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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


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.