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Sunday, 24 April 2016

Visiting Bletchley Park to check my research before publishing, The 9:45 To Bletchley, on June 1st.

On April 22nd I went down to Bletchley to visit Bletchley Park, not on the 9:45 train, but the 9:59.

I went down to check out details and descriptions while writing the fourth novel in the Dudley Sisters Saga, The 9:45 To Bletchley. Ena Dudley, the youngest of the Dudley sisters works in an engineering factory making dials and rotors for a secret location, which she only knows as station X. I also went down because I am fascinated by the inventions and the work achieved during the Second World War.

Bletchley Park housed the codebreaking operation during WW2 and was the birthplace of modern computing.  Historians have estimated that the work done by the codebreaker's at Bletchley Park shortened the war by two years at least, saving thousands of lives.

No one is certain how many people worked at Bletchley Park and its associated outstations, but at its peak the estimated number is around ten thousand. They tackled complex tasks: Intercepting, deciphering, analysing and distributing the intelligence derived from radio signals, while their work was shrouded in the highest levels of secrecy.

Some photographs taken during my day at Bletchley Park.
The first is me arriving. I was excited to be there. 

When I walked up the drive to the mansion (not the original drive that was on the left looking at the mansion), I was amazed at how small it was. It's a big country house, of course it is - and it is almost as deep as it is wide, but I imagined it to be huge and ugly, which is how so many people have described it. I thought it was rather beautiful.

The inside felt big, but warm. Panelled wood decorated the entrance hall walls and the ceiling was stained glass in an ornate lead (and iron) design. It was beautiful. The first room on the right was called, The Churchill Room and had a huge bust of Winston Churchill on the mantle shelf. 

Other rooms were put back as far as possible the way they had been during the war.
The admin office and the library. 

Other rooms;
A general office and the Naval Office lead me down the long hall.

At the end of the hall was the Ballroom. I mentioned to a lady steward that while I was researching I had read many accounts by women who worked at Bletchley during WW2 and I remember one had said she went to a dance in the ballroom of the mansion. My worry with was, out of the hundreds of accounts, there was only that one that mentioned a dance in the mansion. Had I dreamed it? I hoped not. And I hadn't. There were dances in the ballroom, not many, but there had been dances around the time that a dance occurs in my novel. Again, rich panelled wood and a beautiful ornate ceiling.

It was while I was in the ballroom that I met Jean Cheshire, nee Budd.
 Jean's father was Head of Works Services at Bletchley Park from 1938. 

Jean Cheshire, nee Budd, in the ballroom, Bletchley Park.

'We came to Bletchley in 1938, when I was six. There were three cottages and we lived in the middle one - number 2 cottage. I lived there with my mum and dad, older brother and twin sister. When we came home from school mum would say, "Be quiet children, there are ladies working next door in number 3 cottage." It wasn't until 1992 that I found out those ladies were Dilly Knox's ladies working on breaking Enigma.

Charles Skevington who looked after Bletchley's homing pigeons used to let Jean and her sister feed them. The famous carrier pigeons received messages from occupied Europe.

Jean and me in the ballroom. 


I invited Jean to lunch, but she said she was too busy. She was going to have a quick sandwich in the staff room, and said would find me later. And she did. She was dashing to do so something, but stopped and asked me how I was getting on.  An incredible woman. 82 years old and so energetic.                                                  
Hut 4 is now the cafe
Hut 4 originally housed German Air Force and Naval sections.  From mid-1940 the main function  of hut 4 was translating German Enigma messages, deciphered by hut 8. Both huts provided day-to-day intelligence in the desperate battles between the Allied convoys and the U-Boats which were determined to cut Britain's vitally important supply lines across the Atlantic.

The only decoration in the cafe

Fortified with fish and chips and a cup of tea, I set off for 'B' Block to see the Bombe and Enigma machine. As luck would have it, one of the stewards was giving a demonstration. It was mind blowing. He explained the workings, demonstrating so well that I was able to understand the principal of how it worked.

Having read about Alan Turing, I was pleased to see the recognition he was given. Too little, too late, but as we can't go back in time... Below, left, Alan Turing's statue, on the right, his Teddy bear. 

Below, the posthumous apology given to Alan Turing by Gordon Brown 
on behalf of the government in 2009.       

The Clock Tower - 
One side the cottages, stable yard and stables. The other side, the garages. 

Car and bike sheds.
HUT 3 is a huge hut. It houses a number of offices including, the Duty Officer's room, a teleprinting officer and other secretarial offices.

There was a holograph on the wall. It was quite weird. Below is a Typex machine and a teleprinter.

Leaving the park I passed Hut 12 - The Entertainment Hut. It wasn't the first entertainment hut, there had been several, but as far as I could tell, Hut 12 had been the theatre hut for most of the time. Many young working and wannabe actors gave up their careers to work at Bletchley.  

