Archive | January 2020

Agora are doing my books proud

Beryl Promo

They’re running a promotion between Thursday January 30th and Thursday February 6th for all the e-book versions of my titles that they publish. They will be on offer for just £1.99 ($2.99 in the US) with the exception of Two Silver Crosses which is only £0.99 ($0.99 in the US).

Click here to view all my titles available!

As there’s such a rush of titles I thought it might be rather fun to tell you the story of how one of the titles ‘Two Silver Crosses’ came about. I can’t always remember the sparks of all the books but this one was rather particular.

One balmy summer day, my old darling and I went to visit Uppark House in Sussex. We enjoyed our tour of the building very much, but it was the butler’s pantry that gave me the story. It was all set out exactly as it would have been when there was a butler waiting on the family and one of the unexpected things in it was an ironing board which the butler used to iron the masters morning paper, because as it was explained to us, ‘it would never have done for the master to find creases in his paper.’

I looked at the paper with considerable interest and found it was a copy of The Times and that it was the top page that was being ironed. No headlines or news, that wasn’t the style in those days. Instead it was full of advertisements for all manner of things and one of them caught my eye and fired my imagination.

“‘Holborn,’ it read, ‘for the attention of twin sisters Virginia and Emily Holborn , late of “High Holborn” near Wolverhampton, last seen ten years ago, in July 1926, at Victoria Station, London, boarding the boat train to Boulogne, each wearing about her neck a silver cross. Should the above mentioned care to contact Messrs Hedgethorn and Crabbit, solicitors, of Little Medlar Yard, London WC1, they would hear something to their advantage.’ “

There was so much in it that needed explanation. Why were they going to France? And where had they been for those ‘last ten years’? What was the significance of those silver crosses they were wearing? What was it they would hear to their advantage? The questions became ‘Two Silver Crosses’. Which was first published in 1993 by Century, Random House and was reprinted by Agora Books in March last year.


Wee-hee it’s my birthday!

You’ll have to forgive me if I’m a bit scatty today. It’s my 89th birthday and no, I can’t believe it either! And as it’s a fairly sizeable one I started celebrating it on Sunday and that was a hoot! Because nearly all my family were there and the great-grandchildren gave me my presents with great excitement and so quickly, one after the other that I’m still working out who they all came from! And then after the present giving, they gave us a play using the window seat as a stage and drawing and re-drawing the curtains with bubbling excitement! You can’t get better than that.

And now here I am today on my actual birthday, pretending to work with Mary and Charlotte to assist and Dixie at our feet being more or less good, as befits a birthday cat!

Messages are coming in from all over the place and much appreciated, so thank you all very much. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

There’s a lot to be said for a birthday! xxx

This entry was posted on January 28, 2020. 3 Comments

How do you cure far right extremism?

This is a very pertinent question now that the far right are in power in this country. It was posed this morning by Owen Jones on the front page of the Journal in The Guardian.

This is a question that’s been plaguing me ever since I recognised from the big red bus and Farage’s alarmist poster, that our far right wing were using fascist propaganda and that their attitudes towards people they considered their inferiors is very decidedly fascist. Boris Johnson says young people have a ‘Nigerian interest in money.’ Single mothers raise ‘ill-reared, ignorant and aggressive kids’ and that working class people are ‘drunks, criminals and feckless.’ You couldn’t have the attitudes of a fascist put more clearly than that.

Owen Jones was kicked to the ground and punched by three right-wing hoodlOwen-Jones,-Lums whilst he was out celebrating his birthday and last Friday one of them was in court three of East London’s Snaresbook crown court. His name is James Healy, he is 40 years old and his behaviour and attitudes were revealed with inescapable clarity in that court. His home was full of right-wing memorabilia, white power logos, Nazi death heads and an SS flag and at the end of the trial the judge ruled that she was satisfied that Healy holds particular beliefs that are normally associated with the extreme right wing and that his attack was driven by homophobia and antipathy to left-wing politics. He will be sentenced next month. But Owen Jones doubts whether sending him to prison will do him or society any good at all.

‘The Ministry of Justice’ Owen says, ‘boasts of multiple programmes that help de-radicalise prisoners’, but Chris Daw, QC an expert on crime and punishment has told Owen Jones ‘in broad terms, the whole of the prison system is a complete failure when it comes to de-radicalisation.’ And this is because prisoners spend most of their time with other prisoners, extreme right wing talking to extreme right wing, so that they emerge from prison at the end of their sentences more violently fascist (if such a thing were possible) than they were when they went in.

So how can those of us who oppose fascism make any headway against such a system? Especially now that the government is listing any left-wing pressure groups like Greenpeace, The Animal Liberation Front and Extinction Rebellion, as dangerous subversives who should be dealt with by the police.

Opposition to fascism goes back a long way, Oswald Moseley’s black-shirt fascists were opposed by counter demonstrations by people in the left wingmartin luther back in the thirties. Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement was active in the States during the sixties, his great speech ‘I have a dream’ was in 1963. But the most noticeable thing about that movement was that the members were out in the streets peaceably showing their numbers and their extraordinary self control. Mahatma Gandhi’s followers were equally numerous, equally determined and equally peaceable. These men and women have given us a blueprint for how to behave now.


Can we follow it I wonder? It’s going to be a hell of a job.

Perhaps it might be an idea to suggest that the various protest groups that already exist in this country, should support each other in every possible way. We are on the same side and we must speak whilst we’re still allowed a voice. We share Luther King’s dream. If we march, we are marching to show that all human beings are equal, that Johnson’s claims are wrong,  young people DON’T all have a ‘Nigerian interest in money,’  single mothers DON’T raise ‘ill-reared, ignorant and aggressive kids’, working class people are NOT ‘drunks, criminals and feckless.’

