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A bit of publicity

I will apologise in advance for publicising my own work. It invariably makes me feel ashamed to do it, but if I don’t, those of you who want information about the next book, or whatever, won’t get it.

So here it goes.

Endeavour Media are in the process of putting up two new/old books on Kindle and other e-book outlets. New to them, and possibly to some of my original readers, but very old to me because they are the two oldest books I’ve written. They were published in 1985 and 1986, which was over thirty years ago and were both instant bestsellers. Those were the days!

The first one is called ‘Hearts and Farthings’ and is about an Italian immigrant, called Alberto Pelucci, who comes to London from Genoa at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, takes any job that offers and works all the hours God sends until he has saved enough to rent a shop in Tooting. And then….. Yes Tooting fans, this one’s for you. There’s a lot in it you’ll recognise.

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The second is a sequel to the first, is called ‘Kisses and Ha’pennies’ and is also set in Tooting – among other places in London. It concerns two girls, called Anna and Mary, who are sisters but don’t know it because they have been brought up in different households in different parts of London. Until one day…

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They’re available to buy on Kindle via Amazon now, so here are the links:

http://amzn.eu/6z6E3cL

http://amzn.eu/fYQKXoV

So there you are folks. The ads are over. Now for a tea break.

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This entry was posted on June 22, 2018. 2 Comments

A birthday card with a difference for our 70 year old NHS

On Thursday July 5th it will be the 70th birthday of our much beleaguered, much loved National Health Service and I’m sure there will be millions of us all over the country who will want to wish it well, and praise it for all the wonderful work it has done over those seventy years. I’ve already put in my sevenpenn’orth about how good it was – and is still struggling to be – in an interview I gave to the BBC for a broadcast that will be aired during the next two weeks, so now I’m going to send this 70 year anniversary birthday card with a difference by telling the truth about what has been and is still being done to it by our determined and untruthful government.

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Theresa May is already talking about how she is going to give it a special birthday present of twenty million pounds. What largesse! And what tosh! She doesn’t seem to realise – or perhaps she doesn’t want to realise – that her government’s spending money for the NHS comes from our National Insurance contributions and our taxes and is not hers to give or refuse to give on a whim. The NICs were introduced at the same time as the Welfare State began. The whole thing had been carefully costed and planned for and we paid the new tax willingly, knowing that among other very necessary things like unemployment benefit and pensions, it was for a health service that would look after us all and would be free for us when we needed it because we’d already paid for it.

So what’s gone wrong? Why isn’t it working now? Why have 15,000 beds been shut down? Why has the nursing bursary been axed? Why have so many A&E and Maternity units been closed or cut down from their original and necessary size? Why are we short of 40,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors? We’re still paying NICs and taxes which run to billions of pounds every year. Well, put in a nutshell, it isn’t working and is in dire straits because that is what this government, and previous governments from Thatcher on, have always intended to do to it. They have been following a determined and ruthless plan to destroy it. And no, I’m not playing Cassandra and crying ‘Woe! Woe!’ never to be believed. It’s a verifiable fact. So let me tell you some of the story.

Way back in 2010 a man called Mark Britnell, who was the Chair of KPMG Health spoke to a meeting of American private health firms. What he had to say was hideously clear and, to its eternal credit, the Guardian/Observer reported it word for word. This is what he said:-

In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider and not a state deliverer.’

The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.’

Smart cookies the KPMG. It is now a ‘supplier of services’ to six of the nine NHS consortia which the government instructed the NHS to set up. In 2014 the Greater East Midland Commissioning Support Group, paid KPMG a quarter of a million pounds every month in the first six months of 2014 for ‘services’. Money, as they used to say when I was a kid, for old rope. And they’re not the only wealthy firms in the private health business to take advantage of this enforced privatisation, Ernst and Young are another and so is Virgin Care.

If you want to know more about the racket, tweet or google ‘OurNHS’ and read what Tamsin Cave has to say about it under the headline ‘Why are GPs being told to hand billions worth of NHS decisions to private health firms?’ Google and Twitter can give you a lot of information if you know where to dig.

