Sunday, September 28, 2014


As the history person for the  Society of Women Writers & Journalists, I love reading about my colleagues, past and present who make national news. As the Society has been in the business of writing for over 120 years, there are literally hundreds of famous journalists, novelists, poets and people connected with the literary scene who have made the headlines. Last week, the Daily Mail ran a story about one of our favourite overseas members, NOREEN RIOLS who, although living in France, manages to come to London for some of our major gatherings and special events.
Sylvia, Noreen,  Lynda Lee-Potter, Jennie Lisney  2001

Noreen's exciting  life as an 'agente provacatrice' employed by Winston Churchill's Special Operations Executive (SOE), kicked off in 1943 when, as an 18-year-old, she became part of World War II's spy testing team. The beautiful Noreen began work at the SOE's F-Section (F for France) - working as a bilingual secretary, helping prepare messages to be broadcast to France each evening by the BBC.  Her adventures and the people she met whilst spying for Britain are included in her book Katharine - Love and Drama in War-torn Britain and she has written many other titles which have brought her tremendous literary acclaim. 

Noreen's personal involvement with SOE remained a secret until the official files were opened in Millennium year and now she is sole survivor of just six women who worked at HQ with the celebrated Colonel Maurice Buckmaster.  

I am hoping she will attend our Society's 120th anniversary service to be held at St Bride's Church, Fleet Street, followed by our rather special luncheon at Stationers' Hall, just along the road from the church.   Date: Tuesday 14 October. Watch this space!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Just a year or so ago, you saw on this weblog a snap of a local boy, David Gandy, whom I met at Chelsea Flower Show.  He was attending the show with his parents and when we chatted, I found that he came from the same small town in Essex and was educated at Billericay School, about which I wrote a history. That's what I do, folks - write.

Anyway,  since then, I find his face - and other parts of his anatomy - pictured in almost every newspaper, well, he is the world's  top male model and the other day David's image was plastered across a London bus and on a few giant billboards.  The point of this little gem is that my one posting last year brought in thousands of weblog page views for yours truly (in just one day) and I'm waiting to see if it happens once again! That's my experiment for the week. 

Monday, September 22, 2014


Zena Rosaire with Salt and Saucy in their heyday
Lovely response from readers of Gazette commenting on my last week's article about the circus coming to the area. This was particularly agreeable as I know the super JOAN ROSAIRE whose CIRCUS ROSAIRE was very much a part of Billericay life many years ago.  Their winter quarters, housing their lions, tigers, horses and all kinds of trained animals lived at various farms around the town.  My friend, Jack Bartlett the local postman, well remembered passing the lion's cage as he delivered the morning mail.  One day, he came face to face with a large (friendly) bear who had somehow unchained himself and seemed to be smiling at Jack who was more than scared of those grinning teeth. 

Joan Rosaire still remembers those days when she was top of the circus posters specialising in intricate horse-riding tricks with her fabulous  horse Goldy, which eventually took her to the London Palladium and all around the world's top theatres.  Pic attached of her mum, Zena.  Have other snaps where elephants took her cousin to St Mary’s in Billericay High Street on her wedding day.
Glad to hear that Joan is now intent on writing her autobiography which obviously includes slices of circus life. I have some good pics of Joan and her family and here is more if you can read it. With thanks to Brentwood & Billericay Gazette. 


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014


Mary Kenyon with our super presenter Michelle Ward
Mary Kenyon meets our friend Greg at Phoenix 98fm

Party atmosphere last week at Brentwood's Phoenix 98fm when our guest on Book Club was Mary Kenyon, writer and award winning speaker. Mary was invited by Michelle Ward into the studio to talk about her days working with world famous novelist Graham Greene.  Her time at Bletchley Park working in Hut 6 (Enigma machine)  was also discussed and we ran out of time.  Hopefully, Mary will make a return visit to the studio and tell us more about her books and fascinating life during World War II.

Monday, September 08, 2014


Frank Sinatra and Sandra Howard in 1961
Big pile of books to read. Have now finished Sandra Howard's new book TELL THE GIRL. Will be talking about it on radio next Wednesday, 10 September. Our presenter is the lovely Michelle Ward and our guest writer in the studio is Mary Kenyon.  Mary's life has been fascinating and she will tell us about the books she has written and her work with her one time employer, Graham Greene - now there's someone I would have enjoyed meeting (let alone working alongside).

The author of the month is Sandra Howard who just happens to be our fabulous patron at the Society of Writers & Journalists. TELL THE GIRL is  Sandra's fifth novel and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Sandra was a famous model in the 1960s and she has used her life experiences as the basis for her story. 

We learn much about '60s London and the protagonist, Susannah Forbes, a sought-after model whose face is regularly on the cover of Vogue and the glossies of the time. However, the girl is struggling with her crumbling marriage and when her baby is born, she becomes a single mother. There's a fast, pacy feel to this book and it is very much a page-turner.

This book obviously  mirrors Sandra Howard's own life,as she is a contemporary of mine and I certainly remember seeing her in the many glamorous ads of the time. She, too, has led a fascinating life and has indeed met the great names, such as Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, and a couple of US presidents along the way, which, incidentally, she mentions in her book. 

Our team at the SWWJ were thrilled when Sandra joined our society as a Patron and we appreciate the say she invariably takes an active part in our celebrations and events.