An unexpected reward


I’ve spent so much of my time during the last two and a half months in and out of hospital that I haven’t paid any attention to what’s happening to my books. So it was a very pleasant surprise to open my Twitter account and find that the book my agent had just sold to Agora Books was out, with a lovely bold cover and a glowing review. It took what little breath I had left quite away. So here I am feeling a bit stunned and sharing my good news with you.

When it was originally published in 1995, it was called ‘Alive and Kicking’ so some of you may have read it many years ago under that title, but others might never have heard of it and might enjoy it now.

You can find it on Amazon here.


This entry was posted on November 30, 2018. 3 Comments

What was the war really like?

That’s a question I was asked by kids at school when they were learning about WW2 and realised that I had been in it. And it’s the same question that I asked to a relative who served in WW1. It taught me quite a lot. For a start, that when you’re talking about war you mustn’t overplay the answers you give. You must be factual and truthful and you should never, ever, romanticise. The Russian poet, Yevgeny Yevtushenko was right, ‘telling lies to the young is wrong’. 


It irritates me beyond words when politicians say crass things, calling the war dead ‘the fallen’ and proclaiming ‘they laid down their lives, that we might live.’ They didn’t. They were killed. Brutally and painfully. And when the first starry-eyed voluntary recruits had been massacred and the Generals were running out of cannon fodder, the politicians brought in ‘recruitment’ to replace the first victims. It was universally hated, as I know from the things one of my relations told me, but there was nothing that any of the young men could do about it.

His name was Jessie Garnsworthy and he had spent three years in the trenches in WW1 and emerged miraculously unscathed. I lived with him and his wife in London during the buzz-bombs and the rockets and learnt more from him about life in the trenches than I did from any textbook. He told me about the obscene stink of the mud, the way the rats ate the faces of the dead, about the terror of going over the top and about the ‘morning hate’. I made notes about it at the time in my diary and used those notes when I was writing book 29 which I called ‘Everybody’s Somebody’. That terrible picture above is the truth of war and I knew it and tried to be accurate.

The second world war was rather easier for me to write about in one way, although more difficult in another. For I was in London from the start of the blitz until I was bombed out and came back to the city in 1944 neatly in time for the onslaught of the buzz-bombs and the rockets. And once again I kept notes of the things I’d seen in my diary, which I used in book 30.

ww2 bomb sight

I saw so many bomb sites I became almost blasé about them. Piles of rubble like those in the picture above were everywhere you went in London. And during the raids those funny little ram-shackled WVS vans arrived to dispense tea at very nearly every incident. Take a look at the map below, every red dot is where a bomb fell. The statistics for the Blitz make very sober reading. 61,000 people were killed and many more seriously injured. The Germans dropped 50,000 tons of High Explosive bombs and 110,000 tons of Incendiaries. It is not something anybody who was in London during that time will ever forget.




And now it is the centenary of the anniversary of the end of WW1 and next year it will be the 80th anniversary of the start of WW2.

And on a personal note, in January 2019 I shall be 88! I should live so long!!

And here is a picture of me in 1940 in London aged 9, writing an excruciatingly bad poem to school friends whom I’d left behind in Felpham where I was evacuated on the day before the war broke out. Looking at it now, it feels unreal, but I know the truth of it.

This entry was posted on November 29, 2018. 2 Comments

Armistice Day 100 years on


I can’t let this anniversary go by without saluting it.


Poppies that once bled pity in the Flanders fields
Are ritualised today to paper prettiness.
It’s the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month
The exact poetic time when the war that was to end all wars
That should never, in all conscience, have begun
Dragged its ravaged, shell-shocked, blood-soaked length
To a stunned stop
In the dumb, dead darkness of a corpse-gorged year.

Now it is men and rivers that are gorged
In the greed and thoughtless muddle of our time.
And only winter stirs long-hidden truth,
When furrows fill with water
Whitely reflecting an impassive sky.
Bare branches darken in a north-east wind
And the old cold shrinks a sullen earth,
Smites the caked hides of shivering cattle
Soon to be killed to feed our appetites.
And touches our too sentimental skin.

Yet Folly still stands proud with its paper flower,
To parrot out the politicians’ lie.
‘They died that we might live’.
Not so. Not so. Oh, it was never so.
They died like cattle, herded, scared and young
Because, like cattle, they were sent to die.

