Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Answers People – a new name but the same great service

As family and friends know, I am researching a new book about history.  This is my tenth project of this type and I am out and about, interviewing, collecting stories and images. I needed some population figures and called on my old friends - THE ANSWERS PEOPLE, based at Essex Libraries, Chelmsford. 

The service allows residents to submit any question on any topic by telephone, using an online enquiry form or via live chat. Specially trained library staff endeavour to seek the most trusted and reliable sources of information online and they have access to specialist, authoritative sources of information beyond what’s available on the internet. Unlike using a search engine which may provide hundreds of different results, The Answers People will give you one definitive answer.  Great!

Furthermore, the different channels offered for asking questions (telephone, web chat and an online form) make it ideal to access on the move, from home, from the workplace or in the library. For more information visit www.answerspeople.info where you can chat online (24 hour service), fill in an enquiry form free of charge or telephone 0845 603 7628 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 0845 603 7628 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting (call charges apply).   Love it!

Friday, December 06, 2013



Once again Elizabeth Wallace's superb book is selling well in town.  Christmas Past in Essex is fascinating. The author describes the life and times of the people in the county at this special time of the year. She outlines the life of the rich and the poor and how they celebrated. Many of the folk migrated to Essex from the London area and, of course, they brought with them their distinctive customs and traditions that are still used at Christmas-time.

Christmas Past in Essex offers the reader an extraordinary historical glimpse into lives of the people of Essex. From the little girl who fondly recalls her Christmases in an orphanage to jack Bartlett, the Billericay postman who diligently delivered the post and then returned home to fall asleep over his Christmas dinner. There are scores of wonderful stories and excellent photographs, many of which have never before been published.

As Elizabeth collected the wonderful memories and treasured photographs, she was mindful of the responsibility placed in her hands. To this end, she recorded the memoirs verbatim, and was therefore able to keep the individual’s voice and essence. There are more than 60 fascinating photographs, original artwork from Essex artists and over one hundred intriguing stories, customs and traditions contained in Christmas Past in Essex.

Elizabeth hopes that readers will enjoy the stories and photographs contained in Christmas Past in Essex and in doing so will rekindle pleasant memories of their own Christmases that will be handed down to future generations.
Publisher: Tempus Publishing ISBN-13: 978-0752444635

Monday, December 02, 2013


Ages since Lorna and Wendy and friends gathered at Marygreen Manor in Brentwood for a summer Business Biscotti.  Tomorrow, of course, is going to be a little chilly, but a warm welcome is always present for these popular networking events.  We hope to be there for the start at 09.15 and should all be back to our offices by 11.30am.  The Biscotti team is looking for ambassadors for Brentwood, so do come along and enjoy a coffee with everyone. For more details contact Richard Pond who is hoping to open up more groups across Essex. If you are thinking about getting involved contact Richard Pond on 07702 843434.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Out and about today visiting Stock village to meet John and Melinda Tickel who run DANDELION Coffee Shop in Mill Road.  Absolutely gorgeous coffee, amazing cakes - a real boutique style cafĂ© and the warmest welcome from two expert cooks.

As a writer, I'm pleased that they will be selling some of my books linked to local towns and villages and those of some of my fellow writers. John and Melinda make all the cakes, cookies and scrumptious food themselves and offer their venue for children's tea parties and gatherings.

I also spied some interesting preserves, honey and other items that will make super gifts.  They also sell some rather special greeting cards that  are really fabulous. John has just taken supplies of THE STORY OF BILLERICAY written by local historian, Charles Phillips who is currently signing his books for customers. 

As well as being a mother to their three children and a fabulous cook, Melinda is also a writer and her book entitled THE VILLAGE MUMS is a good read,  full of quickie recipes, stories, quotes and tips and I hope she will join me on Phoenix 98fm Book Club in January to talk about how she and her pals created their useful little book - a great gift for Christmas £9.99.

