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Thursday, 30 October 2014


Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate,
The first one said,
"Oh my, it's getting late."
The second one said,
"But we don't care."
The third one said,
"I see witches in the air."
The fourth one said,
"Let's run, and run, and run."
The fifth one said,
"Get ready for some fun."
Then whoosh went the wind,
And out went the lights,
And five little pumpkins rolled out of sight!

Who put me on the hob?
I did!


Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Shhh - did someone close the library?


Shhh - don't tell anyone.... I've just written a short story to celebrate my granddaughter's fifth birthday next week.

We were doing role play at the top of the stairs the other day  in a specially constructed den  made of cushions, towels and various pieces of furniture from her bedroom. As we stacked up a pile of her favourite books, the talk soon turned to libraries.

What is a lady who works in the library called?' I asked.

'A librarian,' she replied, after a little prompting.

And what does the librarian say when you go in the library?

' Shh...' came the reply.

Shh?' I said. 'What does that mean?'

'It means please keep quiet, Grandma. You have to keep quiet in libraries.'

And so the idea for the 'birthday present' was born. But that's, well, another story...

Meanwhile, I'm  thrilled that  a trip to the library still means as much to my granddaughter as it did to me when I was a young child. Every week my two sisters and I would visit our local library where I first discovered  one of my all-time favourite books 'A Peep Behind the Scenes' a 'turn-of-the-century' story by Mrs O.F. Walton.

 Isn't it  worrying, then, that libraries in the UK are closing every week as local authorities are forced to make 'necessary' cuts.  Free access to books should surely be something for us to pass on to a future generation.  Have you checked on the future of your library lately? If not,  take a look at

Meanwhile,  I would tell you more about my new short story but I can't because..... Shh - I promised not to say a word.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Desire at Downton Abbey...

Writer, actor,  and member of the House of Lords Julian Fellowes might not describe himself as a romantic novelist - but the new series of Downton Abbey proves otherwise.

This week's episode had all the right ingredients, not least a smiling (for a change) Lady Mary, played by Michelle Dockery ( pictured above on her way to a secret liaison.)

But romance is not romance without those who disapprove. And who better than veteran actress Maggie Smith delivering her lines with the precision of a very sharp knife? 'In my day,' she pronounced on the return of her wayward granddaughter, 'a lady was incapable of feeling physical attraction until instructed to by her mama...'

We know it's all ridiculous but we love to believe it and that's what makes it so compelling.
While Lady Mary  was presumed to have been at a 'conference on land management' in Liverpool she revealed, with a perfectly straight face, that she had 'learnt a great deal I did not know before.'
The tongue-in-cheek lines never fail to hit the spot and the tv audience clearly love it...
Romantic novelist? I wonder what they would think of Sir Julian at Mills and Boon?

Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Surprise behind The Sunrise

Embedded image permalink
Alison and Pat from Plackitt & Booth, Lytham, with Victoria Hislop (centre)
Photo courtesy of Headline

Renown author Victoria Hislop, who  has sold millions of books all over the world, admits she never wanted  to be a novelist. 'I didn't have a creative gene in my body,' she told a lively audience at Lowther Theatre, Lytham, this week.

Victoria was in Lancashire to celebrate the launch of her latest novel, The Sunrise, released on September 26 and already a best seller.

 Set in Famagusta, Cypress, in the early 1970s, the book follows two families whose lives are changed forever when the Turks stage a coup forcing the locals to flee for their lives.  Based on recent history, The Sunrise charts the decline of the once prosperous town into a ghostly half-ruin. Even today, no-one is allowed into Famagusta, which is fenced off with barbed wire and guarded by Turkish soldiers.  Eerily, some of the homes remain much as they were  forty years ago, 'still with books on the shelves.'

The writer first fell in love with Greece when she visited Athens in 1976 and now sees it as her second home. She is well known on the islands for the  film of her debut novel, The Island, and can speak Greek fluently - albeit with a French accent! So taken is she with the culture that she admits she'll never write a novel set in England. 'I don't think I can write about English people,' she said with a definite twinkle in her eye.

Are her characters based on real people? 'No character is based on one individual.' she explained, 'but they do reflect the various personalities of the Greeks.'

Victoria read English at university and became a travel journalist, before realising that it would be 'much more fun' to make up her own stories.  Every day she writes in the library near her home to avoid getting  distracted by the minutiae  of daily life  - and that includes eating, or having a cup of coffee. Which perhaps explains why she is very slim!

Does she still have ambitions? 'I'd like to write like Ian McEwan,' she said, without hesitation.

Despite being married to journalist and presenter Ian Hislop, a popular panellist on BBC's Have I Got News for You,' Victoria appears unfazed by her huge success. After answering numerous questions from the floor, she thanked Plackitt and Booth, booksellers, of Lytham for hosting the event and for being a great example of the successful independent bookshop.

The Sunrise is published by Headline and available in hardback and paperback from all good booksellers.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Bra-burning and bookworms

Bra-burning and equality at work were on the agenda at a 'book club-with-a difference' in Lancashire last week. The Bookworms are an enthusiastic group of professional women, from the historic town of Carnforth, who invited me to talk on Baggy Pant and Bootees (released in paperback this month.)

 Set between the Second World War and the 1960s, the book contrasts the misery of the post war years with the infamous 'swinging sixties' less than two decades later.