I arrived at Bletchley Park at 10am and it was 4.15 when I realised my legs would take me no further. I had half an hour to wait for my train, which was a five minute walk away, so I went to the shop and bought lots of goodies. Then I had a large and much needed cup of tea, a strawberry muffin - naughty I know, but healthier than a chocolate one - and I sat down.   
Oh dear, that was meant to be a photograph of my cup of tea!

During my day at Bletchley Park, I visited all the blocks and went into all the huts, but I need to go again, and I will. I defy anyone to be able to take everything in in one day. It was wonderful. I loved it, and I am grateful to those amazing people who contributed to making our world what it is today. 

My Dudley sister, Ena, works in an engineering factory making discs and rotors that go to a secret location that she only knows as, Station X. She becomes involved with Bletchley Park (can't say how without giving away the plot) and spends quite a lot of time there. As with my other books, I've researched extensively. In The 9:45 To Bletchley I want to do Ena and Bletchley Park justice by getting what is written in the novel, right. Thanks to several very helpful people, I think I have. 


I looked back and couldn't resist taking a couple of photographs,
 before my wonderful day at Bletchley came to an end.

Friday, 18 March 2016

China Blue by Madalyn Morgan | Review | Historical Novels Review

China Blue by Madalyn Morgan | Review | Historical Novels Review:

China Blue is Claire Dudley’s SOE Code name. We follow Aircraftwoman Claire from recruitment for special services, due to her exceptional language skills, through her secretive training. Along with her friend, Edwina, she develops the skills required, including learning to parachute and spending time living with a French family in Northumberland. Eventually she is airdropped into Occupied France.
Claire is bold and efficient in her nerve-wracking work, but against all the rules she falls in love. The Gestapo arrests her lover, but despite this she continues to work with the resistance.
The author must have done a lot of research, and I found the details of the training and methods of resistance work interesting. The situation that develops is touching and at times heart-wrenching.
There were a few awkward gaps in the narration and the ending was slightly hurried. Some of the most exciting action is related by other characters, rather than witnessed first hand. A little more editing could perhaps have avoided this and made the story more immediate.
The writing is clear and easy to read and the book presentation is excellent, with an appealing cover design.

China Blue Trailer:

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Save the Half Moon Pub in Hern Hill, London.

The Grade II* listed Half Moon Pub in Herne Hill, London SE24 has been closed since the flood of August 2013. Its future as a live music venue is currently under threat.

The Half Moon has hosted live music since the 1950's, when Frank Sinatra dropped by after a London show to visit his old chauffeur and sing a number. Musicians who played here and went on to become famous include Eric Clapton, U2, Billy Bragg, The Police, and Paloma Faith. Celebrated comedians, including Mark LamarrEddie Izzard andJo Brand have also performed stand-up comedy here.
Sunday night jam sessions in the 1970s featured an amazing array of musical talent from the most popular bands of the era, including members of the Jeff Beck Group, Rory Gallagher band, and Thin Lizzy. Luminaries such as Albert Lee, Paul Young, Geno Washington, The Yardbirds, and the celebrated punk poet John Cooper Clarke have all graced the stage at the Half Moon in Herne Hill.
The 1980s line up at the Half Moon included leading 'New Wave' acts, such as The Comsat Angels, The Chameleons, The Alarm, and The Go-Betweens.
Recent acts that played at the Half Moon include UK chart toppers The Wonder Stuff, along with Mercury Music prize nominated Turin Brakes,The Handsome Family, and The Beat. In 2010, the singer Rumer held a special gig at the Half Moon to support those affected by the Pakistan floods. 2010 also saw Grammy nominated band Clinic supported by Mercury Music Prize nominee Anna Calvi in a double bill. 

Copy this link and sign the petition: 

By signing this petition, you can show the Mayor of London that you care about London's independent live music scene and the creative arts. Most importantly, you can help to demonstrate the overwhelming strength of public support for saving the function room at the The Half Moon, Hern Hill, as a live music venue, and help us in making our wider case to retain its existing planning use. Keep music live.

Monday, 11 January 2016

David Bowie - Heroes

David Bowie, my hero of rock and pop died today. 

Now he has left this world the song, Lazarus, and the 'difficult to watch' video, makes complete sense. The genius that is and will always be, David Bowie, has left his fans an amazing collection lyrics and music in the album that was released on his 69th birthday, Black Star. 


Thursday, 17 December 2015

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas. Love and Peace.  
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous 2016.

Wishing everyone at Raiders Broadcast a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and a 'Rockin' 2016.

Happy Christmas to our producer, Mike Summers, the presenters and friends of Raiders Broadcast. y Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and have a 'Rockin' 2016.