Do pop in to DANDELION at 20 Mill Road, Stock, Ingatestone CM4 9LJ Tel:   01277 840023. www.dandelioncoffeeandgifts.com

Monday, November 25, 2013


 Support: Silver Line founder Esther Rantzen

Esther Rantzen on The Silver Line - her new helpline for the elderly

Support: Silver Line founder Esther Rantzen courtesy (Daily Mirror)

Today sees the launch of SILVER LINE, a super  new project aimed at the elderly who live on their own.   Esther Rantzen is the originator of this helpline as she has first hand experience of loneliness following the death of her husband, Desmond Wilcox two years ago.. This is a free 24-hour service and pensioners can phone for a chat, advice or help.

As you are aware, Esther, 73, set up ChildLine, which provides similar support for youngsters. The Silver Line is now open nationwide after a year-long pilot, which Esther said has already saved lives.

She said: “One caller rang and said that it was the choice between jumping in the canal or picking up the phone, and they rang Silver Line. “One lady wrote to me and said ‘I feel my life is pointless, that I’m a waste of space’.”

Last year, Esther called 20 users on Christmas Day. She said: “It’s very emotional. There was one gentleman I spoke to who said I was the first person he had spoken to all day. I rang him back a couple of days later and I was the only person he had spoken to throughout the Christmas period.

“It is really, really important to have somebody to talk to. But in all the calls, after you have been talking to somebody for 15 minutes or so you end up laughing, talking about TV, or what is going on in the world and you leave them happier than you find them.”

Nicola Layton, on the support team in Wesham, Lancs, said often the longest calls were in the night when people did not want to bother their families. She said: “One lady was just about to go to bed. She had a new pair of pyjamas and she just wanted to say goodnight to someone. “Another lady likes to have the number at the side of the bed because if she didn’t phone us in the morning nobody would know she was still alive.”
The helpline also has a buddy scheme, where people are teamed up with a volunteer who calls them once a week. Partially-sighted Joseph Day, 79, lost his wife to cancer two years ago. He said: “My family can’t be here all the time and after I lost Elizabeth I’ve been lonely."Now I have a lady who rings me for half an hour every week. When you are sat at home on your own all day it is very lonely, so I look forward to the calls.”

Ella Britton, 78, has lived alone since being widowed 10 years ago. She said: “We were together for 35 years. The only thing he ever did wrong was die and leave me on my own.
“I rang The Silver Line for a chat and they were wonderful. I’ve got children but they have busy lives, and you don’t really want to tell your children that you don’t want to wake up in the morning.”
0800 4 70 80 90 - Calls to The Silver Line for a chat, help or advice are free from a landline.

Friday, November 22, 2013


Birthday girl today NICOLE BEGGI

Huge treat today on one of our regular trips to Barleylands Craft Village at Great Burstead. Came across an intriguing new eating house LA BOTTEGA, situated among the many unusual craft shops scattered around the green. Couldn't resist the wonderful smells issuing forth from the restaurant.  Well, it was lunchtime, so in we went and met the proprietor - the lovely Nicole Beggi. 

This girl really knows her Italian cuisine as does her customers as the place was buzzing. We enjoyed a delightful platter of Italian meat, cheese of all kinds and a glass of rich Italian wine from Umbria.  Everything served was home-made by Nicole and her staff, even the gorgeous dips and relishes which were accompanied by home made bread and cookies. To finish, we tried Nicole's biscotti (biscuits) and they were truly crunchy and so much better than mine! Near the deli area, we noticed there was a display of some great food gifts so beautifully packed - great ideas for Christmas.

Today was a super eating experience, good service and such a warm welcome.  Try it yourselves Tel 01268 525727

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


"The memory of that night has stayed with me all my life," said the late Mrs Elsie Whale in 2001 when I interviewed her for a local newspaper.  As an 11-year-old girl, she had witnessed the destruction of the L32 German Naval Zeppelin airship during the early hours of Sunday, 24th September 1916. "It was a spectacular sight," she remembered.

