Monday, December 31, 2018


So very sad to hear news of the passing of June, whom I met many years ago at the BBC studio in London, after a Radio show with Roy Hudd.
Even after a long and exacting performance, both of them were in top form and happily chatted about the programme and allowed me to take pics and learn a little about their fascinating lives over lifetimes of acting, filming and tremendous radio performances.  I grew up listening to June and, of course, Roy. 
Roy Hudd

June was my particular favourite from the  early days of listening to the Radio  "Light" programme, but younger folk will remember her superb TV performances in Absolutely Fabulous. A sad day! She will be missed the world over.

Monday, December 24, 2018


With thanks to all my readers, both on the page and on line, particularly those in the US and Canada, for so many kind comments on my ragbag of topics in this, my 13th year of blogging.  Thanks also to my editors for commissioning my new book, due in June 2019 and other interesting writing opportunities.
Courtesy of Jenni Elliott
Wishing you all a lovely Christmas, particularly the super Jim Shrubb (shown here in 'candid camera mode') minus his famous Billericay Town Crier hat and that amazing ancient bell of his.
We are all living through strange and tumultuous times. Here’s hoping that 2019 will be calmer and more peaceful – less divided - and above all, more joyful and caring.

Sunday, December 09, 2018


An SWWJ Christmas gathering is always fun and a chance to welcome some of our new members. Members and guests gathered at the National Liberal Club in London's Whitehall Place for the annual Christmas tea.  Our entertainment this year - a Christmas Cornucopia - was provided by four wonderful professional actors, reading a collection of monologues, some comic, some dramatic, created by our talented drama colleague, Doreen Friend.  Martin Cort was our director.  With a book table displaying our latest publications, a gift table and grand raffle, we were never sort of activity and, of course, the all-important catching up over the year's work and gossip!  Masses of pictures taken and a few here to give you a flavour of a great afternoon. 

Sunday, December 02, 2018


Sunday December 2 and time for our annual Christmas Market.  Where would we be without Jim Shrubb, our Town Crier, the Rotary Club and Round Table members and so many folk who put great effort into the whole fantastic day. 
They never fail!  Thousands arrived from London and around Essex as well as our little town and it was great to see them enjoying themselves. Here are a few pictures below to give you a flavour of happy start to Christmas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


So sad to hear that Jean Barker is no longer with us. She died yesterday afternoon.   When I worked in the HoL, often had lunch with her and my boss Henry Plumb and there was always lots of laughter and fun when she joined the table. I bet the Upper House will be that much more dismal with her passing.  A few years ago, I found her again on the Terrace at an ALCS party and took this picture (in the middle of a naughty story).  She was also one of the Bletchley Park code-breakers and, again, had so many stories to tell us about this period of her life. There is a book available which I must read.

Her son Adam Barker wrote: "She did not make it to October 2022(100) ..but she had a bloody good innings".
Former Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "So very sad to hear that Baroness Trumpington has passed away." He added: "She was one of a kind - they simply don't make politicians like that anymore. She will be sorely missed in Westminster but long remembered for her outstanding ability and great humour. RIP Trumpers."

Monday, November 26, 2018


2018 Fun Walk surpasses £1,000,000 raised since 2002
£40,000 bonus awarded to participating charities at Presentation ceremony
At their Presentation ceremony on Friday, 23 November, John Baron MP and other Trustees of The Fun Walk Trust [a registered charity] awarded bonus pot cheques to all those charities and good causes [projects] which took part in this year’s Fun Walk [at Barleylands Farm on Sunday, 2 September]. This year the bonus is 65%.
Because of the generosity of local businesses and individuals, each project receives a bonus over and above what they raise themselves in sponsorship on the day. This year, for every £100 raised by projects in sponsorship, the bonus pot added £65.  The total monies raised both by the projects and bonus pot sponsors came to £100,000 – bringing the total monies raised for local causes to £1,064,000 since the Fun Walk started in 2002.
John took the opportunity to thank all those who had helped over the years to make this initiative a success, including previous bonus pot sponsors. He also gave notice that, whilst the annual walk would continue, a change of guard as to the organisation is now being planned in order carry the event forward. Next year’s walk is scheduled for 8 September.
Please see attached Factsheet and photos - more will be available shortly on our website The presentation was held at Anisha Grange Care Home, Outwood Common Road, Billericay, Essex, CM11 2LE by kind permission of Hallmark Care Homes Ltd. 

