Thursday, March 28, 2019


Michelle Ward our supersonic presenter at Phoenix 98fm Radio, Brentwood Studio

It was a huge pleasure to meet our latest  guest on Book Club this morning. Michelle Ward, our super presenter welcomed Wendy Pike into the studio. Wendy, who has been in the writing business for a couple of decades, first worked in TV as a teenager and is now in PR.  If you read the local press, you will undoubtedly have read some of her work linked as it is to numerous successful local businesses. This morning Wendy spoke about her  background and particularly her book published seven years ago called  Life is FAB and it was for the Fabulous and Beautiful programme run by The Breast Unit Charity at St Margaret’s Hospital, Epping. This beautifully produced book illustrated with Carmel Jane's lovely photographs of all the models (including Wendy), may again be published, hopefully in the future for the benefit of us all.  Pike
Your truly and Book Club guest Wendy Pike

Incidentally, Carmel, one of Brentwood's best known photographers, can be heard on Phoenix 98fm on their Wednesday afternoon business programme.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


Lois is far right
So many writing friends are enjoying publishing successes this spring.  One of our Brentwood Writing Circle's members, Lois Willoughby-Easter has been celebrating the publication of her first book and what fabulous timing!  This year is the centenary of women first taking to the streets as Metropolitan Police officers. Lois served for six years as a Woman Police Constable in the Metropolitan Police, between 1967 and '73. These were the years immediately before integration with male officers, and as we all know, this period for females was not a straightforward transition.

Lois's story is a story insight into the life of a WPC serving in the era, on the front line while facing what would be seen today as sexism and bullying from within. 
Lois's book is a timely look at the life of women on the beat and A Girl In Blue is an excellent and gripping read. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019



I promised readers the story of  John Walter who, over the last few days, has been on my mind. 

As a member of the SWWJ,  an organisation for  women journalists way back in Victorian times, we often forget we enjoyed a quietly supportive masculine element. Apart from our founder, Joseph Snell Wood (1853-1920), there have always been helpful male Patrons, notably Lord Camrose, Sir Angus Wilson, Lord Astor of Hever, Sir William Collins, Viscount Northcliffe, among others, all titled gentlemen who gave financial support and, in some cases, silverware to the winners of our writing competitions. 

How interesting then to take a look at a powerful Patron, in this case, one lacking an impressive title.   John Walter (1873-1968) was the fifth generation newspaper magnate born, he once commented, “with ink in my veins”.  When he took the chair of Britain's then most prestigious newspaper The Times, he was continuing a dynasty.  His great-great-grandfather was the first John Walter who had started The Times in 1785.  Our Patron was always quietly proud of his name and family’s longevity.  John Walter became linked to the Society of Woman Journalists (as it was then known) at a challenging time just after World War I.  He supported us as he believed in our aims and always felt that women had gifts which were particularly valuable in journalism. He generously offered his help and patronage, joining with several Fleet Street magnates, including Sir Harry Brittain. 

On 23 October 1922, he and John Astor became joint chief proprietors of The Times. John Walter had achieved his aim of ensuring the paper's complete editorial independence. He stayed much the junior partner in a stable relationship, and his chief proprietorship, involving by that time only responsibility for the appointment and dismissal of the editor, lasted until The Times and the Sunday Times were merged under Lord Thomson of Fleet on 1 January 1967, when his family's long connection with The Times came to an end.

Regarded as an unassuming, quiet man, with rather an austere but courteous disposition, John Walter’s life and career in Fleet Street, spanned many decades.   During his 90th birthday luncheon speech in Printing House Square, he spoke only of the future. He did not feel his position precluded him from letting the editor know his views on public affairs.  He always emphasised that he did so as an ordinary reader. His loyalty to his editor's authority was absolute. If he was less forceful than his predecessors as head of The Times, he was more versatile. He painted and drew extremely well.  In his nineties, he still read The Times avidly, his dry comments making him an engaging companion.

Our patron died in a modest flat in Hove in August 1968.  But his name lives on inscribed  across our beautiful silver trophy which has been awarded to yours truly!   


