Wednesday, July 29, 2020


Really enjoyed this programme tonight. Princess Anne is one of my favorites. She was such fun when returning often to Endeavour School's Riding for the Disabled during the 1980s when I worked there at the school with Mary Mitchell and much later at Brentwood when she opened our lovely library in the heart of the borough. Notice Robert McCrindle, then our Member of Parliament is in the foreground and some of our friends, now deceased. I also met the Princess's children Zara and Peter at Chelsea Flower Show a few years later and impressed how relaxed and fun they were. 
copyright Sylvia Kent


Our  British government has now set in motion the business of compulsory face-covering in public places, particularly shops. Anyone who breaks the rule is liable to be fined.  What a long, strange journey we have come from 2 March when a mere half a dozen people were affected by the Covid-19 epidemic and, of course, from the 23 March official quarantine ruling.

Among my writerly pals, I've chronicled events as they occurred over the last four months and have written a handful of essays for some of my columns.  One feature looks back to 1939 when the government ruled that people should carry a gasmask in the strange little boxes that were provided. 

I've also reached back some 350 years to a tiny village in Derbyshire called Eyam where my research has linked me to the bubonic plague in 1665 which killed more than half the villagers and provided us with a seventeenth saviour by the name of William Mompesson. In just over a year, 260 of the village's inhabitants, from no fewer than 76 different families, had died. Historians have placed the total population of Eyam at between 350 and 800 before the plague struck. More to come. 

plague graves at Eyam church, Derbyshire

Sunday, July 26, 2020


My colleague in our Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Vivien Brown is enjoying great and deserved success following the publication of her latest book NO SISTER OF MINE, published recently by One More Chapter.

As one of five sisters, somehow I was intrigued and drawn to the title of her book and to the acknowledgement section at the back of the book, where Viv pays homage to Irving Berlin's lyrics of his song 'Sisters' written in 1954 for the film 'White Christmas'.  I remember meeting the Beverley Sisters trio who used the song  when they were performing their seaside summer show at the end of the pier one August evening many years ago.

The 'sisterly' idea obviously stuck in Viv's memory and sparked the theme for her novel. As she writes: 'When two sisters are close, there's usually only one thing that is likely to come between them - a man they both have their eye on!' As the song goes: 'God help the mister who comes between me and my sister...'   And this was the germ of the idea that grew and helped Vivien write a fascinating book that I thoroughly enjoyed and read from cover to cover in two days. Viv has also written other thrilling novels - check her out at
As Viv also mentions, our great Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) celebrated its 125th anniversary last year and she was honoured (as was I) to be invited to become a Fellow.  If you are a writer, why not join us? Our new website will be up and running soon and you can learn more about us and our lovely President, Floella, Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham, Chair Rebecca Harding and the rest of our creative and hardworking team. 

Just a few of our SWWJ members during a break last year when we held our AGM in this wonderful venue in the House of Lords with our super President, The Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham.  

Saturday, July 25, 2020


So sad to learn of the passing of one of the loveliest novelists with a huge readership.  Although it was only  in recent years, that I met Josephine at one of our Essex Book Festival events at Wickford Library, I knew she was a firm favourite of so many readers around the world particularly US and Russia. It was a great pleasure to spend an evening with this super prolific author.  What an amazing woman with a personal life and history that was as eventful as the contents of her best selling novels, some sixty titles. 

Born in Blackburn, one of 10 children, Jo wrote more than 60 books that sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. She had started out as a teacher and took up writing in her 40s.  Her first published book, Her Father's Sins, came out in 1988. Kimberley Young, executive Publisher of HarperCollins Fiction, remembered her as "an utter force of nature who inspired all around her".
Josephine will be sadly missed by her huge readership over thirty years.  

Saturday, July 18, 2020


Billericay's town crier, MP John Baron, organiser Sandra Bastow

John Baron, MP for Basildon and Billericay, has been organising his annual Fun Walk since 2002. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the organisers have announced that this year’s Fun Walk, our 19th event – will now be a virtual event which will run through September.

The event was originally scheduled to be held on 13 September at Barleylands Farm, Billericay, but as the public remains in lockdown, the event coordinators have changed the event to adhere with government and public health guidelines. The 2020 Fun Walk virtual event will give supporters the opportunity to walk the equivalent distance in a setting of their own choosing to raise sponsorship money for their local charity or good cause.

