Search This Blog

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Fairy Tale of York - the 'White' way to a Happy Christmas!

The ceramic-tiled staircase with a warm welcome at the top.

The customers' coffee lounge


I had a magical start to my Christmas this week in the wonderful city of York where the friendliness of the shop staff showed what this time of the year is all about. Entering White Stuff's traditional store in Stonegate, my daughter and I noticed a steep staircase decorated with colourful ceramic tiles .
'Would you mind if I took a photo for my blog,' I asked the assistant.
She smiled and said 'Of course not - everyone does.'
I was soon shown up the stairs through the men's department to a Victorian lounge designed especially for shoppers to relax in and drink coffee 'on the house.'  I learnt the history of some of the antique furniture in the room from another friendly assistant and left feeling like one of the family.
We spent around 20 mins in the shop and called back later to buy my daughter a beautiful matching necklace and bracelet for Christmas.

Congratulations, White Stuff, for the best customer service I've every encountered.

The White Stuff store in York

Wishing a Happy  and peaceful Christmas to you all.

York Minster


Monday, 28 November 2016

WHEN LIPSTICK BECAME A LIFESAVER



When my daughter was on a life support machine in intensive care I used to visit her every day - sometimes even in the middle of the night. Arriving for a 3am visit after she'd been unconscious for two months, the nurse on duty said: You always wear bright lipstick when you arrive - though you know she can't see you. Why is that?'
'Because,' I replied, 'if she wakes up, I want her to see me how she knows me best. Happy and positive. Not with a pale face and fear in my eyes.'
Fourteen years later I am now writing a short story called The Red Lipstick. How lucky am I that she is alive to read it?


Find me at https://www.facebook.com/MarilynChapmanAuthor/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Friday, 18 November 2016

TWO LITTLE GIRLS WHO MELTED THE HEARTS OF A NATION: THE NEW FACES OF WORLD PEACE


Ten-year-old Tyana and 11-year-old Gracie at the new Blackpool Carers' Centre



Two  young sisters, aged just ten and eleven, were asked this week to name three wishes. Tyana and Gracie are day-to-day carers for their mum, Susanne, who has osteoporosis  and is too ill to look after herself.

'I wish every ill person could be made better,' said one sister.

'I wish my mum didn't have to be disabled,' said the other.

And the third wish?

The third wish, they both agreed, was for 'World Peace.'

These two remarkable girls were featured in BBC Television's DIY SOS programme as two near-derelict semi-detached houses in Blackpool, Lancashire,  were transformed into  a brand new carers' centre.
Tyanna, 11, told the Gazette: “My mum can’t move around that well. She can’t wash herself, she can’t cook or walk without support. We’re her carers so we wash her and tidy the house and things like that. The carers centre lets us take time off for a bit and just be kids. My mum can be sat down somewhere and I don’t have to worry about her, and I can go off and play.I think the new centre is really great and I’m amazed how they did it in such a short time. Gracey, 10, said: “I didn’t ever expect to see myself on TV. The carers centre helps us take a break from caring and you can just relax.”


Added their mother:

"It’s been very emotional and a little scary and exciting. As long as we raise the profile of what a young carer is and does I will be happy.... You would never know about my girls as they paint that beautiful smile on their faces"
http://trib.al/hun85TK


A member of the Blackpool Carers team 'holds the front page' of the B;ackpool Gazette.
 Photo courtesy of Blackpool Carers.



'The show served as the big curtain raiser for this year’s Children in Need spectacular. Blackpool Carers’ Centre is one of the groups supported by the annual charity appeal and its ambitious project was chosen out of hundreds for the DIY SOS treatment.The hour-long show was a chance for young carers to tell their own stories and inspire others..'

For me, this was journalism at its best, a much-needed story that proves the world is still full of genuine, good hearted people - and, of course, children.


A final word of congratulations to  former Gazette  features editor Jacqui Morley, now  running her own company Janarchy PR,  who supported the carers every step of the way.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Bonfire or Budloe? Here's to Guy Fawkes...