Although not a poet - I raise a toast to the vernal equinox (20 March) edition of Open Book on BBC Radio 4 with a super collection of poetry read by some of my favourite 'voices', one of which is actor Juliet Stevenson (film Truly, Madley, Deeply). Some of the members of our Society of Women Writers & Journalists are published poets and
I can appreciate the work of some of our award-winning members who write wonderful verse.Juliet won't remember me, but we chatted together many years ago (I think it was about the environment) waiting to be served at a publicity lunch event in London. Juliet's voice is fabulous and she is certainly one of the best loved voices on our BBC Radio.  Incidentally, Juliet has been added to my list of one hundred fabulous Essex Girls - yep, she really is!  

Juliet Stevenson

Friday, March 22, 2019


Essex Book Festival has pledged to make 1000 origami boats this March, as part of the Mothership Project to exchange messages of love and friendship between children at home and abroad.
To help Essex Book Festival team with their pledge: make a boat, write your own message of friendship inside, and give it to EBF representatives at any of their events during this March Book Festival. They will add it to their collection. #1000boats


Such a fun and well organised afternoon in London yesterday with our SWWJ team who organised the Spring Tea Programme.  Writers are usually very interesting folk and we were pleased to see so many new faces networking among our regular members.  Numerous new books and features are ready for publication this spring and we will put aside time to read them.  I bought a couple and hope to have a good reading session when the time is right.  

Sylvia Kent with judge and guest speaker Elaine Everest
As this was also 'Competition Award Day', it was lovely to meet some of our writers who picked up prizes, including Beryl Fleming, Marilyn Pemberton and Roberta Grieve, then Finola Holiday, Dorothy Pope and Claire Dyer - brilliant poets and then me who was so chuffed to receive the John Walter Salver (silver) for my non-fiction piece of writing (a memoir).  Now you ask, who is or was John Walter? Well, for many years he was one of our Society's esteemed Patrons who was the fifth John Walter, the first being Editor and founder of The Times in 1785.  If you want to know more about this enigmatic gentleman, do check tomorrow's post offering on this blog. Second in this non-fiction competition was Pamela Payne and third Beryl Fleming.
Vivien Brown best-selling author
Huge appreciation offered to Vivien Brown, who looks after our competitors and judges, who herself is a best-selling author, and whose organisational skills are so much admired.  Many more photos on our website. 
Top novelist Sue Moorcroft and SWWJ Chairman Barbara Field-Holmes 

To find out more about us, why not pop along to view our website and there you can discover what makes us tick and learn about our amazing list of events coming up this year.  The most important is our 125th anniversary lunch which is to take place at Stationers' Hall in London on Thursday 2 May, 2019. Full details and booking form are on the website. @swwj See you there! 

Friday, March 15, 2019


I  reviewed this book by Frances Clamp, President of the Brentwood Writers' Circle, some years ago when it was originally launched. Published by Pen & Sword Military, it is an excellent reference to the vagaries of war, not only in Essex as the title suggests, but nationwide. Just recently I've had time to study the content more carefully. This is because I am working hard on my own new book and Frances has carried out the most meticulous research into the RAF at North Weald and at other places in our county.
Frances & Sylvia winning a fictional competition
One of the benefits in belonging to a local writing circle, is the friendship with members who can help with advice on almost any topic under the sun.  Although I basically write non-fiction, even with stories for magazines and competitions, there is still a need to research, particularly when writing historical narrative. I find that fellow writers are the kindest kind of people around and will always try to make life a little easier for their fellow members, especially for rookie scribes.  See