 John said:
The 2018 Fun Walk has been another huge success and brings the total monies raised for good causes since 2002 to over £1,000,000. Our thanks go to all who have helped along this journey, including our extensive family of volunteers and past and present bonus pot sponsors.”
“Our bonus pot sponsors this year were Swan Housing Association, c2c Rail, Hallmark Care Homes, Abellio Greater Anglia, Tunnelcraft Ltd, Brown & Carroll Ltd, McDonald’s Basildon, Leonardo MW Ltd, RSE Building Services Ltd, and others.”
“Our thanks also go to Barleylands Farm for hosting the Walk and to Hallmark Care Homes for hosting the presentation evening, and to the many others who have helped including Jim Shrubb, our marshals and accountants Hunt Smee and Co.”
“When people kindly offer you their seat on trains and your team are soon to be Grandmothers, the time has come for fresh blood to carry the event forward. Whilst I will continue in my role, the Trustees and I are now in discussion with parties able to help.”

Sunday, November 25, 2018


Wonderful celebrations last night at Queen Elizabeth II Field at Sun Corner with a huge turnout of school choirs, lights and a magical atmosphere to welcome visitors to our lovely little town. Personally, I loved catching up with long standing friends in the crowds and appreciated the help and guidance of the Billericay 2393 Air Training Corps cadets who marshalled the school choirs during the evening, along with our super Rotarian and Round Table friends.

Here is our famous Town Crier, Jim Shrubb - aren't we lucky to have him on our doorstep. Not many Essex towns can boast of their very own superb Town Crier. Jim can always be found in our town whenever we are celebrating our local occasions and we will be meeting him again very soon for our December Christmas Market. Watch this space!!!

Among many friends who had fun last night, what a joy to bump into a lovely friend Jodi Presswell and her family who were part of this great evening.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018


Ted Bailey in dark overcoat with English and French parishioners and colleagues 
One of my colleagues, Ted Bailey, sent me these pictures following his trip to France on  Saturday 10 November when a large Anglo-French group assembled at the church in Preux-au-Bois to attend a comprehensive lecture about the actions of the British Army in the area, which incorporated the 10th Battalion, Essex Regiment. This battalion was formed at Warley Barracks, Brentwood, in 1914 as part of the 18th (Eastern) Division, 53rd Brigade. It comprised volunteers and saw continual action from their landing in France in 1915 via The Somme in 1916, Arras (Scarpe) in 1917, resisting the Spring Offensive (Kaiserschlacht) in March 1918 right through to 4 November 1918, their final engagement.  This was a piece of opportunism by Commanding Officer Lt-Col Forbes who, seeing a long gap in German lines, led his battalion through it, successfully repulsing the enemy and taking many prisoners. 
A memorial to those men of Essex was kindly approved by the Mayor and Commune of Preux-au-Bois and installed in time for the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice. That morning, 11 November, all those concerned with this occasion assembled outside the Mayoral Office to participate in a three-part commemoration of the dead and celebration of the end of that grotesque war.
 The mayor kindly laid on a reception for everybody followed by a buffet lunch for the participants. Ted presented him with an Essex Regiment wall plaque for his office and received a bottle of champagne in return.This and the other Essex regimental memorials have only been possible owing to the donations of many interested individuals and organisations.
To paraphrase a well-known musician: ‘I’d like to thank you on behalf of our group and hope we passed the audition.’

