Wednesday, June 13, 2018


For many years, I've written articles for Home Farmer and experienced the excellent work and co-operation with some of the the journal's superb editors Ruth and Paul. This current edition is great, not just because of my contribution, but generally for all who  grow and enjoy eating their own produce.  Growing your own food is a fundamental part of being self-sufficient, although time-consuming.  Like anything that's worthwhile, preparation is the key and time spent getting it right at the start will mean time saved for the rest of the year.  

This magazine's contributors are superb in each of their special disciplines.  Elizabeth McCorquodale has written a rather special feature this month showing how productive veg growing can be enjoyed as a leisure pursuit, rather than a necessary annual chore. Gaby Bartai, another excellent writer gives advice on growing French beans,  Pam Knight knows all about wool and now I know, too, as she outlines her report on this year's Wonderwool event which certainly made me think of my days of knitting, crochet, tatting, lace-making and all those creative crafts learnt so many years ago.

And here we are now with images of my own topic - making wine from the fruit, veg, herbs, flowers that grow so abundantly in our allotments and gardens. 


Sunday, June 10, 2018


"Nobody can do everything, but everyone can do something"   Max Lucado

Volunteering is an opportunity of using your existing talents, learn new skills and support a good cause.  This I learnt when visiting Brentwood's theatre last week and met so many representatives from various organisations. The day was organised by Brentwood Council for Voluntary Service and it was lovely to meet so many interesting people, including Diane Fairchild, Co-ordinator, Arsen  Poghosyan, Funding & Information Officer and a host of other delegates who outlined their special worthy projects. 

It was enjoyable chatting with the folk from Futures in Mind, a service designed for people from across Essex who are looking for support with recovery from mental health problems linked as they are with Mind. Do pay a visit to  and learn more.

I was also delighted to meet a super informative representative from St Francis Hospice, email in Romford, Essex whose work with patients is incomparable. 

Riding for the Disabled has always been a wonderful charity, giving confidence for physically impaired and of course, with children.  

I also met Allison Watson, Co-founder of Ring Chromosome 20 Syndrome, a rare epilepsy syndrome, affecting a very small number of people worldwide, but nevertheless needing voluntary help in contributing time, information and money for vital research.  www,
email: allison@ring20research

Friday, June 08, 2018


In my quest for interesting information for various journals about creative personalities, particularly in the business of growing food, it was a pleasure to visit the Brentwood allotments alongside King George's Playing Fields.  I was interested in the extra-steep raised veggie beds planted up by Joy Dunn and even more impressed by her work, alongside some lovely volunteers who keep the unique Sensory Garden so beautifully ordered, weeded and regularly maintained - not an easy job!  

I discovered some unusual shrubs there with fabulous textured perfumed flowers, trees with the most attractive bark, delicate grasses that wave in the breeze, even the sound of the special variety of bamboo rustling through the leaves makes the visit an interesting experience, particularly for people with sight and disablement problems. Easy for access and wheelchairs.  Joy and her team deserve a medal for what they do for the community.  




Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Off now to our super local Billericay local library, one of Essex's busiest and which is vital to all readers and writers, helping me particularly when researching my current local history project. This photo, is of course, very old and the actual library is in a connected, but modern building - will post an up-to-date image when I get home.    

Monday, May 28, 2018


Just a glimpse of the enigmatic front cover of Vivien Brown’s novel Lily Alone will intrigue the reader who will want to discover what the image represents.  And from the first page, we enter the scary world inhabited by a bewildered child whose mother appears to have suddenly disappeared. This is the gripping introduction to young Lily’s story and we all start to worry and wonder about Ruby, her mum. Where has she gone?  When will she return?  What has happened to her? Where is her dad? 
Seen through the eyes of an almost three-year-old, anxiety and misunderstanding take over for both the protagonist and the reader, for we can all feel apprehension for this little girl.  It is not long before young Lily finds herself in danger and we long for someone to step into her solitary frightening world and sort out the terrible state in which she finds herself.

