Monday, February 26, 2018


Phoenix 98fm presenter Michelle Ward welcomed Seona Ford and me into the studio last week to celebrate the start of the Essex Book Festival which opened a few days ago at Essex University with Billy Bragg fighting the snowdrifts to welcome the doughty readers of the county.  Billy charted the history, impact and legacy of Britain's original pop movement, exploring Roots, Radicals and Rockers: How Skiffle Changed the World. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Tuesday, 20 February and meeting up with Seona Ford, Chair of the Essex Book Festival and the supersonic team at Phoenix 98fm headed by Michelle Ward. Listen in at midway.
Henry Blofeld, one of our stars of the Essex Book Festival

Monday, February 19, 2018


As many amateur winemakers know, the craft of fermenting goes on throughout the year. Nothing could be more delightful than gathering your own grapes in October -  grown organically - frozen for a few months, and then enjoyed after the business of creating a wine of your choice. For the March edition of the fabulous magazine HOME FARMER (W H Smith and most good newsagents), I wrote about a superb English winemaker, Bert Mower, who lives in my home town and whose wines have won dozens of international awards. Bert kindly gave me some of his vine cuttings (Rondo and Seyval Blanc) and these have been growing in our back garden for a couple of years now.

Friday, February 16, 2018


A cold, stormy afternoon yesterday, but one of indulgence and déjà vu for me when I, at last, used my birthday gift voucher at Ruth Scally's Spa Cottage in Billericay. Ruth's beauty salon created in 2004, is, I reckon, the very best in this area. It was great to meet my masseuse specialist, Sarah, again, who gave a fabulous treatment.

The déjà vu moment came when I realised Sarah’s treatment room was the very one that I had written about in my weekly column when Ruth invited the lovely Jeanne Argent (nee Gentry) to visit. Jeanne had lived at the cottage as a child and had actually been born in that very room in the 1920s. Although it’s twelve years since we and local media had gathered with champagne and lovely food, together with Derek, Jeanne’s late husband, and Billericay Town Crier, Jim Shrubb, Jeanne was delighted when I phoned her yesterday, bringing her up to date. 

So, lots of love from Jeanne to Ruth, Roger  and Coral, her new business partner and the team for keeping that beautiful 200-year-old  Spa Cottage in superb condition as well as the very best in beauty treatment and care.  As I mentioned at the time, this is a venture that will go from strength to strength. 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018


Emmeline Pankhurst
What a day this has been on radio, TV, internet and film celebrating the centenary of the introduction of the Representation of the People Act 1918. ago in the UK, certain women became eligible to vote. and stand for Parliament. Amidst the celebrations, let's not forget those women who were excluded from voting for another ten years, and the women still denied a political voice, even today.  While it is important to recognise that the Act at this time gave only certain privileged women the right to vote - those who were 30-years of age and property-owning - it was a small step in the right direction

The topic of suffragists and suffragettes - and the distinction between the two, makes interesting reading, but our Society of Women Writers and Journalists, founded in 1894 (by a wonderful man) has an interesting archive full of information about some of the brave women who took part in the struggle for emancipation.

As someone who, from 1979-2005  worked at the Palace of Westminster and passed daily through St Stephen's Hall where the doughty women had chained themselves to the statues, I've long had strong feelings linked to that Hall. A few memorable images will shortly be posted on this blog. 

Some of my Russian students wanted to learn when other countries eventually granted women's suffrage. This was in the closing years of the Great War.   Russia, Germany, Canada and Poland also recognised women's right to vote. Propertied British women as described, who were over 30-years-of-age had the vote in 1918, Dutch women in 1919, and American women won the vote on 26 August 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Friday, February 02, 2018


Steve Scruton currently on BBC Essex

You all know, by now, that I love radio in all its forms - national, regional,local and hospital radio and have broadcast from at least eight different studios in London and the South East.  Mainly I talk about social history linked to museums in the county. Research is vital in my work and the results over twenty years, have been published in at least ten books and seven anthologies. One of my latest titles has been read by former Barking & Dagenham folk who now live all over the world. Available on Amazon and in most bookshops such as W H Smith, Waterstones and particularly Upminster-based  Swan Bookshop. 
Dudley Moore on a return visit to his old school Dagenham County High - pictured with his music teacher

My latest book, following two years' research

Billy Bragg who lived opposite Barking Park - soon to launch the Essex Book Festival

Vera Lynn - super message from her for inclusion in my latest book

With appreciation to the Ford Motor Company's historian Dave Hill

West Ham photo from1972 - some memorable faces there, including Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Martin Peters, Frank Lampard and the super Sir Trevor Brooking, among other great footballers of the time.