photographic library contains thousands of wonderful images.

Edward was once chief flying instructor at Southend Light Aviation Centre and has collected many of the most fascinating aerial views into a book “Spy in the Sky” a photographical adventure over Essex, which he published through his family firm. This is now out of print, but copies can still be found at Amazon website. Many of the world's most prestigious airlines have pilots trained by Edward.

Friday, August 08, 2008


While we're working out how to link our writer friends' cybersites together, I thought readers might like to see best-selling short story writer, teacher and academic, Mitzi Szereto's thought for the day. Her blog site is - do pay her a visit.


Is the print book destined for death?
Within the past week I’ve had two people say to me - “but I like REAL books!” They were, of course, unhappily referring to the increasing popularity of electronic readers such as Amazon’s Kindle, and therefore the increasing popularity of books you can download and read on said reader. Unfortunately, I own no shares in (I wish I’d gone with my gut instinct on this years ago rather than listening to the dotcom doomsdayers, one of which was the investment guy who advised me to buy mutual funds whose managers are now all in jail), but that’s beside the point. Granted, in a way I agree - there is nothing like holding a book in your hand; it’s tangible, tactile, it looks nifty on a bookshelf, and hell, it can even make a damned good door-stopper, to say nothing of performing other important household functions. Why, just the other day while Facebooking I found myself being harassed by a wasp. Needless to say, he meet his fate quickly (and no doubt painlessly) at the hands of a novel I’d grown bored of reading.

So why am I jabbering on about Amazon Kindle? Well, for very good reason! My bestselling and now out-of-print erotic novel “The Captivity of Celia” (written as M. S. Valentine) has just been published as a Kindle book. Indeed, thanks to Amazon Kindle it has been brought back to life, and several of my other Valentine titles will be following suit via this platform. Is that such a bad thing? Not if it puts a few bob in my pocket! And I’m suddenly hearing from other authors who are feeling quite encouraged about this new opportunity to gain readers and thus earn a bit to put toward the rent.

Speaking from the rather prejudiced perspective of a writer, the really great thing about the Kindle is that the author can publish directly with Amazon, thereby cutting out those annoying little middlemen such as literary agents and book editors who, as many of us in this business have already learned, know as much about publishing good books as your senile old Aunt Gertrude in Hoboken, New Jersey. Hang on a minute - isn’t Gertrude the name of that editor who rejected my last book?

So before we go starting up a Kindle fatwah, we need to gain some perspective. People who like print books will always buy print books. The marketplace cannot ignore such a large percentage of readers. However, those who prefer the transportability, the varied features, and the ability to store a multitude of titles, not to mention being able to bookmark them, will add the Kindle to their reading repetoire. There’s room for all of us. Let’s just all try to get along, shall we?


Our friend, Jim Merriott, the superb Essex-based painter is at Ingatestone Hall for the next few days displaying his paintings there and illustrating just what a beautiful place we live in. Jim's work can also been seen within the covers of Essex Life and Hertfordshire Life where he also gives us excellent tips for our own creative efforts. "Remember the artist is on a journey of learning. The task is never easy, but with practice and patience, success will come!" Check out Jim Merriott's own website to see more of his work.

Thursday, August 07, 2008



Keen fans of the television series “Dad’s Army” enjoyed a bumper weekend of viewing, celebrating 40 years since the series was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft. Who could have imagined such a topic as the Home Guard could still make people laugh after so many years.

Although the story lines delivered by the well known actors were funny, those who actually served in World War II’s real Dad’s Army - or Home Guard as it was known - can tell you that there was indeed an humour and poignancy of reality (and often humour) running through each story-line.

The BBC television programmes ran between 1968 and 1977, logging up 80 episodes in total, plus a radio series, feature film and a stage show. The series regularly gained audiences of 18 million viewers during the 1970s.

For those who don’t know, the British Home Guard usually consisted of local volunteers who, because of being too old for military service or younger members already in reserved occupations, were ineligible for military service. Dad’s Army starred several veterans of British film, television and stage, including Arthur Lowe (1915–82) John Le Messurier (1912–83), Arnold Ridley 1896–1984) and John Laurie (1897–1980). Relative youngsters in the regular cast were Ian Lavender and Clive Dunn, both of whom took part in the recent celebrations.