I love the idea that Guy Fawkes night is called Budloe Night in Guernsey. Here's the reason...





Budloe Night – Guernsey Bonfire Night

Guy Fawkes night in Guernsey, has a much deeper history and stretches back even further than the 17th Century attempt to blow up the English parliament in 1605. Today it’s also known locally as “Budloe Night” and harks back to the island’s Viking heritage.
“Budloe Night” was originally intended to celebrate the end of the year. It was a pagan festival where a Yule log would be burnt. Using fire was an act of cleansing in preparation for the new year. The connection to the Vikings stems from the island’s association with Normandy, which was of course conquered and populated by the Norsemen, from which the term Norman was derived.
The original Budloe festivals would have taken place later on in the year than Guy Fawkes night, around the Winter Solstice (December 21st or 22nd). With the advent of Guy Fawkes night, and given the similarities in how each festival is celebrated, the two became linked and celebrated together on November 5th.
Budloe night originally involved celebrations around a large fire, decorating the house, burning the Yule log along with copious amounts of eating and drinking. Budloe night was still celebrated in it’s own right in Guernsey right up until after the war when there were large cavalcades along with many people dressing up in fancy dress.
Since the war the large scale celebrations have declined and the focus has now become a more standardised bonfire and fireworks party

Some Traditional Guernsey Bonfire Night Dishes

If you want your bonfire party to have a traditional Guernsey flavour then try some of the following recipes for Bean Jar and Gache Melee … yummy
A Traditional Guernsey Bean Jar
Traditional Guernsey Bean Jar

Gache Melee
   

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

HOW TO BE A WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE


A Woman of Substance (Emma Harte Series Book 1) by [Bradford, Barbara Taylor]
Book cover courtesy of Amazon.co.uk
















I remember reading up on the career of one of my favourite authors whilst I was still in my twenties. It went something like this: student, café worker, gymnast, market gardener, therapist, athletics coach... long before I got to the end I wondered what this lady had ever done to make her a writer!

Yes, I was very naïve and no, I  hadn't heard of the University of Life. But those days came to mind this week when someone from my past work history appeared out of nowhere.

'I recognise that lady,' said one of my daughter's facebook friends after seeing my author photo online.  'She got me a job almost twenty-years ago, and I'm still here.'

This was someone I'd found a position for in my days as a recruitment consultant in the late nineteen nineties - one of the best jobs I ever had!

Better still, the one-time customer services advisor had now risen through  ranks of the  successful distribution company to become customer services and transport manager.

In my early days of recruitment I interviewed many  graduates looking for their first job after years of studying.  I usually recommended temporary positions in industry to  instil in them the work ethic.  One girl, I remember, told me she had ambitions to work for the Secret Service, but was quite happy to do any temporary work that came her way.  She was one of my best temps and eventually accepted a lucrative position with an international organisation.

Five years later I received a confidential letter from  MI5  asking if I could verify the candidate's work records.  I was happy to do so and, though I never got to hear the outcome, I'd always known this was someone determined to succeed.

Success is not so much about what you do as how you do it.  And that stint working behind the beauty counter in Boots might just come in handy when you're ready build your own cosmetics empire.

So if your children or grandchildren are keen  to learn how to work, try suggesting they work to learn. And for anyone hoping to become  A Woman of Substance just remember that Barbara Taylor Bradford once worked in the typing pool at the Yorkshire Evening Post.





Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Life in an English village - it might not be quite as you think.








A Village Affair
Anthony Horowitz speaking in the Daily Mail
A Village Affair courtesy of Random House

'There is nowhere more evil than an English village,' Anthony Horowitz told a packed audience in Gloucestershire this week.  'It breeds mistrust, suspicion and bitterness.'

Speaking at Cheltenham Literary Festival, the Midsomer Murders screenwriter added: 'I live in Norfolk so I should know.'

Mr Horowitz, who adapted the well-known novels by Caroline Graham for television, said cities weren't a suitable base for the genre.

