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   websitehttp://stuartwallace.wixsite.com/artwork

Thursday, October 04, 2018


John Agard Fleur Adcock Wendy Cope at House of Lords ALCS summer party
NATIONAL POETRY DAY is being celebrated in the UK today and hopefully, our SWWJ poets will find inspiration today to work on new ideas and verse that may have been fermenting in their minds for some time.  My humble pieces will never go anywhere, but I do love the work of many current well known poets. Here we have a trio who were kind enough to give me a little smile at a recent gathering in London.  Come on - pick up those pens or hit the keyboard!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018


Loved my visit to Bletchley Park in Buckinghamsure a while back. Today, the TV auction show Flog It also visited this famous building and I enjoyed recalling some of the amazing rooms, even (almost) sitting on the chair used by Alan Turing.  His typewriter is still there and it was similar to the one I used as one of my tools so many years ago. During my own visit, I was thrilled that so many people were around to help me in my quest for information about spies and spying - my resulting article has now been published. However, I really enjoyed working my way around the big house and the huts, particularly Hut 8 - the most memorable which really fired my imagination.   

Tuesday, October 02, 2018


So lovely to hear our former Council member of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists - Dame Jacqueline Wilson, talking about her new best-selling book on Woman's Hour this morning.  It's linked to her first successful story about Tracy Beaker.  Jacqueline was a hard-working member of our Council when her writing career initially took off and we have some wonderful photographs of her in those early years, particularly during our famous 'weekend schools'. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018


Paul Simon in the '60s
Reading like crazy at the moment. Large pile of books arrived and can't wait to sit down and get down to some serious reading for my new project. First on the list is the autobiography of Paul Simon, that consummate song writer and one of my favourites from the 1960s onward. Discovered the fact that Paul arrived in our town of Brentwood, Essex, England in 1963. Our good friend, Dennis Rookard was very active in those days, working as he did for the local press. It was Dennis who recorded sessions at the Railway Hotel, King's Road, close to our station in the autumn of '63 and more so in 1964. Although it is such a long time ago, Paul will surely remember performances by The Thames-siders and other performers and the time he met a young Englishman Dave McCausland, who immediately liked Paul's musical style and invited him to play at his Brentwood Folk Club.  To be continued... 


The New Yorker highlights special moments during Paul Simon’s final show of the Homeward Bound Tour.
“His voice, boyish and clear, was something of a liability at the start of his career—he neither snarled nor whooped, like many of his peers, which led some critics to believe that his work was less urgent. Now it simply gives these songs an eternal youthfulness.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Oceania has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London and Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac, Paris, with the participation of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge. We are back in 1768 and Britain is in the throes of the Age of Enlightenment. As a group of artists agrees to found the Royal Academy, Captain James Cook sets sail on a voyage of discovery to track the transit of Venus and search for terra australis incognita – the unknown southern continent, as Europeans called it. What Cook and his crew encounter on arrival is a vast number of island civilisations covering almost a third of the world’s surface: from Tahiti in Polynesia, to the scattered archipelagos and islands of Melanesia and Micronesia.
The indigenous populations they met came with their own histories of inter-island trade, ocean navigation, and social and artistic traditions. This spectacular exhibition will reveal these narratives – celebrating the original, raw and powerful art that in time would resonate across the European artistic sphere.
Oceania will bring together around 200 exceptional works from public collections worldwide, and will span over 500 years. From shell, greenstone and ceramic ornaments, to huge canoes and stunning god images, we explore important themes of voyaging, place making and encounter. The exhibition draws from rich historic ethnographic collections dating from the 18th century to the present, and includes seminal works produced by contemporary artists exploring history, identity and climate change. Oceania continues the RA’s tradition of hosting outstanding exhibitions exploring world cultures.


Maps, artworks and journals from the
 voyages sit alongside newly-commissioned films offering contemporary perspectives. Examine the expeditions that shaped Europe’s knowledge of the world and consider their far-reaching legacy.
See Cook’s handwritten journal detailing the first crossing of the Antarctic Circle, when they travelled further south than anyone in the world, stunning artwork including the earliest European depiction of a kangaroo, and intricate maps charting the v
It is 250 years since the Endeavour set sail from Plymouth. Our exhibition tells the story of Captain James Cook’s three world-changing voyages through original documents, many of which were produced by the artists, scientists and sailors on board the ships.
oyages that spanned more than a decade. Learn about the experiences on board the Endeavour, Resolution and Discovery, and the impact of their arrival.
Drawings by the Polynesian high priest and navigator Tupaia, who accompanied Cook to New Zealand and Australia, will be displayed together for the first time. These will sit alongside works by expedition artists Sydney Parkinson, William Hodges and John Webber. 
Visit our James Cook: The Voyages website for a range of different perspectives on the voyages and their legacy and impact. These include responses from people of the communities Cook encountered, documented and learned from. You can also follow the
Hear the stories. Read the diaries. Revisit the momentous voyages made 250 years ago.
 timeline of the journeys, read articles about the individual voyages and immerse yourself in the expeditions through our digitised collection items.
Note: You may find the PACCAR Gallery cooler than other areas of the Library. This controlled environment protects any items that may be damaged in humid conditions. We recommend bringing an extra layer for your comfort.
Find out more about the learning programme to accompany the exhibition, including school workshopsteacher events and adult courses

