Thursday, March 26, 2020


Amazing 8pm gathering here in Billericay and, I guess all over the UK.  Yep - like 'extras' in some weird, surreal film, we were all out there thinking, thanking and clapping for those wonderful NHS folk and all they do and have done in this current difficult time.

What time are people clapping for the NHS tonight?

The “Clap For Our Carers” event is taking place today (Thursday, March 26).
At 8pm people across the UK will be applauding either on their doorsteps or by open windows, to show their appreciation for NHS staff.
Organisers have called for people to clap every Thursday while the coronavirus outbreak continues.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Strange times - with all our libraries closed in Essex, many of our reading groups are looking for books they may have put on their back burners to read maybe on holiday. But now, surely this is the time to start and my latest book interest is concentrated on my SWWJ colleague Beryl P Brown who has published her first novel  May's Boys.

Beryl has lots of  good reviews, particularly this recent one from Barbara Dynes “If you’re looking for a riveting read, I thoroughly recommend May’s Boys. Right from the start I was completely involved with this story, soaking up the authentic feel of the countryside in the Second World War… the senses are beautifully evoked, the dialogue crackles on the page and the tension builds up gradually, along with countless surprises.” 

When interviewed, Beryl said: ‘I remember my late mother telling us stories of her evacuation to the West Country where the Essex children were considered to be from London and were made very unwelcome. I felt it appropriate to launch the book at the family nursery in Witham where I grew up. Oliver’s was established over 60 years by my parents and is now run by my brother.   Mays Boys was launched on 29th February 2020. It is published by Three Bees Publishing.  Paperback: ISBN 978-1-9163375-1-0  available from Amazon & selected booksellers Kindle e-book: ISBN 978-1-9163375-0-3 available from Amazon  e-book: ISBN 978-1-9163375-2-7 from other e-book suppliers.

Thursday, March 19, 2020


SWWJ Member David Matthews - Cheshunt, Herts

We are facing challenging times and minute-by-minute scary health stories, so many of our SWWJ members are busy settling down with piles of book to review (and write)!

The latest title from Scriptora - the assisted publishing imprint from SWWJ - is from David Matthews, one of our newer members living in Hertfordshire.  Entitled The Oxford Trinity, David has set his latest intriguing crime novel in Margaret Thatcher's Britain circa 1986.  Within, we pick up his story of a gifted young barrister who is found murdered in London's Temple Gardens and DCI Joe Loxley and his detectives give readers a run for their money in Iffley Road athletics track Oxford, linked to the closeted world of Inns of Court in the City of London during that energetic and frenetic time. 

This is David's third book which is already receiving good reviews to add to his previous achievements and this new creation looks set to be a successful hat-trick.  


Launching our Essex Book Festival  -  the fabulous novelist Val McDermid
Essex Book Festival 2020
It was short but sweet

It is with a very heavy heart that we have taken the decision to cancel the final events in this year’s Essex Book Festival.  The safety of our audiences, artists and festival team is of paramount importance to us. While we will not be able to reschedule all of our events, we will do everything within our power to reschedule as many as possible. Indeed, the list is already growing of those artists and writers willing and able to return to Essex later in the year.

Despite the festival’s abrupt and premature ending we do feel fortunate to have enjoyed eighteen days and nights of exceptional events in venues across Essex, beginning with our wonderful launch event with Val McDermid at Anglia Ruskin University on 28th February, through to Monday night’s final events with Laura Purcell and Mark Ellis in Manningtree Library and Grays Library respectively.

Sunday, March 15, 2020


Yours truly and Professor Janet Todd (Cambridge)
Now that we are spending more time at home (due to coronavirus), the old BBC Radio 4 programmes are enjoying an increased listenership and right now, readers (and writers) are listening to Open Book presented by Mariella Frostrup and her guest Professor Janet Todd. 
Our SWWJ members were thrilled to meet Janet Todd some years back when some of our members spent the weekend at Cambridge University. We received a wonderful welcome from Janet, an internationally renowned novelist and academic, best known for her non-fiction feminist works on women writers.  publishing Lady Susan Plays the Game, a Jane Austen spin-off, in 2013 and A Man of Genius in 2016. Her novel Don’t You Know There’s a War On! has just been published. 
Janet has published and edited more than 38  books including the complete works of Mary Wollstonecraft (with Marilyn Butler), of Aphra Behn, and, as General Editor, The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jane Austen. She has compiled encyclopedias of women writers and written individual biographies:  Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary LifeRebel Daughters/ Daughters of Ireland; Death and the Maidens: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels; and Aphra Behn A Secret Life  (2017).
Her latest work is  Jane Austen’s Sanditon (2019),  newly edited and with a long introductory essay and 24 illustrations from the period.

Janet has worked in universities around the world including Ghana, Puerto Rico, North America and India. She was a professor of English Literature at UEA, Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities, before becoming president of Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge (2008-2015), Cambridge where she established the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize. She is now an Honorary Fellow of Newnham and Lucy Cavendish Colleges. In 2013, Janet was given an OBE for her services to higher education and literary scholarship.

Monday, March 09, 2020


Despite such despondent news regarding the coronavirus problems, our currently-running Book Festival is still providing many happy events across our county of Essex.  Saturday's Essex Authors Day was such a huge success, taking place at Chelmsford Library, with aspiring writers and well-published authors attending.  I met many Book Festival going pals from the past, but also lots of new faces who put on great displays of their work and impressed me at the Writers' Slam. Well, they only had three minutes to do so, but boy, they were good. I took just a few pics  and there were so many more, but time was of the essence.  Fingers crossed that we may continue with our special month of reading and writing and meeting our our enthusiastic readers and writers.

