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