Saturday, March 29, 2014


BBC Essex and DJ Ray Clark go together very well.  We've listened to him for years and now we see his literary side.  Ray has written his own history of the world's most famous pirate radio station Radio Caroline which first broadcast on Good Friday 1964.

Financed by respected city money men, Ray's book tells a story of human endeavour and risk, international politics, business success and financial failures. The Radio Caroline tale is one of  innovation, technical challenges, changing attitudes, unimaginable battles with nature, disasters, frustrations, challenging authority and the promotion of love and peace while, at times, harmony was far from evident behind the scenes. As Ray said:  "For one person to tell the full Radio Caroline story is impossible, but there are many who have been involved over the years whose memories and experiences bring this modern day adventure story of fighting overwhelming odds to life." 

Even I devoted a page to Radio Caroline in one of my books ESSEX FOLKLORE published by The History Press (page 149) as I was always intrigued with the background to the music the disc jockeys played and the individual characters who made news headlines. Most seemed to enjoy their unusual careers (despite the sea sickness), some going on to fame and fortune in their showbiz careers.

Radio Caroline: The True Story of the Boat That rocked; Paperback priced @ £16.99

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Elizabeth Wallace at Elizabeth Victoria Wallace
 I have a talented sister who researches and writes some fascinating narrative about Denver (where she lives) and her homeland Essex, England.  She has eight books in the system which are selling well and is currently releasing a few others as electronic books. Fascinating stuff!   Check out her websites at Elizabeth Victoria Wallace.

My kid sister Elizabeth Victoria Wallace
Walter Scott brought the technique (wattle) back to popularity in England when he described such a fence in *The Fortunes of Nigel, *but the practice of using indigenous trees such as the willow and alder for use as fencing material is a centuries' old custom. Although an ancient art, the following site gives us a detailed, practical account of how to make these wonderful (and natural) enclosures that would enhance any garden or orchard. Go to:


Sunday, March 23, 2014


Ever since I met Julia Donaldson, playwright and author of the popular character  The Gruffalo a while back, I've wanted to re-visit Thorndon Park woods in Brentwood, Essex to view the sculpture of her famous character.   This afternoon, while dodging a rainstorm, we managed to find these little people from Romford who also discovered the lovable monster in this gorgeous park. So here are young Jay-John, Teddy, Lewis and Taylor Lopez who all wanted to be photographed with this rather nice sculpture. And here is a picture of Julia herself, taken a couple of years back in Chelmsford when we had to fight our way through crowds of children waiting for her to sign her latest edition of the Gruffalo book. A nice lady!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


Southend is a well known resort in Essex with its famously longest pier in the world - I walked the mile and a quarter  recently and felt the more fitter (but also in need of coffee)!  However, the town is also notable for its industry and I feel that the firm EKCO deserves a large mention due to it being the first company in the world to invent the car radio, the world's first portable TV and other gadgets that we now take for granted.  Less known, is its secret Nazi monitoring in the war -  simple radios adapted to pick up ENIGMA signals before we even had an Enigma machine. Then came convection heaters, fluorescent lighting and other inventions such as vital medical equipment, even plastic baby baths.  We learn of the life of a true genius, one Eric Cole, who touched people's lives in so many ways during his 40 years in business. A truly wonderful entrepreneur.

Chris Poole and Peter C Brown wrote the book EKCO SOUNDS and fascinating it is, too. This book offers a unique and fascinating insight into EKCO and its founder from the actual people who worked there.  We learn of their day to day work, experimentations and social life.  Obviously the firm's previous workers will be enthralled but I'm sure any reader interested in industry will be as fascinated as I am. 

ISBN 978-0-9570635-3-2

Monday, March 17, 2014


Strange times - this week I am reading about the passing of the union man, Bob Crow, who came to visit us in Billericay for an edition of BBC Radio Question Time a few years ago.    Here he is posing with Dimbleby with one of our former councillors in the background.
When interviewing him, I found him quietly spoken and rather nice socially. But this was, of course, in the 'green room'.  Must admit, he was affable and got on with our local councillors.

I've written about Tony Benn who died a few days ago who was also an interesting man, albeit not of my political thinking,  and now Clarissa Dickson Wright, has died today. Oh dear!  She seemed frosty at first meeting, but again, was witty and we had a good old chat about my favourite hobby - cookery though she didn't like my other hobby of making wine and mead.  Oh well - you can't win 'em all!  

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Although not sharing the same political thoughts as Tony Benn, during my twenty six years working in and around Westminster, this interesting gentleman often joined the 'Hansard workers' for a cuppa in the tea room.  One day, when I  mentioned that I was a member of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists and was working on a story about suffragettes for my current book, he offered to take me and colleagues on a little trip around St Mary Undercroft to 'show us something special'.

Following him - he walked at great speed - we arrived at Westminster Hall and made tracks for the crypt in St Mary Undercroft, the beautiful church that visitors to Westminster Palace seldom see.  We trooped into a little room and there found a scruffy cupboard. When opened, there we found this plaque.  It was dedicated to Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette who was killed on the Epsom race-track in 1913 when struck by the King's horse. Mr Benn told us that the suffragette had hidden in the broom cupboard during the  March 1911 census so that when she was asked for her address that day, she could truthfully say that it was 'the House of Commons'. This probably was one of the most memorable actions in the suffragettes' bid to publicise to the world how women desperately needed to be granted the vote.

