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

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'.