When it was set up the NHS was responsible for everything to do with our health care, paying for their doctors, nurses, cleaners, ambulance men and all their other staff, the upkeep of their hospitals and surgeries, the purchase of medicines and supplies. Now it is all being siphoned off along with the money to pay for it – our money you will remember – to rapacious private companies who will milk it for as much as they can get out of it and drop it if and when it fails, as big private companies do. Nothing is sacred. Not even the blood that so many donors give for free, to help their fellows. The plasma from it has already gone to a private company.

Please, if you care about our NHS and don’t believe the government propaganda which is pumped at us daily by a nice tame press, which, with the noble exception of the Guardian, is owned by six billionaires with off shore accounts who don’t pay tax, make it your business to find out what is actually going on and spread the word. They are playing a terrible, damaging con trick on us and, like me, you may well want something better for our NHS. Ask how many of our MPs have shares in private health companies or links to them. My own MP for example worked as an accountant for KPMG and his brother is a big noise at the BBC. Give names to the billionaires who now own large parts of it. Let the cats out of the bag. And if you want me to use this blog to pass your findings on, just let me know. Vive the NHS!

This entry was posted on June 17, 2018. 2 Comments

A 70th birthday celebration for our NHS

A few days ago I had a phone call from a TV producer called Sarah Bloch-Budzier, who sounded warm and friendly and wanted to know if I would be prepared to give an interview to BBC TV on what it was like to be among the first people to be treated by the National Health Service back in 1948. The interview was to be part of a programme the BBC will be collating to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the start of the NHS, which was on July 5th 1948. Naturally I said ‘Of course’, the rescue and preservation of the NHS being very important to me.

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They arrived at midday on Monday, Sarah, who turned out to be as friendly as she sounded and is very pretty, an equally affable and handsome man called Hugh Pym, who is six foot seven inches tall and gentle, and turned out to be the same age as my younger daughter (I checked him out on Google later) and a photographer, laden with cameras and equally friendly, who told me his name which I’m afraid I’ve forgotten, because I didn’t write it down.

They decided to film in the conservatory and I was settled in my usual chair at the table and attached to a microphone and off we went. I won’t take you through the interview here because you can see it when it’s transmitted – or perhaps I should say ‘if and when’ because nothing is certain when it comes to television. The anniversary is on July 5th. I’ll give you a reminder nearer the time.

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Hugh Pym is a patient interviewer and a knowledgeable one. I was impressed by the number of books he’d read about the run up to the NHS and its history. But I think I showed him something relatively new to him when I produced my copy of William Beveridge’s report and told him how it preached revolution, which seemed amazing to us at the time, and how he’d spelt out in patient detail just how that revolution could be achieved. I think he was a bit surprised to think that it should have been read by schoolchildren – I was a grammar schoolgirl when it came out and read it avidly when I was in the fifth form. But I tried to explain how popular it was – it was a best seller within days of publication and outsold all the other current best sellers put together. We talked for a while about how the war had given people a new and unusual opportunity to meet together and talk about the sort of world we wanted. We lived in working groups during the war not isolated in our homes, and we talked wherever we were, in factories, schools, the forces, air raid shelters. And I was aware as we talked of how very different our lives are now.

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After they’d packed up their cameras and said good bye, I sat down and made a list of all the things I was thinking about, as my head was fizzing with them. It seemed to me then and it seems to me now that, if we’re going to restore our cherished and admirable NHS, we have got to tackle the lies and propaganda that this government has been pumping out about it through their tame media and, if we can, to expose what they are really doing to it behind our backs. At the moment they’re having everything their own way and that must stop.

Firstly. We should nail the lie that the NHS is ‘free’ and that people who use it are idle scroungers who are ‘taking something for nothing.’ THE NHS HAS NEVER BEEN FREE. We have always paid for it, as we intended to, week by week through our National Insurance contributions which were deducted at source from our wage packets, and also by our taxes. It was, and is, a matter of honour, which William Beveridge understood and stressed in his report. You pay in willingly so that the service – whether it be medical care, a pension or unemployment benefit to tide you over until you can get another job – is there for you and your family when you need it. That is the essence of the Welfare State.