Billericay certainly made worldwide headlines that morning when the airship was shot down over Great Burstead. This ‘super’ new zeppelin was one of four that flew that night, via Belgium, over London and the Home Counties, intent on destruction. I have visited the spot in the farmer's field and photographed the brick base of 'dead man's barn' where the bodies of the 22 airmen were laid,  and still recall the stories of local folk who witnessed the amazing spectacle.  The poor farmer, John Maryon of Snails Hall Farm had to wait three years before the government coughed up compensation for the destruction of his trampelled crops. Remains of Zeppelin L32 can be seen in Billericay’s Cater Museum and photographs are in Ray Rimell's book of that name.

My thanks go to Ray of Albatros Productions Limited in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire for sending me a copy of his book pictured above. Not only has Ray given me such incredibly researched information on this locally known Zep, but so much more on the whole subject of these huge airships.

Ray writes:  "Of the 88 Zeppelins built by Germany during the Great War, the "R" class, initiated by L30   in late May 1916, broke new ground in wartime rigid airship technology.  The "Thirties"  would continue in production, albeit with progressively improving and extensive modifications, up to mid-1918". Ray has illustrated his book with superb images of the zeppelins,  supported by centre-fold scale drawings and accompanying colour plates. 

With so much attention in the pipe-line for next year's centenary of World War I 4 August 1914, Ray Rimell's superbly written book will be of huge interest to broadcasters and journalists alike.

Sunday, November 17, 2013


To counteract many hours of writing today for various outlets and my new book, I've taken time off to sterilise my new white bucket and kicked off a new wine made from 1 lb cranberries and 1 lb elderberries.  To this I will add one kilo of ordinary sugar. 
My nice little recipe delivers a pretty rose wine (see picture) in a few months which is light and fruity and (hopefully) will win me a prize.  Have now finished off that 5-gallon brew which is out in that cold, old garage, receiving some maturation time.
Shall be printing off some recipes for those who are interested and have the time and space in which to play the 'winemaking game'. I'm also making up recipes of chutneys and marmalade for a new book that may come about in late 2014 when I have my current book written and displayed on the bookshelves of the big wide world.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I'm reading non stop at present and enjoying a rest from writing my own books.

This title by Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi deserves to be a bestseller. They have woven together the real life stories of four  English women who married American soldiers stationed in Britain during World War II. 

When the young American soldiers arrived here in 1942, they brought romance and excitement to the lives of numerous young British women who'd grown up in this Blitz-ravaged island.

The book studies the true  lives of Margaret Denby, a typist in the US Army HQ who was let down by her first beau, but dated another officer whom she married.  Then we read of Gwendolyn Patrino whose home of Southampton was taken over by the US as they prepared for D-Day.  Another tale covers Rae Zurovcik who joined the ATS having been bombed out of her nome in North London and then Sylvia O'Connor, a young beauty inundated with marriage proposals when in worked at the American Red Cross in London's Piccadilly Circus.  Each girl's experiences were, of course, different, but a similar thread of love and often disappointment runs through each girl's lives then and for much of their lives.

I enjoyed this book and recommend it to reading groups and the Book Club programme on Phoenix 98fm. Presenter Michelle Ward.   To purchase paperback £7.99 eBook £3.49    ISBN 978-0-00-750144-1

Saturday, November 09, 2013


Our postman is bringing me books to review more or less every day.  The above book just released by The History Press is of great interest, for it chronicles the events through the centuries of this small town in Essex, England.