Attributing the above quote to Sherlock Holmes, the writer said: English villages are special places where hatred and mistrust and suspicion and anger and bitterness have a natural place to grow. In a city, in London, your feelings get dissipated, it's too loud, there are too many people, life is too fast. In an English village it can all fester slowly.'

Hardly surprising that these thoughts come from the man who made small-time murder mysteries fashionable, but the truth is that English villages have  held fascination for writers through the centuries.

One novel that has stood the test of time is Joanne Trollope's A Village Affair - a wonderful observation  of human frailty with characters we can all recognise.

Another of my favourites is Lark Rise to Candleford, Laura Thompson's semi-autobiographical trilogy that transferred so well to the small screen.

Perhaps one of the best-loved chroniclers of British life was Rebecca Shaw who died in 2015 having sold a million copies of her novel The Village Green Affair and many others inspired by her   life in a small Dorset village.

Do you have a favourite novel about village life?


Monday, 3 October 2016

They all collaborated, didn't they?

Jenny Lecoat's story featured in The Times newspaper



What do you do if you want to share a family secret with the world? The answer, for  Jersey girl Jenny Lecoat, is turn it into a film.  Jenny's great aunt, Louisa Gould, was murdered by the Nazis for sheltering an escaped Russian prisoner in her home during thr German Occupation of the Channel Islands.  Another Mother's Son, starring Jenny Seagrove as Louisa,  will be released in March 2017.

A television scriptwriter for thirty years, Jenny  created storylines for high-profile  soaps such as East Enders and Holby City before she realised that she wanted to share her own  family's tragic past. Louisa Gould perished in the gas chambers at Ravensbruck for sheltering a Russian prisoner-of-war during the  Occupation of Jersey. The prisoner was known as Bill.

'She was pretty lax about security - she used to take him into town with her, she used to go to church with him,' Jenny told Simon de Bruxelles in The Times this week. Louisa was a widow who was running the village store in St Ouen in the west of Jersey when the Germans invaded in 1940. At first the Occupation was relatively benign as Hitler harboured hopes of a negotiated settlement with Britain. The Germans brought thousands of Russian prisoners captured on the Eastern Front who were put to work on concrete fortifications that still stand today.

Among them was Feodor Burriyiy, a pilot in in his early twenties, the same age as Louisa's son Edward, who had won a scholarship to Oxford but was killed serving with the Royal Navy. Burriyiy escaped within weeks of arriving but was recaptured. When he escaped again Louisa was asked by a neighbour if she could take him in.

Explained Jenny 'One of Louisa's sons had been killed and the other was in the RAF and she didn't know whether he was still alive and I think she was very lonely. She was a good-hearted person but I think there was a certain degree of naivety there.'

Louisa taught Bill English and altered her son's clothes to fit him. Bob le Seur, now ninety four, who helped to shelter Russian fugitives at the time, said of her 'She was a saintly soul but not as discreet as she should have been.'

When a neighbour sent a 'betrayal' letter to the Gestapo headquarters, Bob hid him in his lavatory until another safe place was found.

Bill was never recaptured. He returned to Russia after the war and kept in touch with his Jersey friends. Louisa, her brother and her sister Ivy Forster, who had also hidden a Russian prisoner-of-war, were tried by the Germans and sent to prison in France. Louisa was transferred to Ravensbruck in Germany and sent to the gas chambers, eight weeks before the camp was liberated.  She was 53.

'When you mention Jersey and the Occupation,' said Jenny, 'people say "They all collaborated, didn't they?" No, they didn't.There were a lot of people like my family who were involved in the so-called resistance. I had written soaps and comedies in the past but found what I really liked was fact-based so I went over in 2012 and spoke to people like Bob Le Seur.'

Jenny sent the screenplay to producer Bill Kenwright in 2014, 'and he was fascinated by the story.' The film had a budget of £2.5 million.

NB I can't wait to see the film.  My new novel, Occupying Love, set in the Occupation of Guernsey, includes a fictitious Guernsey Resistance called GINA based on an underground news service which really existed.