Author - Vivien Brown 
The various other characters in the story are gradually and cleverly introduced, so realistically drawn  and many of us will identify with that very odd British neighbourly custom of keeping ‘oneself to oneself’, but, oh, the damage this can, and often does, bring in to certain sad circumstances.

I very much enjoyed the descriptions of Fiona and Laura, the nurses who figured so much in the lives of Ruby Baxter and little Lily. The nurses continuing search for love and companionship gave us a glimpse of modern day romance,  particularly with the introduction of Paul, the young curate – and those nurses - well!  Life has certainly changed since the introduction of 'finding love on line' and the author obviously has researched the world of hospitals and nursing staff.  
So, Vivien Brown's fast-moving story unfolds and I can say that I enjoyed every one of the thirty six chapters and would recommend this book to all reading groups who enjoy a ripping page-turner, particularly my own Billericay Writers' Group. Additionally, I thought the story would lend itself very well to a film script. 


The  Indomitable Chiesa Di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz OBE
I’ve always loved the idea of visiting Tuscany, so was delighted to be asked to read and review this beautifully written book which captures not only the Florentine culture, but also educates the readers about the history of this fascinating part of Italy.
The author, Daniel Peltz OBE.  Takes us quickly into the life of the student, Molly Cavendish, who worked in Florence as a museum assistant, while studying for her doctorate in Art Renaissance. I was delighted to learn about Warwick University where one of my own family members studied.
From the start, I was hooked on the author’s fast-moving narrative, spanning six centuries of this fascinating city. We are allowed to view the trials and troubles of that special little church Chiesa Di Santa Maria  dating from the fourteenth century through the time of the Napoleonic and later wars and the devastation brought to this lovely place and other parts of Italy.
Daniel has seamlessly woven many famous iconic characters through his book, although the dialogues were purely imaginary.  Yet, it didn't take long for me to visualise the Santa Maria church paintings, so beautifully described, and the colourful lives associated with this building. 
I found this an interesting and well-written book, from which I learnt so much more about Italy generally and about Florence’s little-known episodes during the Second World War. Then came the the terrible floods of 1966 which destroyed so much of this beautiful city and its frescoes.   An absolutely  fascinating read.  

Author Daniel Peltz lives in London and is CEO of London Freeholds Ltd. He is an Honorary Fellow of King’s College and Birkbeck College and sits on King’s Campaign Board and on the Estate Committee for both colleges. He is Chairman of Technion UK and Treasurer of The Anna Freud Centre. Daniel is a Trustee of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies at Oxford. 

Friday, May 25, 2018


Members of SWWJ and guests enjoyed meeting Penny Holroyde, one of Britain's most successful literary agents last night in London.  Penny's talk contained valuable nuggets of advice for budding novelists and it was fun to meet so many new young writers. Huge talent all around us last night and hope some of our visitors will come again to our next gathering at Savoy Tup. 
SWWJ Chairman Barbara
Field-Holmes welcoming our guests 

Here we see Rebecca Harding (SWWJ) Peter Durrant (special visitor from the London Press Club) and, of course, the lovely Penny Holroyde, our guest speaker  from Holroyde Cartey Literary Agency.   Do keep an eye on, our Facebook and other social media accounts,  as a lot of information is a'coming!    More images to follow. 
SWWJ Rebecca Harding,  LPC Peter Durrant and Penny Holroyde

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


What a wonderful day it was on Saturday - would have loved a seat in St George's Chapel, Windsor, but maybe would not have been able to see as much detail as we were able to observe through the many television channels.  A couple of friends were on the invitation list and managed to capture some of the lovely moments. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018


Hello to regular page viewers, particularly in the US and Canada.

Numerous British fellow journos are in  Windsor  today to report on Harry and Meghan's special day.  Some travelled to the town yesterday  - hoping they slept well, hotels full to bursting, so some spent the night on the pavement in readiness for the service today at twelve pm.

