Friday, May 22, 2009


Have had lots of visitors to this site this week. This was probably the best Chelsea Show I've experienced. These lively ladies from our own Writtle College did very well - said I could borrow that super pink hat! Met so many plant-lovers and interesting folk. Let's see if you can recognise some of them.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


This Weblog has been going for more than three years and I'm coming up to my 372nd posting. To find what you want in the index, just enter the name in the small box on the left hand side, above my mugshot. This is a very basic index. Sometimes. I've re-visited a topic when visitors have requested up-to-date information.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Paid my annual visit to Chelsea Flower Show today - It was VIP/Press Day. Once again enjoyed being amongst the most glorious plants in tiny and in some cases, huge gardens - all so different - some strange, others beautiful. Met some super fellow gardeners today - they smiled for the camera (amid the rain and strong wind). I've included our lovely litle lady (in black) who served pink Champagne and I promised I would include her within our line-up. Here we see Joanna Lumley, Gary Rhodes, Monty Don, Katherine Jenkins, Arthur Edwards (my photographer pal from Brentwood) Nancy Dell'olio, Trevor McDonald and a few more very nice people.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


This Weblog has been going for more than three years and I'm coming up to my 370th posting. To find what you want in the index, just enter the name in the small box on the left hand side, above my mugshot. This is a very basic index. Sometimes. I've re-visited a topic when visitors have requested up-to-date information.
Labels: Weblog Index



Published last week in Brentwood Weekly News (Courtesy of Newsquest Essex)


Rail travel between the wars has been described as romantic, colourful and exciting. But in those soot-ridden days, another important word stands out - punctuality. Looking at the railway timetables for even a century ago, you could travel from Brentwood to Liverpool Street far quicker than today. Although they disappeared at the end of the 1960s, there’s still huge nostalgia for steam trains, many of which are now owned privately and run on preserved lines.

One person who knows much about locomotives is Dennis Rookard, Brentwood reporter, photographer and broadcaster. Dennis is proud to be the original ‘anorak’, well - he did wear one as a little boy when he lived in Railway Square. And his enthusiasm for veteran trains is still alive and strong..

"Steam locos were my passion," smiles Dennis. "Living so near to the station meant I could nip over to my favourite place on the railway bank and collect the train numbers, much the same as other kids then. I never owned one of those posh Ian Allen railway books then - couldn’t afford it - had to make do with a scruffy notebook.. There I used sit on the bank with some of the others with my jam sandwiches and bottle of Tizer – so happy! My favourite locomotive then (and still is) the Britannia 700-00. A fabulous engine!" These days I use my camera to collect information

Dennis is way too young to have watched the two years of track widening in the early 1930s, but there are still others who, as children, watched the railway being changed from the then two to four tracks. It made a huge difference to journeys and arrival times. We thank kind readers who’ve send in train photos along with their memories.

Construction of the Eastern Counties line began in March 1837 and the first section connecting Brentwood to London via Romford opened on lst July 1840, initially offering a service of five trains a day. Before the end of the first year, however, people were killed when a passenger train ran off the lines at Brook Street. Another fatal accident occurred when Henry Jay leapt out of the carriage to retrieve his hat which had blown off. Within two years, 15-year-old Elizabeth Fry, of Quaker fame, was able visit her family at Brentwood’s Warley Lodge by railway via Stratford from her home in Plaistow.

The coming of the railway brought an increase in population to Brentwood with the influx of navvies and engineers, which then decreased as they left to continue up the line to build the next station and tracks. But no matter - the glorious age of steam had arrived. By the way, for Brentwood ex-pats this new photo is of Myrtle Road in 1933.


Friday, May 08, 2009



The Society of Women Writers & Journalists is proud of its many members whose work is so diverse. They write for the national dailies, contribute to the best of magazines, write super poetry and regularly see their books reviewed around the world. Oh - and we have a goodly team of actors, directors and producers all involved in drama and film.

Currently in the spotlight is Samantha Pearce - MD of Words Worth Reading, based in Essex, who not only helps many writers fulfil their ambition to write and be published, but she also writes books herself on various genres. Her latest book will be launched in London on 4th June 2009.

About the Author: After university, Samantha Pearce progressed a professional career within the NHS, before her desire to continue writing and to help others led her to set up the editorial company Words Worth Reading in 2007. The company successfully supports writers, job seekers, students and businesses. Her first novel Tangled in Heaven was published in 2005.