Sunday, 25 September 2016

Brangelina, the Great British 'Break-off' and who stole the Toffee Deluxe...







'What's Brangelina?' asked my favourite uncle.  'Not bloomin' Brexit  all over again?'

'Don't worry,' I shook my head.  That's  yesterday's news. Brad and Ange have moved on. It's The Great British Bakeoff  everyone's talking about  now.'

'Breakoff?' He looked puzzled.  You mean Bacup! It's been in Lancashire for as long as I can remember and that's where it belongs.'

'Do listen. The Great British Bake-Off. They've defected to Channel Four. Well, Hollywood has. The rest are staying with Mary.'

'Hollywood?' Is that where Donald Grump lives?'

Close - but back to Bake-off. The newspapers  are full of it.  Pushy Paul versus Mumsy Mary. And now Channel Four has  a celebrity food programme with no star.'

'Bah - food again. Why IS everyone so interested in cooking these days?

'Because it takes their minds off  what's really happening in the world. Besides, we all love to eat.  Which reminds me. Have you heard the latest on the Toffee Deluxe?'

What about it?'

'It's leaving Quality Street.'

'Good riddance, I say. Never did like that programme. 'Is it time for tea? All this talk of food's making me hungry.


Image result for quality street




Thursday, 11 August 2016

Read all about it - in the sunshine!

I am taking a  holiday  from my blog till September 2016 - see you all then!


If you're worried by stories of library closures across Britain, take heart - it's not all empty buildings and unread books. There's a new fashion for open-air borrowing and it's definitely catching on.  Last week I visited a mobile café and library in Homestead Park in York where celebrations were in place for the the 100th anniversary of the birth of Roald Dahl.



Charlie and his Chocolate Factory in Homestead Park, York


Celebrating the  100th anniversary of  Roald Dahl's birth 

Nearer my home in Lancashire 'Little Garden Libraries' have been popping up in the front gardens of book-lovers' homes. All you have to do is 'take a book and leave a book' and the service is entirely free. They can even be found in local hotels, too.
A hand-made little library ready for its new home at Ribby Hall, Wrea Green, Lancashire.



A little garden library in a Lancashire garden



Sunday, 24 July 2016

It's Never too Late to start Writing

Linda Mitchelmore (centre) at Torbay Bookshop signing her debut novel To Turn Full Circle

I'm thrilled to welcome Linda Mitchelmore to my blog today, a brilliant novelist I met through social  media who has become so much more than just a 'cyber' friend.

Linda was extremely supportive to me when I was trying to get my debut novel traditionally published, and has continued to encourage me through all the trials of bringing out my second novel Occupying Love.

Linda, like me, came to novel-writing later in life and is a prolific short story writer.  I have asked her today to tell us about her journey to publication.

Welcome Linda! It's great to have you here for the very first time. I can't believe how long it has taken me to ask... Now, at last,  it's over to you.


'To paraphrase a famous saying … ‘some are born writing, some achieve writing, and some have writing thrust upon them’. I am the latter. That said, I do have a vivid memory of being six- or seven-years-old sitting at the dining table and ‘writing a book’. My mother cut strips of leftover wallpaper lining-paper, stitched them together with wool and a carpet needle to make my blank canvas. I remember illustrating the front cover in crayon and writing my name – large – at the bottom, but not what I called said book or what it was about.

There’s another saying along the lines of … ‘it’s not what life chucks at you that matters, but how you deal with it’. Deafness got chucked at me. It was a slow deterioration to begin with – high sounds were the first to disappear – but by the time I was in my forties I had little hearing at all. Conventional hearing aids were of no use as I had zero receptors left to pick up sound, however artificially amplified. So, I disappeared into a world of reading. My children were still at home and magazines with short stories became my reading of choice from a time factor.

