Thursday, February 26, 2009


Great evening at the Emmanuel last evening with Rev Paul Carr, Jim Shrubb and everyone taking part in the Great Pancake Race. Congrats to 2393 ATC Cadets who won for the third year running.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Photography is hugely important to all writers, whether needing the myriad of pictures for our regular articles, for newspapers and magazines or images to illustrate our books. For this we often turn to professional photographers and one who has been of great help with patient advice (and excellent images) particularly with my last few books, is Ron Poulter.

He is a full time professional photographer, based in Basildon, Essex. Blending experience and quality with the advantages of digital technology, Ron delivers affordable, fast, high quality solutions to people's photographic requirements. A real hard worker, Ron has completed assignments for over 85 national PR companies. and his remit ranges from Press, PR and Commercial to Social Events, Portraiture and Aerial photography. Take a look at some of his amazing photographs on website I've added a super image of Brentwood Cathedral for some of the expat visitors we welcome every morning!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Silja Swaby

My friend and colleague on the Council of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists, Silja Swaby, a super writer and marine biologist (also a crack shot at Bisley, Surrey), has applied for the most fantastic caretaking job in the world, working for 6 months on the Great Barrier Reef. Take a look at her short video presentation used as her job application - just watching it helps her towards winning the job (and providing me with a prospectively fantastic feature).

Just one click on her 58 second video on the Tourism Queensland site counts as a vote. Silja will be happy if you could pass this on to your family, friends and anyone else who knows you. Perhaps some of us can visit her when she gets the job on that South Sea Island. Click on the link below:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


As a devotee AND a Trustee at Billericay’s Cater Museum, I can recommend a superb afternooon browsing through the numerous artefacts donated by many of Billericay’s residents. We have so much wonderful information about families, buildings and the farming fraternity who lived in the town in previous centuries.

Our 18th/19th century red brick building is tiled and has dormer windows, one of which depicts the war time practice of applying tape to reduce flying glass. The centre window of the first floor is bricked up - this is a reminder of the window tax. Within the three floor building you will find a mid Victorian parlour, bedroom and kitchen, as well as a World War II exhibition.

I like this photo of Mr and Mrs David Bremner with our Curator alongside a section of the garden which once served as the rubbish dump for the Eales family who lived previously at 74 High Street, now the Museum. Upon digging deep, the Museum team found dozens of Victorian bottles and containers. Do check my index on left hand side (enter Cater Museum) and you will see pictures of both the interior and our beautiful little garden, which Chris Brewster, our Curator, looks after with her small team of talented gardeners. Currently, we have a display of really old sewing machines – patented 1886, some in good working order, but none of your digital settings – it was hard work in those days to make your own garments! Picture of Chris at a Singer sewing machine following a session with local schoolchildren. Oh, and the gentleman in the Museum Garden are flint-knappers - fascinating craft!

Monday, February 16, 2009


As the world marks the 200th-birthday of Charles Darwin, we head to Paglesham in Essex to find the final resting place of his exploratory ship, HMS Beagle.

As promised my young friends in Australia, here are a few photos for their Darwin project. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of one of Britain's greatest scientists, Charles Darwin, and 150 years since the publication of his controversial work 'On The Origin of the Species' thesis. Between 1831 and 1836 the young Darwin joined the crew of the HMS Beagle as a naturalist and it was on the vessel's trip around the Galapagos Islands that he developed his evolutionary ideas.

As mentioned in my latest book FOLKLORE OF ESSEX, HMS Beagle is believed to be in the Paglesham mud. The Beagle is thought to have ended its days off the Essex marshes and one of its anchors now rests in the back garden of local historian Ann Boulter.

"When we got it out of the river, it was put in our garden," said Ann. "We lodged it with the receiver of wrecks and after a year we were told it belonged to our group, which is the Beagle Ship Research Group. So it's all been done above board. She's sitting in our front garden, but one day she'll have to go somewhere else. Perhaps on the sea wall, where the Beagle spent 25 years.

"We would love see something on the sea wall - either a plinth saying she was here for 25 years, or perhaps the anchor set in concrete", Local historian, Ann Boulter. "It's just a pipe dream at the moment, but one has to dream and it would be a nice place for it to go."

