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Friday, 17 November 2017

A View from the Register Office? Great drama, Kay!


If you didn't watch Kay Mellor's new drama on BBC 1 last night, you missed out on her best writing yet. Love, Lies & Records is a new six part series by the BAFTA award-winning writer. The only thing I don't like about it is the title!


According to the hype '...the series follows Registrar Kate Dickenson (Ashley Jensen) as she tries to juggle her personal life with the daily dramas of births, marriages and deaths and the impact they have on her.
After a dream promotion to the top job of Superintendent, Kate finds herself increasingly torn by the endless responsibilities of being a modern working mother. Her daughter’s hiding suspicious messages on her mobile, her son hates her because she’s bought him the wrong trainers and now her stepson’s turned up unannounced to stay.
As Kate tries to hold her work, life and relationship together, things go from complicated to impossible when a disgruntled colleague threatens to expose a secret from her past.'

And what a secret! ( sorry, no spoilers here.)

I'm surprised no-one else has thought of setting a drama in a register office, a place where people find themselves at  the most significant moments of their lives. To me, the unlucky Kate appears far too emotional for the job, taking everyone's personal problems to heart, and yet the viewer is rooting for her all the way. That's the clever bit.

Maybe I like it because the heroine is emotional, vulnerable, and nothing like the strong female professionals we're witnessing more and more on television. A bit like feminism in reverse. Maybe it's because the programme tackles complicated human issues with just the right amount of empathy. Whatever the reason, I'm already looking forward to next week.

A review of the whole series in today's Wall Street Journal is headed A View from the Register Office.


Now that's a great title, don't you think?


Image result for love lies and records

Photo courtesy of rollemproductions.co.uk






































Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Ghosts, ghoulies and...ladybirds?

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home, your house is on fire and your children all gone..

I wonder how many children sang this as a child, unaware of the implication of the words? It seems 1950s children enjoyed stories such as Red riding Hood (beware of the wolf) and Babes in the Wood (don't get lost in the dark)  supposedly without feeling scared.

Back in 1944, when a ladybird caught her eye, the unknown Iona Opie, began to wonder why such traditional rhymes were so scary, and then spent the rest of her life finding out. She began by borrowing James Halliwell-Phillipps' 1842 edition of Nursery Rhymes of England, from the library and soon  her husband, Peter, got hooked on the idea, too.

The couple began buying copious children's books to answer  the question 'what is a nursery rhyme?'  Their first purchase, The Cheerful Warbler, was a tiny book of rhymes from 1818 that cost exactly five shillings. They soon began creating a dictionary of more than 500 rhymes, songs, jingles and lullabies which, seven years later, became The Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book. In it they explored the history of children's play, especially in the schoolyard. This was followed by the Puffin Book of Nursery Rhymes in 1963.

Some of their early observations were labelled 'timid' but years later Iona was quoted as saying: In 1959 you didn't publish anything worse than the word 'Knickers.' She made up for that with the People in the Playground (1993) which detailed the sexual language games and jokes enjoyed by children at primary school.

 Born in 1923, Iona was the daughter of Sir Robert Archibald, director of the Wellcome research laboratory in Khartoum, Sudan. She was brought up by her mother, Olive, and regularly looked after by maids. 'It didn't occur to me that I was suppose to speak,' she once said. 'My whole attention was given to noticing and taking things in.'

In 1951 the couple's appeal for information about playground games was published in the Sunday Times and lead to an overwhelming response from teachers across the country. The result was The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren (1959) which aimed to prove that the mass media was not ruining childhood traditions.

Reading  Iona Opie's obituary in this week's Times, from which these quotes are taken, it seems that the couple lived a frugal life, without car or television, that 'involved the us of old newspapers for lavatory paper.'
They had three children: James, who became an authority on toy soldiers, Robert,who founded the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising in Notting Hill, and Letitia who 
worked in adult education.

Iona Opie's obituary in TheTimes


Despite the demands of her work, Iona was devoted to her children, loved cooking, and made endless birthday cakes, puddings and pies when she wasn't amassing her collection of 2,000 books. By 1998 she had sold them to the Bodleian for £500,000.

And what of the original ladybird? 'I believe now the ladybird has something to do with witchcraft,' she concluded.  A pretty apt quote for Halloween.

Iona Opie, CBE, author, anthropologist and folklorist, was born on October 13, 1923 and died on October 23, 2017, aged 94.

Monday, 9 October 2017

'Fate' accompli?

