2017 La La looking forward

la-la-land-wide-shotThe general prospects are as grim as two weeks ago, but in the meantime, in between time, there is art.

Yesterday idly scrolling through films that might be on at 2 o’clock, to finish before a 6pm dinner date, I noticed that La La Land was on.  There’s been so much advertising and trailing of the film that I was worried it might not be much cop – but I liked the sound of it (romance, Hollywood, romance) and Peter Bradshaw gave it 5 stars in the Guardian! We didn’t book, just strolled in to find an enormous queue.  It was a special preview in a packed cinema.  It was just before the Golden Globe awards last night – and we agreed with their verdict. It is a lovely, feel good, romantic, smiley, quirky movie.  There’s music, dancing, jazz, love and Paris. Ryan Gosling – now almost forgiven for the dreadful Nice Guys – has a lovely smile, and Emma Stone is a great wannabe, vulnerable, wide eyed, insecure and with another lovely smile.  Mia (Emma Stone) works in a coffee shop on the Warner Lot and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a pianist who wants to open his own club. The story of their meeting and the start of their relationship is just what you want in a love story – unpleasantness, a bit of misunderstanding, hesitation, unity against a harsh world. And then they start dancing! The film tips its hat to the old Fred and Ginger movies, with a trip to la belle France (Les Parapluies de Cherbourg  and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort ) and of course there is more than a nod to Singin’ in the Rain.

Damien Chazelle the director also directed Whiplash. JK Simmons from Whiplash and Law and Order (and the underated but very satisfying New in Town) has a small but pivotal role. It’s always a pleasure to see those actors you vaguely recognise from your own living room.

And hurray for Meryl Streep

And with Moonlight and Manchester-by-the-Sea in the pipeline there’s a lot more to come.

2016 – a look back



It’s nearly Christmas, and as I write the cards and dig out the wrapping paper [note to self, you have enough paper to redecorate Buckingham Palace, do not buy anymore, so what if they have all seen the amusing Santa and reindeer in a headlock motif for the last 5 years? it’s the present inside that counts] I have been reflecting over the last year.

Whoever would have thought, as we snoozed our way through the night into 1 January 2016, that at the end of the year we would be hoping that by some miracle Obama could stay on in the White House for another 20 or 30 years and that Brexit would just be a glint in a silent, forgotten Nigel Farage’s eye?  What a year – David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne all gone. Not to mention my mum, Peggy Perry, who died at the end of January and my brother-in-law, Alan Fountain, who died in March.

But there were some bright spots. Rudi, the son of niece Billie, born in October 2015, has continued to grow and thrive, spreading awe and wonder (as well as porridge) everywhere he goes.


The Film Quiz Night for the Eave Alan Fountain Scholarship Fund was a great event.

The Woodberry Wetlands is now open, so we wander into a wilderness of birds and bees. And there’s a very nice cafe there too.  What a great combination.

Woodberry Wetlands                    coffee at Woodberry Wetlands

In fact, all along Green Lanes, new coffee shops have been opening.  As well as Blend and Mokka (OK Wightman Road) we now have Beans & Barley, Beans & Music and Jam in a Jar, so we can drink Flat Whites any time we want.

But this year we decided we would become fit, healthy and toned – that is, more fit, healthy and toned than we already were, obviously, and to this end we decided we would try to walk 1000 miles in a year.  That’s about 3 miles a day.  Both C and I have a pedometer app on our phones which is a bad thing, because now we can’t bear to be without our phone to clock up the miles – even walking round the house.  We have about 6 weeks to go and I am going to need an average of about 15 miles a day if I am going to hit the 1000 mile target. That’s even including numerous comfort breaks.

Living in '66 - Pop, pirates and postmen BBC image

Unfortunately, before the toned part of the fitness regime could kick in, I got an email from a production company making a programme called ‘Living in ’66.’ This was for BBC1 who were putting on a number of regional programmes, all to be shown on the same night.  I was asked to be in the BBC East programme ‘Living in ’66 – pop, pirates and postmen‘. Because I had my 1966 diary. On a cold day in March I met the crew and BBC Radio 6 DJ Steve Lamacq in the Saracen’s Head pub, in the middle of Chelmsford.

Filming Living in '66After I had taught Steve Lamacq how to do the Mod jive, we walked round Chelmsford (I also taught him how to do the Mod Prince Philip walk) while I read passages from my diary.

