Tuesday, August 22, 2017

SAD DAY FOR LONDON'S LOVELY BIG BEN

I am a little sad that we won't hear our beloved Big Ben's 'bongs' for a couple of years.  This is due to a controversial renovation project that will stop it ringing out for up to four years. Hundreds of MPs and parliamentary workers gathered in the courtyards to listen as the Great Bell chimed noon before being stopped to allow work to begin.


Since 1979 when I first worked in Parliament, I had always been fascinated with the history of the Palace of Westminster and particularly its restoration work completed around 1860 and the great bell itself: couldn't wait to get up to the little turret in Elizabeth Tower (previously known as the Clock Tower) for a close-up. Must admit, it was a little noisy, but loved the charm and chime of the place. These images were taken twenty years ago and here is a view from my window.

Monday, August 21, 2017

REFLECTIONS - SOLAR ECLIPSE OF THE SUN CIRCA 1999

There was I - searching the evening sky trying to catch a glimpse of the solar eclipse, but too much cloud to see the phenomenon.  What a shame - but here you will see some photos of the last eclipse that Sally and I (and broadcaster and author Claire  Rayner) witnessed on 11 August 1999.  You see, I do keep my pictures in good order and, more importantly - filed!

The venue was that fascinating garden in the sky (originally Derry & Toms' departmental store) in Kensington with gorgeous rooftop gardens and the flamingos performing their elegant strutting in the shallow pools. This place - now owned by others - was a perfect London venue to put on media events and I was a frequent visitor. I used their top gardener in charge of the gardens, for a three-page spread for the Essex Life magazine at the time. Well, it was the Millennium and change was all about us!  It is now a Grade II building.

Derry & Toms building in Kensington circa 1999

Sunday, August 20, 2017

REFLECTIONS - LIFE IN THE 1960s

I've just taken on a new writing project which is linked with the past. It's surprising how much you can remember when you are with people whom you knew in days gone by.  In this case, more than fifty years! The problem is locating those folk who attended your school, church and places where you loved to dance, not forgetting friends you've managed to keep in touch with.  Family members with good memories are important and they seem to like reminiscing (which keeps the old brain working)!  The best way to gather material for your  "Book of Reflections" is to start NOW and begin talking to people around you; better still,  I've found the internet's social media pages more than helpful. 

Next week, I will be meeting a group of people from the past and it will be fun to see if we recognise each other.  Now, who could she be? Circa 1963 - Location Barking Town Hall.

Monday, August 14, 2017

SOME OF MY FAVOURITE EDITORS

With a background of collaboration with more than sixty newspaper and magazine editors over many years, not including current publishing on-line editors, I must admit to reflecting on their differences. On the whole, I found them most agreeable, expecting copy to be filed on time and supported by good, sharp images, difficult sometimes when sending illustrated features for weekly columns.  

One such editor, Brian Lynch whose colourful life was celebrated at his funeral service last week, was one of the very best.  He was a good friend and efficient editor, who himself wrote his famous Lynch Lines for the local rag for decades, as well as producing a dozen books filled with humour and fun.




We shall all miss Brian and his work for the local press and his non-fiction books and I would not have missed the opportunity of saying goodbye to a perfect gentleman of Fleet Street.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

BOOK CLUB'S LATEST WRITING TALENT - CINDY BARBER (C L BARBER)


Such a happy morning on Friday at Phoenix 98fm studio in Brentwood with presenter Michelle Ward meeting our guest author for August  CINDY BARBER.  Cindy is an Essex writer who is celebrating the launch of her latest book THE KEEPER OF THE KEYSTONE and this was her first writer's radio interview. Look out for the streamed interview on Phoenix 98fm and learn more about this aspiring author whose next two books will be issued within the next year. She is a member of Brentwood Writers' Circle.

Cindy writes under her name: CL Barber. Her current book Keeper of the Keystone Volume 1 by Satin Publishing ISBN: 9781539364429 can be purchased from Amazon: Paperback £9.99  ebook £1.99 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

THE SWWJ WELCOMES OUR NEW PRESIDENT BARONESS FLOELLA BENJAMIN OBE, DL

It really is an honour to be a vice president of the SWWJ (as well as being the person who looks after our historical archives). Our alumni reads like a list of the world's most famous women writers.  If you check our website www.swwj.co.uk you will learn so much about our famous organisation that was born on 1 May 1894. 

Because women had such a tough time earning a living as writing professionals in the 1890s, many of them adopted male pseudonyms. Our first President was Mrs Pearl Craigie, one of the most famous playwrights of the late Victorian era, but she felt forced to write under the name John Oliver Hobbes. Other female journalists, novelists and playwrights also used male by-lines in order to be accepted.