When my second daughter was sixteen, a gypsy told her she was going to marry a Yorkshireman. I laughed. Not because I had anything against Yorkshire, (or its men) but  she was still so young and, anyway, who could  predict such a thing?  What's more she would work in a big factory surrounded by lots of people - including her future husband.

That was more than twenty years ago, yet the gypsy's words were as clear as ever as her father and I embarked on our latest trip to York. This beautiful city is famous the world over but I wonder how many of its people appreciate how lucky they are to live there?  Or believe that my gypsy friend really knew what she was talking about? (Daughter Two,  a happily married mum,  is now a microbiologist in the city.)

Yes, the predictions came true. Yet I've always believed in the 'Sliding Doors' theory that we can, if we really want to, influence our own destiny. Otherwise, why are we here?  As a writer it is easy to be self-critical, to compare yourself unfavourably to those who are more prolific than you, or more successful, especially in these days of non-stop social media. So I've tried to live by the mantra: if you think you can, you can, and if you think you can't, you probably can't.

One of the things I promised myself earlier this year was to concentrate on what I really want to do (write novels) and spend less time interacting with those I believe make my goal achievable (everyone else.) So, after writing this  blog almost every week for the last seven years, I have decided to cut it down to once a month.  I have taken a break from my facebook account, leaving only my author page active. I still log on to twitter, but just for a few minutes each day, so that I can keep in touch with what's gong on around me.

Do I feel happier?  No, I feel quite bereft. I've taken away the crutches, hobbled out of my comfort zone and started to rely on myself again. But isn't that how it all started?

From cub reporter to freelance journalist, from mother to grandmother to novelist, I've tried to make things happen.  That's my story, anyway.  You don't have to believe it. Novelists, so I've heard, are good at making things up.



York Minster - the world at its feet?

Monday, 25 September 2017

Who's got The Power now?


'She is as pretty as a picture and powerful as a rocket launcher, and anything she touches begins to hum and buzz and send out sparks within half an hour...'

Journalist Anna Marshall writing about Fleet Street editor Phyllis Digby Morton in the 1950s















'Like needle-pricks of light from her spine to her collarbone, from her throat to her elbows, wrists, to the pads of her fingers. She's glittering inside.'


Naomi Alderman in her current bestseller The Power






I've always believed that history repeats itself and never more so than this week. Just as I finish reading Naomi Alderman's dystopian novel about powerful women of the future,  the Mail on Sunday's You magazine sheds light on a powerful woman of the past. Here's to powerful women.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

THE THREE-LETTER WORD DRIVING THE BOOK MARKET







'THE' is a very short  word - one we use  a myriad times every day. So why has it  been causing excitement in the world of fiction?

Just in case you hadn't noticed, this three- letter word heads some of the most successful book titles of 2017. Of the top paperback fiction bestsellers listed in Saturday's Times newspaper six out of the ten  titles follow the trend. Just look at the list:

At number one, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead is followed by Jane Harper's The Dry. At five is The Power by Naomi Alderman, at six The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena followed by John Grisham's The Whistler at number seven. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, (now a television series) is number eight and Michelle Frances' The Girlfriend comes in at number nine.

So while many experts still believe that you should choose a book by its cover, these days it seems to be the title that's pulling in the readers. And the more a new-release resembles the title of a current best seller, the more  likely it is to attract the reader's attention.

If you watched The Little House on the Prairie as a child, you won't be surprised to know that 'house' is now an in-word for book titles. One of the most popular  is The House on the Hill (I found several different novels with this same title on Amazon) along with Kate Morton's The House at Riverton. Finally, the word 'girl' is also very prevalent as in the bestsellers Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. A throwback, maybe, to Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?

Book titles, despite common belief, are not subject to copyright which explains why we sometimes come across two authors publishing different novels with the same title at the same time. Take, for example,Julie Cohen and Jane Green, both successful authors with recent novels entitled Falling.

But is success just about sales? It's not unknown for a Booker Prize winner to have far fewer sales than many commercial  fiction authors today, though not in the case of  prolific writer Julian Barnes whose 2011 novel The Sense of an Ending had me riveted from start to finish. Clearly he was ahead of the trend.

I wonder what the title of the next number one bestseller might be? The Daughter of The Girl in the House on the Hill above the Hidden Railway Train?

You never know. It might just catch on

The Sense of an Ending

Monday, 17 July 2017

Doctors wanted to switch off our daughter's life support - but somehow she survived. What's next for Charlie Gard?