One Christmas my (now late) mother-in-law gave me a copy of Woman she had finished reading in which there was a short story competition. While the family were glued to The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins, and the Queen’s Speech I had a go. And lo and behold I made the shortlist, was given £50 for my efforts and was published. It was heady stuff. Deafness often means the sufferer retires to the sidelines but here was my name, out there, and no one had a clue whether I was deaf or not. I had another couple of acceptances and then a lot of rejections! One acceptance (and a £100 fee) came from Writing Magazine so I decided to enrol on their short story writing course. My assigned tutor recommended that I try an agency, Midland Exposure, to see if they would take me on. They did. With Midland Exposure’s guidance my sales crept up to around the twenty mark. Midland Exposure are now closed for business but they opened up doors to magazine editors for me and, to date, I have had over 300 short stories published worldwide. I was a happy little bunny again earning extra money for the family coffers, never thinking for a moment I could (or even wanted to) write a novel. But my tutor had other ideas and suggested I enrol on Writing Magazine’s novel writing course. With her guidance I began to learn the craft of novel writing, and I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme – money well spent in my opinion. After a few near misses, Choc Lit took me on and I’ve now had six titles published with them. But I am a late developer because I became the owner of a bus pass, had my first grandchild, and saw my first novel published, all in the same year!

In between the short story writing and the novel publications I was selected to be in three charity anthologies which raised money for Cancer Research UK – Sexy Shorts for Christmas, Sexy Shorts for the Beach, and Sexy Shorts for Summer.

It’s often been suggested I write a ‘How-to’ book. I wish I could! I’m a very organic writer and don’t plot or plan and I certainly don’t analyse how I do what I do. I start with a character who has a problem, put her (or him) in an interesting location and let her (or him) work it out for herself. If I could analyse I would probably get less rejections than I do (yes I still get them!) but, strangely, when I get another sale it is all the sweeter.

Sometimes I wish I’d started on my writing journey earlier in life. Would I have become a best-seller if I’d started being published in my thirties? Possibly, and I’d probably have been richer! But would I have been happier? It is what it is, I think, and I’ve met the people I have, when I have, because of that – and I am the richer for it in other ways.

Every writer will have a different journey. This, then, is mine.

Linda with fellow Choc Lit authors in 2015

LINDA MITCHELMORE 2016

You can find all Linda's books on Amazon.co.uk here


Thursday, 14 July 2016

When nothing adds up...



I really know how George Osborne, ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, feels today.

English 1 Pound Note (1966-70) Signature J. S. Fforde Photo courtesy of listia.com


I've never really understood money.  Which is probably why I'm a writer instead of a millionaire. Take my first job as a Saturday girl in a Midlands newsagents when I was still at school. All went well on day one until my new boss hauled me into the back office and slapped a ten shilling note on the desk. (Yes - I'm THAT old!)

'It's  bit early to pay me,' I said, oblivious to  the angry face in front  of me. 'Is everything all right?'

The poor man, whose face was already a deep shade of red, almost exploded. 'No it is NOT all right,' he hissed. 'You don't seem to know the difference between ten shillings and a pound note. If you stay much longer I'll go bankrupt.'

My next weekend  job was in a local hairdressers where I washed hair, swept up and, if the staff were busy, gave clients their bills.  I got sacked again after a month.

'Could you tell me why you don't want me,' I asked the manager, trying to keep my voice steady.

'Firstly, you keeping telling everyone you want to be a newspaper reporter - this is a hair salon for heaven's sake.'  His eyes rolled heavenward. 'Your maths is terrible. You've already undercharged several ladies and let one go without paying at all.'

Undercharging the ladies! Clearly a heinous crime.

I'm sure Theresa May will never be accused of that.




Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The day Guernsey will never forget...




Photo courtesy of the Corbet family with thanks to Gillian Mawson


Seventy-six years ago today on June 28 1942  enemy planes bombed Guernsey harbour triggering the German Military Occupation of the Channel Islands.

The tomato lorries, queuing patiently to  send their precious load to the mainland, were mistaken for troops, even though there was no question of the island being armed for an invasion. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had already made that clear.

What happened next changed lives forever.

My novel Occupying Love begins on that day just as Lydia Le Page disembarks from the mail boat  in the warm evening sunshine.