This entry was posted on November 11, 2018. 3 Comments

Lost: One folder full of P60s!


Lottie and I have reached our favourite time of year! When I moan and groan and do nothing, and Lottie fills in my tax rtaxreturneturn! It takes her a very long time, poor girl and she takes it philosophically and works through it thoroughly.  So it came as quite a shock to us, when we couldn’t find the relevant P60s. We hunted everywhere we could think of and in the end we despaired of ever finding them and Lottie set to and phoned all four pension providers to ask if they would send us replacement copies. It took her the entire morning and her patience was impressive. But at least the job was done! 

The next morning when we started checking through letters and files for work that had to be done that day. Lottie made a discovery, there was an unlabelled folder full of stuff that needed attention and down at the bottom – lurking – were all the P60s! Screams of horror and disbelief.


We had to rush off and have some coffee to cheer ourselves up!

Next year, I shall make my own personal folder and hang it round my neck until all the P60s are gathered. And a right banana I shall look!

This entry was posted on November 7, 2018. 1 Comment

Christmas has crept up on me!



I have to confess, Christmas has crept up on me this year. I’ve just woken up to the fact that it’ll be Christmas in two months and I haven’t made any preparations at all! Quick! Quick! The thought of it coming so near without me noticing, is odd. But it brings the same old excitement, the same old sense that no matter what, all is well.

My children are planning a Christmas meal here, which they are going to cook and that makes it feel possible and pleasurable and all the other things that you expect at Christmas. There are days when I simply  can’t believe how lucky I am to have such a family. In the next few weeks, I shall be going Christmas shopping and the lights will be up and everything will be normal and although there are still days where I feel that such blessed normality isn’t actually possible, I’m actually living in the middle of it.

Singing carols in my head as I move from room to room and wonder of wonders teaching my first great-grandchild how to play his first Christmas carol on my long, suffering and dependable piano, which has taught grandchildren and is now beginning on great-grandchildren. I didn’t foresee all that when I was learning the piano myself all those many, many years ago, for like my little Harry, I was seven when I started to play.

Now having woken up to the fact that Christmas is coming, I can’t wait for it! There are days that I shed the eighty years and I’m seven all over again.

Praise be for families, for fun and laughter and good food!

Happy Christmas everyone!





This entry was posted on October 25, 2018. 2 Comments

The nameless doctor

I have a story for you this morning, which is a very different kind from the last blog I wrote. For now, heaven help me, I am back in the world, not of the superb NHS – still miraculously functioning – but of my local GP’s Surgery, where I have encountered a very different breed of doctor.

When the team who’d been looking after me in Worthing, sent me home, they gave me a list of all the medicines I am now required to take and told me their names and what they were for. I was grateful, although baffled and I was having problems trying to swallow the very large pills that figured in the midst, so I was glad to see that they’d also added a note to my local GP ‘please liaise with Mrs Kingston regarding administration of her Atorvastatin, she may find a liquid a more suitable long-term solution’. Now, I thought someone from my local surgery will be there to help me. I was wrong.

This particular doctor, who is the Diabetes Lead in the practice, had absolutely no intention of helping me, until he had bullied me into doing what he wanted, which was quite straightforward, I was to join all his other diabetics for an annual review. He implied that he couldn’t attend to medicines until that was sorted out. I hate being bullied and I hate bullies, but I felt too ill to withstand him and had to give in. I needed to be able to swallow those pills. The doctor did not tell me his name, so I took a petty comfort from calling him ‘Dr Bully-rag’. How childish you get when you’re not well.

Two days later, the diabetes practice nurse appeared to take, what I thought appeared to be a blood sample. It wasn’t. It was a whole crop of them. And when I queried the number, she said she was doing as she was told, which seems an odd and ominous thing for a member of the team to be doing.

On the 5th of October, I had a letter from the surgery, with the headline ‘Recent Result’, it was a request for me to make a NON-URGENT telephone consultation with a doctor to hear my results, which I did.

It was a very profound shomaywoodck, for none of these results had anything at all to do with my diabetes, just as I had known all along that they would not. These were all to do with my now very fragile state of health since I started taking one set of pills after another. My liver was compromised, there was too much sodium in my blood, something which should be scoring 40 was scoring 100 or visa versa, but the doctor whose English was poor was unable to tell me what she was talking about. I put the phone down feeling low and depressed and that there wasn’t much hope.  I don’t know whose suggestion it was that Dr Bully-rag should conduct all these tests and then tell me the results so brutally, but it sure as hell hadn’t done me any good at all.