The doctor's prognosis was grave:We may have to switch off your daughter's life support. 
   
     'No,' I shouted, leaping to my feet as  as the horror of those words hit home. 'You make her sound like a washing machine.'

     Twenty-five-year-old Amy had contracted E.coli 0157 - a deadly form of  food poisoning  - and her vital organs were  shutting down. She'd had an epileptic fit, her lungs were filling with water, her kidneys had failed and her contaminated blood was being regularly replaced.

     Fifteen years later, as the world waits to hear the fate of little Charlie Gard, I can still recall that heart-stopping moment when the doctor seemed to give up on our daughter's life.  I'm not proud of my reaction, for which I later apologised, but it's the reason why I agree with Charlie's anguished parents at a time when  doctors believe their child should be allowed to 'die with dignity.'

     These days it's easier for me to be impartial. While Great Ormond Street Hospital are being fiercely criticised for their role in the baby's future, I find myself thinking that the doctors 'are only doing their job.' But I also believe that all professionals, however experienced in their chosen field, can sometimes be wrong.

     Even if Amy did survive, her father and I were told, she would be 'a vegetable' with no quality of life at all. But then a miracle happened. She regained consciousness, her lungs improved and eventually she was taken off the ventilator.  Unable to walk or talk, however, she had to learn these skills all over again.

     I can't even begin to imagine how ill baby Charlie really is, or what the future holds for a child with  this type of mitochondrial disease. Maybe it would have been better if the child had died soon after birth thereby releasing the parents from the unimaginable dilemma they face now.

      All I know is that the skill of the NHS doctors saved Amy's life. Today she is happily married and holds down a demanding job.  Surely Charlie, and his heartbroken parents, deserve the same chance?



Amy featured in Woman magazine soon after her miraculous recovery.


Friday, 30 June 2017

Win a signed copy of Baggy Pants and Bootees


Would you like to win a signed paperback copy of Baggy Pants and Bootees?   Then why not go over to my facebook page  Marilyn Chapman Author , like the page and tell me who you would like the book for: you,  a friend, or maybe a  family member who needs cheering up?

Go on - it could make someone's day!

Baggy Pants and Bootees at  Plackitt and Booth Booksellers, Lytham, Lancashire
where my debut novel was launched in 2014
The book was very lucky to be in such esteemed company....

NB - The competition ends at midnight on Tuesday July 4 - good luck!


Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Spirit that Saved a Nation


JUST HOURS after  a young woman lost her home and possessions in London's Grenfell Tower tragedy, she arrived at the emergency help centre to see if someone could find her a new skirt. Why?
Because she needed to get to her job as a checkout assistant in the local supermarket. My first reaction was  disbelief.  Not only is it a great example of  the British 'stiff upper lip,' but also a sign of  immense  courage in the face of  tragedy.

It reminds me of what my Guernsey grandparents used to call the 'War Spirit.' When I was a young child, they told me how an indestructible  spirit helped the islanders endure five long years of German Occupation. And defiant they were - right to the end. Similarly, it seems, the people of London, whatever their colour or creed, have supported each other on a scale not seen for a long time in this country.

After years as a newspaper journalist I wake up these days in fear of the front page news. Perhaps it's time all of us stood together? Let the majority hold hands against the cruel minority and say  We Will Not Be Moved.







Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Portugese Prime Minister left Holding the Baby



As a former journalist  I relish unusual stories in newspapers and this one in The Times  takes some beating. When the Portugese government granted civil servants and teachers a day off to celebrate the Pope's visit recently, journalist Joao Miguel Taveres was very  unhappy.  Both he and his wife had to work on the day of the visit, so he asked the prime minister to 'babysit' his own four children.






 In an open letter  in Publico newspaper the right-wing columnist said: Taking into consideration the sympathy with which your Excellency granted public officials a day off so they could appreciate the circulation of the Popemobile, I am presented with a problem.  My children attend public schools. I will have to work while my children will not take classes.'

The journalist whose wife,  a doctor,  was on call on that day added: The solution seems to me that while I work, you take care of the kids.'

Shortly afterwards Mr Taveres received a message from the prime minister agreeing to look after his two sons and two daughters, aged between four and thirteen.  The prime minister watched television with the children at  his official residence, the Sao Bento Palace, before giving them lunch and a tour of the palace.

After lunch he had to hand them back to their father as, - you guessed it - he needed to welcome the Pope!


