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Monday, 29 February 2016


A little girl I know is going to school on World Book Day dressed as a mermaid.

'How are you going to get there?' I asked.
'I'll swim' she replied.

Her chosen book for the day is The Singing Mermaid by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks which she'll carry  with her.  Every child in her school will be dressed as their favourite book character  as they swim, walk, run or saunter into the classroom on Thursday morning.

And this little girl had a difficult decision to make as the bookcase in her bedroom is crammed full of her favourite stories - and  some of her mother's favourite childhood books too.

'Join our Festival of Imagination' says the World Book Day website 'turning millions of kids into millions of readers.'

 Now I'm a fan of e-books - my debut novel Baggy Pants and Bootees reached  7,000 in the Amazon kindle charts  - but the physical book is a joy that will never go out of fashion.

For many of you a love of books began in childhood, but do you remember the one that held you spellbound more than all the rest? And what are the children in your family doing on World Book Day?  I'd love to hear from you.

World Book Day is on Thursday March 3 2016

NB If you are  having trouble joining my google site please click 'subscribe to' on my blog page.

BFG costume kit

You can find out more about World Book Day here

Monday, 22 February 2016


A real-life 'Forever Young' story crept into the pages of The Times newspaper this weekend.  Tucked away in the Marriages and Engagements register at the back of the paper was a photograph of 75-year-old Penelope Roy and John Fryer, 77 who married in Surrey, England, earlier this month.

Nothing unusual about that, you may say, except that they first fell in love more than 50 years ago  when  students at the London School of Economics.  John was in a long-term relationship back then, and though they enjoyed each other's company as friends, they split up without ever admitting their feelings for each other.

Penelope was 73 when she typed  John's name into an online search engine. A newspaper story about a high-profile court case in Canada where John was the  expert witness, enabled her to track him down.  John was then a scholar-in-residence at the University of Victoria Law School in British Columbia.

'It all came flooding back,' he told the paper. 'It was a feeling that 50 plus years had just disappeared.'
After talking on the telephone long FaceTime sessions, described by Penelope as 'very intense,' soon followed.

In June 2014 John met Penny at St Pancras Railway Station and they  lunched at the National Portrait Gallery. 'People don't realise the strength of shared experience in your youth,' she explains. The following month she visited John in Canada.

Reminiscent of the 1992 film Forever Young with Isobel Glasser and Mel Gibson this, says Penny, is 'a bittersweet story with regrets over missed opportunities taken over by the joy of being together.'

Adds John :'I feel very privileged. Most of us don't get a second chance.'

NB If you would like to be featured in the Times, you can email

John and Penelope on their wedding day and in the early 1960s

Monday, 15 February 2016


Helene's first novel, written in 1970. 
It has never been out of print since.

The first Valentine's card I ever sent was to a boy in my class at junior school when I was seven. It had a drawing of a can of tomatoes on the front with the words I want to be your tomato - can I? 

A few years later I read  84 Charing Cross Road, the celebrated novel by American writer  Helene Hanff, a collection of letters that span 20 years. Yesterday I watched the film version on television, billed as a  romance between two people who had never met.  And that's when I realised it wasn't a romance at all - just  two very different people's love affair with words.

The  novel charts the extraordinary  letters  written by Helene when she was a young would-be playwright living in New York,  to Frank Doel, chief buyer at the long established antiquarian book shop Marks & Co in London's Charing Cross Road.   The correspondence began in 1949 when the writer was searching  for the out of print Oxford book of poetry, and  very soon their mutual hunger for words grew into an unprecedented 'meeting of minds.'  Both looked forward to their letters like lovelorn pen friends.

The couple never met - she was single and he was married with two children - and never exchanged more than affectionate words  of friendship and a mutual love of fine books.  Yet these two very different people - she extrovert and he introvert -  found a kindred spirit.

Anyone who has browsed an antiquarian bookshop with its unmistakable aroma of  leather and ancient dust will understand what a love of old books is all about. Helene soon became a friend to  the staff of the bookshop, sending them food in the post war years, when ham and fresh eggs were almost impossible to find in Britain. They, in turn, sent her gifts including a hand embroidered linen tablecloth and books of rare poems. 

Struggling to earn a living - her plays were never produced - Helene never made it to England until after Frank died but she did get to see the empty bookshop not long after it had closed.  A circular brass plaque acknowledging the store, can be seen  outside the original building, which is now a coffee shop.

First published in 1970, 84 Charing Cross Road has never been out of print.

Monday, 8 February 2016


York Does Vintage at Merchant Adventurers' Hall, Fossgate, York

   York Does Vintage at the fourteenth century Merchant Adventurers' Hall in York this weekend encapsulated both  the austerity and decadence of the last 100 years.
Glance at the photos and travel back in time.

The hall is also a museum
Racks of colourful dresses

The impressive entrance

The gardens are beautiful - even in February

And coffee too....