Charles Phillips

The town of Billericay may be smaller in population than neighbouring communities, but its history is rich and fascinating.  This is evident in the new book hot off the publishing press written by local historian Charles Phillips.  THE STORY OF BILLERICAY has taken the author more than a decade to research, write and accumulate appropriate material for his latest book.  His search has brought him an amazing collection of ephemera and photographs from many sources.  
              Although a long time resident of nearby Stock village, Charles was born in Billericay’s St Andrew’s Hospital in 1952.  This site itself is a place of interesting historic provenance, being the original workhouse covering 26 surrounding villages, but is now residential housing.    The author has discovered tremendous firsthand knowledge by walking and cycling around Billericay and Great Burstead.  He has taken many of the excellent photographs which illustrate his book while on his perambulations.   But he is no stranger to modern technological research and confesses to using the wonders of the internet as an important source of information.  
              Throughout his book of 208 pages, the author takes us on a fascinating journey dating from Middle Stone Age activity through numerous periods to modern times, indicating evidence of Roman and Saxon settlements. The archaeological excavations at Billericay School during the 1970s are covered, as are the fascinating tales of the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 and their sad demise in Norsey Wood.  Charles has gathered  , the Mayflower story that put Billericay on the historical map and many more revelations that are fascinating in the telling.  
              Billericay was once considered a quiet, tranquil farming community.  However, this changed when the railway reached this part of Essex in 1889. As an author of several other books about railways, his knowledge is particularly beneficial to readers on this topic as are the  previously  unpublished images of the Class B1 steam locomotive arriving at Billericiay station in 1953. (courtesy of the late David Collins).  Although the town’s population has inevitably increased over the last century, rising from approximately 1,200 in 1900 to its present 40,000, it still retains its old fashioned charm.  

              “The book has taken a great deal of time to research,” explains Charles. “It is the only complete history book dedicated to Billericay since Harry Richman, first curator of the Cater Museum produced his famous green book in 1953 with an updated version in 1963.” 

              Unfortunately, with the closure of Billericay’s only bookshop a few years ago, this new book can only be purchased directly from the author charlesetphillips@yahoo.co.uk or from Dandelion, 20 Mill Road, Stock.  ISBN 978-0-7524-9924-6 £16.99  THE HISTORY PRESS



Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My sister, the author and journalist,  Elizabeth Victoria Wallace has written this fascinating posting for her own website on the topic of Guy Fawkes.  With her permission, I include it as it is so topical.

Guy Fawkes - Remember, Remember - the Fifth of November

An excerpt from Extraordinary Places...Close to London
Photo: The Leather Bottle Inn, Cobham, Kent.

“Remember, remember the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.” This ancient rhyme is one that was sung by English children as they prepared an effigy of Guy Fawkes and place him atop a bonfire before setting the fire ablaze. An heir of the de Cobham family was tried for treason because of his supposed involvement in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 - an unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament and destroy the monarchy.

The village and much of the surrounding countryside were home to the de Cobham family who dominated the village for nearly 400 years. The name of Cobham is considered to be of Anglo-Saxon origin and possibly derived from a personal name such as Cobba.  During the period from 1360-70, the village grew in size under the direction of Sir John de Cobham, who rebuilt the parish church of St. Mary and built the College that stands in the rear of the church in the village.

The Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605 to blow up the Houses of Parliament and destroy King James I was thought by some to be a wicked scheme organized by Jesuit priests in retaliation for the government’s anti-Catholic ruling. To this day, there are suspicions about Robert Cecil’s part in the plan. Some believe it was a plot instigated by Cecil himself to gain appreciation from the king and further secure his political ambitions. In all, thirteen men were accused of treason after torture and a written confession by Guy Fawkes, who was caught red-handed in the cellars of Westminster trying to ignite barrels of gunpowder. The close relationship with William Parker, Lord Monteagle, who was later identified as a prime conspirator in the plot, did not help the clouds of suspicion hanging over Cecil. Cecil’s brother-in-law, Lord Cobham, as well as Cobham’s younger brother George Brooke was implicated in the conspiracy. Cecil and Lord Cobham escaped execution but George did not.










Sunday, November 03, 2013


Catch up time with our Portuguese artist friend  Rodrigo Costa whose work is currently on show at the Royal Institution in London's Pall Mall.  Several pictures were also on display at the Royal  Academy during summer this year. Rodrigo's work is known worldwide.  Our super lunch was provided by Eileen Mayer, poet extraordinary  in Essex.  Examples of both Eileen and Rodrigo's work can be viewed in their book entitled THE LANDSCAPE AS THE PLACE OF EVERYTHING. For more detail, please email me via www.sylviakent.blogspot.com


Thursday, October 31, 2013


Our Society of Women Writers and Journalists will be celebrating its 120th birthday next year and great preparations are being planned.  Watch this space! www.swwj.co.uk

Elise Sprott - a pioneer of wireless

Many of our own SWWJ pioneers from 1894 have found fame both on the page and in early broadcasting from London's Savoy Hill.  Elise Sprott did much to promote women in broadcasting during the 1930s and '40s, and she was one of our most energetic chairman.