Saturday, September 22, 2018


Isn't it always the way when you are writing a book?  Often folk promise to provide photos and information, invariably, the material arrives too late for your publishers' deadline date!  At a book signing recently, this unusual image was sent tome by a very kind former resident living in Heathway, Dagenham. It is an image of the Methodist church which played such a communal part in many of our young lives.  I would have loved to have included it in my book BARKING & DAGENHAM FROM OLD PHOTOGRAPHS - Amberley Publishing Ltd - Stroud.

Everything revolved around this building - Brownies, Guides,  Girls' Life Brigade, and of course, the equivalent for boys. Concerts, parties, recitals and film afternoons showing Flash Gordon and, Sunday church services, of course.  How could such an enormous building with spacious grounds to the rear be destroyed?  Progress, I suppose and profit!

Here we have an artist's impression of when the Central Hall was first built in 1925 and which is included in my book, alongside a few hundred other photographs of many places in this area.

Many thanks to those former residents who have sent such lovely emails which, in themselves have brought back such poignant memories.

Currently working on a new project linked to Brentwood in Essex. Have some wonderful images already, but who knows what's out there! 

If interested, do make contact (in good time please) 

E:skent32@tiscali.co.uk   Blog:www.sylviakent.blogspot.com 

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Lady Howard and Jane Corry both great novelists
Great lunch at National Liberal Club today with lots of friends and some new faces including, Andrew Lewer MP and our very own SWWJ member Jane Corry. Each took the rostrum and both were  inspirational in their different ways. Jane told us about her life and times  particularly following the publication of three best selling novels, the latest being  The Dead Ex which she signed today for many of our friends attending this special afternoon. 


On the evening of 11 October 2018 at the Stripe Theatre at the University of Winchester, the English Project will present its Annual English Language Day Lecture. Doors open at 17.45.  The lecture begins at 18.15.
‘Women and the English Language: A Conversation with Susie Dent’
A conversation with Susie Dent, one of England’s greatest lexicographers, will explore the way in which women use the English Language and in which the English language uses women. Questions will be put to Susie by the English Project and the Audience. Come armed with questions, but also send us questions in advance by return of this message.
In 1918, the British granted votes for the first time to women. In 2018, the Centennial year of that event, the English Project has been reflecting on women and the English language.
Susie Dent is a leading English-language lexicographer, best known as the resident dictionary expert and adjudicator on Channel 4’s long-running game show Countdown. She has written fourteen books on the English language, on subjects as varied as language change, dialect, word origins, and tribal conversation.. Susie is also an experienced broadcaster and has presented and appeared on many radio and television programmes, including Americanize for Radio 4, which examined the history of British antipathy towards US English. Her special interest is etymology, and the secret lives hidden behind the most ordinary of words. 
English Language Day. On 13 October 1362, a Westminster Parliament was convened that approved a Statute of Pleading that permitted the use of the English language in Parliament on the grounds that French was ‘much unknown’ in England. The Normans, Angevins and Plantagenets had up to that time ruled England in French. Then English was a forbidden and a despised language, but 13 October 1362 saw English on its way to becoming the twenty-first century’s Global Language. For more on this and much else related, read the English Project’s History of the English Language in 100 Places by Bill Lucas and Christopher Mulvey. See: www.englishproject.org. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


Big day tomorrow when members of SWWJ, friends and guests will be meeting our guest speakers, MP Andrew Lewer MBE and SWWJ colleague, Jane Corry at our Autumn Lunch in London. Jane's work has been hitting the headlines over the last few years and she is now a Sunday Times best-selling author.  Jane has been writing short stories for national journals for many years.   
Recently, Jane's son, Giles Bidder visited our local radio studio in Brentwood Phoenix 98fm  to talk about his own successful career in journalism and music, and was able to give us the lowdown on his Mum's latest success. 
Review of her latest novel below.
As a keen gardener, I was delighted with the opening of this third novel from Sunday Times’ Best Selling author (and SWWJ colleague) Jane Corry. Essential oils, herbs and wild flowers are the tools of protagonist Vicki’s healing aromatherapy business based in Penzance, and one that has given this psychologically- damaged woman a degree of balance and peace following years of abuse and wretchedness.
Vicki’s tranquillity is disturbed, with the mind-boggling door-step appearance - one cold, February evening - of the police. So begins a nightmare involving her ex-husband David whom she insists she hasn’t seen since their divorce years earlier. He has been reported by Tanya, his new wife, as missing and, although Vicki has no idea of his whereabouts, she realises that she still cares for him and as there is a strong suspicion that he is dead, her mind begins to reflect on their marriage and its harrowing finale.
Then we are introduced to eight-year-old Scarlet whom Mum (Zelda) compliments as her ‘clever grown-up girl" who unwittingly helps Mum pass on her drugs via their well practised ‘swing game’ in the park. Soon, Mum is caught and imprisoned, and young Scarlet enters foster care – a singularly dreadful experience, in her case, that shapes the rest of her life.