Another fantastic Christmas party.  The 2015 Raiders Christmas bash was at the Exhibit in Balham. The staff were fantastic, the food was super - there was something for every palate - and the gasses were filled, and filled, and filled again, with delicious wine.

Some photographs that Claire took
Nick Miller and our host, Mike Summers

Nick Miller giving Chris Hunter his award at Raiders Party 
Table at The Exhibit

On the left: The table. The bar staff were waiting for
us - and they were charming, so we had a drink first.

Chris Mitchell with his award -
Claire Mendelson and Tony Williams

Guests at the Raiders Christmas Bash


Monday, 23 November 2015

China Blue Book Signing at Hunts Bookshop

It rained and it rained and it poured. It was torrential for more than an hour. So, you can guess that I wasn't inundated readers.  No, it was not a busy book signing. But in many ways it was lovely and it was funny.

Looking surprised? I was.
After hours of rain and deserted streets I was genuinely surprised when someone came through the door.  Oh, but I don't think this man, or the one wandering in behind him are interested in buying a novel.  Two lovely old bookworms entered who told me when they wandered over - out of curiosity - that they didn't read fiction, 'Oh no! tut tut!' but they were happy to come in out of the rain, eat food, drink wine, and tell me what they did like reading. Oh, and entertain my friend Roger who was serving wine. Or was it Roger entertaining them?  Yes, I think it was that way round.

Rugby was a flood.
I expect to see Noah to walk in and volunteer the Ark to take me home.
Photos of empty flooded streets anon. 

Thanks to Theresa and Graham LeFlem I did have people come and buy books, or have the books they already had signed.

Mum's book, but the lovely little boy asked for it to be signed

Catherine, me, Pauline Hunt and Peter.

Food For Thought After Dinner Talk November 2015

Happy memories and photographs of my super evening with the fabulous people of Lilbourne. 
Food For Thought, November 2015.

Graham Le Flem lighting the set. 
I was invited (at the suggestion of Theresa and Graham Le Flem) to be the after dinner speaker at an evening called, Food For Thought.

From the minute I walked through the door everyone was helpful. Genuinely pleased to see the costumes, posters, play scripts that I'd taken, they helped to set up.

Author and friend Theresa Le Flem reading a play script after bringing the costumes in from the car.

If she isn't writing novels and poetry, painting, illustrating, or throwing pots, she's reading.

"Come on Theresa, put the book down."

Right: Setting up costumes that I wore when I played Iras in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.

Left on the rack, an Arab dress, my first night gift from Vanessa Redgrave when we opened in London's West End, Theatre Royal, Haymarket.

The Arab costume was given to Sir Michael Redgrave by D'Aglef when he produced The Fire Bird at Covent Garden in the 1920s.

The table set for the talk. I was given a fabulous flower arrangement. Not easy to see here, but there were three lovely small cards of Foxden Acres, Applause, and China Blue amongst the flowers, which were red white and blue, to depict World War Two.

Lovely arrangement of flowers with cards of  my novels. 

A lovely flower arrangement, which I have since tried to replicate and failed miserably. My mother could make a flower arrangement out of a stick of keck and a dandelion. Me? Not even a half decent arrangement if you gave me a dozen red roses...  Perfer daffodils and tulips - they don't need arranging. Daffs open, stay tall, find their space and fill it. Tulips are fluid, like ballet dancers they bow and lift their heads depending on how warm they are. They look more beautiful every day.

The people were lovely, the meal was delicious, and the audience enjoyed the talk. Well I think they did, because they laughed a lot. xxx

Graham and friends from where he works

Lisa Webb and her mum, looking the wrong way.
David Bailey I am not!

A lovely evening. 
Thank you for inviting me to speak at, Food For Thought.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Romantic Novelists' Association Blog: FOCUS ON: Leicester Chapter

Romantic Novelists' Association Blog: FOCUS ON: Leicester Chapter: This month Lizzie Lamb gives us an insight into the Leicester Chapter and how it functions. To begin with perhaps you could tell us a b...

A super blog post shared from the Romantic Novelists Association.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

The secret tunnels of the White Cliffs of Dover

The White Cliffs of Dover were the last sight of England for many British servicemen and women when they left our shores to fight in Europe, during World War Two, and the first thing they saw of home, for those who returned.
"Inside the secret tunnels of the White Cliffs of Dover: Network built to help stop Nazi ships during WWII opens to the public after being hidden for 40 years.

The long-forgotten Fan Bay Deep Shelter was carved out of the White Cliffs of Dover in 1940 at behest of Churchill. He ordered their construction to house gun battery teams as they pounded German ships traversing the Channel. Lying 75ft below the Kent coastline, the 3,500 sq ft of interconnecting tunnels once housed up to 185 soldiers. After remaining bricked up for more than 40 years, they will today open to the public for hard hat and torch-lit tours."

Some great photos in this article:…/Secret-network-tunnels-constru….