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


The Essex Book Festival team is delighted to announce the Top Twenty Books That Rock Essex – old and new – as part of our 20th Birthday celebrations in partnership with Essex Libraries and BBC Essex. The Top Twenty are either based or partially set in Essex, and have been nominated by readers across Essex over the last few weeks via an open call.
To find a winner, all you have to do is to email your favourite book from the list to  Winners will be announced at Essex Book Club Symposium in Chelmsford Library on Thursday 28 March.  Fingers crossed everyone!   
Heart of Darkness  – Joseph Conrad – Tilbury Dock
War of the Worlds – HG Wells – Essex Coast
Secret Waters – Arthur Ransome – Hamford Waters
We Didn’t Mean To Go Sea – Arthur Ransome
The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry – Colchester
Dracula – Bram Stoker – Purfleet
Oaken Heart – Margery Allingham – Tolleshunt D’Arcy
Starter for Ten – David Nicolls – Southend-on-Sea
Turn of the Screw – Henry James- Essex country house
The Witchfinder’s Sister – Beth Underdown – Manningtree
Mehalah – Sabine Baring-Gould – Mersea
The Forgotten Seamstress – Liz Trenow – Braintree
Strange Magic – Syd Moore – Manningtree
Hiding From the Light – Barbara Erskine – Mistley
1984 – George Orwell – Colchester
The Peregrine – JA Baker – Essex Coast
Sharpes Regiment – Bernard Cornwell – South Essex
Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe – Colchester
Barnaby Rudge – Charles Dickens – Chigwell
The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie – Essex Country House

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


Elizabeth Haynes star writer of the evening at Billericay Library
This 20th Essex Book Festival is almost half-way through its annual exciting journey and so far, readers have packed out the events around the county. Tonight, we even entertained Look East Television team at Billericay and our guest was worth the wait. She was Elizabeth Haynes whose new novel THE MURDER OF HARRIET MONCKTON is proving to be another best seller in this psychological crime genre, certainly judging by the applause of her large audience at Billericay Library. 

Among the audience, I found a good half dozen keen readers from their group based in our neighbouring town of Brentwood and here they are pictured with our star of the evening, Elizabeth.  It was also great to catch up with news from our own special Billericay team of readers in a relaxed atmosphere. Could have stayed all night!  Details of next meeting will come up on Phoenix 98fm radio show on 28 March when our guest writer will be Wendy Pike.In the meantime, do check out and order tickets for events near you - for information and bookings call Mercury Theatre, Colchester, Essex  01206 573948

Monday, March 11, 2019


Currently working on some of my favourite 'cook from scratch' recipes influenced by Mary Berry, who is currently on BBC TV's The One Show programme. She has a new book and programme ready for us.   Here she is with her daughter on the left and my super Sally at one of the special events at Chelsea a couple of years ago. What a lovely lady with absolutely no peculiar hang-ups at being interviewed and snapped! Took lots of pics, much to the annoyance of some of the pros jostling behind me.  I forgot to tell her that I was given some of her cookbooks as wedding prezzies half a century ago and still adore cooking. 

Friday, March 08, 2019


Steve and Margaret

Such a sad week since we received news of the passing of Steve Bernard (Bernie), a most wonderful man and a dedicated husband, father, relative and friend. He really was a great inspiration and loved dearly by all those who knew him.  Mesothelioma was the terrible disease which, for two years, he has fought so desperately.

During Steve's illness, the nursing staff at the Hospice in Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk - St Nicholas have been so wonderful during the time he was treated (four times) and they were there for him, night and day treating him and looking after his family with endless kindness and compassion.

Unfortunately, St Nicholas Hospice generally are understaffed and have to work with sub-standard equipment. The pressure is relentless, yet the superb staff never show the strain.  Steve's family would like donations in order to be able to buy some much needed equipment for the Hospice wards. Rather than donate directly to the Trust, they want to raise money to benefit these amazing people directly. 

Steve's eldest son Lee Bernard, will be continuing his fund-raising for this wonderful Suffolk Hospice by competing in the Rat Race 'Dirty Weekender', the largest obstacle course in the world - 20 miles! Check out their website:


Sunday, March 03, 2019


Congratulations to the Brentwood Writers' Circle committee for organising a fun writing afternoon yesterday at the Bardswell Club. We welcomed new members, particularly those who made long journeys to get to our gathering. 

Spring is almost here and new writing ideas were springing up all around. Everyone seems to be working on new themes, competitions, projects, books, articles and I feel that our BWC is very much a catalyst for our members' successes. Take a look at our website and learn more about our super circle which in a year or so will be celebrating its 80th birthday.
Can you imagine starting a writing group during World War Two!