Every day this week at 1.45pm on BBC Radio 4, Jane Garvey has presented a superb programme where she has investigated the stories behind five landmark moments in the history of the female voice on radio and television. How far have women really come since the early days of the wireless? To what extent are female voices now accepted as carrying the same level of authority and expertise as their male counterparts?

In the fourth programme, Prime Time Woman, Jane Garvey looks at the pioneering role played by Esther Rantzen and the campaigning programme 'That's Life' in the 1970s and 80s. She paved the way for a new style of campaigning journalism, bringing a female voice of authority to our living rooms.

We also hear from John Birt, who made the inspired choice of Cilla Black as presenter of 'Blind Date', and broadcast historians Jean Seaton and Suzanne Franks. Tomorrow 1 November is the last in the series.

Learn more about women in radio and TV covered in one of my books THE WOMAN WRITER published in 2010 on the anniversary of another of our notable chairmen and presidents, the wonderful Joyce Grenfell.
Check us out at www.swwj.co.uk

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Enjoyed appearing on Book Club this morning with Michael Foley. All feel relaxed in this studio with radio presenter Michelle Ward.  She had done her research and Michael was able to fill in some interesting info on his life as a busy writer of some 20 books (with two further titles to hit the bookshop shelves). Michael's new book is fascinating whether you are interested in war battles or not and I have already learnt a lot of about the Great War (useful, as I am embarking on studying the various terrible battles about which I know so little - at the moment)!

When the Wright Brothers made their first flight in the early years of the twentieth century it sparked the imagination of those who wanted to fly, both in their country and around the world. In Britain, however, the spark wasn’t strong enough to light a fire and it was in other parts of Europe, notably France, where flight began to develop seriously. 

Early pioneers of flight faced a high level of danger and many died in pursuit of fulfilling their dream. Although aircraft design had made incredible progress by the time of the outbreak of war, accidents still occurred on a regular basis. For some time, as many pilots died in accidents as they did in combat. This publication consolidates a range of stories, insights, and facts that, when combined, offer a vivid impression of events as they unfolded.

The chaos stirred up during the First World War and  the scramble to develop aircraft in response to the threat to homeland security is eloquently relayed, as are the battles that characterized this conflicted era. The reality of conflict gave aviation engineers and designers the opportunity to test their craft in the harshest of environments, pushing the benchmark ever higher in terms of what could be achieved. Sure to appeal to aviation enthusiasts and historians alike, this work offers the reader a full account of the developmental early days of flight.http://www.phoenixfm.com/2013/10/28/the-book-club-with-sylvia-kent-michael-foley/

Monday, October 21, 2013


book fairThe 2013 NSPCC Book Sale takes place at Holmwood House School, Chitts Hill, Colchester on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October. The annual booksale is a great chance to stock up on good quality adult and children’s fiction and non-fiction books, all at very good prices. There’s a lovely atmosphere plus the money raised is going to a very worthwhile cause.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Yes, it's that time again in the English kitchen.  I have a 5-gallon fermenter on the go full of elderberry and apple juice, pots of blackberry jam and apple pies galore for the freezer. Starting work on the chutneys and pickles tomorrow if I find time. By the way, a 5-gallon cask produces 30 70cl bottles. Some of the work involved is research for a new booklet I've been asked to produce.