Ian Hook bugled the Last Post followed by the two-minute silence, broken at precisely at 11.00 by the church chiming the hour and bells ringing out the victory. The cease fire was sounded and the History Group laid down their weapons and helmets, some donning civilian caps to signal the end of the military conflict.


Sunday, November 18, 2018


Billericay's residents came together on 11th November, for the commemoration service of the First World War Armistice, the first at 11.00am for our special service gathered around the Billericay War Memorial service and later at Sun Corner for the lighting of the beacon which was a most moving ceremony.  There was a huge turnout for both events, particularly the young groups including the splendid 2393 Squadron Billericay Air Training Corp cadets. We are most grateful to our long-standing friend Graham Baguley, bugler supremo who has never let us down over many years. Over the last four years, most of us have attended the annual services in the town and during the October Ward War One exhibitions at the Reading Rooms.

Friday, November 16, 2018


Thanks to kind readers for sending old photos of Brentwood and Billericay for my new project. Amazing scenes from the past. We will be talking about local history in upcoming radio shows on Phoenix 98fm on Friday 30 November with Hayley Anderson.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Alan Turing's flat at Bletchley Park when he worked there
Here it is, Alan Turing's typewriter still to be seen at Hut 8 Bletchley Park

I've recently met a group of women who worked at Bletchley Park, the central site for British cryptanalysts during World War II.  Did you know that 75% of the workforce were women? While women were overwhelmingly under-represented in high-level work, such as cryptanalysis, they were employed in large numbers in important auxiliary work, such as: operating cryptographic machinery and communications machinery; translating of Axis clerical duties and many more besides. I'm collecting my interviews for an upcoming feature. Watch this space.

Bletchley Park original building

Tuesday, November 06, 2018



On 11/12 October our famous local Mayflower Men based in Billericay together with enough friends and family to fill a coach, travelled to Ypres in Belgium.The purpose of the visit was to lay a wreath commemorating the many Morris Men who fell in the Great War. Members of the wreath-laying party had relatives who were killed in the area. A very moving ceremony was held at the Menin Gate at which all the visitors attended and at where number of wreaths were laid. The Last Post and Reveille were sounded, as has been since 1923, except when Ypres was occupied during the Second World War. Amongst the party were several Morris Men from Blackmore Morris, Thames Valley Morris Men and Albury Morris Men, in total there were 12 dancers and a musician. Dances were performed in the Grote Markt on Thursday in two sessions, and beer was taken! Visits were also made to the Sanctuary Wood and the In Flanders Fields museums by members of the group.

The visit was proposed by the late Tony Motley, a great Morris dancer, ex King’s Trooper and British Legion standard bearer. The visit was also in honour of Tony.
Our wonderful friend from Mayflower Morris Men, the late Tony Motley from Billericay


Friday, November 02, 2018


I am so lucky to meet and photograph many of today's people in the news as I've  done for many years. My latest lovely interviewee was the famous Felicity Green Hill, who, incidentally, grew up within a few hundred yards of my own home.

Last month's venue was Conran's in London's Marylebone High Street. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet up with Felicity, whose ideas on fashion and reporting during the mid-'60s appeared regularly in the Daily Mirror.   Felicity was one of the famous journalistic names in Fleet Street and was happy for me to photograph her.  I had already read her book Sex, Sense and Nonsense and loved the images she used to illustrate the various aspects of her career. Some of these coincided with my own experience of meeting people such as Hugh Cudlipp, Eve Pollard, Billy Walker, Sandie Shaw, Penny Vincenzi, Vidal Sassoon, Sandra Paul (now our SWWJ Patron Lady Howard), and so many others. Still it continues, with some nice interviews coming up. Our SWWJ is still linked to the London Press Club and when possible, our members try to get along to their super gatherings in London's Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street.