Secondly. We should explain, over and over again, that there is a fundamental and insurmountable difference of attitude between the Health Service and the Welfare State, which do not exist to make a profit, and private services which do. The first attitude produces caring organisations, the second leads, far too often, to greed, some of it obscene. First and foremost and most importantly, these private services guys are there to make a profit, whether it be from health care, social care, railways, schools, exams. And the richer they are, the less likely they are to contribute to our society by paying taxes. You cannot serve God and Mammon.

Thirdly. We should make it our business to press for information about all the secret deals our leaders are, and have been, doing behind closed doors. They have already sold off a large proportion of our NHS to multimillionaires like Richard Branson. We need to know the names of all the people to whom they have sold these choice bits and for how much. The NHS was never theirs to sell. It was created by the people who voted in a Labour government in 1945 and it belongs to all of us.

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And fourthly. We should press our new government to bring in a law that would require our MPs to tell the truth in the House. At the moment, because of a piece of antiquated flim-flammery that assumes an MP cannot lie ‘because he is a gentleman and gentlemen do not lie’, it is impossible for outright liars to be called to account. That must stop. The task of cleansing our foul Augean stables begins there.

If you are interested in all this, you will find more detailed information in a blog I put up on January 10th 2018. ‘Our NHS is very near its final destruction’.

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This entry was posted on June 8, 2018. 2 Comments

Citizen Armies

To begin at the beginning, ‘Citizen Armies’ is the title of my 30th novel, which is the sequel to ‘Everybody’s Somebody’ and follows my heroine through World War 2. She is now in her forties, forty-three when the war begins and forty-nine when it ends, so she’s living in my lifetime (I was eight when the war began and 14 at the end of it) and she lives in the Borough, where the bombing was particularly fierce. But of course there’s a different story behind the title.

My first two books were given titles by my publisher – I didn’t know how to do titles then and sold them as Novel 1 and Novel 2 – but from then on titles tended to leap at me in unexpected places or as this one did, lurk in my memory. It’s been lurking for seventy two years so I reckoned it was time I used it.

The war was an experience that taught us to think about horrors and to face the fact that they were happening to millions of people. There were millions killed in air raids; millions gassed in the concentration camps because they were Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, communists or anybody Hitler didn’t like; millions on both sides killed in land and air battles, or at sea; millions ‘displaced’. And on top of that, millions of houses were destroyed – one million in London alone – and two cities in Japan were reduced to piles of radioactive rubble by the first atomic bombs. The implacable figures are endless. So on May 13th 1945, when it was finally over and we knew that the official announcement would come that day, we took off to our city centres and went crazy with relief. I was among the crowds in Whitehall and Trafalgar Square and remember it vividly, dancing the Hokey Cokey, singing the Lambeth Walk, paddling in the fountains, and cheering, cheering, on and on and on, until our voices grew husky. We stayed there for such a long time that when we finally decided we really ought to go home, the trams and buses had finished running and the Underground stations were closed down. So we had to walk and it took us the rest of the night. But who cared about that? The war was over.

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Wonders came in threes during the next few months. The second one came on July 26th, when the vote in the first General Election in ten years was finally announced and we discovered that although we hadn’t dared to hope that such a thing was possible, we had actually voted in a majority Labour Government and a revolution. The first bloodless revolution the country has ever known. ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive but to be young was very Heaven.’

And then on June 8th we had an amazing Victory Parade in London. There were war leaders there naturally, and a long columns of war vehicles of every kind, and contingents from all three of the armed forces, men and women alike, but as well as the fighting troops there was another and very special section consisting of the Civil Defence workers who’d been out night after night and day after day rescuing the wounded during the air raids, wardens, ambulance drivers, fire men, heavy rescue teams, the WVS. They got a mighty cheer. And quite right too. It was well deserved.