Throughout Britain, Home Guard units proliferated and the late Mrs Phyl Baker was more than generous in contributing photographs and recollections of Brentwood’s Home Guard wartime memories to local authors and journalists. She commented:

“We were living in Brentwood during the war and my husband Jack was working for Marconi in Chelmsford at the time. The firm turned all their energies and manpower into manufacturing for the war effort. Jack joined the local Home Guard up at South Weald and after a full day’s work, came home, changed, had a quick supper and was off again to attend to his Home Guard duties.

“This picture shows them all with proper uniforms and rifles but in the beginning they had very little military equipment – it was really make do and mend with odd pieces of uniform and supplies. They had perpetual drilling, grenade and gun training. They were called out when Brentwood was bombed and often had to guard anti-aircraft sites, turn up at local military bases and were called upon to provide support to the regular soldiers.

“So, although the Home Guard boys weren’t on active fighting duty overseas, they worked very hard in their own villages. They often help supervise some of the prisoner-of-war camps that existed around Brentwood and HGs were greatly valued for their contribution throughout the duration of the war.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Regular ex pats readers requested these pictures of their favourite pub from the 60s. The famous Sir Charles Napier is no more! Although not an ancient inn - as many of the town's pubs can boast - this one was rather nice and was always mentioned in local history books. It seems that if you stood on the steps of the Sir Charles Napier, you would be at exactly the same altitude as the cross on the top of St Paul's Cathedral. How about that.

Friday, August 01, 2008


What a pity that I missed the unveiling of the statue of the physicist and inventor of wireless transmission - Guglielmo Marconi at the end of April this year. Appropriately the event took place in the new Marconi Plaza on ‘International Marconi Day’ which is celebrated worldwide annually on the Saturday nearest the great man’s birthday on 25th April 1874.

The impressive bronze statue was the creation of that brilliant sculptor Stephen Hicklin who finished it in 2003. It was housed for the last five years in Chelmsford’s Essex Record Office. Chelmsfordians know the famous story of Marconi who arrived from Bologna, Italy with his mother in 1896. He brought his equipment with him, patenting his system in June that year. The confident 22-year-old demonstrated his wireless system publicly with the assistance of the Post Office, and his firm - Wireless Telegraph & Signal Co. Ltd that was formed in 1897. By 1901 he had changed it to Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company Co Ltd and was operating from an old silk mill factory in Hall Street.

Here were fashioned the small spark-wireless sets for the Royal Navy from 1900; also for merchant ships and great liners. Parts were made for the first transatlantic test using a new high power station at Poldhu, Cornwall to send out the signal that Marconi heard in his earphones at Signal Hill in Newfoundland on 12 December 1901. That signal was the first step towards the commercial transatlantic wireless service in 1908. Morse code (telegraphy) was used on these early services and researched. at experimental stations at Poole Harbour and Broomfield.

Marconi moved in June 1912 to a new purpose-built wireless factory in New Street which had been constructed in a record 17 weeks by a workforce of 500. Here, he and his associates carried out much of the early research into wireless telegraphy and the 450-ft masts became a feature of Chelmsford’s skyline. All the great Atlantic liners were fitted with Marconi’s equipment including the ill-fated Titanic. During World War I the firm made important contributions to the war effort, especially with naval wireless stations, direction finders, aircraft sets and later trench sets.

Marconi’s life and achievements are spectacular and much has been recorded and written. He died at his home in Rome on 20 July 1937. His character was summed up by Professor Quirino Majorana, professor of physics at Bologna University:
Guglielmo Marconi was not satisfied with his first success, which would have been sufficient to assure him perpetual celebrity; he always led the way in improving his already outstanding system…
The world was his experimental laboratory and he persevered with confidence in the experimental method, though he often struggled against ‘official’ scientific opinion. This capability distinguished him from other pretenders for the title of ‘inventor of wireless telegraphy'.


There's lots of interest in Essex folklore at present. Two separate film companies have travelled to the county to make films. Will post details of production and eventual release when we know more.


Supplies of my book are getting rather short in the local bookstore. Hopefully, this will be reprinted soon. The book was one of the gifts presented to President Musharraf when Sixth Formers paid a visit to Pakistan.