Andrew Lindfield DOT Productions

Thursday, November 01, 2018


Today is All Souls' Day and we reflect on last night's spooky goings on in Brentwood, Essex. Glowing pumpkins, spiky hats, furry spiders, weirdy wands almost sold out  in local shops as the witching hour approached. Children dressed as witches and wizards, devils and imps were tricking and treating as darkness fell - all fun during this proverbial evening.  
But witchcraft was no laughing matter a few hundred years ago in England.   Mere suspicion that someone was dabbling in the black arts could mean a death sentence. Medieval folk had long suspected that the Devil was carrying out his evil work on earth with the help of his minions. In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII declared this to be the truth in his Papal Bull. This kicked off the big European Witch Craze, which lasted for nearly two centuries.
The hotbeds of the witch-hunts were the German-speaking lands, France and Scotland.  In 1645 England, notably Essex, was in the grip of witch-fever. Between 1560 and 1680 in Essex alone 317 women and 23 men were tried for witchcraft, and over 100 were hanged. In 1645 there were 36 witch trials in Essex. Some of them were held at Brentwood. At least half a dozen Brentwood women around 1575 were hanged, so the records tell us. All appeared to be old, lived alone, except for their companion cats.
Brentwood Assizes  (which used to be in the High Street) were where the trials took place. The three-gabled Assize House had been built under a deed of 1579 and sited where 84 High Street is now. Judicial luminaries such as the celebrated Chief Justice Parker became associated with Brentwood Assizes. The infamous Matthews Hopkins – known as the Witchfinder General – who tyrannised the Eastern Counties during his two-year search for witches - was known to have visited Brentwood. 
Trials were held here for local felons, some of whom received death sentences.  South Weald registers tell of seven people who had been hanged and were buried on the same day.  These heartless events often attracted huge audiences.  The condemned were taken by cart along the Ongar Road to Gallows Green, a point close to the triangle leading to Doddinghurst Road where the unfortunates met their end. In past centuries phantoms have been recorded around Gallows Green (shown on the 1777 Andre & Chapman map) but these days, the constant traffic flow would undoubtedly frighten them off.


Monday, October 29, 2018


William Willett around 1909
Twice, every year, in March and October, we go through the tedious business of changing all the clocks and machines in the house to conform with correct timing. Who do we blame for this domestic routine?  Why, the late William Willett, an Englishman, born in Farnham, Surrey and obviously, a 'thinker'. William lived for most of his life in Chistlehurst, Kent where, it is said, after riding his horse in woods near his home early one summer morning, noticed how many curtains and blinds were still not drawn. This was where the idea for 'daylight saving' occurred to him.  This was not the first time that the idea of adapting to daylight hours had been mooted, however. It was common practice in the ancient world. Even Benjamin Franklin had written a play in 1784, resulting in resurrecting the idea. Although Franklin's facetious suggestion was simply that people should get up earlier in summer, he has been erroneously attributed as the inventor of Daylight Saving Time, while Willett is often ignored. Modern DST was first proposed by the New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson, who was also credited with the idea. 
Using his own money, in 1907 William published a pamphlet "The Waste of Daylight". In it, he proposed that the clocks should be advanced by 80 minutes in four incremental steps during April and reversed the same way during September. The evenings would then remain light for longer, increasing daylight recreation time and also saving £2.5 million in lighting costs. He suggested that the clocks should be advanced by 20 minutes at a time at 2 am on successive Sundays in April and be retarded in September.

William Willett is remembered in Petts Wood by a memorial sundial, which is always set on DST(Daylight Saving Time)

By 1908, Willett had managed to gain the support of Robert Pearce, a Member of Parliament, who tried, unsuccessfully to get the idea passed into law.  By 1914, at the start of the Great War, the issue became important because of the need to save coal. Germany had already introduced the scheme in that country when the bill was finally passed in Britain on 17 May 1916 and the clocks were advanced by an hour on the following Sunday, 21 May, enacted as a wartime production-boosting device under the Defence of the Realm Act.  Many other countries adopted the law.
Poor old William Willett did not live to see daylight saving adopted, as he died, aged 58 in the wave of influenza in 1915. He is commemorated in Petts Wood by a  memorial sundial, set permanently to daylight saving time.