The next day the papers reported it all in happy detail, with lots of pictures. But it was the headline in one paper that remained with me from then on because it was so apt. ‘CITIZEN ARMIES ON THE MARCH’ it said. And I thought what a splendid description it was because we were all citizens, conscripted men, civil defence workers, all the men and women who had voted in the new government, all the lot. So now I’m writing about the bravery of these citizens what better title could I choose? Respec’ Citizens!

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This entry was posted on May 24, 2018. 3 Comments

Tooting springs a few pleasant suprises

I had a treat last week. Well actually four or five treats, some of them expected, others out of the blue. Let me explain.

For a start my sister Carole came down to spend a weekend with me, which was a joy, even though we spent Sunday morning doing battle with a hideously difficult Sudoku – howls, groans, manic laughter and far too many new starts..

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Then on Monday morning she drove me back to her house to stay with her, which was another joy, as it always is, and on Tuesday I headed off to London where I had a productive and happy meeting with my agent, whom I like very much and then on to Tooting where I was going to give a talk to the Tooting Historical Society.

They’re a great group, the historical Tootingites and the talk was a lot of fun. I told local stories, which made them laugh and that set them off with stories and memories of their own, which made us all laugh and the time rushed by on roller skates. But they had two unexpected treats for me too.
Before I began the talk and while my audience was arriving, some of the people I’d met in the library last time came up to say hello, which was a happy way to start the evening off. And the fourth person who came towards me was an old school friend whom I’d known since the last months of 1944. It was wonderful to see her and hug her again and she was splendid in the audience because her presence there meant that there were two of us with slightly different views and memories of the school. She’d also brought a copy of the school photograph and there we were, looking so young and standing in among all the other classmates that we remembered. We rushed down Memory Lane together.

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And then, as if that weren’t treat enough, after the talk was over, lots more people came up to have a word. But that time we were bubbling, there’s no other word for it. And one of them inadvertently brought me my second surprise. The Chairman? Secretary? of the Tooting group, who is called Janet Smith and has become a real friend, told me his name, which is John Brown and explained that he was the leading light of the Streatham Historical Society, so naturally we talked about Streatham, which I know almost as well as I know Tooting, having lived there for twenty five years. At one point he asked whether I’d taught in Streatham and I told him I had and that my old darling had taught at Sunnyhill Primary School for thirty years.

‘Wait there,’ he said. ‘There are two men here tonight who were pupils there. You must meet them.’ And he went off to get them. And oh what memories they had. For a start they’d been taught by my old darling and remembered him fondly. Then they got on to the school nativity play that they’d been in. It was in the year that Hywel Bennett had played the recorder in the school orchestra instead of being one of the actors, which they said had surprised them when they thought about it afterwards, given what a good actor he’d become. I gave them another surprise by telling them I remembered that play very well because I’d written it.

I went back to Carole’s house, much later than I’d planned but as high as the Shard. What a great thing it can be to go back to your roots.

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This entry was posted on May 16, 2018. 4 Comments

WORDS, WORDS, WORDS. AN ADMIRABLE NOVEL AND A BUMMER OF A PLAY.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the way so many politicians say one thing and do another, and how often their actions contradict their words. They brag and bray about the wonderful things they are going to do for us – they’re very good at ‘jam tomorrow’ – and all the time, behind our backs and secretly, their actions are destructive and hurtful and often the exact reverse of the wonderful things they talk about. Words are all very well but ‘by their deeds shall ye know them’. But sometimes the words people use reveal more about what they think and believe than they realise. All of which has made me return to an excellent and entertaining novel.

It is called ‘Various Pets Alive and Dead’, is written by Marina Lewycha and, like all her books, is warm, quirky, perceptive and wonderfully funny. This one deals with a grown up family who were brought up in a commune which, according to them, was all high ideals and endless lentils, and are now earning their living in a variety of ways. Oolie-Anna, the youngest who has Down’s Syndrome, works in a factory and is often wildly and unintentionally funny; Clara her big sister is as socially aware and responsible as her parents and works in a run-down Primary School in a very poor district; big brother Serge, on the other hand, is aiming to be one of the moneyed elite and works in the City in a finance house called FATCA gambling with figures on the screen in front of him. He already has £1.21 million in a bank account and wants more. His boss, who is nicknamed Chicken, makes no secret of his philosophy. He spends a lot of his time in Downing Street. ‘trying to firm up the Government’s commitment to the role of the financial sector in the national economy’ and reminding the politicians ‘that what’s good for the banks is good for Britain.’ Sound familiar?

