Sunday, May 09, 2021



Lake Meadows Billericay. So much going on in a lovely part of this small Essex town. Billericay. As well as a great park in which to exercise, the wildlife is great. Such a joy to see  these two-day-old chicks guarded by their protective parents: almost received an angry pecking when I stupidly got up too close and personal! 

This young fishing champion was happy to chat with me on an earlier visit to this lovely park.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021


Julia Donaldson 

How lucky I've been  to receive invitations from publishers and agents to interview some of the most famous writers and entertainers over so many years. It has been exactly ten years since I was asked to meet Julia Donaldson who created The Gruffalo  character which has been such a wonderful series for children. 

There's a Gruffalo Trail in Brentwood's Thorndon Country Park, Essex which is a delight to visit for all the children who love Julia's fascinating hero. Julia uses rhyming couplets to tell her stories and this certainly helps the flow when reading to small children. The Gruffalo films have been extraordinarily successfull, too. Julia works hard at her craft, which follows many years of writing and seeing her work performed on stage and film.  Even before we used phones that perform so many functions, I have always carried a camera and Julia's photograph was snapped in Chelmsford, Essex in 2011. Julia's creations have gone from strength to strength and it was a great pleasure to meet her in my own city.  

 The programme from the British Library tonight was wonderful for me, as I was a regular visitor there after the Library moved o London's St Pancras area. Even before this, I loved the previous British Library blue Reading Room room when it had been part of the British Museum in Bloomsbury.


Saturday, May 01, 2021



Just lately the BBC have been airing documentaries on how England once celebrated the coming of summer in our towns and villages.  It seems that Morris dancing was recognised as one of our ancient rituals and now, after almost fifteen months of sadness and worry wrought by the covid pandemic - we may be able to look forward to a little more freedom from lockdown. This small Essex town of Billericay is fortunate in having had its very own Morris side for almost fifty years. The Mayflower Morris Men were formed in 1973 to dance the Morris in and around Billericay, to learn new dances and to maintain the traditions of the ancient Morris.  Spring and summer are the seasons when you will usually see our local Mayflower Morris dancing out and about in the town and surrounding area.

Their side comes from all walks of life and has a spread of ages from the teens to the fifties. It's a brilliant way to keep fit. Some like it because it is linked to the folk scene, but you can see that all the members dance to enjoy themselves. Usually, they have a full programme of pubs stops, charity events and fetes through the early part of the year, but unfortunately, this has not been possible due to the current pandemic.

When well-presented, the Morris communicates to spectators something more than the simple enjoyment of watching a dance; there's an almost tangible sense of harmony with nature, of primaeval magic and of age-old pre-Dawn Rite conveyed. Enjoy it, and be sure to partake of the Morris' good luck by contribution to the Bag and helping to keep a quintessential part of English rural tradition alive.

There is no subscription and tuition is free (don't forget to bring two handkerchiefs with you) and you will have a warm welcome if you would like to come along, but do make enquiries first via their website:

Geoff Douglas Bagman is a mine of information 01277 650631

The Morris Dancing Season - next event: 

Fri 16th July 2021: 7.45pm at West Hanningfield - 
The Three Compasses Barbecue

Tuesday, April 27, 2021



Chawton House
 in rural Hampshire is a very 

special place

Internationally respected research and learning centre for the study of early women’s writing from 1600 to 1830. House and grounds, formerly the home of Jane Austen’s brother, open to the public. Now forging ongoing links with our great Society of Women Writers and Journalists.

Chawton was not only the the home of Jane Austen’s brother, now open to the public as a visitor attraction, but is also renowned as a centre for early women’s writing. It is where the SWWJ keeps its collection of silver cups and trophies, many of which are presented each year to our competition winners and then returned to their permanent home in Chawton’s display cabinet. Our recent group visit was a wonderful occasion. 

A guided tour of the old Elizabethan manor house, including the magnificent library packed with old books by female authors, was followed by a lovely lunch in the courtyard and a wander around the glorious grounds and gardens.We have plans to work more closely with Chawton in the future as it extends its programme of talks, panels and events, and hope to soon be able to display our leaflets and membership forms in the foyer. If you have not been to Chawton, or to visit Jane Austen’s own much smaller home in the adjacent village, put them on your list!

Monday, April 26, 2021



Essex Book Festival is back with a bang!

A red square with the words Essex Book Festival written on it in all capitals in white.

This week - on Thursday 29 April - our long awaited 2021 Essex Book Festival Box Office will be going live. Here you’ll be able to purchase tickets for our 13 amazing library events happening throughout July and August. The 13 authors who will be leading an event will be; Patrick Vernon, Liz Trenow, Tammye Huf, Monique Roffey, James Canton, Chris Penhall, Claire Fuller, Sally Gardner and her daughter, Naomi Ishiguro, David Omand, Abigail Dean, AK Blakemore and Elizabeth Haynes. To find out more about these incredible authors, check out our Facebook page where we’ve been posting author spotlights in the lead up to the box office opening. As well as this, keep an eye out for all the other fantastic events the festival will be putting on. Visit the Essex Book Festival website to find out more and get your tickets.

Book of the Month The Other Woman available on Borrowbox

Friday, April 23, 2021



It’s that time of the year again - April 23rd, a day of celebration, but in this time of Covid, England’s celebration will be somewhat virtual.

We all know that William Shakespeare - arguably England’s most famous writer - was believed to have been born on 23rd April 1564, sadly dying on his birthday in 1616. The 23rd is also our national patronal day of St George. 

St George's Day in celebrated in many countries around the globe including the old kingdoms of the Crown of Aragon in Spain, Portugal, Georgia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Macedonia; also the cities of Moscow, Genova, Ljublijana in Slovenia, and many others around the world. The Palestiniians refer to the Feast of St George and it is celebrated in the Monastery of St George in al-Khader near Bethlehem. It is also known as Georgemas.

The worldwide Scout movement has been celebrating St. George's Day from its inception and he is also regarded as the patron saint of other organizations. So who was St George? Well - the scholars tell us that he was a martyr who died on 23 April 303 whilst defending Christianity at Lydda in Palestine. During the 12th century Crusades, visions of St George were reported as predictions of victory which led to his adoption as the patron saint of chivalry. In 1344 he was chosen as patron of the Order of the Garter and by the 15th century he was accepted as England’s patron saint.


Our Essex Mumming and Morris Dancers act out the legend of St George who fights and kills a dragon to save the life of a princess (and to secure the conversion to Christianity of her father’s subjects) and like other dragon legends before and since, it is an allegory of the triumph of good over evil. Whether from secular or saintly perspective, flags now decorate pubs and buildings and the Royal Society of St George – will probably celebrate (virtually) this special time of year. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021



So much has been written about Windsor Castle and Prince Philip's poignant funeral on Saturday last - a very emotional day for Her Majesty and family, and millions of others watching television. I was particularly looking out for my favourite photographer Arthur Edwards among the throng of snappers, but couldn't see him. Arthur is almost a neighbour and a kind chap who has spoken about his own fascinating life and times at some of my writerly functions in past years. 

Later, I learnt that Arthur had been there (for over three hours)  hidden in a fake pillar outside St George's Chapel taking many royal close-ups, in his special style - our Arthur is always the professional! Also, amazingly, was the news that Prince Philip had wanted his friend Arthur to be present at his funeral when the plans were originally proposed. 

Here is my pic of Arthur taken some years ago just before HM Queen Elizabeth visited the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and he is obviously just as energetic as he was then.