Wednesday, September 30, 2009


SALT MARSH & MUD by Nick Ardley

I’ve recently reviewed a selection of new books which have come my way. Salt Marsh & Mud – A Year’s Sailing on the Thames Estuary is not the kind of book I would normally choose to read. I’m not the best of sailors, as family and friends know, but I loved this book which is a compilation of interlinked stories about cruising around the lower Thames, Swale and River Medway. Not a lot is known about this area and I feel it has been very much overlooked in the yachting literary world. Yet it is quite wonderful, embracing history, wildlife and seemingly remote anchorages and is beautifully written

Nick actually grew up on the Thames estuary aboard the spritsail barge May Flower, and his stories revolve around a skipper and his mate reminiscing and bringing to life the often barren and empty marshland landscape. We find out about old ports and muddy creeks and dilapidated wharves where ghosts of the past linger, even some with new life oozing from them. As the title suggests, the stories range from the end of a December to the next so we observe a complete year afloat. More than one hundred photographs and drawings illustrate Nick’s super book which is priced £16.99 and published by Amberley Publishing PLC, Stroud. ISBN 978-1-84858-491-1.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


What do you know about Stickler Syndrome? Very little, I bet, but supporters of the Stickler Syndrome Support Group could tell you, as they will be raising awareness of this little known condition. This is a very serious, life-limiting and sight threatening condition. More information about the condition can be found on

Trevor Deal of Midlandslink Couriers ( will be doing a 12-Hour marathon ten pin bowl (non stop except for comfort breaks) on the SATURDAY, 3rd of October 2009 at the City Pavilion in Collier Row, Romford, Essex in aid of Stickler Syndrome. A group has been set up on facebook to assist with raising awareness and funds. So far 168 members have joined the group and a lot have said that they will support this event.

Wendy Hughes is one of my colleagues in the Society of Women Writers & Journalists and she also happens to suffer from this condition. Wendy is the founder (and Hon President) of the Stickler Syndrome Support Group and has written books and regularly lectures on the subject around the world.

A friend of Trevor’s whose daughter suffers from the disease, has also written a piece giving a personal insight into the the life of caring for someone with Stickler's. It's a moving and useful piece of information. The Romford bowling alley is giving the Society free use of their facilities and also assisting with collection of funds.

Let's hope they get good coverage in local newspapers and radio stations. The Stickler Syndrome Support Group would like to say special thanks to Tina Stevens for her personal insight piece, Robert Illingsworth of TNK for the t-shirt print and flyers, Jacqueline Walsh for setting up the group on facebook, Mark Wilson for travelling around and offering to help on the day, Rebecca Stevens for giving us the inspiration to do the event, Maria Conrad for assisting on the day with collections and the managers of City Pavillion for use of their facillities on the day.

The team hope to see as many people as possible on the day to help make this event a success and let parents and sufferers of this condition know they are not alone and there's a lot of support out there.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


I meet many authors, but rarely meet authors who paint. Recently I was introduced to Catherine Aitchison Hull who allowed me to read her biography of a pretty amazing artist - Frederick Lee Bridell. It was Bridell's beautiful painting 'The Coliseum by Moonlight' that Catherine fell in love with, when, as a young student, she visited Southampton Art Gallery. The magnificent work measuring 8 x 5 feet captures the moment when the Coliseum is backlit by the moon. Catherine, was overwhelmed by this impressive work of art and was intrigued with the artist who died in 1863. She set out to learn more about him and when she came to London to work, she began studying his life and times and his tragic early death. Eventually, she decided to collect the notes she had been accruing for years and write a book, feeling that the people of Southampton – and the world at large - should know more about Frederick Lee Bridell and his amazing work.

Catherine’s book – which is fascinating and beautifully illustrated – is now on sale, via the author whose website explains far more about her book. As she says, the main aim of this biography is to awaken an interest in the work of this artist and accord recognition for the achievement of his short life. From humble origins, he dedicated himself to art and produced works of great sensitivity and power. Arising from Catherine’s personal interest, her book reflects an interest in the social changes which occurred in the Victorian period and an appreciation of the movement within the wider world of art. I found the book fascinating.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


(above picture of Jean Morris Chairman of SWWJ with Mitzi Szereto - our guest speaker. Top image is of Lucy Chipperfield and a group of just some of our visitors.

Yesterday (16th September) saw a gathering of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists (Essex region). We now boast around eight male associates. Great to meet so many members in Brentwood.

Lovely food provided by Brenda Frith and Alison. Our speaker Mitzi Szereto, the internationally known author and anthology editor of multi-genre fiction and erotic fiction. She runs a popular blog "Errant Ramblings: Mitzi Szereto's Weblog" (, and now Web TV entrepreneur for the channel "Mitzi TV" (, which covers "all things quirky around London."