When Mr Benn addressed the House of Commons in 2001, he explained that he had screwed up several plaques himself - quite illegally and without permission.
Tony Benn died surrounded by his family at his home yesterday aged 88 years old. He was an interesting man and I am grateful to him for his kindness.

Friday, March 14, 2014


If you look back a little to my past postings in the archive,  you will see how wonderfully John Debenham and Andrew Summers are getting on with their newest creation.   These authors write superb books about our county and their latest title  Metropolitan Essex has had a great airing at Dunmow Library as part of the Essex Book Festival.

Their presentation was to a packed house at Dunmow Library last Wednesday. Among the many topics covered during the two hours' talk was establishment of the
River Lea as the Essex county border 1,000 years ago,  the ups and downs of the former Royal Palace at Havering, the curious case of the disappearance of used bank notes from the Bank of England’s note printing works in Debden and the formation of the 13th Battalion of the Essex Regiment.
There was a lively question and answer session and a 20 question Essex quiz added, too.

I was stuck in another meeting in London that day, so missed the authors' rendition, but I know it was most successful and you can buy their books from them at

Essex Hundred Publications is now on Facebook


Monday, March 10, 2014


It was great to meet up with Trustees of the Reading Rooms in Billericay over the weekend and our friends at the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Excellent shindig celebrating 150 years' existence of a place where people have enjoyed the more literary side of Victorian life.  Now, of course, the Reading Rooms can be hired for all types of meetings and events.

Wish I had dug out my crinoline for the occasion as the schoolchildren and the trustees all looked superb dressed up in Victorian garb.  Chairman of the Friends of the Reading Rooms, Keith Wood and our Member of Parliament, John Baron kicked off the morning's activities with words of appreciation and thanks to all concerned, and then it was time to savour some typical food of the period (with recipes thrown in). Lovely!

 The Trustees had invited local schools to take up the challenge of exploring aspects of the Victorian era. Buttsbury Junior School, St John’s School, St Peter’s Catholic Primary School and Quilters Junior School responded and all took part with some rather clever wall-hangings, displays, drawings and editions of a typical newspaper of the time.   Our own Chris Brewster, Curator at our Cater Museum and the Braintree Victorian Museum helped with the pupils' research. An all round success!

Richard, Sheila and Steven helped to set the Victorian atmosphere



Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Congratulations to Stuart Wallace on the opening of THE LITTLE GALLERY in Denver, Colorado. This hugely talented artist will be exhibiting his work from Friday 7 March and we in Essex offer him our warmest wishes for much success with his work. Would love to be there to view his fabulous exhibits. Will toast you on Friday, Stuart!

Monday, March 03, 2014


The Reading Rooms: 150 years of Literary and Social Enjoyment in Billericay.


This weekend sees a rather special event. Thanks to a mighty effort by the Trustees of the 150 year old Reading Rooms at 73 High Street, Billericay and the generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), the Reading Rooms which we use so often, will be in the spotlight. 


In the 150 years of its proud history, the Rooms have been about reading, newspapers, books, about people discovering great authors such as Charles Dickens and creating social pleasure for the townsfolk.


It was the brainchild of the Trustees to approach the Heritage Lottery Fund to help make 150 years a wonderful occasion. Through the Sharing Heritage grant programme, £4,800 was awarded to the Trust to explore the history of the Reading Rooms in partnership with local schools. As part of this project, a Victorian style celebration and exhibition will now take place over the weekend of March 7 (by special invitation that day)  but open to the public on 8th and 9th.


On offer will be a Victorian menu, with Victorian cakes and biscuits as our ancestors used to make. Mouth-watering!


The Trustees have brought the event into the modern era by asking four local schools to take up the challenge of exploring the Victorian era. Buttsbury Junior School,  St John’s School. St Peter’s Catholic Primary School and Quilters Junior School responded and all four will be contributing in their own chosen way – displays, wall-hangings, special projects. They prepared by attending the Billericay Cater Museum and the Braintree Victorian Museum for information and research.  Well worth a visit.




Saturday, March 01, 2014


Natasha Radford at Brentwood Writers' Society on Saturday
Pic by Julie Gowers
Hardly seems any time at all since I began blogging in 2006. Now the blogging world has rapidly expanded and I'm pleased that my earliest readers are still with me. Obviously, many share my passion for reading (join me on Book Club @ Phoenix 98fm with Presenter Michelle Ward)  and writing - that continues non-stop.  Have some interesting commissions coming up, both in book form and features - watch this space!

Natasha all dressed up in her Chicken and Frog bookshop

Today, the Brentwood Writers' Circle enthusiasts gathered at their regular venue at the Ursuline in the town and the afternoon was great with speaker Natasha Radford who runs the successful Chicken & Frog Bookshop at Wilson's Corner, Brentwood. For a group of writers, it was enlightening (and encouraging) to learn about the life and times of the town's one and only independent bookseller of children's books.  She is a rare and precious individual these days!