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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Born too late?

My mother always said I was born too late. Not too late for her, you understand, but too late for me. I have always been fascinated by the past and am never happier than when surrounded by the relics of another age...

Is it possible that I  have lived before? When I was little more than five-years-old my Mum took me to Newarke Museum in New Walk, Leicester, where I wandered into an authentic Victorian street setting complete with cobblestones and carefully reproduced shops. Fascinated, I scrambled over the low perimeter fence and stepped into the cobbler's shop.

Looking at the  man in flat cap and shirt sleeves working on an old last, I failed to notice the security man who appeared out of nowhere. 'Hey, you, little girl,' he shouted,  'Can't you read?' pointing at the sign that said 'No Admittance Beyond this point.'

Of course I could read - I'd been doing that since I before I started school - and I could certainly hear. He didn't need to shout. But I didn't say this out loud. Instead, I continued to stare in wonderment at the spectacle in front of me. 'I think I've been here before'  I replied.

Of course you've been here before,' he retorted. ' We have thousands of visitors every year, but the majority of them, I'm glad to say, obey the rules.' With that he picked me up by the scruff of my neck and deposited me back on the cobblestones.

'Can I go in one of the other shops?' I asked, innocently, determined to remain in this wonderful place for as long as possible.

'Ah, there you are,' my mother ran towards us, clearly out of breath.' I was just about to report you missing. What on earth were you thinking of?'

I was thinking of a time when horses and carts roamed the streets and women dressed in floor-sweeping skirts  like the queen, but somehow I knew this wasn't the right answer.

And that was the beginning of my love affair with the past.

Victorian Cobbled Street,
Newarke Museum, New Walk, Leicester

Image courtesy of

Thursday, 12 February 2015


While celebrities attended the Berlin premiere of Fifty Shades of Grey last night,  a mystery  middle-aged British woman was busy emulating the book's success.

The woman, from Wellington Women's Institute in  Somerset, forsook  the more usual Jam and Jerusalem  to pen an erotic short story along the lines of E L James' raunchy best seller.

According to The Times newspaper the short story,  published in a charity anthology,  has been 'described as filth by both delighted and appalled readers.' 

Retired writer  Bridget Hodges who set up the WI writing group -  called Monumental  Women's Ink after the town's monument -  wanted members to try a different style or genre every month. 'When Fifty Shades came out we talked about it quite a bit,' said the sixty-three year old. 'We thought we would all have a go.  Some didn't seem very keen. It's not for the faint-hearted.'

Titled 'The Conquering Gibraltarian Adonis' the  three- page story, about a husband's return after a long period working abroad, is preceded by a warning to those who may be of a delicate disposition.

One such person is WI member Enid Ray who told her local weekly newspaper 'One does not expect such smut from a group involved in the WI. I was wholly shocked when I read this section. I can't believe they had the nerve to print it.'

The author, according to Mrs Hodges, has asked to remain anonymous - because 'her gran would be furious!'

Meanwhile, the £4 book, a selection of poetry and fiction,  has sold  three quarters of the 200 printed to raise money for cancer treatment at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

After today's headlines,  no doubt that they will be needing a reprint very soon. What do you think?


Monday, 9 February 2015

When the past came calling...

Today I viewed a remarkable video that brought the past to life for me in a way nothing else could.
On May 9, 1945 the German Military Occupation of Guernsey ended after five long years.
The events of this day and the years before  had been recounted by my grandparents when I was a child until I felt I had lived through it all myself.
I never tired of hearing their stories, I always wanted to hear more.
Like many others, my grandparents lost a son in the war and never stopped grieving for him.
Eleven-year-old David was evacuated to Oldham, Lancashire in 1940 with his fourteen-year-old brother, Harold James Brown.
Harold arrived back on the island in 1945 married to my mother.
David died of meningitis in 1942 and never came home again.
My second novel, due out later this year, is set in the Occupation of Guernsey. I hope it will serve as tribute to everyone who paid dearly for the island's freedom - some with their lives.
It will be dedicated to you
David Richard Brown
The uncle I never met.
My sincere thanks go to Steven le Provost for allowing me to reproduce this film which was taken by Dr Richard Sutcliffe with colour film he had kept hidden from the Germans
throughout the Occupation.
Le Provost Films

To see the video please click on the link below.

Monday, 2 February 2015

Courage is her middle name.

I've always championed strong women. Their politics don't concern me but their courage does. So I have enormous respect for Alexander Litvenenko's widow, Marina, for continuing to say what she believes.

Last October I attended a literary evening in Southport, Lancashire, where Mrs Litvenenko gave a humbly moving speech about her late husband, a former Russian Federal Security Service officer who was killed in November 2006.

She was joined by Alex Goldfarb,  a close friend and  co- author of the book Death of a Dissident (pictured below.)

 Mr and Mrs Litvinenko and her late husband became British citizens more than eight years ago just weeks before Alexander, (whom Marina calls Sasha,) was allegedly poisoned.

Small of stature, this amazing lady has the emotional strength of someone twice her size, along with a stoic belief that she must never give up the fight.

At the time she told the Southport Visitor “I am coming to this event to help the fundraising for the Litvinenko Justice Foundation so that we can pay for the legal costs of the public inquiry of the death of my husband.
“I believe that it is in the public interest to find out what happened to my husband. I can not bring the people who poisoned him to court because they are in Russia, but I can try to find out how he was killed. '

It was here in England that Litvinenko wrote two books accusing the Russian government of committing acts of terrorism against their own people.

Mrs Litvinenko said: “I am grateful that I am here, in England, where I can speak out like this.
“People should be proud that they are from a country that allows you to speak out. It was a very special day for me and Alexander when we became British citizens.

She added I would of course go back to Russia if it was something serious, but right now it is so unpleasant, I do not want to go back.'

The  event was organised by  Southport  lawyer John Boydell.