I've recently discovered that the local firm of Wilkinson produce an excellent grape juice concentrate which, if made properly, produces an excellent tipple.  So far, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Soave and Shiraz have been fermented in this water carrier (pictured with a an air lock attached) and this kind of bulk ferments out within about ten days.  However, I do suggest that although it is tempting to try your new wine  immediately fermentation ceases and bottling finishes, do lay down some of the wine to see how it ages. A month or so on, gives a smoother, mature feel to your brew.   Check on the Wilkinson web page forum to see what others have said about the Wilkinson product. www.wilko.life

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine) in his prime

Brentwood's De Rougemont Hotel was a happy place for the celebrated composer Peter Warlock (Philip Heseltine) during his lifetime.  Of course, in those days (1894-1930) he relaxed during his holidays spent at this lovely building's former name The Goldings and his Heseltine family owned most of Great Warley in Essex. He spent much of his later life in Wales.
On Wednesday 6 November at 1.15pm  there will be  a commemorative concert at the Dora Stautzker Hall at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff.  Members of the Peter Warlock Society who will remember the great composer on what would have been his 119th birthday. 
The concert programme consists of songs that Peter Warlock composed in Wales : Captain Stratton’s Fancy; Mr Belloc’s Fancy; The Three Belloc Songs: Ha’nacker Mill, The Night, My own Country; Chopcherry and Sad Song (from Peterisms); Autumn Twilight; Sleep; Balulalow; Late Summer; Piggesnie, and Good Ale.       

More detail: 

The Peter Warlock Society
Contact DetailsJohn Mitchell
Woodstock, Pett Bottom, Canterbury, Kent, CT4 5PB
 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting


We are always pleased to help members gain access to Warlock material.
If you are interested in finding out more, please address enquiries to John Mitchell, using the contact details given above.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013


First time we've taken one of this firm's holidays and it was surprisingly reasonable and superbly organised.   You are picked up almost from your home by coach and everything is laid on. No hassle, no extra costs.  Several visits laid on for us to Weymouth, Portsmouth and Sandbanks:

  • David Urquhart (Travel) Ltd.
  • 103 Strathmore House
  • East Kilbride
  • G74 1LF
    HMS Warrior at Portsmouth


Sunday, September 29, 2013


If I had more time, I would sign up for all the WEA courses going and this particular class is going to be fascinating.  Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a notable engineer and new students will have a great time learning more about him.  The first session is a 'taster', but I'm sure you will enjoy it and the work of Roger Mannion, the tutor.

Contact  Geoff Taylor   01277 625351  geoffT33@tiscali.co.uk www.wea-eastern.org.uk

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Double click to read Rachael's feature (Gazette) - my picture. though.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


Pat Sylvia Linda and Carol at National Liberal Club London


Thursday, September 12, 2013


Enjoyable radio programme today on Phoenix 98fm radio station. Our monthly  "BOOK CLUB" was broadcast via super  presenter Michelle Ward and guests Jim and Joan Reeve talking about Jim's latest book. He has studied Chelmsford's old photographs and, along with some fascinating historical notes and rare images from the past, has produced this excellent book. More about this when the book hits the bookshops (within two weeks). 

We also chatted about topics including Speed Dating for Writers - great idea.  Mix up wannabe journalists, authors, budding illustrators with professional writers and learn more about the craft of writing.   See the poster above and come along on Friday 20 September to Billericay Library at 7.30pm. More details via www.essexbookfestival.org.uk

Monday, September 09, 2013


Some interesting social media contributions this morning from former pupils of Billericay School who mentioned the day that former  prime minister Margaret Thatcher visited their school.  Here we see Billericay's head. the late Arthur Lingard with the great lady.  This was taken from my book THE BILLERICAY SCHOOL published ten years ago and still on sale in local bookshops and major stores.  You can also buy it directly from the school - contact Mrs Clare in Library.  www.sylviakent.blogspot.com

Thursday, September 05, 2013


Saturday, 28 September will be a special day for Billericay-based John Yarrow and his family.  They will be  presenting John's book based on the life of his late wife, Irene who died 17 months ago.

The Reading Rooms in Billericay High Street will be open to  everyone, particularly to John's friends including doctors and patients, along with those who have suffered from cancer and who want to know more about the lovely Irene who is very much missed.  John's book has already received much media coverage, both in the press and local radio.

And on that Saturday, from 9am till 5.30pm, you have the chance of meeting John who will be signing his book and talking about the emotional journey he has undertaken since Irene's passing.  John will be supported by special staff from the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity who have become firm friends of the Yarrow family and it will mean much to him if you all paid a visit. 