We meet other unfortunate female characters as the plot unfolds and the reader learns quite a lot about women’s prisons and those who administer control therein. "Time goes slowly in prison. For inmates, that is." Here we have first-hand experience, as the author spent three hair-raising years, working as ‘Writer-in-Residence’ in a high security men’s prison, which has helped inspire this and Corry’s other psychological thrillers, one of which is destined to be filmed soon for television. I moved through the pages rapidly, not expecting the twists and turns of this gripping novel and I must admit, I was hooked. Now want to read more of Jane Corry’s work.    

Friday, September 14, 2018


Dawn, Anita, Jim, Joan, Patrick and Sylvia at the end of a fascinating day spent with fellow writers, photographers and other creative folk at Galleywood Heritage Centre, not far from Chelmsford, Essex, England.
(Image courtesy of John Cummin)

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Billericay's famous Mill Meadows Nature Reserve was the place to be on Sunday morning. This special green area is a 90-acre site fairly close to the centre of our small town in Essex. Open to the public all year round, visitors can explore the beautiful meadows and woodlands and spot a range of wildlife.

But Sunday's special open day was rather special with so many friends turning up. It was well organised by the Mill Meadows' team and obviously a huge amount of work was involved with clearing the site in readiness for the collection of interesting stalls.  Loved the honey table with Frances Adam, a local beekeeper and I enjoyed a chat about my last batch of mead. Among the collection of stalls and tables, were the Cater Museum hosted by Katie Wilkie, Trevor Jeffery with samples from his Billericay Brewing Company, particularly his special Zeppelin Beer. There were many other stalls selling the weird and wonderful, colourful and delicious!
Thomas Wood (Ross Holland) and Lord Petre who opened this special occasion
We arrived in time to snap Lord Petre and "Thomas Wood", that historical 'ghastly' miller who welcomed visitors to this countryside event. Here are a few more pictures from a fascinating visit.  

Billericay Archive Member David D'eath and a young visitor
By the way, stories of Mill Meadows are reproduced in one of my early books  BILLERICAY VOICES which outlines some of the town's famous people past and present and their links with this lively place in Essex. We have a few copies left - so do make contact via skent32@tiscali.co.uk

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


John Baron MP: 2018 Fun Walk smashes £1,000,000

2,000 walkers and stallholders raise money for numerous charities

The annual Fun Walk took place at Barleylands Farm yesterday (Sunday, 2 September). Around 2,000 walkers and stallholders raised money for numerous charities and good causes. Because we now already know the amount donated into this year’s bonus pot, we know yesterday’s walk will bring the total monies raised since the Fun Walk’s inception in 2002 to over £1,000,000.

The exact monies raised by the charities at yesterday's event will be made known at the Presentation evening on 23 November 2018 (at Anisha Grange, Hallmark Care Homes, Billericay) when bonus pot cheques will be awarded to each charity and good cause taking part. As usual, the bonus pot sponsors and the local press will be invited.

Yesterday, there was a massive BBQ courtesy of 'Team Handsome', music courtesy of Gateway 97.8, a field bordered by stalls and a variety of other refreshment tents. Billericay's Town Crier, Jim Shrubb, helped proceedings along. John also said a few words of thanks before he and Jim led the walk off. As usual, medals were awarded to the walkers at the finish.

John said:

"This year's walk has smashed £1,000,000 in total monies raised since we started the walk in 2002. It has been a tremendous effort by our family of volunteers, to whom we all owe a great debt of gratitude. Many good causes, people less fortunate than ourselves, and animals in need, have all been helped by our efforts – we can be very proud.”

“My thanks for Sunday’s walk go to the 2,000 walkers and stallholders for taking part, to the Marshalls, to the wonderful team at Barleylands for hosting the walk, to the Army cadets for car parking duties, and to our own family of volunteers and Committee members for making it all possible. We now wait to see total monies raised from the charities."

"Our thanks also go to our bonus pot sponsors which this year were Swan Housing, c2c, Abellio Greater Anglia, Tunnelcraft Ltd, Brown & Carroll, Hallmark Care Homes, Leonardo, McDonald’s, RSE Building Services and others.  Their £40,000 will help many good causes and actually pushed us over the £1,000,000 mark before the charities themselves raised any money on the day."

"Finally, our thanks go to Hallmark Care Homes for sponsoring the medals, to the team from Waitrose for volunteering on the day, to Abi’s Catering Supplies Ltd, to Gateway 97.8 for great music, to the Essex Ambulance Service for also manning an ambulance on the day, and to Jim Shrubb, our Town Crier. It was a great team effort all round.”