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

HAPPY LIBERATION DAY GUERNSEY - MAY 9 1945

In 1940 my father, Harold Brown, was evacuated from Guernsey Grammar School to Oldham Hulme Grammar School in Lancashire, England, at the age of fourteen. When he arrived back on the island in 1945 he was just nineteen years old and married to my mother. His brother, David, died of meningitis and never came home.




https://youtu.be/efXfZGvaxDc






In memory of my uncle, David Richard Brown
The Guernsey boy who never came home





Sunday, 30 April 2017

GOING GREAT GUNS - REMEMBERING THE RESISTANCE


Occupying Love, inspired by the Guernsey Underground News Service, as featured in the Guernsey Press



The Guernsey Resistance movement, established in 1940, has finally been rewarded with a blue plaque this week in a special ceremony on the island. And no-one is more delighted than the families of the original members, two of whom paid with their lives.

The Guernsey Underground News Service, whose acronym GUNS seems almost reckless now, typifies the strength of spirit of islanders who survived five long years of Occupation by the German Army.

The underground newspaper was the brainchild of Charles Machon, who worked as a linotype operator at the old Guernsey Star (later merged with the Guernsey Press.) He believed that gleaning good  news from illegal radios or hand-made  crystal sets would boost the morale those who had become prisoners on their own island. And he was right.

Unveiled by the Bailiff Sir Richard Collas the plaque was placed outside the Star's old offices in the town's Bordage. 'Lots of memories are so traumatic for people that they are never able to tell their stories,' he said.

As a Guernsey girl now living in Britain, I am thrilled to see members of the resistance given a lasting memorial after so many years.  My own father was evacuated from Guernsey to Oldham in 1940 and later worked as a reporter on the Star.

The story of the island's resistance movement was the inspiration for my novel Occupying Love, featured last year in the Guernsey Press and available on e-book  here. The fictional Guernsey Independent News Association (GINA) is not based on real people but a tribute to everyone who lived, and died, through that time.

Liberation Day will be celebrated on the island on May 9, 2017


Friday, 14 April 2017

HAPPY EASTER - NEVER MIND THE SUN (IT EVEN RAINS IN VENICE)


If the sun doesn't shine on you this EASTER  weekend, or you can't get away, pour yourself a cup of tea or a glass of wine, and read a novel. Reading can take you anywhere you want to be, so settle down and enjoy the trip.
And remember -  it even rains in Venice!




Nice, France

Guernsey, Channel Islands

Lake Garda, Italy

Lake Garda, Italy

Venice in the rain

Red Arrows in the Guernsey sky

Have tea, will  travel

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Jeepers, Creepers, where'd ya get that smile?


Sam Marlowe reviews The Wipers Times


I never really did get the hang of French, despite being born just a whisper away from the Normandy Coast.  I can read it reasonably well, and understand spoken French as long as it is delivered at a moderate pace, but my accent? C'est terrible!

So I had to smile this week at the news that the wonderful play, The Wipers Times, is currently receiving good reviews in the West End. The ability to 'keep on smiling'  is the stuff that saved Great Britain in the First World War, and right now, across the globe, it seems in very short supply.

Wipers, in case you didn't know, was how the British soldiers pronounced Ypres, the Belgian town where in 1916,  a Division of the Sherwood Foresters discovered an old printing press.  Writing in The Times, critic Sam Marlowe tells us how Captain Fred Roberts and Lieutenant Jack Pearson teamed up with their sergeant, a printer by trade, to produce a newspaper offering both 'solace and send-up' to the men in the trenches.

'It's... a bright, bouncy comic strip of a show,'  says Marlowe, ' that raises a sincere salute to the soldiers for whom laughter was a vital psychological defence against the horrors of the conflict, and the onslaught of bombs, guns and gas.'

And even - perhaps especially  at its silliest,' he adds, ' the play has a respect for its subject matter that is deadly serious and decidedly affecting.'

It's no surprise then that The Wipers Times was the subject of a BBC 'docudrama' by satirist and Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and cartoonist Nick Newman  back in 2013.  The extended stage version directed by Caroline Leslie is at the Arts Theatre, WC2 until May 13.