The programme, which aired (as we say in the business) on 1 June 2016, kickstarted a relay of rather fab events.  An interview on BBC Radio Essex, about the show led to an occasional 6am appearance on BBC Radio Essex reviewing the newspapers, being interviewed by historian Stephen Norris as part of an oral history project about life in Chelmsford in the 50s and 60s, discovering the Ideas Hub – a Chelmsford coffee shop that is also the venue for all sorts of talks and exhibitions, where I talked about being a teenager in the 60s.

And finally, after approximately – hmmm – 30 years, Beyond the Beehive, my novel about life in 60s Chelmsford, finally saw the light of day.  That has been a source of great pride and pleasure, and it’s lovely having Billie on the cover.  We spent a morning in Soho trying out different images.

Billie19     Beyond-the-beehive-draft   beyond the beehive draft cover

But East West, home’s best – we decided on the one taken outside our back door.  beyond-the-beehive-shop


Local group Mark Shelley and the Deans, who played the rocking good sounds we danced to in the Sixties at the YMCA in Victoria Road, got in touch and agreed to play at the launch in Chelmsford which was fantastic.

Mark Shelley and the Deans in the 60s      mark-shelley-and-the-deans

After that there was a great launch in London. I’ve met lots of really wonderful people as I’ve spoken at events and readings. And the book has been selling. In the unlikely event you haven’t bought it yet – get down to Chelmsford Foyles now (or Sherry’s in Broadwick Street, London, or the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green, or go online)!


Every year Goodreads the website for readers, asks you to set yourself a target for the number of books you will read in the year.  I set myself the target of 12 (I had a book to finish!!). I’m up to 13 in fact.  I really enjoyed The Colour by Rose Tremain, about the search for gold in 19th Century New Zealand (who knew?).  There was Michael Connelly, always good solid crime, the quirky Elvis Over England by Barry Hines (the author of Kes).  I read The Girl on the Train – hmm.  I also went back to my very (old) favourite Jean Rhys, Voyage in the Dark.  But my favourite book of the year was a Margaret Forster novel, Keeping the World Away, about a small painting that changes hands from woman to woman through the years.  A lovely story about becoming and being an artist.

Cover of Keeping the World Away by Margaret ForsterWe discovered Corsica.  We expected bandits and vendettas, and bitterness at French ownership of holiday homes. What we found was stunning scenery, friendliness, good food and interesting history.

Erbalunga, Corsica

There were a couple of disappointments – going to see Funny Girl when neither Sheridan Smith nor her fabulous understudy were performing.  And then when we turned up to Hornsey Town Hall to see Martha Reeves of Martha and the Vandellas we were met by disappointed concert-goers and notices saying, ‘She’s not here, she was never going to be here, there is nothing to see here.’ And the agency that had been selling the tickets was unavailable and their website had disappeared.

Martha Reeves didn't turn up

So we went and had tapas.

In Crouch End we now have the ArtHouse and the Picture House so we have the pleasure of great choice as well as good parking.  Earlier in the year there was a period when every film we went to see was about the 50s – Trumbo and Spotlight were excellent.  Bridge of Spies and Carol, were also good, and also 50s, and then recently A United Kingdom told the story of the marriage of the King of Botswana with a white woman from Britain, in the late 40s and early 50s.  A film I really enjoyed was Miles Ahead with the wonderful Don Cheadle, imagining a period in the life of Miles Davis.

the-martianThe Martian, with Matt Damon, we saw at a drive-in in Alexandra Palace, in the pouring rain.  We arrived in time to order hot-dogs – mine was called Clinton’s Love Child.  We ate quickly, washing them down with wine, and then it was time for the film.  The sound was a bit dodgy and some people left their carlights on which were reflected on the screen. So we missed the first 20 minutes through fretting, but despite that and despite being about life on Mars, it was an interesting movie.

But the prize for best, most telling, relevant and heart-breaking film, of course, goes to I Daniel Blake. There is a scene that takes place in a food bank which is the saddest, most gut-wrenching scene I have seen in a long while.


h4w-logoI’ve been involved for some time with the charity Housing for Women (H4W).  They provide accommodation to women who are escaping domestic violence, women who have been trafficked, women leaving prison and older women.  So it was a privilege a few weeks ago to be involved in the process of awarding grants to women to enable them to gain qualifications so that they can provide for themselves and their families. The grants were not large but, for example, would pay for a term of a hairdressing course or a dress-making and design course, or would pay for travel to college. When I was reading for the Bar two or three charities awarded grants to me.  Not only was it lovely to receive £100 or £200 but also to know that people believed in me and wanted me to succeed was a great feeling.  I hope the women who received grants two weeks ago felt the same.