The Daylight Inn in Petts Wood, is named in his honour, a road is named after him in the vicinity - Willett Way and there still exists the Willett Recreation Ground. The great man's former home in Bromley, is marked with a blue plaque and his grave can be found at St Nicholas' churchyard in Chistlehurst, although a memorial to his family stands in the churchyard at St Wulfran's Church, Ovingdean, Brighton, Sussex.

Friday, October 26, 2018


No, I didn't grow this one - in fact, this year's harvest was miserable (maybe due to two very hot growing months in June and July), so off to Barleylands Farm Shop at Great Burstead to buy this big boy.  Currently, the kitchen is full of onions, apples and other locally picked fruit and veg for my preserving pan and I'm using my own recipes (which were published in The Telegraph book). I don't use pumpkin for my home-made wines - have tried it many years ago, but hardly worth the work involved. Maybe some of my readers have had more success? Do let me know, particularly folk in the US and Canada?   

Thursday, October 18, 2018


Police presence and keen history participants
History, evidently, is fascinating for young and old and Billericay was lucky on Saturday when the Cater Museum joined with the Western Front Association and Tenth Essex Living History Group to present a World War One Centenary Exhibition in the Reading Rooms in our High Street.  For four years, since 2014, we have met some fascinating folk whose interest goes far beyond just reading about the Great War. They dress for the part and have much specialised knowledge, photographs and artefacts from one hundred years ago.  On the same day, our Billericay Archive Group met at Billericay Library further along the High Street and entertained many residents with talks, displays and general information about the history of the town - again, some precious rarely-seen images on display.   Shame that both events occurred simultaneously, but it gave visitors a little exercise,moving between the venues, and a chance to meet some other folk keen to learn about the history of their town via the different organisations.


Tuesday, October 16, 2018


Writers are, sometimes seemingly, untidy creatures when it comes to controlling the excessive amount of paper that arrives by post, email or just through the ether. The discipline of keeping tabs on their own published work and images is sometimes difficult to control. At least that's how most of my author/journalist friends describe their work and paper-filled, untidy 'nests' devoted to writing. Filing the stuff is important, particularly for those who earn their daily bread by illustrating their books or features with their own pictures. I have a basic system going back almost thirty years, but it kinda works, so am pleased when I can find images appropriate for upcoming magazine features. Makes life so much easier. 

Just embarking on a small piece about astronomy and needed this nice little picture  of the late Sir Patrick whom I met at Chelsea a decade ago.  Lovely chap who presented The Sky at Night, one of the first TV programme about that exciting world so far above us. Sir Patrick took pity on me one year when we were both guests on Monday VIP day at Chelsea Flower Show in London. Even though so many people were jostling to talk to him, he called me over and allowed me to carry out a nice little interview where - it turned out - he interviewed 'me' about the books I had read and written, and my enjoyment of his television programmes made so very long ago. I mentioned my first Science book prize from Marley School (below) and he gave me his opinion about the work of Arthur C Clarke, one of my favourite authors at the time.

 Eventually Sir Patrick agreed to pose with this other chap whose name I can't recall. Can any of my readers identify this TV presenter? 

Friday, October 05, 2018


Trustees Irene Butcher, Stephen Hurley with Liz Wallace from Denver
What a wonderfully warm welcome awaited Liz Wallace yesterday when she met Trustees of the Eastgate Art Gallery and presented her son Stuart Wallace's latest artwork for exhibition.  These paintings are now on front view at the Gallery over the next month.  Some of Essex-born Stuart's paintings have been exhibited in several American cities, including New York and his work is gaining prominence in his home city of Denver, Colorado.

Danny Lawrence BEM. chief at Gateway Radio 97.8 fm kindly invited Liz and the Gallery Trustees to be interviewed by presenter Aston Avery and thanks are extended to the whole team at Gateway for their interest in the very active Basildon Arts scene. Why not pay a visit? 

More of Stuart Wallace's collection of abstract and traditional artwork can be seen on his   website