June 1940



The shock of that day never left her; it invaded her dreams and shadowed her waking moments. She could see herself now, carrying an old brown suitcase down the ship’s gangplank, her chocolate brown hair tousled by the fresh Guernsey breeze. In the year since she’d left the island nothing had changed. Fishing boats rocked from side to side, slapping waves against the harbour walls, yacht sails shimmered in the early evening sun, fine wisps of cloud skittering across the skies like pockets of hand-stitched lace.

 Up ahead, the old tomato lorries wound their way like a wooden snake towards the cargo ships bound for England. Her papa had grown tomatoes in the greenhouses behind their home for as long as she could remember. Nowadays he didn’t need the income, but the twelve-pound fruit baskets – or ‘chips’ as the locals called them –  were his pride and joy. Feeling exhilarated at the thought of seeing her parents again, Lydia headed for the bus terminus, stopping to rest on a bench by the harbour wall.

It started as a low rumble, like a vast swarm of bees in flight, growing steadily louder till it turned into a roar. Startled, she shaded her eyes from the sun and stared up into the sky. Three planes came into view, bright lights shining from their wings. A wave of raw fear rose up from her stomach. Someone shouted, ‘Enemy aircraft’ and her limbs froze. Lydia dropped to the ground, her face hitting the dirt as she landed. Bullets ricocheted over her head as she cowered in terror while the bombs plunged with sickening accuracy on to the harbour.

 A piercing scream brought Lydia back to reality – it came from her own lips. All around her people were crying or standing motionless in shock as blood dripped on to the pavements while air raid sirens, woken from their reverie, shrieked in protest. Coughing, she gasped for air, dense now with smoke, and tried to roll over.

‘You okay, Miss?’ A policeman loomed overhead.

 She fingered a cut on her face. ‘I think so. What happened?’

‘The Jerries have bombed the tomato lorries. Must ’ave mistaken them for tanks.’ He gripped her arm. ‘Can you get up?’

 Nodding, she let him pull her off the ground.

‘I’d get out of here, if I were you. Fast as you can. It’s not safe.’

‘But Papa, what about Papa?’ A vision of her father lying dead in the rubble flashed in front of her eyes. ‘He’ll be in one of those lorries…’

‘If he’s out there now, Miss, there’s nothing you can do for him. You’d best find shelter in case the Jerries come again.’

 Her suitcase long forgotten, Lydia headed for the dockside where a lone mother sat in the debris, cradling her daughter in the shelter of the harbour wall. The child was silent but the woman sobbed as smoke rose into the sky like a giant funeral pyre.

You can find out more about Occupying Love in the link at the top of this blog.






Friday, 24 June 2016

AND NOW FOR THE GOOD NEWS.....



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.

OCCUPYING LOVE IS RELEASED TODAY

OCCUPYING LOVE IS RELEASED TODAY

OCCUPYING LOVE IS RELEASED TODAY.



Or here

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

AT LEAST I TRIED
:)





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:

Amazon.co.uk here
Amazon.com 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 Amazon.co.uk




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!

DO YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO WAS BORN IN 1926?


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:
http://www.hmq90.co.uk/about/programme-queens-90-birthday-celebration/





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

THE BOOK THAT CHANGED THEIR LIVES


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

AM I REALLY READING THIS?





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

PLAYING THE GENERATION GAME



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


Thursday, 24 March 2016

WE'RE ALL ROBOTS NOW


'I squirmed with joy, which I experienced for the first time, and continued writing excitedly.'

Before you leave this blog ( squirming)  I deny all responsibility for the above sentence. It  was composed by... a computer!

Let me explain. Eleven works of robot-assisted fiction were amongst the 1,450 entrants for a Japanese fiction competition recently. The Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award, named after one of Japan's most famous fiction writers, invited 'artificial intelligence programs' to submit their works.

The judges did not know which authors were human and which were robots, but were given a strong hint by the one quoted above entitled 'The Day a Computer wrote a Novel.'