Sunday, 12 March 2017

PAUL McGANN AND THE STORY THAT KEEPS COMING BACK

Image may contain: 1 person, text

If you, like me, are a fan of  actor Paul McGann and you're interested in the Channel Islands, read on!
Guernsey and Jersey have hit the news again this week as the Occupation of the Channel Islands is recreated in two separate productions for stage and screen.
Gabriel, a play by Moira Buffini set in Guernsey during World War Two, is currently touring Britain starring Paul McCann and Belinda Lang.
The play, described by the New York Times as 'a tense tale of wartime intrigue and romance,' describes what happens when a mystery man is washed up on the shore, and reflects the continuing fascination with this unique part of our history.
Another Mother's Son, starring Jenny Seagrove and Ronan Keating, set in Nazi-occupied Jersey, is based on the true story of Louisa Gould who hid a Prisoner-of-War in her home.
Interestingly, the screenplay is written by Jenny Lecoat, Gould's great niece.

Meanwhile my own novel  about One Woman, Two men and the Impossible choice between love and duty -  shows just how much the islanders were prepared to sacrifice for their freedom.





Wednesday, 8 March 2017

THE WAR THAT NOBODY WON

What would have happened if Germany had won World War Two? What would it have been like for Britain to be occupied by the enemy? These are the questions posed by SS:GB - a new drama on BBC1 that everyone is talking about. The book is based on Len Deighton's hugely successful alternative history novel of the same name, published in 1978.

But this story isn't new. The British residents of the Channel Islands will tell you that  the Nazis  occupied British soil from 1940 - 1945. They don't need to watch an account of it on television because they still remember history being made. I know because my grandparents lived though the Occupation of Guernsey: they sent their 10-year-old son on the last evacuee boat to Britain and never saw him again.

In my novel Occupying Love I have written a fictional account of the Occupation based on real events. I hope it reflects the pain and anguish  suffered by so many islanders; the cold, the hunger and the ever-present threat of death. But I also like to thnk it might represent a change of heart.

My grandmother never recovered from losing her son but  she still had the grace to say that a mother's grief will always be the same, whichever side you are fighting for.

Maybe it's time we changed our attitude to war,  when the horror it represents is transmitted into our living rooms every single day. Maybe, just like my grandmother, we should all pray for peace.


Sunday, 12 February 2017

If you're fed up with fake news - go retro ( or talk to Jan)

If  you're fed up with fake news or don't believe what you see in the papers these days, read on.

I've just rediscovered The Weekly News which even my dear old mum could flick through  without taking offence.  Very popular in the 1960s and with a history that dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century,  it's known as 'the paper with the feel-good factor.'



And if you think Cliff Richard looks a bit young in the photo above there's a reason for that - the whole thing is very 'retro' with a modern twist. Which  brings me to the reason for this post. Featured on page five is another face I recognise, Janice Rosser,  talking about  her hugely popular website which  is aimed at the over-55s.

Called OAPSchat, which stands for Optimistic and Proactive Seniors Chat, it boasts a huge band of followers. Aware that many seniors are using the internet these days,  Jan recognised that some of them were lonely and/or in need  needed  of cheering up. So in 2013 she asked  her younger son to design the website which continues to gain much deserved recognition.

A mere 61 herself, Jan willingly cared for her own mother for several years, but found the job could be very isolating. Now she encourages her members (both men and women) to chat with each other on all kinds of subjects from health and finance to singers and telvision stars, as well as hosting a regular quiz and competitions.

Jan, who is based in Hereford,  would one day like to get members together  for a cup of tea and a chat. 'I don't know if people would want to do that,' she told News reporter Craig Campbell, adding, if so " we could take it from there and have meetings all over the country.'

Jan enourages  both readers and writers to join in the daily conversation,  featuring novelists from many different genres, (including Yours Truly) some of whom who regularly advertise on the website. The advertising has proved a success and she has many glowing testimonies to prove it.

Meanwhile, having turned to page 16 of The Weekly News, I find a feature on the 'Rise of the Robots.' Maybe it's not so retro after all...



Janice Rosser and OAPSchat members in the latest  edition of The Weekly News


You can find the OAPSCHAT website here

https://www.dcthomson.co.uk/brands/the-weekly-news/

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Snowdrop





HELLO FEBRUARY!  My second daughter was born in February around the time the snowdrops, heads bowed against the cold, appeared through a layer of fluffy white snow. Gathering some from her own garden, my neighbour brought the snowdrops to my door just hours after we brought the new baby home. I put the tiny white flowers in an miniature glass jug that once belonged to my grandmother, creating  a memory that has always stayed with me.

For the next few months I will be spending less time here on my blog to concentrate on my writing. Since 2010 I have blogged almost every week, made many friends and had almost 60,000  page views from all over the world. I've published two novels, am working on the third, and now want to break into short story writing - something I have always wanted to do.

You never know - my first published story might just be called The Snowdrop.