Friday, March 26, 2010


At noon on Monday last, I visited the Phoenix FM Studio to spend an hour in a radio tribute to their music presenter, Dennis Rookard, a good friend of so many folk in Brentwood who died a fortnight ago. Michelle Ward, one of the best presenters on Phoenix FM kept us in order in her own inimitable and charming way.

I particularly wanted one of Dennis’ best friends, Geoffrey Perrior, to accompany me as the two mates go back such a long time. Between us, with Geoff talking about Dennis' skills with the camera, radio and Hosiprog TV and my memories of him in our writing circle. I hope we made a small contribution to his presence in so many people's lives. How he would have laughed at our efforts! Dennis’s funeral is on Wednesday, 31 March at 2pm London Road Cemetery and I’m sure that many of his old buddies will be there to say goodbye.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


As soon as the daffodils start appearing (rather late this year), I'm reminded of the superb work carried out by the staff who run the Marie Curie Cancer shops. Here we have Chris and Lesley from the Billericay shop. My picture was take a few years ago and Lesley is helping elsewhere, but I am still fond of this cheerful photo.

The background to this charity is fascinating. Its staff provide nursing care, across the land, free of charge, to terminally ill people, giving them the chance to choose to be cared for – and die – at home. Marie Curie charity has a registered office at the Albert Embankment in London. It also has ten hospices for people who need temporary respite care or final care; these are more home-like than standard hospital environments. Named after the Polish-French scientist Marie Curie, the charity also undertakes research into the causes of cancer and improved cancer treatments at the Marie Curie Research Institute in Oxted, Surrey.

Every year the charity provides care to around 25,000 cancer patients and their families – entirely free of charge. Marie Curie Nurses now care for around 50 percent of all cancer patients who live at home.

At the ten Marie Curie Hospices, quality of life for patients is actively promoted as is providing much needed support for their carers. Marie Curie provides the largest number of hospice beds outwith the National Health Service (NHS).

Thursday, March 18, 2010


March is such a busy month for readers and writers in the county. Following the launch of the Essex Book Festival a couple of weeks ago, it is now in full literary flood with people criss-crossing the county to see their favourite authors. This evening, the Billericay Literary Society joined with Essex Library service to provide a superb programme. I love being part of it all as a Patron for the second year running although I've been linked to this most important of book festivals since the start, eleven years ago. Tonight's event was sold out weeks ago. We met the superb novelist, Maggie Gee giving us her thoughts, feelings and background to the businees of writing her award winning novels and books of short stories. What was also lovely was seeing so many friends from various reading groups in local towns and the place was packed with Maggie's fans - a lively lot! Oh - and did you know that Essex has more than 550 reading groups - I think probably the most in the UK.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I promised expats (many in the US and Canada) some pics of the town in its spring splendour, but have had to cheat by using an old pic of the town green taken last year when the daffs were in full bloom (same time of year, though. All spring flowers are very late this year but I promise to post some new images of Billericay as soon as the flowering starts. My snowdrops were great earlier in the year and are just being lifted to finish off in my tiny nursery bed.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Tuesday evening at the Artichoke in Brentwood brought the fabulous Red Hatters from around Essex (England)and what a splash they made in their gorgeous purple dresses and jackets topped with scarlet hats. The occasion was a 'reduation' for the lovely Sheila Hines (aka Princess Sparkle) who had reached her 50th birthday, the time when she left her 'pinkie' status and flew up to become a fully fledged Red Hatter. The super, energetic Carol Crosbie (aka Queen Cass of Warley) who leads the 'Top Totties', invited around 30 of the Red Hatters from around Essex to celebrate this extra-special event. Everything connected with the evening bore a purple and red hue and the ladies' ingenuity with clothes, jewellery, shoes, pens, even the birthday cake-knife were linked to their amazing colour theme. What fun we had and what a privilege to meet every one of those fabulous Red Hatters.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Thursday 4 March. The annual Essex Book Festival seems to get better every year. Today's launch of the Eleventh Festival was superb. As a Patron, I feel lucky that we had the Dave Monk programme and the BBC Essex team broadcasting live to their regular listeners. Such fun and, dare I say, useful for my mob of freelance journalists and photographers who turned up. With more than 500 reading groups in the county and dozens of writing circles, Essex folk are well served. Here are a few views and you can see what a great morning we had. Wonderful to chat with Penelope Lively, Barbara Erskine, Francis Wheen and many more talented writers and of course we will be meeting many more novelists, journalists and other well known personalities over the next month at different venues around the county.