Great feeling of anticipation!  Can't wait to see those wedding photos and that cake looks so delicious.

We will toast the royal couple at midday with our special elderflower wine.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


It's now more than a decade since my book regarding Billericay's special church in the High Street was published.  Suddenly, there's renewed interest from overseas, so let's see if we can re-publish it. Many folk have been in touch since they have started writing their  memoir or history of their life and St Mary Magdalen seems to have played a huge part in their research.  We have much information filed away in Billericay's Cater  Museum at 74 High Street.  Why not pop into there one afternoon from 2.00pm - 5.00pm. (Monday - Friday) Saturday 1.00pm - 4.00pm  Telephone number  01277 622023. 

Monday, May 14, 2018


With the gardens and allotments beginning to sprout with fruit and veg - and also tons of weeds and unwanted wild grass, gardeners have a lot to contend with at present, but I am preparing my winemaking equipment ready for some new fermentations. I work ahead for some months for my various magazine editors and readers of my favourite magazine Home Farmer.  Have great plans for 2018 for my food and wine features.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


Lorraine Pascale and yours truly
Have been cooking all day today and now Mary Berry (currently my favourite cook) is on the TV screen with her current show demonstrating some wonderful dishes and I now want to cook some more!   Have met so many inspirational cooks and chefs over the last few years at various restaurants and media events - problem is, my waistline is increasing!  Also enjoy Lorraine's cookery style.

Mary Berry and our talented daughters - gorgeous ladies!


Monday, May 07, 2018


Thousands turned up today for Billericay's Rotary Club's third Soapbox Derby event at Sun Corner racing along the London Road with scores of very clever little soapboxes on wheels of every imaginable kind. Each year, this event gets better and it was great to see so many folk entering their teams from schools, local businesses and clubs who had contributed their time and energy in creating some wonderful little vehicles.
We enjoyed seeing some amazing costumes, dancing, lively music (which accompanied the entrants) and the variety was amazing. Here are a few photos of a great Billericay event.

I was lucky to bump into one happy couple, Elizabeth and Philip Grimshaw,  who had driven from Manchester especially for the Billericay Soapbox Derby. Hope they visit us again next year!

Wednesday, May 02, 2018


Our famous Mayflower Morrismen from Billericay
May Day in Britain is a rather special time.  Across the county of Essex we have numerous events linked to our old customs and traditions which happen during May. Many of them are factually linked to local history, others to myth and legend, but all - to my mind - so very interesting. Collecting the stories was time-consuming, going out into the field, so to speak, to research them, but I enjoyed meeting so many fascinating people who now reside in the pages of this first edition of my book published by Tempus Publishing Limited. I was a member of the Folklore Society in London for years and appreciate the help their members gave me.  Nowadays, the second version of the book can be found under The History Press imprint, available in all good bookshops and via Amazon.  I will be outlining some of the special Essex events, along with images, in the upcoming months.  

First cover of my
 folklore  book

Sunday, April 29, 2018


Currently researching the life of Nancy Astor, so once again return to  my articles written twenty years ago under the auspices of  LONDON ESSENCE one of the first prestigious on-line magazines. Thanks to my earlier lovely editor, Caroline Dubachet.

A snap from my window
Westminster is arguably London's most famous - and historical area - the seat of England's government for almost a thousand years. The name is also used for the larger City of Westminster which covers a wider geographical area and since the mid-60s has included the former boroughs of St Marylebone and Paddington.

The historic core of Westminster is the former Thorney Island on which Westminster Abbey was built. The Abbey became the traditional and historical venue of the coronation of the kings and queens of England. The nearby Palace of Westminster, in later centuries, housed the developing Parliament and law courts.