National Trust Project Manager Jon Barker (left) and volunteer Gordon Wise wear head torches to inspect the underground tunnels at Dover

Built in 1940, the tunnels were home to gun battery teams operating on the coastline during the Second World War. Pictured is Mr Wise - one of hundreds of volunteers who helped restore the tunnels

Located 75ft below the coastline, Mr Wise explores the tunnels as the National Trust prepares to open them to the public today

Lying 75ft below the Kent coastline, the 3,500 sq ft of interconnecting tunnels, which are reinforced with iron girders and metal sheeting, accommodated four officers and up to 185 men during the war.

The shelter - which was personally inspected by Winston Churchill in 1941 - was decommissioned in the 1950s before being filled in with rubble and soil and abandoned during the 1970s.

The shelter was carved out of the chalk by Royal Engineers from the 172nd Tunnelling Company in 1940. Pictured is graffiti dated January 20, 1941

The shelter was carved out of the chalk by Royal Engineers from the 172nd Tunnelling Company and had a hospital, secure store and five large chambers providing bomb-proof accommodation. And behind the heavy security doors and the 125 steps descending to the tunnels lie poignant reminders of the tunnel’s war-time history.

Etched into the chalk inside the tunnels is a large amount of graffiti, including names of military personnel, coarse inscriptions and an intricate 3D face of a young man, possibly a portrait.  Some of the inscriptions are accompanied by the regiment of soldiers, most notably from the Royal Engineers - 1941 is the most popular date which features alongside the signatures.  Written in chalk on a steel shuttering alongside where a bunk bed once stood is the phrase 'Russia bleeds whilst Britain Blancos' - a popular slogan adopted by disaffected soldiers referring to Blanco, a substance they used to clean and colour their equipment.

Other finds included pieces of wire twisted into home-made hooks by soldiers to hang their uniforms, and a Unity Pools football coupon dated February 20, 1943, recording 14 football matches. One of the first discoveries made by volunteers when they entered the tunnels was of a needle and thread, believed to be khaki wool, tucked into the tunnel wall.

There has been no public access to the tunnels for more than 40 years, but starting tomorrow, they will be reopened for tour

Pictured is graffiti found etched into the walls inside the tunnels. Pieces of writing, inscriptions and items offer a rare glimpse into wartime Britain

Pictured is one of two First World War sound mirrors which are also located at the site. Sound mirrors gave advanced notice of approaching enemy aircraft but became obsolete with the invention of radar in the 1930s

Bullets, including British .303 cartridges and American 30 calibre ammunition rounds, were also found throughout the tunnels, often tucked into small gaps in metal sheeting.
Two rare First World War sound mirrors also form part of the site.
Regarded as one of the first early warning devices invented in Britain, sound mirrors gave advanced notice of approaching enemy aircraft but became obsolete with the invention of radar technology in the 1930s.

White Cliffs volunteer Gordon Wise said: 'Seeing the tunnels in their raw state when they were first discovered, handling artefacts and giving tours is like standing in the footsteps of history.
'To be part of the digging team, mirroring the work the Royal Engineers originally took to excavate the shelter, was very special. I can’t wait to see what visitors make of Fan Bay Deep Shelter.'
The tunnels - once manned by troops from the 203rd Coast Battery, Royal Artillery, later becoming the 540th Coast Regiment - lie beneath land bought by the National Trust in 2012 following a £1.2million public appeal.

Guides will lead hard hat and torch-lit tours deep below the White Cliffs of Dover, telling people the story of the tunnels’ creation, use and abandonment in the 1970s.

The National Trust is asking for help in identifying the men from the 172nd Tunnelling Company, the 203rd Coast Battery and 540th Coast Regiment, Royal Artillery and asking anyone with information to contact the White Cliffs.


The Fan Bay Deep Shelter extends 75ft underground in the cliffs on the edge of Fan Hole, White Cliffs, Dover.

Despite being more than 60 years old, the tunnels remain in good condition after they were filled in and abandoned in the 1970s.

Following the Allied evacuation from Dunkirk in May and June 1940, Churchill ordered the gun batteries and tunnels to be constructed to not only defend the area against German batteries - located on the nearby French coast at Cap Blanc Nez and Cap Gris Nez - but also to harass enemy shipping that was passing through the English Channel.  At their peak, they could accommodate up to 185 men and four officers, who worked firing shells across the Channel and into Nazi-occupied France.
The site is also home to two sound mirrors - giant relics from the First World War that were once at the forefront of aircraft detection technology. However, with the development of rudimentary radar in the 1930s, they were rendered obsolete by the time the nearby tunnels were constructed during the Second World War. The gun batteries and land were owned by the military until the 1960s, after which it was returned to the original owners who then sold it in 2012 to the National Trust.

This post is Work in progress. To be completed