Friday, August 30, 2013


So sad to hear of the death of Seamus Heaney.  My blog followers have already read this piece when I met the poet last year and blogged the following feature:

2012 : Millions of girls remember 22nd February - known as "Thinking Day" in the world of Brownies and Girl Guides. As a former Brownie, Guide and now freelance writer - I've used this term as a topic. This year is special as it is the centenary of the Girl Guiding movement.

However, in the future, the 22nd February will be another important 'thinking day' for me. Last night at a superb evening organised by the Royal Society of Literature at London's Kings Place, more than 700 people were spellbound by Nobel prize-winner for Poetry, SEAMUS HEANEY, for more than two hours. The two halls were packed (live relay was used for Hall 2). Thanks go to Colin Thubron, President of RSL and The Bloomsbury Hotel, too, for organising such a happy evening. Oh! and the goodie bags were much appreciated. The superb Rachel Page and her team worked hard to make the evening so memorable. I met poetry lovers from around the world and think we have a few more recruits for our own SWWJ as a result.

To top the evening, I met Seamus Heaney, himself as he was leaving and told him how much I had enjoyed his performance. He grinned and seemed pleased - said 'thank you very much - glad you liked my choice'. Then off he was whisked by his minders out into the rainy night, but what a moment! Help! - I've turned into a Heaneybopper!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Lots of comment following TV programme last evening.  Billericay wasn't mentioned, but on 24 September 1916, local folk were in the midst of world-shattering news of the L32 being shot down.  I have used this story in several books and articles and the following was published on this weblog six years ago!

This is the field where the L32 zeppelin was shot down. Still some remnant of the old barn exists

Billericay certainly made worldwide headlines that morning when the airship was shot down over Great Burstead. This ‘super’ new zeppelin was one of four that flew that night, via Belgium, over London and the Home Counties, intent on destruction.

Although Britain boasted that her armed forces on land and sea were among the best trained and equipped in the world, at the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, little had been achieved in the development of aircraft for military use. However, Germany had aggressively pursued the science of aeronautics from its inception. Before the turn of that century, German strategists had determined the military role of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s dirigible airships. They were huge: 92 feet high including gondolas, 650 feet long, 78 feet in diameter and displacing 50 tons of air, they were capable of 65 mph, with 5-ton bomb-loads.

Commanded by Oberleutenant Werner Peterson of the German Naval Airship Division, the L32 was forced to jettison its bombs over the River Thames before its intended attack on London. Flying from Suttons Farm, Hornchurch 23-year-old Second Lt. Frederick Sowrey on routine patrol in his BE2c (Bleriot Experimental) aircraft spotted the airship in the searchlights and began firing repeatedly into the Zeppelin, hitting the centre of the ship. Within seconds, it exploded and the vessel plunged earthwards, crashing into John Maryon’s fields in Greens Farm Lane. There were no survivors.

All this time, the action had been watched by sightseers who woke children from their beds when gunfire sounded and rushed to the crash-site to gather souvenirs. Pieces of the Zeppelin were sold off at sixpence each, although the local police quickly secured the area. Vendors selling horsemeat sandwiches set up in Jacksons Lane. One of the first police officers to arrived at the scene was Inspector Allen Ellis who had watched the stricken airship crash. Cycling to the scene, he arrived shortly after the crash and was joined by constables from Great Burstead, Hutton and Brentwood. They guarded the bodies of the crew until the army arrived.

Twenty-two crew were buried at Great Burstead with full military honours, but in 1966 were exhumed and re-buried at the military cemetery at Cannock Chase. Between the two World Wars, several high-ranking Germans visited the churchyard at Great Burstead, to pay homage to the crew.

Poor John Maryon of Snails Hall Farm had to wait three years before the government coughed up compensation for the destruction of his trampelled crops. Remains of Zeppelin L32 can be seen in Billericay’s Cater Museum.