I got in touch with my very helpful and knowledgeable and friendly Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist Nurse who said she had the results in front of her as she spoke and was going to discuss it with my consultant and that she would get back to me. A real NHS practitioner, not a loud mouth street bully like the Diabetes Lead, I made it my business this morning to find out the gentleman’s name and it is Luke Webb, who describes himself as the ‘Diabetes Lead GP’. Hmmm.

I am getting better I think, but very very slowly and it will take me some time to work out what should actually be done about this (to me) very serious breach of confidentiality. Somebody must have told this man to take all those blood tests,  if so who was it? or did he get the idea himself? if so how and why?

A bullying doctor is not something that I am used to, nor one I really know how to handle. But when I feel better I will work out what has to be done and by whom and set the wheels in motion. Our NHS is now being very steadily dismantled and privatized. But that is no reason for blatant bullying and what I can only from my vantage point call deliberate cruelty.

I would welcome any advice, because all this will take time if it’s to be done properly and I’ll try to find a happier and more entertaining blog for my next sortie into the blog world.

In the meantime can I remind Dr Luke Webb of the Hippocratic Oath, which makes the case quite plainly and simply.

‘I will use treatment to help the sick according to my ability and judgment, but never with a view to injury and wrong-doing.’ – Hippocratic Oath

This entry was posted on October 17, 2018. 1 Comment

Where have I been?

I’m cheating a bit here, because I’m using this blog to answer a question that I’ve been asked rather a lot over the last four weeks and I’ve used it as the title. It’s not a short answer, but a fairly long and complicated one. For iworthing-430x269n the first two weeks since I went off radar, I’ve been in hospital, not forgetting any of you but totally unable to answer you. To tell the story shortly; I had a heart attack during the night of Tuesday the 11th September and was in hospital early Wednesday morning. But these bald facts lead us straight in to the most extraordinary story of dedication, kindness, patience and all the very best aspects of our beleaguered NHS.

I had two rather lengthy and difficult procedures, during the second of which four stents were inserted into two of my arteries, I was astounded at the skill it took and how complicated the machinery was, quite amazed to be told that two of the stents actually took my blood around corners. It was as if I’d moved into a completely different world. I was attached to two very complicated machines, neither of which I understood at all, but which were obviously keeping necessary records, because from time to time during the night and day, a nurse would appear at my bed-side to say I’ve become detached and would gently plug me in again. And when the staff nurses, sisters, doctors and consultants did their rounds they had one of their number pushing a portable machine about with all of our details on. It was high tech and then some.

But the thing that impressed me most and absolutely stunned me on occasions, was the kindness, gentleness and thoroughness of all the staff involved. We take them for granted and we shouldn’t. They are sterling. And their attitude to the job, extends to every member of the team, the night staff, who never seem to be able to sleep and are always loving at dark times when you need it most. The doctors who take time to explain everything over and over again to all of us. It would give me the screaming ab-dabs but to them it is normal, the young boys who cleaned the wards very thoroughly and with gentleness when they removed any of our belongings so they could get to the floor. My favourite was a boy called Callum, who asked me very gently if he could move my bag so he could clean where it stood, and when I said I felt a bit of a fraud lying there and doing nothing while he was working so hard, he said “I’m sure you’ve worked very hard all your life. Now it’s our turn” I could have hugged him. And another young man who brought us tea and breakfast and always smiled, his name was George and very suitable. But probably the most amazing of the lot was the staff nurse called Marilyn who encouraged me to admit to being afraid and not to feel bad about it, now there’s a skill. And the consultant, came to the ward to tell me what he was going to do during a very complicated procedure and somehow or other, made me believe and understand that complicated though it was, he would do it and it would be a success. As he did and as it was.

They are stars. And we should be down on our knees, thankful that we have such people in our NHS. Respec’ to every single one of them.

So there you are, that’s what I’ve been doing. And now I’m home and recovering slowly and with a lot of support from my family. Thanking God for being given such a lot of help from so many directions. Even Dixie, has donned an imaginary white coat and appointed himself night nurse extraordinaire.


This entry was posted on October 9, 2018. 4 Comments