Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Can it be sixty five years today since that dreadful flood occurred along the east coast, particularly on Canvey Island?  Hundreds died that night and my father-in-law, PC Richard Graham Kent, then a policeman stationed at Brentwood, helped save some of the families living in the bungalows that were under the water.
Some of my family live there now and just recently, I paid a visit to learn more about the island which was built by the Dutch several hundred years ago. Defences in the form of a solid sea wall were built thereafter starting in 1975 and finished in 1983.  Ray Howard "Mr Canvey"  has just given a talk on BBC Essex outlining that awful time.  There are, of course, numerous books written about this event, and I have included this sad period in several of my features and books over the last few years.  In my last book (my tenth), I mentioned the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden who, in 1625, is believed to have worked in Canvey in repairing sea walls, as well as the breach damage at Dagenham - see page 11 of BARKING & DAGENHAM FROM OLD PHOTOGRAPHS published by Amberley Publishing of Stroud.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018


Today was Book Club time on Phoenix 98fm presented by our super host Michelle Ward. This month's guest was the professional speaker and writer from Billericay, Margaret Mills, who knows so much about Essex and its history.  

Sunday, January 21, 2018


Sad to hear of the passing of Jenny Joseph, the well known poet who was a good friend to the SWWJ.  Poetry is an important part of our organisation.  Here we have a photograph of Jenny with one of our top poets, Susan Skinner, receiving her well deserved award for poetry.  This was taken during the early 1990s. 

Jenny Joseph, born in Birmingham in 1932, wrote dozens of poems which are included within her anthologies including her most famous poem  "Warning" or  "When I grow old I shall wear purple..."  Strangely, she was not out of her '20s when she created these lines which older women of the world adopted as their mantra. Part of her poem goes: "When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple ; with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me."

So the Red Hat |Brigade was born. Hundreds of organisations - mainly in America and Canada at first - were spawned as a result. The idea spread to Britain and purple and red outfits are worn by the members of the Red Hat Societies!

When I met Jenny Joseph a few years back at Somerset House in London as a delegate of the Royal Society of Literature lecture, she was not very pleased when I mentioned her famous poem. She told me that she had written so much other work since that early part of her life, and why didn't I - as a journalist - read her latest book and pick one of her latest poems for a feature.    Knuckles duly rapped!

However, I've just had a chat with the president of the local Red Hat Society (I once enjoyed a fabulous lunch as a guest speaker with these super ladies) and she outlined a programme of lively outings and events for the coming year. If I am once again invited, will have to dig out my red beret with that purple jacket (which most certainly doesn't suit me), so that I don't receive a black mark!  Wonder what Jenny Joseph would have said!

Friday, January 19, 2018


Yesterday's Daily Mail  published  a request for information on making wine at home from fruit and vegetables.  This hobby (or I prefer to call it a craft) has been a favourite pastime for many of us who like to know exactly what goes into our food and beverages. 

My favourite monthly magazine HOME FARMER is probably the only self-sufficiency journal of its kind which gives valuable help and advice on growing and using our own home-grown food. My regular literary contribution covers how to make all kinds of wine and beverages and my articles concentrate on each month of the year.  Currently, you can learn how to make both Parsnip wine and a super variation of Celery wine.  I feel the most important aspects of home fermentation are imagination, cleanliness  and patience - to allow your wines to mature in good storage conditions.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018


Super new poster for SWWJ courtesy of  Michelle Harriman and Rebecca Harding

Thursday, January 04, 2018


I very much enjoyed my trip to Southend's famous seafront  yesterday. The plan was to link up with Festival Director Ros Green and her team who have all been working hard to create the upcoming 2018 Essex Book Festival.  As a patron of the Book Festival for many years, it is always a pleasure to catch up with the regular faces who do so much work to put together the fabulous eclectic line-up of authors, poets, dramatists, musicians, journalists, film-makers and artists who make the month of March so enjoyable.  So, yesterday's trip to Southend was perfect for me and I enjoyed my first visit to Twenty One, this new cultural venue curated by Focal Point Gallery in the town.
Ros Green at Phoenix 98fm studio Brentwood in 2017

The free programmes I promised you are now available from most libraries and there you will find more than 200 personalities who will be descending on forty venues across Essex to entertain audiences from Chelmsford to Colchester, Maldon to Southend. Even before the first official performance in Colchester, we look forward to the Festival Launch at Anglia Ruskin University on Wednesday 28 February where Billy Bragg will be presenting Roots, Radicals and Rockers, details of which, you will find in the programme.

Then, throughout March, there will be numerous fabulous performances from folk such as Henry Blofeld, AL Kennedy, Michael Frayn, Jim Al Khalili, Jenny Uglow, Nicci French, Sally Magnusson, John Crace and so many more. Again, there will be the Golden Age Crime Weekend in Southend, the burgeoning Science & Invention Hub in Chelmsford and, for the first time in our Festival annals, a most unusual trip to the  Nuclear Option Day at Kelvedon Hatch Secret Nuclear Bunker, a place I know well as it is so close to where I live.

Syd Moore author and yours truly
Yesterday's meeting with Syd Moore, the Festival's Writer-in-Residence was fun and here we are together at Twenty One. Syd's new book STRANGE SIGHT - an Essex Witch Museum Mystery, sounds fascinating to me, especially after Syd's animated reading yesterday. I know she has many fans around Essex and will be participating in various debates, events and workshops across the county in March.  I have asked if she will find time  to come with me to Phoenix 98fm and meet our super presenter Michelle Ward whose Book Club programme is streamed around the world.  Details of the one hundred+ events in forty venues in this large county, are all to be found on the Essex Book Festival website:   Tickets are already selling well.


Tuesday, January 02, 2018


Freelance writers are usually lucky folk who often receive invitations to attend some of London's popular events.  Have already met another former Beatle, Paul McCartney in Westminster many years ago, and it was a pleasure to meet his pal, Ringo Starr and his wife, Barbara Bach. Ringo, whose real name is Richard Starkey, is the second Beatle to be knighted 21 years after Paul McCartney. Lovely to have a little chat at one of the Chelsea Flower Show TV garden presentations and so nice of them to pose for me.  Also made a short video of them and other people in the tent that day. No idea why they wore sunglasses! I usually ask people to take them off when I am taking pics.  

I bet they are excited about this honour. I would be, and I would think the occasion would call for a nice new outfit!