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Friday, 24 June 2016


Politicians are always told to 'leak' stories they'd rather hide on a major news day. So as an ex-working journalist I'm smiling ruefully at the news that the Brexit Campaign has won. Not that I wanted them to lose (or win) you understand  - I don't talk politics here.  It's just that
my new novel is out today.

So, instead of a leak I thought I would try a flood.




Or here

Or you can spend the day reading the latest news on Europe


Thursday, 16 June 2016

If I had a trumpet I'd blow it....

I never was very good at taking photographs (see below) - or at saying thank you.  But today I'm doing both at the news that my new historical  novel Occupying Love, released for pre-order yesterday, is  steadily climbing  the Amazon rankings.

Set in  Guernsey in World War Two, Occupying Love is the story of Lydia le Page, a feisty student who returns to her Guernsey home in 1940 on the day the harbour is bombed by the Nazis. Within hours she is trapped on the island as the five-year Occupation begins. Two men enter Lydia’s life: Martin Martell, the handsome but mysterious rector and Major Otto Kruger, the ruthless German Kommandant who falls under her spell. When Martin disappears Lydia discovers a secret from her past that changes everything and leaves her with  an impossible choice.  Should she choose  the man she loves or try to save the island?

I was born in Guernsey and spent many hours listening to my grandparents' stories of  life under German rule and the bravery of those whose passive resistance lifted the morale of the islanders.  What stayed in my mind was the  underground news agency which distributed news of Allies successes all over Guernsey and, more than 70 years later, has still not been fully recognised.
Though the book is a work of fiction, it's  a tribute to all the brave people who lost their lives on Guernsey whilst trying to bring hope to others.
Occupying Love is dedicated to David Richard Brown, the uncle I never met, who died at the age of 13 in 1940. David was one of many evacuees from the Channel Islands who moved with their schools, and without their parents, to Britain in 1940.  David's story was told to me by my grandparents who lived through the  five-year-long Occupation that changed so many lives.

Occupying Love is available to download from June 24, 2016 and to pre order at: here here
Fuzzy but it's true

Monday, 13 June 2016

Here today - 'gondola' tomorrow. Long may it rain.

Photo courtesy of the Guardian
This delightful photo from today's Guardian newspaper sums up everything there is to know
about the Great British attitude to the weather.
Only in this country could we organise an outdoor party for more than ten thousand people, cross our fingers and hope it wouldn't rain.  But rain it did.  And, right on cue, everyone donned free waterproof ponchos ( umbrellas were banned for security reasons.)
The party was not over. The people showed their support for their sovereign, despite the dark skies.
And everyone, including Her Majesty, was happy.

On a recent day trip to Venice I was amused to see that it rained there, too. The gondoliers decided to down paddles, take a rest and, within seconds, everyone  had run indoors.

That's me with the camera!

Where's the mop and bucket?

Dark clouds over Venice

I wonder who got it right?

Monday, 6 June 2016

The year's funniest book - and the psychic who predicted it.

Product Details
Photo courtesy of

One of my favourite stories from this year's Hay Festival concerns a talented psychic and the first woman chair of that hallowed institution the National Gallery.

Hannah Rothschild, a member of the banking family, has revealed that a psychic persuaded her to write The Improbability of Love which has been named joint winner of the Bolinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for comic fiction, along with Paul Murray for The Mark and the Void. The award is given annually to the best book to capture the spirit of PG Wodehouse.

Quoted in The Times newspaper today Ms Rothschild says she was advised to visit 'a wonderful woman called Ivy' when she needed some relationship advice. When they had finished the psychic predicted that she would write a prize-winning book with a heroine called Annie and that she would see a hill covered in wild violets.

Not long afterwards the author went for a walk in Devon and did, indeed, see wild violets. 'And then I thought, bloody hell I am going to have to do it,' she says.  'So I sat down that day and started to write a book about Annie.'

Described as both a satire of the art world and a romance, the book was also shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016.

'If anyone wants Ivy's number I've still got it,' was the author's parting shot to festival-goers.

Now that's what I call a sense of humour.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

One woman, two men and the impossible choice between love and duty.

I'm really excited to reveal the cover of my new novel, Occupying Love, set in the Occupation of Guernsey in World War Two.  Available to pre-order on Amazon from June 24.

June 1940

With the Nazis poised to invade Guernsey in World War Two, feisty student Lydia Le Page returns home to rescue her parents, but as she arrives the harbour is bombed and she’s trapped on the island as the German Military Occupation begins.

Two very different men enter her life: Martin Martell, the handsome but mysterious rector of Torteval Church and Major Otto Kruger, the ruthless German Kommandant, who soon falls under her spell.