Yet the reason for our existence in those late '90s days was because of a wonderful man - Joseph Snell Wood (1853-1920) who founded our Society. It was Joseph who created the famous Chelsea Arts Ball and held high editorial positions in Fleet Street at the time. He was a director/editor  of The  Graphic, Bystander, The Gentlewoman and many other newspapers and journals. It's amusing to see that modern day professional male authors often adopt female pen names in order to promote their work.



Baroness Benjamin of Beckenham OBE, DL
Image Ayo Banton
The Presidents heading our hardworking Councils, over the last 123 years have been superb, working mainly in London but caring for members all over the world in their writing endeavours and varied genres.

Among our Presidents, patrons and council members are the famous Scottish novelist Flora Annie Steel, Mary Frances Billington (first Daily Telegraph woman journalist), Lady Sarah Wilson, Lady Violet Astor, Clemence Dane, Vera Brittain, Phyllis Bentley, Dr Marie Stopes, Margery Allingham, Radclyffe Hall, Lady Troubridge, Rebecca West Joyce Grenfell, Nina Bawden, Lady Longford, and so many more notable names including, Jacqueline Wilson, Lady Shirley Williams, Ann Widdecombe, Lady Sandra Howard, and many more modern writing women including the lovely late Victoria Wood. Much more detailed history is  listed in our book THE WOMAN WRITER.

Our very latest lovely news is that we are to welcome Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, DL into our Society as our new President. Floella is well known as an actress, broadcaster, writer and charity campaigner, and an enthusiastic supporter of a wide range of public and voluntary organisations.  We hope that our members and guests will be able to meet her at one of our forthcoming events. Look out for a full interview with Floella in the Autumn issue of The Woman Writer. Meanwhile, the Summer issue is out now.  www.swwj.co.uk


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

BOOKS ON MY SHELF - A TIMESLIP VISIT TO REGENCY ENGLAND

This week, I have been reading non-stop before writing reviews of some of the books that have landed on my doormat. As well as creating regular non-fiction features for my editors, another aspect of my work is reviewing novels written by some of my SWWJ colleagues.  There are four new titles on the shelf - each one so very different in style and subject and these will be discussed on Phoenix 98fm Book Club monthly show over the next few months.

Our super energetic presenter, Michelle Ward  enjoys meeting my never ending list of authors in her studio.


The first novel TWELVE DAYS TO DREAM by Bradley Bernarde has been useful in filling in my lack of knowledge of the British Regency era. Well, with the commemoration of Jane Austen's demise in 1817, she and her village of Chawton are currently constantly in the news. Members of our SWWJ enjoy visting Chawton and its connection with Austen and the support they provide our Society.  Some of our members make regular trips to this lovely place in Hampshire.   

In Bradley Bernarde's new book, her protagonist Anne Reed is a legal Partner employed in a legal firm based in London's Gray's Inn.  A hardworking lawyer, Anne is a rather solitary character.  Her literary idol is Jane Austen and the reader soon realises that Anne is an expert in all matters Regency.  She regrets not having been born during this interesting period. 

After taking some medication  purchased from a strange elderly gentleman in old fashioned chemist's shop, Anne finds herself transported back two hundred years into the world of Lady Arabella Clyde, whose husband, Sir Andrew, bears a strong resemblance to Andrew Hargreaves, her colleague in Chambers. 

Anne learns from an apothecary that she is destined to stay in  the year 1816 for twelve months, which will only correspond to twelve days in the present time. So much happens to our heroine who, at first, finds herself in a mystifying world where her lack of knowledge of the everyday running of her mansion and estates is put down to loss of memory following an accident.  In the following period she is flung into numerous situations, such as helping to deliver a baby, discovering the mysterious influence of Lady Arabella's companion, Hortense, and witnessing a public hanging at Newgate prison before escaping from a murderous mob.

As the date approaches for Anne's return to the 21st century, she learns of an underlying secret which enables her to overcome problems in her past life, and educates her to love in her present life.  This is an intriguing story, certainly for lovers of the Regency period, and those with a penchant for the world of Jane Austen. Soon to be released as an ebook by Scriptora - the publishing arm of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists - the plot for this novel was inspired by a visit to one of London's four Inns of Court and catching sight of a very modern young lady who captured the author's imagination.  Tremendous research ensued for information on the early nineteenth century and the story and characters gradually took shape. 

I did enjoy reading this book and it has helped my own research into the world of Jane Austen and her six famous novels.   Twelve Days to Dream by Bradley Bernarde will be available as an ebook in September by SCRIPTORA PUBLISHSING. Further details and price will be published in The Woman Writer magazine asap.