Lizzie Chantree
I thoroughly enjoyed the seminar provided by Lizzie Chantree who gave us all so much information during the afternoon, helping her audience become more cyber-savvy and provided masses of bang-up-to-date info on social media platforms. Lizzie is a business mentor, former Female Inventor of the Year and has appeared on television and radio programmes. Hope to see much more of her on the writing circuit. 

Andrew F Wiltshire
Another super author present on Saturday was Andrew P Wiltshire whose book Beatrix Potter's Secret Code Breaker is a study of this favourite children's author, especially linked as it was to the writer's  'diary life'.  How I wish I had more time to read this book, but currently impossible due to my own writing projects.  Still, hopefully, I can always make contact with Andrew, who is obviously a wonderful story-teller.
Anita Marie Sackett

Anita Marie Sackett (Howard), published poet and lately the author of her new book That's How It Used To Be was also present on Saturday's grand Chelmsford event. As always, this member of Brentwood Writers' Circle and the Society of Women Writers was a lovely familiar face among the crowd present and gave her audience much valuable help and advice for researching, writing, illustrating and self-publishing her rather special book, which is selling so very well at present. 


What a fabulous venue for the launch last week of our Essex Book Festival at Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford last week!   My favouritte Queen of Crime author and number one bestseller, Val McDermid joined hundreds of readers (and writers) at the launch of this annual Book Festival. Good to see so many friends, those who have been attending over  many years, and also many new young readers who love Val's style of writing.  We all enjoyed listening to how this talented novelist creates her fascinating books, in particular her current title How the Dead Speak.  She was absolutely sensational and it was a huge pleasure to meet her at last.  More to come!

Tuesday, March 03, 2020


Carol pictured with SWWJ President Lady Benjamin

Carol Cannavan - with thanks to Sean Nash 

Carol Cannavan - launch of ''Secret Hornchurch''

on Wednesday 4th March
at the Optimum Fine Art Gallery, 193 Station Lane, Hornchurch RM12 6LL

6.00 pm to 8.00 pm.   
The gallery is in the parade of shops opposite Hornchurch Station. There will be wine!

Monday, March 02, 2020


Brentwood's old Council Offices were opened in 1957 by HM Queen Elizabeth.

Brentwood's old Council Offices were opened in 1957 by HM Queen Elizabeth. picture G Perrior
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Brentwood's Town Hall has now been remodelled.Brentwood's Town Hall has now been remodelled.    Picture: Peter Robert Kent
It was a great pleasure to be invited to present a copy of my new book Brentwood in 50 Buildings to His Royal Highness Duke of Kent during last week's opening of the newly refurbished Town Hall in Ingrave Road.
This was not the first time that royalty had come to Ingrave Road, as in October 1957, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were present to open the first building then known as the Council Offices.
With Brentwood's close position to London, along that famous old Essex Great Road, (the Roman road from London to Colchester), residents have always enjoyed royal visits from early days when King Richard ll was reputed to have visited the town. Other monarchs paid visits including King George lll, who stayed at Thorndon Hall in 1778 with his wife Queen Charlotte at the invitation of the ninth Lord Petre.
Great and Little Warley Commons were of huge importance to Brentwood in the 19th century when Warley Barracks were built.
The Duke of Kent and band drum major Jack Whiting. Picture: Brentwood Borough CouncilThe Duke of Kent and band drum major Jack Whiting. Picture: Brentwood Borough Council
Military summer camps had been taking place in this area from 1742 until 1805 before the permanent barracks were constructed.
This raised the national military importance of the town, particularly during war periods when army troops needed to be trained.
In May 1842, the East India Company's accommodation at Chatham became inadequate and a decision was made to move the troops from Brompton Barracks to Warley, with the engineers and sappers remaining at Chatham.
The company purchased the barracks and the land for £15,000 with the proviso that the government would have the first option to purchase, should the EI Company subsequently decide to leave.
After the Indian Mutiny of 1857, the Crown took over the administration of India and the East India regiments were incorporated into the British Army.
In 1861, control of Warley Barracks reverted to the War Office, which they bought for £60,000.
Immediately, work started in altering the existing buildings to house around 800 recruits and 20 sergeants with new buildings for the officers.
Within the next decade, further construction enabled 1,120 men to be housed and for the first time, there were special quarters for military families.
When interviewed in 1999, one former regular soldier recalled: "Warley was like a small town in itself with every possible shop along Warley Hill to supply our every need."
At the start of the First World War in 1914, Warley Barracks housed one thousand soldiers and many members of royalty visited Warley Barracks and first-hand memories are to be found in local history books at our local library.
One local resident at Warley remembered the visit of the then Prince of Wales - later to become King Edward VIII.
He served with the Grenadier Guards and was often spotted in the town, including Warley Road where his local newsagent Race at 12 Warley Hill supplied his morning newspaper. Consequently the shop was allowed to display a coveted "by appointment" crest. Another well-known person was the actor, Boris Karloff who often visited his brother who lived in Warley.
A visit to our local Museum at Lorne Road, Warley, is of interest to folk who wish to know more about the town. It's changing display of fascinating artefacts and photographs never cease to impress visitors.

To discover more about Brentwood's past, my latest book Brentwood in 50 Buildings, newly released by Amberley Publishing in Stroud is available from all good bookshops. ISBN 978-1-4456-9213-5.