We also welcomed Lucy Chipperfield, a talented young media graduate and photographer who excels in making short films. Will post her details when her films are ready.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


As the publicity person for the Society of Women Writers & Journalists, I do like to spread the word about some of our talented members. Jane Bidder (pen name Sophie King) has been a journalist for over 25 years and contributes regularly to national newspapers and magazines including The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Express. Jane's novel 'The School Run' was a best seller as was Second Time Lucky, The Supper Club and The Wedding Party and mums@home - She is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

Her new novel called THE WEDDING PARTY is great and will be the top of many reading groups in Essex (we now have 500 reading groups)

Jane/Sophie has had hundreds of short stories published in magazines such as Woman's Weekly and My Weekly as well as non-fiction books for both adults and children. She tutors in creative writing and has also led several writing workshops.

In 2005, Jane won the Elizabeth Goudge Short Story Trophy in 2005 and was a runner up in the Harry Bowling Prize. She has also appeared on breakfast television and radio including Woman's Hour. In addition, she is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association; Women in Journalism; the National Union of Journalists and of course the SWWJ.

When not writing, Jane is also Writer In Residence at a high-security, male prison and lectures in creative writing for a local college and Oxford University. She also tutors for Writers News Writing Magazine.

CALLING ALL BLOGGERS! Jane now has a blog spot, thanks to a kind friend who showed her how to do it at the recent Writers Holiday weekend at Caerleon. Email her on She loves to hear from her readers.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Be part of the art of the spoken word! The Essex Poetry Festival 2009 wants you. As well as the festival's usual commitment to bring the best performers in contemporary poetry and spoken word to Essex, this year there will be more chances for you to get involved.Whether you have never written a poem before, or if you have been writing for years, there will be the chance to take part in writing and performance workshops, and Open Mic opportunities at various events.

The Festival opens with 'Howl', inspiring spoken word from David J. plus support from Tim Turnball, Chris Hicks, Ruby and her Whorses; at the Cramphorn Theatre. If you want to perform, learn how with Luke Wright. A veteran of the Edinburgh Fringe, Luke has performed his one man poetry shows all over the country.

This one day workshop, hosted by Chelmsford Borough Council, will take beginners from page to stage, culminating in a public performance on the Cramphorn Theatre stage. There will be plenty more chances to practice these new found skills at Open Mic spots throughout the festival.

If you want to try your hand at poetry or to brush up your creative writing skills, there will be poetry writing workshops at Libraries all over the county, from Loughton to Clacton and from Harlow to Southend.

Three Essex poets Derek Adams (Hullbridge), Tim Cunningham (Billericay) and Adrian Green (Southend-on-Sea) will be reading from their latest books at Rochford Library on October 2nd. Forward prize nominee and Poetry Business winner Allison McVety will read with Susan Utting at Southend on October 7th.

On October 10 the Cramphorn Theatre, Chelmsford once again provides the venue for the Big Day of Poetry, an annual event for poetry lovers from Essex and beyond. A chance to meet up with old friends, make new friends, meet virtual ones! In the afternoon you can meet the people behind tall-lighthouse press and listen to their guest poets.

Sign up for a slot at the Open Mic and perform your poems to friendly, appreciative audience. Help to dress live artist Vicki Weizt, from Colchester, in words.

There will also be readings from Manningtree's Sally Festing, Ilford born Joanna Ezekiel, and former Billericay resident Jeremy Over.In the evening, competition judge Jo Bell introduces the winners of the Essex Open Poetry Competition.

The headliners this year include 'groundbreaking' spoken word artist Inua Ellams, Forward Prize winner Kathryn Simmonds and all the way from Germany the incomparable John Hartley Williams.

On October 11, Chelmsford's 'I Scream Sunday' join up with Black History Month for 'Celebration! In Black and White', Spoken word and poetry performance from Joshua Idehen, Musa Okwonga, Efua Sey Koi-Larbi, Bryan Wilson, Dee Mardi, Anita Marie Sackett, Martin Reed and Adrian Green, music from Lee (from the Doll Set Tones) and jazz trio Zhong, plus Poetry Open Mic. Templar Poetry Prize winner Katrina Naomi and Denis Ahern from Stanford-le-Hope will be reading at poetrywivenhoe on the 22nd October

The Essex Poetry Festival is funded by the Arts Council, receives support from both Essex and Southend Libraries service, and from Chelmsford Borough Council Arts Development.


Quite a week for anniversaries - this one (by courtesy of the Weekly News) brought in some lovely memories from people involved - what super recall! I also attach a photograph of the lovely Mrs Lesley Lewis (nee Lawrence) whom many people in the small village of Bentley, Essex, England, remember so well.