Catherina and the Incredible Stripy Pants is filled with rhyming language, colourful imagery and loveable characters. Addressing the contemporary themes of extending families and second marriages, this book playfully reminds children of the importance of families, and the love they give. Catherina and the Incredible Stripy Pants is aclaimed to be a 'wonderfully written adventure story about a little girl who lost her way'. Set on a farm in Ireland, this children's book playfully discusses some of the issues surrounding divorce, remarriage and childhood jealous. A delightful read.

ISBN: 9781848761223 Price: £4.99
PRESS RELEASE: For an author interview or a review copy of the book contact the author at

Thursday, May 07, 2009


The death was announced few days ago of Ursula Fanthorpe, the sharp, witty poet admired by critics and the public. She was a good friend of our SWWJ and met us several times when she judged our poetry competitions. Many felt that in 1999 she should have become the first woman poet laureate, but she was beaten to the position by Andrew Motion who later chaired a panel of judges which recommended her for the Queen's gold medal for poetry. Now, of course, we have Carol Ann Duffy.

She was duly awarded the medal in 2003,only the fifth woman in 70 years to win it. She also became a CBE for services to literature in 2001, and in 1994 the first woman in 315 years to be nominated as professor of poetry at Oxford University. Her 1995 collection Safe as Houses is included on the A-level syllabus.

"She was an extraordinary character," Richard Hendin, who had worked
with her at Peterloo, said. "You might find yourself in some provincial
English market town, and happen upon a member of the WI with a little
stall selling marmalade, and that woman would look precisely like UA –
but what she was selling was not marmalade. What you got from her was
amazing poetry that quietly de-centred you and made you think."

Fanthorpe published nothing until 1978, when she was almost 50. She was
head of English at Cheltenham Ladies College when she decided on a
radical change of career. Her time as a receptionist in a Bristol
neurological hospital inspired her first collection, Side Effects. Her
shrewd work immediately found both critical and popular acclaim, and she
went on to publish eight more collections, all with Peterloo Poets, as
well as audio-books and a volume of poems published by Penguin.

She was amused by the campaign to make her poet laureate – she was the Guardian's top choice last time round – but resigned about never winning it, saying: "I never really thought I would. Andrew [Motion] has worked so hard – and I haven't got that much energy left in me."

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


As part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations, Hampstead Theatre presents a rehearsed reading of

Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi
By Pam Gems
Directed by Kate Saxon
Saturday 9 May, 7pm
In an unpretentious London flat in the 70s, four young women come together. Each one is separated from their lover or husband. Through a series of inventive and revealing scenes, sometimes funny and sometimes deeply moving, the four endeavour to help each other to find new meaning in their lives.

As in her other plays, Gems creates brilliant roles for the four women and pushes issues of race, gender, sexuality and class into mainstream theatre.

First produced at Hampstead Theatre in 1976, the production transferred to the Mayfair Theatre.

Michael Frayn Space, Hampstead Theatre
Tickets £10
Box Office: 020 7722 9301

Monday, May 04, 2009


This feature is for some of our American friends who recently visited Selfridge's in London Oxford Street - No 400. Selfridge's anniversary celebrations will be great - there is no one alive, of course, to remember the opening on a snowy, 15 March 1909 day. You may need to use your computer magnifier to read Gordon's original piece of Publicity on the topic of 'Optimism'. Well, it sure worked for him! He was a guest at one of our SWWJ meetings during the 1940s - there happened to be a war on at the time! Will attach an image of the original Selfridge store when I find it.

Friday, May 01, 2009


Although she has appeared in my weblog before, let’s congratulate author and journalist, Janet Cameron on her latest book which looks as if it’s going to be a best seller. Her new book BRIGHTON AND HOVE – MURDERS AND MISDEMEANOURS (Amberley Publishing£12.99) is now on sale in most good bookshops, certainly in the Sussex region.

Janet has researched the darker side of life, Victorian-style, when nothing was quite as it seemed and a public execution could be an entertaining family day out. Murderers, poachers, thieves, pickpockets and vagabonds all went about their business with impunity. Crime took place on the streets, on public transport, in homes, pubs, prisons, asylums, workhouses and brothels - it was all part of everyday life in Brighton and Hove in the late 1800s. Read all about the notorious railway murderer, Percy Lefroy, who appeared at his trial in full evening dress and went to the gallows in an old brown suit. Gasp at the audacity of a temptress who fell in love with a doctor and tried to poison his wife with strychnine laced chocolate. Then there's little Emily, a girl who received imprisonment with hard labour for stealing a few tempting pieces of gingerbread while a gaggle of disruptive young women loved causing a riot, flirting with men and smashing windows. It was madness and mayhem in those weird and wonderful times - and it's brought vividly to life by Janet Cameron in Brighton and Hove - Murders and Misdemeanours. A super new exciting book.