The Beagle came to be in the waters of south Essex when she was stood down by the
Admiralty as an exploration ship and given to the coast guard. It was originally located in the middle of the River Roach, but was soon forced into the old docks in the Paglesham mud flats. "The oystermen found she was fouling against their anchor chains and petitioned for it to be brought ashore - so she was brought here," explains Ann.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Terrible weather at the moment here in Essex, but super novelist Alison MacLeod made the journey from Brighton to Brentwood Writers' Circle on Saturday. Gave us a great afternoon. Alison is the author of the novel The Changeling. Her short stories have been published by Prospect, London Magazine, Pulp.Net and Virago. Books published by Penguin include the novel The Wave Theory of Angels and a collection of short stories entitled Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction (2007). Visit Alison MacLeod's website at Looking forward to reading her Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction as The Book to Talk About in 2009.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Birds Eye View celebrates international women film makers with its fifth London film festival at BFI Southbank, ICA, and Picturehouse cinemas. 9 days jam-packed with over 70 events including top US indie features, hot Sundance docs, world-class shorts, exclusive director masterclasses and training, plus one-off live music-film events, moving image innovation, fashion films, parties and much much more… See for details.


JOE TOWNSEND Support For Joe To Get His Bungalow.
Attention please to support Royal Marine Joe Townsend with the ongoing process of his need for a specially adapted bungalow to be close to his family in Pevensey. After losing both legs to an anti-tank mine while serving with the 40 Commando based at Helmand Province in Afghanistan, Joe is trying to rebuild his life.

Joe is a strong and determined person who is proud to be in the Marines. He deserved to be a Marine and would always give 110% in anything he did. Despite losing both legs, Joe still remains upbeat and optimistic.

To help Joe become more independent and closer to his family, his granddad decided to build a specially adapted bungalow on his own land to help Joe. The plans for his bungalow, which would have had a treatment room, a bedroom for a carer and an en- suite bathroom, were drawn up for free by an architect who wanted to thank Joe for his sacrifice.

But the council disagreed. A spokesman for Wealden Council said: “The circumstances in this case are not considered sufficient to warrant an exception to the usual restraint policies.” She also said Joe’s bungalow would be "intrusive" and breach planning laws even though no neighbours objected.

With many people already supporting Joe, this group is to get more people on board with the idea and help Joe get the bungalow he deserves. Video from Meridian local news on Joe's bungalow, thanks to Sandy.

Joe's story from Marine cadets to Royal Marine -

Please visit to help support our wounded servicemen and women injured in the current conflicts.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Society of Women Writers & Journalists

Today was cold and snowy but inside the St Bride’s Institute, off Fleet Street, the delegates at the rather special SWWJ gathering had a superb day. Pictured here are SWWJ member talented playwright June Walker, theatre director Melissa Morgan and actress and novelist Fiona Kendall, looking good in that gorgeous hat. This particular hat has been much admired across cyberspace.

Thanks to actor/director Martin Cort for organising the event and supplying the buffet. Here you see just a few of the attending scriptwriters, directors, professional actors, poets and writers of all kinds who met at this historic venue (SWWJ met there for the first time in 1910!). “Exciting”, "fun" and “stimulating” were a few comments made by those attending and they’ll surely be at the next drama meeting on 28th February at London’s Helios Centre. For details see

Monday, February 02, 2009


Amazing what a day makes - few photos for our friends sweltering on Australian beaches!


Although I usually concentrate on English folklore, I quite like this American/Canadian tradition which has given its name to a film, a book and a play. Groundhog Day is an unofficial holiday that everyone knows is absurd, and yet can't stop observing. So why does a furry animal that looks like an overstuffed rodent hold such sway every February 2nd?

The answer lies shrouded in the shadows of history. Most experts suggest the tradition began when German settlers brought their tradition of Candelmas to North America in the 1700s.

February 2nd is supposed to be the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. According to legend, if the weather was good on that day, the rest of the winter would be stormy and cold. If not, the coldest season of the year would be over soon and farmers could start to think about planting their crops. Eventually a hedgehog - not the more traditional creature used today - was added, and the story of seeing his shadow began.

But Groundhog Day owes its current status not to superstition, but to - what else - commercial reality. A newspaper editor named Clymer Freas came up with the idea in the Punxsutawney Spirit in 1886. It wound up being so popular, the legendary Punxsutawney Phil was born, in an event that's been marked ever since. Knowing a good thing when they saw one, the town of Wiarton, Canada, decided to get in on the act, launching its own prognosticating furball, Willie in 1956. It's been the largest tourist event in the area ever since, and has only overshadowed its more famous American cousin once - in 1999, when Willie was discovered dead minutes before his annual prediction was to be delivered.

Groundhog Day received worldwide attention as a result of the 1993 film of the same name starring Bill Murray which was set in Punxsutawney and featured poor little old Punxsutawney Phil.

Sunday, February 01, 2009


So cold today, but the annual ATC Sunday took place at ATC Headquarters. We see Sgt Curtis with colour party, which later marched to the Emmanuel church for the special banner service. Especially remembered today was Squadron Leader Reg Ferriss and his connection with the Royal New Zealand Airforce. Lovely to meet Reg's family. For all the expats basking in Australian sunshine, the snow started just as the service finished.