Earlier in the year Leila Crerar, an actor friend of mine, made numerous visits to the Jungle in Calais, taking food and clothes.

Leila Asda - loading (2)       the Jungle

More recently Leila has been involved with the Refugee Info Bus. Two long-term volunteers Rowan Farrel and Sarah Story, with the support of Help Refugees, were converting a horse-box into a mobile tech hub, complete with desks, laptops, charging stations, and a printer. Collaborating with World Wide Tribe, UAidRefugees they introduced Wifi into the bus, and soon thousands had access to the internet.  The plan now is to take the bus to Greece, to assist refugees there to keep in contact with family and loved ones, a small consolation for the terrible plight they find themselves in. Recently an evening event in London raised £17,000 for this excellent cause – and it is not too late to donate.

UAidRefugees auction

It’s been a tumultuous year, at home the Tories hell bent on privatising the NHS and cutting benefits, wanting to bring back Secondary Modern Schools, along with the Brexit result, and abroad Donald Trump’s election, the war in Syria and the plight of refugees all over the world.

Holding our breath, let’s hope 2017 is a better, kinder, safer year for everyone.

On the Pulse


Wells Street in Chelmsford is opposite the bus station and was the home of Chelmsford’s first Indian Restaurant. The Bassment in Wells Street is somewhere I had never been.  But on Wednesday night I went there, a deep dark space full of pillars, bars and wires, for the Chelmsford Arts Collective Christmas Shenanigans – On the Pulse.  The driving force behind the event was Cheryl Hemmings of Hemmingway.  She had organised an evening of poetry, music, stand-up – and me, reading from Beyond the Beehive, obviously a Chelmsford classic.

There had already been a great write up in the Essex Chronicle.  on-the-pulse-essex-chronicle-24-11-16

It’s strange to be introduced by a bear.  But so it was.  The compere for the evening was Carl Denham – we had bonded (I use this word advisedly) before the evening began because his day job is as an usher in Ipswich Crown Court.  He has to wear a gown there, so perhaps (as is so often the case with barristers) he felt better in a uniform.


It was a hip crowd.  Most people were wearing black.  I felt a little formal and yet frivolous in my red waistcoat and velvet jacket.


If I say that there were no chairs I think I need say no more about the age of the audience. We had a short Masterclass in Mods and Rockers and I asked people to think which group they would have been in if they’d been there.  It turned out they were all wannabe beatniks.  But what a nice crowd. They listened, they really listened, as I read about a world they had only ever heard of in conversations over their heads as their mums and nans talked.


After me came stand up comedian Kahn Johnson, who had a robust personality, some good lines and a neat set.  Then it was Ölmo Lazarus – a street, beat poet from Basildon.  He had come hot foot from watching himself on C4 news. 


And his poetry was good stuff, political, clever, funny.  After him came Scott Casey in a reindeer costume (A little known fact about Chelmsford is its inate love of animals).  It was a good set, and I loved the line ‘Every time Slade shout “It’s CHRISTMAS!’ a reindeer dies.” I know the feeling.  And then it was Aunty Sarah’s Puppets – Aunty Sarah with an everyday story of pirate life told with stick puppets and audience participation.

on-the-pulse-11I so enjoyed the evening.  There was a photographer Andre Kimche (he remembered mods and rockers! hurray), and an artist Marc Sephton whose work included portraits of Twiggy, the Rolling Stones and Spiderman.  So in fact, I was not alone.  And even Ölmo Lazarus made reference to mods and style and the importance of clothes.  I was only sorry that I had to slip away before the music began.

Love Chelmsford.


Sixties Saturday

Stroud Green Library Nov 12

Events over the last few days are incomprehensible and almost unbelievable, Donald Trump is to be the next president in the White House, Leonard Cohen has died, and almost unnoticed cuts to the benefits of the poorest in our society have been introduced.

What was happening in the 60s? JFK, one of the most popular presidents ever was shot, thousands of American troops were pouring into Vietnam, pressure was being put on Harold Wilson to send members of the British military to join them, and the Beatles were taking the world by storm. On Saturday 12 November I’m going to be talking about this and more at the Stroud Green Library Sixties Saturday event.