According to the Times newspaper today, another entry entitled 'My Job' has a character asking  'Are jobs being cut, as cheap, clever, humanoid robots are replacing humans?'

One story, it seems, using  'sentences from inputs by its human masters' actually made it through the first round of the competition. Instructed to include the elements of time, weather and what the character was doing, it came up with the following:

'The clouds hung low that day in an overcast sky. Inside, though, the temperature and humidity were perfectly controlled.  Yoko was sitting lazily on the couch, passing the time playing pointless games.'

The judges commended the story, though found it's efforts were 'a bit thin on characterisation.'

Phew - that's a relief! 

Happy Easter everyone.



Monday, 21 March 2016

In praise of depressed spinsters...

Oh, how I wish I had met Anita Brookner, the 'famously miserable'   novelist who died  recently.





Like many readers, I first discovered Anita  Brookner's writing in 1984 when her third novel  Hotel Du Lac won the Booker Prize - the most coveted literary prize in Britain.

Writing in the Daily Mail this week social historian  A N Wilson  observed: 'Though she denied her novels were autobiographical,  they chronicle the lives of  lonely miserable women who have the unerring knack of falling for unsuitable men.'

Her novels, as fans will confirm,  were full of  depressed spinsters,  but in real life she had  a dry wit that could, sometimes, be  misunderstood. 'I feel I could get into the Guinness Book of Record as the world's loneliest, most miserable woman,' she once said.

Anita Brookner grew up in  a large Victorian villa in South London 'the only child of clever, ill-matched parents.'  Though she never married, she had two great loves - art and fiction - in particular the work of Belgian writer Georges Simenon.  Simenon was well-know for creating Inspector Maigret, but most of his work at the time comprised dark, psychological novels.

According to Wilson, Brookner's novels could be described in similar terms. 'They all chronicle, in one way or another, men and women who cannot find happiness in personal relationships but can't be happy without them.' he says.

In retrospect it is hard not to feel a little sorry for this extremely intelligent and talented woman who never seemed to meet her match. Hotel du Lac, about a woman who jilted her partner on their wedding day, made her famous and she went on to write a book a year (by hand) for almost two decades.  History has it that she fell in love many times, but always with unsuitable people.

As for me, I prefer  to remember  for  her  incredible talent and this wonderful quote (below) on writing.

You never know what you will learn till you start writing.
Then you discover truths you never knew existed


Anita Brookner





Wednesday, 9 March 2016

MUCH ADO ABOUT EVERYTHING







Love, Loss and legions of laughs... If you've every wished you could sum up Shakespeare's plots in just a few words, The Times newspaper is here to help.

Ahead of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death on April 23, 2016, the Times 'Shakespeare special'  has ranked  the bard's 39 plays in order of merit. 

Can you guess the name of the  sample, below, ranked at number three?

The plot:Second-string Scottish nobleman nabs the crown, egged on by his unscrupulous wife, spurred by three local well-wishers.

The quote: Life is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing

The clue: Shakespeare's shortest tragedy.

The answer: see photo, above.

For those of you who, like me,  grew up on Shakespeare, coerced from an early age into  analysing every word, this is refreshing stuff. Tongue-in-cheek, okay, but entertaining all the same.

Today  Benedict Nightingale, the paper's chief theatre critic from 1990 to 2010,  ranks the Bard's ten best love scenes.  At Number One is Much Ado about Nothing.

Top quote: I do love nothing in the world so well as you.

The pitch: A quarrelsome duo discover they don't hate each other.

Happy ever after? Benedict and Beatrice share an improbable love, but one more likely to succeed than most.


Far from being 'dumbed down' as its critics may fear,  it seems to me that is a positive way to introduce successive generations to an extraordinary talent of which we, as a nation, are rightly proud. And if it brings Shakespeare a host of new fans it has surely achieved its aim.

Meanwhile, tomorrow's Shakespeare special will be charting the great man's ten best death scenes.  Which means I have work to do. It will take me the rest of the day, at least, to guess which they are.