Right - Viscountess Nancy Astor
Politics were confined to men for centuries until the introduction into Parliament of the American-born politician Nancy Astor (1879-1964). She married her second husband, Waldorf Astor (later Lord Astor of Hever), the MP for Plymouth, Devon on 3 May 1906. She developed a passion for politics and took over his Plymouth Sutton seat when he moved into the Lords on inheriting his father's viscountcy. On lst December 1919, she was introduced into the Houses of Parliament Chamber, accompanied on either side, by Arthur Balfour and David Lloyd George. She wore a black coat and skirt with white blouse and black tricorn hat. Punch described her as "demurely, but daintily, garbed".

The Astor family were immensely rich, owning Cliveden mansion in Berkshire, a home in Plymouth, but primarily she lived at her lovely home at 4 St James's Square, Westminster. She remained a Conservative Member of Parliament for the next 25 years.  In the annals of history, Lady Nancy Astor was one of Westminster's most famous and colourful personalities.

Reflecting back on my work in London, I enjoyed my 26 years working in Westminster 's Hansard offices and occasionally meet up with my fast-writing colleagues.   


Just some of our two thousand contributors to the last charity fun walk
John Baron MP: 2018 Fun Walk Bonus Pot starts well

John appreciates donors and says more still to decide their contribution for our 16th year

John Baron MP today announced the Fun Walk Bonus Pot has already exceeded £22,000 and will rise further as a number of donors have yet to decide how much they will contribute. Each year, the bonus pot pays a bonus to the participating charities/projects over and above what they raise themselves in sponsorship.

 In 2017, for every £100 raised in sponsorship by the various projects themselves, the bonus pot added a further £55. The Walk is set for 2nd September, again at Barleylands Farm – a factsheet is attached. 

John said: The generosity of our Bonus Pot sponsors is appreciated by everyone. In addition to Barleylands Farm for hosting the Walk, our thanks go to this year’s sponsors so far –Billericay Football Club, c2c, Hallmark Care Homes, McDonald’s and others. It has started well, with a number of other donors still to decide how much they will contribute.


Saturday, April 21, 2018



One of the first books I read (and reviewed) when I joined Billericay Readers' Group in 2000 was Geoffrey Wellum's FIRST LIGHT and I loved it.  Last night on BBC TV The One Show, the spotlight was on the four remaining wonderful members of 'The Few' and I will be reading Wellum's book once again. This is a superb, beautifully written masterpiece and so very poignant relating to the Squadron Leader's manuscript of that dangerous period in history.   What an amazing life Wellum has led who was just 18 when he joined the Royal Air Force and took to the skies.  Our hero will be 97 on 4 August and I hope to have a chance of meeting him if possible.

Thursday, April 19, 2018


Here we have a slightly different birthday treat for Peter flying the Tiger Moth plane yesterday via Classic Wings based at Duxford Imperial War Museum centre in Cambridgeshire. We enjoyed photographing so many ancient aeroplanes, interviewing some clever aerial chaps and spending time in the IWM American Museum, touring the area for several hours before taking to the air. Wonderful day for us all.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


Yours truly and former Barking Mayor Pat Manley
Yesterday's visit to Chadwell Heath History Fair was once again a great pleasure. Enjoyed signing a few of my own books and catching up with friends and meeting some new history enthusiasts.  Excellent lectures from Bill George, President of the Barking & District Historical Society speaking about local artist Frank Tingey's work and later listening to Tom Cromwell of English Heritage who filled in all the gaps regarding Barking Abbey, a place that's always fascinated me.  Meeting up with Pat Manley, former mayor of Barking, was a pleasure and I enjoyed listening to the latest news from Pip Field (Company Drinks) and Christine Wagg author of Homes for London (The Peabody Story), among others. Very impressed with Terry Felton's books on the history of Romford Football Club - huge amount of work involved there over a longish period, but the finished results are so impressive and sure to be of enormous interest to football fans around the world.
Authors Linda Rhodes and Terry Felton with one of the five volumes of the history of Romford Football Club

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Writers - like gardeners - usually think ahead.  Some of the column articles appearing this month in national press were created and written at the end of 2017. Already, even before summer starts, many writers are researching ideas for Christmas.  Sounds silly, but as keen gardeners are sowing seeds for the latter part of this year, so my self-sufficiency colleagues are foraging through their press files for ideas for the festive season.  