My memories of life in the chauvinistic world of provincial journalism in the late sixties prompted a surge of recollections in an afternoon discussion, reminiscent of TV's Loose Women. So how much has really changed for women in the workplace?

Back in the sixties, my first women's page features championed female lawyers, scientists and accountants who had managed to infiltrate a male-dominated world. 'Women CAN be a success in the workplace'  I proclaimed, with barely disguised glee. All this, where previously there had been fashion, food and flower arranging, a woman's staple reading diet.

 'Women have to be better than their male counterparts to succeed in the workplace even now' said one club member.

 How often have you read about a high flying female  professional suing her male boss  for 'unfair conduct?' I'm not talking here about sexual harassment, which is clearly a serious matter, but if women do want to work in high profile jobs,  equality has to work both ways. And a man or woman who earns over £100k a year  must also expect to work under pressure.

Most of the women at the meeting regarded equality in the workplace as the norm, but admitted that ingrained attitudes, especially in the older generations, are sometimes difficult to erase.

 The much-discussed bra-burning of the sixties  arose from a myth and has gone down forever in history. Meanwhile,  I am  still standing on my metaphorical soap box and burning my metaphorical bra. How about you?

Published by Amelia Press, Baggy Pants and Bootees is available from good bookshops and from here and here


Saturday, 6 September 2014



The first paperback copy arrives.

                                        BAGGY PANTS AND BOOTEES is available in paperback  now!

When war baby Sophie joins the macho world of 1960s journalism she’s determined to prove that she’s ‘one of the boys.’ But a phone call from her estranged mother after years of guilt and torment sets Sophie on a quest to uncover the secret of her birth.

Was her father the all-American soldier she dreamt of when she was a child, or someone far more sinister? This is the story the ambitious reporter was destined to write.

Helped by the charming but mysterious David, Sophie uncovers a heartbroken wartime orphan, a GI romance and a terrifying rape that leads to an innocent man’s court martial – and finds clues to her own unhappy childhood.

Torn between her secret love for Steve, the newspaper’s most eligible bachelor, and her desire to know who she really is, Sophie follows David to find her father.  Only when faced with the startling truth can she accept the tragedy of love, loss and betrayal and begin a very different kind of future.

Baggy Pants and Bootees ,will shortly be available from Plackitt & Booth, booksellers, Lytham, Lancashire, or to order from any good bookshop.
You can also buy it on
and  on

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Goodbye, Cheerio - hello awesome!

I remember the first time someone called my  two daughters 'you guys.' It seems like a long time ago, but it had me confused.  Now, as the  influence of American words becomes stronger in Britain, we are all guys and, come to think of it, most of us are awesome too.

So it didn't really surprise me this week to learn that some of our favourite English words are going out of fashion. I mean - who says marvellous or cheerio any more? And who eats marmalade? (Well, er, I do!)

The newly-released pilot list for the Spoken British National Corpus project - put together by Lancaster University and Cambridge University Press - looks at conversation starting from the early 1990s up to the present day.
A jar of marmalade
Marmalade is less frequently spoken about than it once was
Photo courtesy of Sky News
According to Sky News, Language expert Professor Tony McEnery from Lancaster University says: "These very early findings suggest the things that are most important to British society are indeed reflected in the amount we talk about them.
"New technologies like Facebook have really captured our attention, to the extent that, if we're not using it, we're probably talking about it."

Personally, I like some of the Americanisms that have been adopted over here - the English way of speaking does have  a habit of sounding a bit stuffy at times.  But as for 'absolutely.' How did that come to mean 'yes'?

Researchers on the 2014 project, which is still in its infancy, are asking for people to send in MP3 files of their conversations for analysis, though I imagine that a walk down the high street today would be just as revealing.

 What do you think?


Monday, 18 August 2014

Did someone mention CHOCOLATE?

Would you like to spend the next three years studying chocolate?  If so,  it seems that Cambridge University is advertising your dream job. The impressive sounding Department of Chemical Engineering is searching for a student to work on a  fully-funded project.... finding how to prevent chocolate melting in the sun!

But before you get too excited the role will also require 'good mathematical skills and a high grade degree, 'according to today's Daily Mail.

 It's time to confess that I have a special interest in chocolate. My younger daughter, who  grew up on Roald Dahl's best selling book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was  determined to follow in her hero's footsteps  After gaining a degree in food microbiology  she  got her first job working in - you've guessed it - a chocolate factory.  It was her task to taste the first batch  that came off the production - at 7.30 in the morning....

Which brings me back to that dream job at Cambridge University  -  what does the successful candidate have to do? They will 'investigate the factors which allow chocolate, which has a melting point close to that of the human body, to remain solid and retain qualities sought by consumers when it is stored and sold in warm climates.' 

If the project is a success then hopefully we'll be able to eat chocolate all year round - even in a heatwave.

Meanwhile, I'll leave the last word to Roald Dahl himself:
“He turned and reached behind him for the chocolate bar, then he turned back again and handed it to Charlie. Charlie grabbed it and quickly tore off the wrapper and took an enormous bite. Then he took another…and another…and oh, the joy of being able to cram large pieces of something sweet and solid into one's mouth! The sheer blissful joy of being able to fill one's mouth with rich solid food!
'You look like you wanted that one, sonny,' the shopkeeper said pleasantly.

Charlie nodded, his mouth bulging with chocolate.”
Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Don't forget to look out for Baggy Pants and Bootees
here Coming soon in paperback.