Thursday, August 22, 2013


I'm a big fan of Jane Dolby who started the fabulous Fishwives Choir who are making great waves on British TV and radio.  Every penny from the sale of their music goes to the Fishermen's Mission.
Their promotional video for this single is here Http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-IZtSTWEDQ.  Hope you enjoy it. They received more than 6,500 viewings in just five days.  The girls were interviewed and performed live on BBC Breakfast Show, reaching an international audience with their piece with the World Service which featured their home town of Leigh on Sea. Check them out at https://www.youtube.com/user/FishwivesChoir

Links to the digital download and actual physical release are at: www.fishermensmission.org.uk and you can find out more about the singers at: www.fishwiveschoir.co.uk

Jane Dolby and choir on BBC TV

Sunday, August 18, 2013


This morning, the BBC visited Britain's oldest church, St Cedd's on the Essex coast built in the seventh century - beautiful place alongside the North sea.  We also learned a little about Othona, just a short walk away. A beautiful service.

From its beginning in 1946 as a summer camp in tents on the Essex marshes, Othona has been a  meeting place for people from different countries and backgrounds.  They came then and they come now – all the year round and not only in tents -  to be refreshed, to take stock, to make friends over the shared chores, perhaps to learn something new, and to go across the field together to the ancient St Peter’s chapel looking out over the Blackwater estuary. 
The community attracts anything between 15 and 50 people, depending on the theme and the season.  At any given time there will be some who have been coming for years and others there for the first time.  Especially in the summer the dining room echoes to the sound of many languages and children’s voices.
The very first little building
Othona has a special concern for living in harmony with nature – with wind-turbine, solar panels, and eco building and much else.  The beauty of the natural world is all around – from a green woodpecker to an unpolluted starlit night sky.

Friday, August 16, 2013


Many listeners to Michelle Ward's daily programme   EAT MY BRUNCH enjoyed hearing what Anita Marie Sackett had to say on this morning's programme - BOOK CLUB.   Anita is a well known speaker in this part of Essex and is also in demand on cruise ships where she gives talks on 40s and 50s style topics.  Anita was, until recently, the Poetry Advisor for the Society of Women Writers and Journalists. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


City Hall London England

Lots of research going on for my new book - am spending time in libraries and museums in and around London.   Lots of new photos and help from some wonderful photographers, such as Jason Hawkes.


Thursday, August 08, 2013


Members of the Union Hunt in Billericay around 1910

Currently researching the De Rougemont family of Great Warley in Essex. Would appreciate any old photographs or information about this famous family who lived at The Goldings in Great Warley (now the De Rougemont Manor), a lovely hotel run by the Hilton family. Earlier is was known as The New World Inn

Friday, July 26, 2013


Martin Hayday and James Lambert, two talented blacksmiths displaying James' remarkable piece of copperwork at their Barleylands Forge within the Craft Village at Great Burstead, not fare from Billericay town.

Always a pleasure to meet up with Barleylands resident blacksmith, Martin Hayday, to be found at the forge at Barleylands Craft Village in Great Burstead. We also find James Lambert and David Theobold there, too. Love this part of Essex which brims with creative talent. You will need a day at least to see all the crafts and meet so many clever, artistic folk.  Take a look at their website:  http://www.barleylands.co.uk/calendar.html

Barleylands Craft Village, Barleylands Rd  Billericay, Essex CM11 2UD
01268 290219


Wednesday, July 17, 2013


The Billericay Art Trail is now into day seven and it is going so well.  Good feature in today's Billericay Gazette outlining the background and of course a super launch on Thursday last.  Here are just a few images of some of the works of art that I love.   Matt Humberstone is an absolute expert in origami see his fabulous swan above.

Love the work of Frida Kahlo, perhaps Mexico's greatest woman artist.  Here we see a sculpture  of the great lady


Wonderful pieces in various venues around Billericay and even more in St Mary Magdalen church in High Street. Do pop along and see what local artists have to offer.  The terracotta head of Frida was created by local artist, Kate Gilbert and can be viewed at the above church. 

The rather special brochure is online through www.billericayarttrail.co.uk