As W.H. Auden said in September 1939 ‘we must love one another or die’.

This entry was posted on January 23, 2020. 3 Comments

The tale of a disgruntled cat

wilddixieDixie is disgruntled as you can see. When a cat has to walk up to the second flight of stairs and give you a look of disapproval through the banisters you can be pretty sure all is not well!

And he’d had such a very good night too. He’d spent it in the garden hunting, which is quite his favourite occupation apart from eating, and he returned at around half past eleven in the morning wearing his hunter’s hat and looking pleased with himself. Lottie and I asked him what he’d been doing, as if we didn’t know!

Whereupon he gave us a brilliant example of his activities, by leapindixie3g at my leg and biting it, as one does! The disgruntledom began when Lottie and I both roared at him to desist. He took himself off to the stairs and glared through the banisters at us. Don’t we understand that it takes a little while for a hunting cat to come out of full hunting mode. We can’t turn our natures on and off like taps. We’re not dogs!

And after all the hard work he does, being a literary cat and looking after the books.  It’s a hard life!



Signs of the times

The selling off of our national health service is now hotting up. The headline in the Guardian this morning says ‘Doctors lead outcry at plan to scrap A&E target’ and the article below it explains what this is all about.

There is a long established waiting time for emergency care in A&E. ‘95% of people arriving at A&E in England are meant to be treated and then discharged, admitted or transferred within four hours.’ Now because so many beds have been shut by the government and so many staff have left and there has been a ten year squeeze on the NHS budget, this target is often not met, through no fault of the dedicated teams in the A&E departments.

Now we all hear that the health secretary, the renowned Matt Hancock, intends to axe this target because ‘it is no longer deemed to be clinically appropriate’. Or to put it another way – it is not ‘clinically appropriate’ to treat NHS patients in A&E departments within four hours because the government says so. It is a sign of the times. Soon people who pay privately for medical attention will get it and fairly promptly, people who have paid their taxes and their national insurance contributions for their medical attention, will not.

We are back to what was happening in the thirties, when a doctor called to attend a sick patient, would not see him or her until he had received his fee, which could be anything from one guinea to ten.  And this at a time when most working class people thought themselves lucky if they could earn more than two pounds a week. They were the unfair and painful conditions that obtained in those days and led directly to William Beveridge’s report and the founding of the national health service and the welfare state by the incoming Labour government of 1945. Or to put it another way Mr Johnson’s government are putting the clock back eighty to ninety years.

There are other, more subtle, signs of this change in attitude too. The last two or three times I’ve dared to phone my local surgery for the help I need, I’ve had to listen to a long and very pointed lecture from one of the doctors, the gist of which being that if we are ringing for medical help we should consider ways in which we can help ourselves, because, as the last recorded voice put it, over three quarters of the requests for help that the clinic received were for things that could very easily be dealt with at a chemist’s shop and various other venues that he listed. It’s another, more subtle way of saying ‘we cannot see you if you do not pay the fee’. The surgery is now divided into two sections. One for NHS patients, the other for private patients. I’ll bet they don’t subject them to such a belittling lecture.

And I wonder, sadly, how long our NHS will survive when the big American pharmaceutical and medical companies begin to buy it up. After all, Mark Britnell promised that this would happen back in October 2013, so they’ve waited a long time.

This entry was posted on January 16, 2020. 4 Comments

Spreading Ideas


I am sorry that this is a serious topic to chose to start the New Year – I promise I will do better and more entertainingly next time – but given the situation we are now in, with a dangerously right-wing government firmly in power and Trump arrogantly running the risk of leading us all into World War Three, I can’t just sit by and say nothing. Especially as there are a lot of people on social media asking ‘What can we do about it?’

Well there are some possible answers. I’ll start with the most necessary which could also be the most helpful. Jeremy Corbyn was defeated by the relentless propaganda that was used against him by the ultra right wing, billionaire owned press and TV from the moment he was elected Leader. It was so powerful and so incessantly done that, by the time the General Election began, there were few people who knew what sort of man he really was or what he and his team stood for. Now, unbelievably, there are  various men and women lining up to take his place, hoping for power and believing that they could withstand the pressure. They are on a hiding to nothing. Cummings knows his power. On January 3rd he predicted that he could destroy any candidate with ease, saying ‘ I will bin you within weeks.’ And make no mistake about it, he could do it easily.

So what can be done? Well one possibility would be to chose a committee, who all shared responsibility,  instead of a single vulnerable leader. In that way, as one committee member is set upon by the media, another can step up to take his or her place and the propagandists could find themselves dealing with 11, 13, 21, however many there were.  This is not a new idea. It is a tried and tested method, called satyagraha, and it worked in India during the salt protests and in our own country with the Committee of 100, when we sat in the road in Whitehall to protest ains the use of nuclea weapons, nd were arrested line by line until the magistrates sent a message to the police asking them not to arrest any more of us because they couldn’t handle us. It requires large numbers of people and a lot of self control. If it were used now, it might also make the candidates for the Labour leadership stop thinking about their own ambitions and start working as a team. There is power in numbers but we have to work together.

And what else can we do? Well, we must keep each other informed. Pass on whatever news comes our way. We must tell as many people as we can who will listen what is really going on. We shall probably get a lot of abuse if we do but that is the only way open to us to spread the truth. We must demonsrtate – entire peacefully – no shoutingand bellowing – leave that  to our opponents. And in every sense of the words, we must stand together.

And just to show how seriously our opponents are already taking us, I have already been mocked by right wing trolls for putting up a notice that this blog was coming.

And don’t forget Shelley. ‘Ye are many, they are few.’

This entry was posted on January 4, 2020. 3 Comments