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He has open contempt for anyone who works but doesn’t make money for the financial sector. ‘They’re not productive,’ he says. By which he means, ‘Nobody’s making money out of them. Think – if it was all in the private sector. Schools. Universities, Prisons. Hospitals, Sheltered Housing. Residential homes. Think of the business opportunities.’ Sound familiar? This is the world we are all living in.

But of course it isn’t just millionaires and politicians who say one thing and do another. Lesser mortals do it too. We have a horrible example of it in Felpham. But to begin at the beginning.

Earlier this week Facebook reminded me that this Saturday is the second anniversary of a talk I gave in the Museum at Worthing. It was part of a ‘Blake evening’ and I was telling the story of Blake’s three years in Felpham and his trial for sedition. The audience was rather small but a few of them had come specifically to hear about Blake in Felpham, which was gratifying. The rest were self-styled poets who had come to read their poetry to one another, and a team of actors who had come to give a read-through of a new play about Blake’s death. The organiser thought very highly of this play because it had been given the seal of approval by the Chairman of the Blake Society, no less. I wondered how the playwright was going to make a drama out of a death that was so peaceful and joyous. Our Blake welcomed his death and died singing hymns because he believed he would ‘soon see Jesus’.

But sadly the playwright’s Blake was a very different character. He spent his time ranting about a ‘Tic’ that was plaguing him. Hmm! And Kate, who in real life was a gentle quiet woman, was portrayed as a 21st Century harridan, screaming and arguing with anyone who came her way. Hmm! And as if that weren’t bad enough, there were anachronistic mistakes at every turn. The worst was when a character who was apparently ‘an amalgam of John Linnard and William Hayley’ burst onto the death scene, screaming at Kate. ‘He’s ill. You must get a doctor. He needs a blood transfusion.’ I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Hayley died seven years before Blake; poor people couldn’t afford to call a doctor until 1948; and blood transfusions didn’t come in until WW2. Treble Hmmm!

And who was the man who gave this appalling play his seal of approval? You may well ask. He certainly didn’t know much about Blake whoever he was. Well, it was none other than Tim Heath, the man who now ‘owns’ Blake’s cottage and spends his time and energy feeding pipe-dreams to the local press about how he’s going to erect a wonderful, million pound building in the garden of the cottage where he will encourage and foster ‘thousands of geniuses’. And the local papers lap it up while the cottage falls further and further into decay. His message is simple and familiar. ‘Pay no attention to what I’m doing – or in his case not doing – just listen to what I’m saying.’

What a world we live in!

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This entry was posted on May 6, 2018. 1 Comment

e-book publication of Two Silver Crosses

This is a novel about twin girls, one blind and the other sighted, born just after the first world war, and it was handed to me on a plate – or to be more accurate a butler’s serving dish – back in the 80s.

Roy and I were visiting Uppark House and had reached the butler’s pantry where everything was laid out ready for the master’s breakfast. I was marveling at the fact that the newspaper, which was The Times, had been ironed until there were no creases in it. It lay on the dish pristine and perfect and I looked at it idly, admiring it. The first page was given over to advertisements as the papers were in those days and one of them caught my eye.

“Would twin sisters (they were named but I’ve forgotten what the names were) last seen at Victoria station boarding the boat train to Paris and each wearing about her neck a silver cross, please contact the above named Solicitors where they will hear something to their advantage.”

It was a gift. It set my mind spinning where I stood. Why were they going to Paris? What advantageous news were they going to hear? I got out my notebook and copied at it all down and, as I drove home, the story was growing in my head.

And now here it is as an e-book, years after Uppark House was burnt down, taking the newspaper with it and years after it was first published, putting in an appearance again.

Find it on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07C61QGG9

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