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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


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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


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.