Archive | May 2019


And no, it’s not kids cheating in school or lovers cheating on one another or any of the scores of cheats in politics. It’s me. And the re-issue of this particular book has made me face up to it because it all began with something my loved-to-bits, adopted sister told me.

thumbnail_War Baby Concept

She phoned me up one morning to say, as she often did, saying, ‘You’ll never guess what I’ve just done?‘ which intrigued me, as it always does. And when I asked ‘What?’ she said, ‘I’ve found my natural mother.’ Which I certainly didn’t expect.

But sure enough, she had and was in the middle of making arrangements to meet her. Bit by bit as the weeks and months passed, I heard the whole story of the search and how she’d set about it, and wrote it down because it had taken a lot of effort and was almost too good to be true. It was also very touching, for when Carole and her mother finally did meet, they got on very well indeed, despite their original misgivings. Carole showed her mother pictures of her two children, her mother told her how her own life had progressed after she’d had to hand her over for adoption and when they said goodbye they kissed one another and her mother said ‘I think I’ve missed a very great deal.’ 

The scene between Bobbie and her natural Mother was the first part of this book that I wrote and it ends with the same words taken from the life. The two characters were fictional, of course, but what they were doing and saying was real. Or to put it another way, I was cheating! And the awful thing is, I do it all the time!

I took the descriptions of life in the trenches in the first world war from an old relation of mine called Jessie Garnsworthy, who was there, and the description of the twelve-year-old child in ‘Everybody’s Somebody’ leaving home to go and work in a great house, miles away from her family, from his wife Minnie Garnsworthy, who had had it happen to her and had always accepted it as ‘one of those things’.

And now that I’m sitting down thinking about the amount of cheating I’ve done, I can’t remember a book when I haven’t nicked something or other.


The Borough Market I described in ‘Everybody’s Somebody’ and its sequel ‘Citizen Armies’ was the Borough Market I visited and enjoyed in my teens. And whenever any of my fictional characters visited a pub, it was a pub I knew – The Windmill on Clapham Common, Jack Beard’s and the Mitre in Tooting. And worst of all, I set my very first novel in Tooting,where I grew up, and as if that weren’t bad enough, they lived and worked in the house and shop where I had live as a child. Wonderfully easy to write but cheating.


Well at least my descriptions were accurate!

War Baby is released on Thursday the 23rd of May and is available here! 

This entry was posted on May 19, 2019. 4 Comments

And spring comes round again

Blossom 2019

My cherry tree is in bloom again, lifting my heart and making me feel that good weather is on the way. Despite all the talk of climate change, the impact of that tree is still superb. Which is not to say that the climate isn’t going to change, despite the claims of that great member of the intelligentsia, Donald Trump.
The climate is changing before our eyes, day by day and although we certainly can’t stop it, Greta Thunberg and the young protesters that follow her are absolutely right, we cannot ignore it and we need to prepare for it.
And now at last, I think thanks to those same protesters, the more responsible newspapers are beginning to talk of the climate crisis too. This morning’s Guardian says ‘Climate crisis ‘may force UK towns to be abandoned” and quotes Emma Howard Boyd of the Environment Agency who says ‘Flooding will not be held back by building ever higher defenses. The coastline has never stayed in the same place and there have always been floods but climate change is increasing and accelerating these threats. We need to develop consistent standards for flood and coastal resilience in England that help communities better understand their risk and give them more control about how to adapt and respond.’  She goes on to remind us of the tidal surges that have happened in the last few years  ‘In 2013 a tidal surge forced thousands of people to leave home as parts of the North Sea reached higher levels than flooding in 1953 and in 2014 a stretch of the railway link in Devon was destroyed in storms and flooding.’
Even in a relatively short lifespan like my own, I have seen huge climate changes. The sea froze in the winter of 1940, the snowdrifts out in the countryside were 20ft high. And that is nothing compared to the freezing winters of Elizabeth the 1st time, when the Thames froze so solid that people held ‘Frost Fairs’ there and roasted oxen whole on it, without any fear of melting the ice because it was so thick.
In fact climates changes and has shifted throughout history. In the Sixteenth Century Thomas Nashe described spring in this pretty poem in which he says that ‘cold doth not sting’ in the spring:
Spring, the sweet spring, is the year’s pleasant king,
Then blooms each thing, then maids dance in a ring,
Cold doth not sting, the pretty birds do sing:
Cuckoo, jug-jug, pu-we, to-witta-woo!
It’s stinging us now when the temperature drops, spring or not! Perhaps one of our own 20th Century poets should have the last word.
Bagpipe Music by Louis MacNeice 1906

It’s no go the merry-go-round, it’s no go the rickshaw,
All we want is a limousine and a ticket for the peepshow…

It’s no go the Yogi-Man, it’s no go Blavatsky,
All we want is a bank balance and a bit of skirt in a taxi…

The Laird o’ Phelps spent Hogmanay declaring he was sober,
Counted his feet to prove the fact and found he had one foot over…

It’s no go my honey love, it’s no go my poppet;
Work your hands from day to day, the winds will blow the profit.
The glass is falling hour by hour, the glass will fall for ever,
But if you break the bloody glass you won’t hold up the weather.