Saturday, April 07, 2018


I am writing features on both gardening and cookery this month.  With gardening pen in hand, off we go today, sowing seeds, making cuttings and generally preparing plants for some local fundraising groups. Oh, and if it doesn't rain, I might even mow the lawns.
Courtesy of Gardens Illustrated

One plant that always seem to attract folk is the succulent houseleek (sempervivum calcareum) which is one of the most wonderfully easy plants to grow. A single variety looks great, but more so in a group.  The most important thing to get right with houseleeks is compost - or lack of it.  They seem to love being potted up into an old sink, or other crusty old vessel and I find that they don't seem to mind the position in the garden - always creating babies which I grow on for other gardening events. I use just an ordinary gritty compost, on which the houseleeks just sit - so easy and so pretty. Why not try growing some?
Discovered this warrior at Tamworth Castle a few years back - note his armour! So cleverly made of houseleeks.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018


A youthful Jess Conrad and yours truly in the '60s.
Just caught sight of the new five part ITV series of programmes (Tuesdays at 9pm)  which includes nine British showbiz legends on their way to  Las Vegas.  Some famous names from comedy, music and variety from the years gone by who will be given one last shot at putting on their dream gig in the variety capital of the world. The theatre in Las Vegas is booked for one night only and our intrepid friends will be given the chance to fulfil the dream they thought had long gone and will put on a spectacular variety performance at one of the iconic venues in Las Vegas.

I have met and interviewed some of these showbiz folk which include  comedy double act Cannon & Ball, entertainer Bernie Clifton, comedian Mick Miller, pianist and entertainer Bobby Crush, singer Kenny Lynch, 60s pop idol Jess Conrad OBE, actress and singer Anita Harris and actress, singer and comedienne Su Pollard.

It will be interesting following their journey from their departure in the UK to the moment they step onto the stage in Vegas.  They’ll live in a house together, enjoy and explore the Vegas Strip and rehearse and reminisce together to deliver a show that they'll all be proud of.  Viewers will also be treated to a unique insight into the legends' vast and varied careers as they look back and talk firsthand about their incredible stories. The first four episodes will air on ITV prime time with an additional feature length special of their full variety performances in Vegas airing exclusively on ITV3. Head Of ITV's Entertainment Commissioning Siobhan Greene said: “Last Laugh In Vegas is the chance for the audience to reconnect with true iconic entertainers, as they get the trip of a lifetime to perform in the show business capital of the world.”

Monday, April 02, 2018


As a freelance writer working across many genres, it is always great to work with like-minded folk. Congratulations to the editors and staff of Home Farmer magazine who are celebrating their tenth birthday this year.  From a self-sufficiency viewpoint, Home Farmer is the very best magazine to read and learn about growing food - whether in maybe tiny veg patches or some of the huge allotments which serve as great green places in which to work and, dare I say, relax, away from noisy, busy London.
The magazine's strapline ' For Dreamers and Realists' - Your Key to  Practical Self-sufficiency - really does what it says on the tin! We learn about preserving your harvest, wonderful ideas for cooking food, bee-keeping, looking after livestock, foraging, crafts among dozens of other satisfying pastimes, including, of course, how to make your own organic wine from the produce you grow and find in hedgerows and fields. That's where I come in, endeavouring each month to write a thousand or so words describing the process of fermenting wine from simple ingredients found in your own garden or veg patch, free of insecticides.  April edition outlines how to make 'quickie' wines from my own grapes - Rondo and Seyval Blanc along with other recipes. Cheers!