John Baron MP and his team started The Fun Walk to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and since 2002 the event has gone on to raise more than £1.1 Million for charities and good causes – Phoenix FM included! – with the help of local businesses donating into a Bonus Pot, and the fundraising efforts of its participants. John said:

We know that charities need funding this year more than ever, and so we hope by holding a virtual event we can continue to support them. We are delighted that local businesses have so far donated over £20,000 to the bonus pot. We thank Swan Housing Association, Anisha Grange Care Home, IFE Global Logistics, Leonardo MW, Butyl Products Group, McDonald’s Restaurants Basildon and others. We are also pleased to welcome Tunnelcraft Ltd to the list of local businesses contributing to the 2020 Bonus Pot, taking it to nearly £30,000.
Local author Ken Porter and Jo Cullen based at Wat Tyler Country Park

In just over a week, The Fun Walk has had 50 organisations register for the virtual event with an estimated 700 participants, confirming the importance of this event to local charities and good causes.

A few of Billericay's 2393 Squadron cadets who supported the 2019 charity walk. 

Local organisations are encouraged to register at

Wednesday, July 15, 2020


For centuries, the month of July was always considered to be the height of summer, fairly temperate, often as in the preceding month, but there seemed an element of violence in the British countryside. With paintings showing  reapers flashing scythes through the cornfields, stags fighting for supremacy over their rivals, sparrow hawks hungrily hunting rodents and ferrets chasing rabbits; the wild animal kingdom in July seems to have been at its ferocious height. This time of year is also often characterised by fierce and unexpected thunderstorms -  perhaps not the best news for our farmers, gardeners and allotmenteers.

This is where St Swithin (or more properly, Swithun) makes an entrance in our British folklore. He was a Saxon Bishop of Winchester, born in the ninth century in the reign of King Athelwulf of Essex, in the kingdom of Wessex. He was consecrated in 852. This particular saint seems to have been one of the people, renowned for his kindly acts, building churches and helping farmers in their apple orchards, but his chief link with modern times is his association with the weather.  A legend says that as the Bishop lay on his deathbed, he asked to be buried out of doors, where he would be rained and trodden upon.  For many years, his wishes were followed, but then, the monks of Winchester attempted to remove his remains to a splendid shrine inside the cathedral on 15 July 971. According to folklore, there was a tumultuously heavy storm during the ceremony. The emblems of raindrops are often used to remember St Swithin and refer to the superstition of the forty days' rain that followed his demise. So the story has persisted over the following one thousand years.

Oddly enough, while most gardeners and holiday makers would prefer not see rain on July 15th, our English apple-growers really hope for a good soaking on this particular day. This is because many old farmers used to say that the 'saints are watering the crops.' If they fail to do so, the apple-harvest will be a poor one. Furthermore, no apple should picked or eaten before July 15th.The other side of the superstition is that apple-growers believe all embryo apples still growing on St Swithin's day will fully ripen.  If the early part of June has been hot, then a few showers were not wholly unwelcome in July. Even today, many British schoolchildren might be familiar with the weather-rhyme well known throughout the British Isles since Elizabethan times. 

'Swithin's day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithin's day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mair.'  (nae mair = no more}

Tuesday, July 07, 2020


Over many years, I've been lucky enough to meet and interview (via magazine and print/on-line editors), scores of well-known folk in many spheres of art, music, sport - in fact, thinking about it, all areas of life's entertainment, including politics (while working in and around Westminster for 26 years). All editors love photos and have usually requested a few snaps to illustrate a commissioned feature, so - during this never-ending lockdown, I have been cataloguing tons of images into what is now a fabulous library of the great and (not so) good over thirty years.

Just realised that the lovely Beatles' Ringo Starr is celebrating his 80th birthday today.  Have met him (and a couple of other Beatles over the years) at media events and I must say, Ringo is ageing very well!  Here are a few snaps from the time we met him and Barbara, his wife, in a tent at London's Chelsea Flower Show some  years back. They were so sweet and stopped while I made a small video.   Birthday wishes young man!