When Martin disappears Lydia discovers a secret from her past that threatens her whole future. Will she be able to keep it from the enemy? Or is it too late? This is a story about love, loss and the unique identity that makes us who we are.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Happy Birthday Ma'am - and Mum!


You'll see lots of photos of the queen in the next few days but probably not of my mum.  So here she is, enjoying her own 90th birthday celebrations, along with some of the highlights of her life.

Joyce aged five

On her wedding day in 1945
with my father

For more information on the Queen's official birthday celebrations go to:

May 6 2016 on her 90th birthday

We made our mum a collage of some of the special moments in  her life and she remembered every one.  So If you have a friend or relative who was is now in their eighties or nineties why not do the same? And talk to them about the past. It helps keep their stories alive.

Friday, 29 April 2016


Do ever wish you had the courage to stop what you're doing and follow your dreams?  A new book coming out next week tells how fifty very different women did just that.

Eat Pray Love Made me Do it  looks back on Elizabeth Gilbert's international bestseller and the impact it had on ten million readers.. Here's the blurb:

In the ten years since its electrifying debut, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love has become a worldwide phenomenon, empowering millions of readers to set out on paths they never thought possible. In this candid and captivating collection, nearly fifty of those readers – as diverse in their experiences as they are in age and background – share their stories.

Featured in the June edition of Red Magazine, the book's  authors Lisann Valentin, Tracie Cornell and Theresa Thornton explain how they were inspired to reinvent their lives.

The feature in June's Red magazine

Unhappy in her job as a corporate lawyer, Lisann Valentin decided to set up a book group 'thinking it could be a way to find insight' to her problems.  The first book the group chose was Eat Pray Love and, almost instantly,  Lisann's self-discovery began. She'd always wanted to be an actor and after making he decision to leave Wall Street  now spends her time acting and directing.

Tracie Cornell, 46, found the courage to leave her unhappy marriage after discovering Gilbert's book. 'Reading about what Elizabeth went through, her years abroad, created a door for women like me to walk through,' she says. 'It created a space for us to leave our unhappiness behind.'

The final author, 55-year-old Theresa Thornton, was juggling her office job whilst raising her two children after a financially- draining divorce. She read Eat Pray Love and decided to  pursue her lifelong fantasy; to be a singer. After saving for a singing workshop in New York she literally found her voice. 'Singing fills my soul and makes me happy,' she told the magazine. 'I sing for me.'

Eat Pray Love Made Me Do It  (Bloomsbury £8.99) is available from May 5.

Monday, 18 April 2016


Q Why don't students have time to read entire books?

A Because graduates tend not to be avid readers.

This pronouncement caused quite a stir when it hit  the British newspapers earlier this week - because most of us thought it must be a joke.

Jenny Pickerill, professor in environmental geography at the University of Sheffield told the Times Higher Education magazine 'students struggle with (whole books), saying the language or concepts are too hard.'

'Recommending whole books would overwhelm them' agrees Jo Brewis, professor of organisation and consumption at Leicester University. 'Graduates and post graduates seem mainly not to be avid readers.'

Professor Brewis wants students to read more as does Len Fisher, visiting fellow in physics at the University of Bristol who regrets the  move towards seeking information on the internet since books 'drive and encourage readers to think for themselves in a way that just looking up the answers does not...'

After a long conversation with my six-year-old granddaughter who has just finished reading a whole book, I have come to the conclusion that if this is  2016, then April makes fools of us all.

Monday, 11 April 2016


My mother as a child with my grandmother in Oldham, Lancashire

'Nearly ninety and her first selfie...' said the  caption on my daughter's facebook page last week. The photo showed my mother with three  generations of her family - the youngest just two years old.

A few days after that photo was taken I returned to Leicester to meet writers' group The Belmont Belles, before  sneaking off to look at my old grammar school, Newarke Girls',  now a community college.  From a distance it looked exactly the same - an elegant building, with a central clock tower, surrounded by an acre  of green grass, with a long pathway leading down to the main road.

It was along that path that I walked for the very last time one sunny Friday afternoon in  the  late 1960s. Three days later I was a trainee reporter on the Lytham St Annes Express in Lancashire.   It felt a long way from my Guernsey home.

Meanwhile my two daughters have done their own bit of moving around - one has worked in Australia and the United States, the other travels Europe with her work. She is also a dedicated Derby County Football Club supporter who was born in Lancashire and lives in Yorkshire!

Not to be outdone, my two  granddaughters support  Leeds United most of the time and Derby County when their father's not looking.

Which brings me back to my mother, who was  born in Lancashire in 1926 and went on to marry a Guernseyman when she was just nineteen.  She wants to keep the selfie - well - to herself. But here she is ten years ago on her 80th birthday. Happily she's still got plenty to smile about.

Happy Birthday Mum

The old Newarke Girls' School, Leicester, as it is today