Saturday, August 27, 2016


Music, dancing, singing and socializing have always been sure-fire ways of combating depression and difficult times.  Since I've been researching my new writing project, I've received a treasure trove of archive material from interested folk from around the world. Many thanks to members of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists and to Jarvis Cocker in tonight's BBC Radio 4 programme.  So - watch this space! 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


How I love Essex fruit farms and the chance to Pick My Own!  There are many in our county, but Spencer’s Farm Shop in the tiny village of Wickham St Pauls near Halstead Essex, is one of the best. This  family-run business established in 1973 has a wonderful  Coffee Shop opened in 2010 run by Frosty and Ray Mead.

The Farm Shop is run by Jenny Spencer - third generation of the family to operate Spencer’s - and her business partner Jo O’Boyle. Both Jenny and Jo recently gave up their corporate careers in London to move to the countryside to get a better work life balance while working for themselves. They took over the running of the shop in March 2016.

Adjacent to the main building is the Coffee Shop run by Frosty and Ray Mead -  great cooks - and Frosty is a superb cake maker - which I can certainly verify. All the food is home made, cooked and prepared by Frosty and Ray, excellent chefs and cake makers (see my birthday cake at my last visit)

The fruit farm side of the business continues to be run by the Spencers as it has been since the 1970s. It is a Pick Your Own fruit system and this was great when I needed lots of fruit to use in my winemaking endeavours at the time of writing my wine-making column for Home Farmer - a great international magazine. 

It's good to see the fruit growing at the back of the building and the owner allowed me to take some photographs last year for my column. Close by,  there's a large play area for children including a sand pit, climbing frame, vintage tractor and ride on tractors. This year in early summer, Spencers started their own small petting farm too with goats, rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens - well worth a visit for families. 

Travel Advisor review: 
We happened upon the farm shop and tea room more by accident than planned, but what a delight!  Great food shop with a nice selection food.  Tea room lovely food excellent quality and plentiful and the service was good too. Definitely will be going back. Highly recommended.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016


I've always enjoyed writing fiction - in between  newspaper and magazine features and, after receiving an unexpected winning award from Brentwood Writers' Circle for my fiction entry into their 2016 competition recently, I've now written half a dozen more short stories. These, will of course have to be polished and re-written in time, but currently working on a couple of other projects.

However, I have been enjoying reading the work of DAWN KNOX, a Brentwood based published author of several excellent books who recently appeared on Radio Phoenix 98fm's Book Club.  Our super presenter Michelle Ward is brilliant at spotting creative talent and she has invited more than forty authors, poets, film-makers and actors on to her programme, the results  being streamed through the web. 

The latest work of Dawn Knox is entitled THE GREAT WAR and this has been a great help in my own work-in-progress covering the L32 Zeppelin disaster which occurred on 24 September 1916.  Dawn is hard at work now on her other projects see her website  at

Since talking to Dawn, I'm now thinking about those brash green geese she mentioned - we actually owned a very brash white goose called Jacko who was the topic of a short story competition entry which won a nice little prize a year or so ago. We ate him!!!


Ursain Bolt
Not much in world news press at present, except of course, the Olympics, at least for a few more days.  Very exciting for those who love sport and soon all this will be resigned to history. 

On that note, I am pleased to receive information from our prestigious Essex Record Office who have highlighted the life of James Paroissien who was baptised in St. Margaret’s Church, Barking on Christmas Day 1784. I have a particular interest in this church where I was married in 1966 (as was James Cook, the famous explorer in 1762).

But back to the earlier James who studied medicine in those early days.   In 1806 he left England to practise as a surgeon in Montevideo, Argentina.  Once there he switched to trading as a merchant but left after the British invading forces were defeated in 1806-1807 and went to Rio de Janeiro.  His journal records his impressions of Brazil, although much of his account relates to hunting.  On 2 August he recorded that the weather was ‘exceedingly hot muggy and rainy … accompanied with violent gusts of wind’.  On Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 August they set off towards the Taghuihi river killing plover and other ‘fine’ birds, parakeets and even a sloth at the top of a high tree which ‘stuck so fast‘ that somebody had to climb up to retrieve the body.  On 7 August he described the river as being extremely beautiful with the banks imprinted with the marks of the capybara, which were described as being very numerous.  Continuing from the river they shot more birds and two golden monkeys, two toucans and a squirrel.

After James' stay in Rio, he returned to Argentina before joining the army to fight for the liberation of Chile and Peru from the Spanish.  He served as surgeon-general and later as aide-de-camp to the commander José de San Martin, returning to England in 1821 to seek diplomatic recognition for the newly liberated Peru.  The mission failed and in 1825 he returned to South America as agent for the Bolivian Mining Company.  An economic crash in Britain left James ruined and he died after ill health prevented his return to Britain to clear his name in September 1827.

James'  diary will be on display in the Essex Record
Office's Searchroom throughout August 2016.
Do find time to visit our ERO which is such a fascinating place.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Off to London tonight to take part in a book signing event.  Of my ten books, it is so odd (and delightful) to be asked to sign books that are well past their publishing date. In this case 2002. Some of my other books are becoming ebooks, too. Lovely! Our famous Society of Women Writers & Journalists (  enjoys a convivial link with London's Press Club and it's great to meet their members from time to time.

There seems to be a feeling of nostalgia in this late summer air and many people are looking back to a time when perhaps they were younger - hence the little spike in my book sales. In this particular case, schooldays appear to have been the happiest in some of these students' lives.

My book THE BILLERICAY SCHOOL published by Tempus Images of England is still available from The History Press £12.99  ISBN 9-7524-3083-1
Very soon another book (slim but beautiful) will be available to purchase.  This will commemorate the centenary of the L32 Zeppelin which landed on a mangle field in Great Burstead, Essex on 24 September 1916.  I am visiting the spot this week and images will, of course, be produced in time within the book.  More details at a later date.

Monday, August 08, 2016



This is a little thank you to so many Russian folk who seem to appreciate a little English home cooking and wine-making,  My latest feature for HOME FARMER will be published on September lst after a full year's column outlining some of our most famous English home made recipes.  Apples, of all varieties, are abundant and one of the most interesting fruits from which to make wine.  My recipe is HOME FARMER is one I have used for more than 40 years and has won many awards in Winemaking circles. 


Friday, August 05, 2016


Very pleased to learn that  our writerly friends and Members of the Society of Women Writers & Journalists in Sussex are planning to hold an exciting free  MEET THE AUTHOR gathering on TUESDAY 16 AUGUST.  There will be 28 authors arriving at The Selsey Centre to meet and greet readers and perhaps sign a book or two.  A wonderful chance if you can get to Selsey in Sussex. From 2pm to 4pm

Whether you are a well published writer yourself or just curious about how to start hitting the keyboard (or even dipping your ink into the first stages of a novel, piece of poetry or maybe  a magazine) this is the place for you. It's all free with excellent parking and a superb venue. May even meet you there!