Here’s a piece about the event from the Harringay on Line Friday Ketchup newsletter:

‘The Friends of Stroud Green and Harringay Library are delighted to present an afternoon dedicated to the Sixties at the library on Saturday 12th November from 2 – 4pm

At 2.30 we welcome Elizabeth Woodcraft, a local author, to discuss her new book ‘Beyond the Beehive‘ and what it was like being a mod girl in Chelmsford. Elizabeth will play music from the era and her book will be available to buy after the event.


*Pop up exhibition: For one afternoon only,  from 2pm until 4 pm, local people have lent items from the sixties for our ‘Beyond the Beehive’ exhibition

*Bring a photo of yourself or your parents/grandparents in the 60s’ to share! Bring baby pics, wedding photos, pictures of you on marches or pictures of your parents and grandparents from the 1960s. If you have no photos, write a memory, association or words you associate with the 60s on our post-it note board.

*Take a selfie with a beehive wig! Elizabeth will bring her wigs for you to try on

*Take part in our discussion about what you like, remember, think about the 60s. ALL ages welcome. All you need is an interest in the 60s!

*Browse and borrow books from Haringey Library from or about the 60s

Refreshments available

We are very excited about this event and we hope to see you there!’

Prepare to launch


On Thursday, the day before the London launch of Beyond the Beehive I was at Broadcasting House to appear, live, on Woman’s Hour on Radio 4. You can read about my morning at Broadcasting House here and listen to the interview here (my interview starts at 33 minutes in)

And then it was Friday, the day of the launch. The day started with a dash to Muswell Hill to see Frank my hairdresser. His dad used to have a café in Piccadilly in the Fifties and Frank used to play snooker with Tommy Steele and all the stars. So it wasn’t about preening so much as getting in to the groove. We listened to some Motown and I ended up looking a little bit like Cilla Black.


At 5 o’clock, just before the launch – which started at 6.30 pm – I was to record an interview with Georgey Spanswick for BBC radio. The programme, Feelgood Friday, is syndicated to all the local radio stations in the UK (that’s a lot of stations – 36, including Guernsey!)  I would be in Broadcasting House while Georgey Spanswick would be in another studio – in Leeds I think.  I had had strict instructions from the Manager (as she does not like to be called) that I must get away as soon as possible, to get back to the Launch pad as soon as possible, although she was not optimistic.  Her media experience was telling her that there would be time spent setting up, adjusting and generally farting around, before the recording began.

And the Manager was right. At 5.15 we still hadn’t started. However, after a short tussle over studios, the recording began. Georgey Spanswick was funny, cheerful and we got on famously. I’d sent her a list of some iconic bits of music from the era and she played My Generation by the Who and Rescue Me by Fontella Bass. You can listen to the programme here (the interview starts at 1 hour 10 minutes in). What I hadn’t realised, was that the programme was going to go out at 8pm that night – while we would be eating Twiglets and listening to the Harlem Shuffle at the launch.


No time to think about that. I dashed down to Oxford Circus tube and jumped onto the Bakerloo line – it’s just one stop to Piccadilly Circus. Then I pushed through the Friday night crowds of tourists, school children and wanderers, leaped onto a bus as its doors were closing, went one stop down Shaftesbury Avenue and arrived breathless into the hall at St Anne’s in Dean Street at 6 o’clock. Fortunately Team Beehive aka friends and family had arrived and were doing great work making the hall look lovely with cunningly placed posters and the Banner.  The hall has a sweet garden and with a few well placed flickering fake candles it looked like fairy land (in the middle of Soho!). The evening was mild and balmy which meant people could stand outside.


And people came, from all stages of my life, my pal Christine (aka Sandra), a mate from Tec College, people from Birmingham Uni, Feminists, Guardians, lawyers and a couple of judges, my French class, friends of friends of mine who knew each other quite independently.



At 7 o’clock it was the Readings. After a few minutes of intro and thanks and a mention of a fund raiser for WiFi for refugees on 6 December (information here) I read a couple of short pieces from the book.  The Election, where Linda is poll-checking for her dad, and A Day Out in London (Wormwood Scrubs) where bad boy Danny tries to fix Linda up with Trevor, a fellow in-mate.  People laughed in all the right places. And lots of books were sold and signed


We drove home very slowly, the car full of glasses and wine bottles, posters, the Banner and empty cardboard boxes. One of the battery candles wouldn’t go out and kept flashing and the iPlayer was playing tinnily in one of the bags.  But at home we discovered, after people had obviously listened to Georgey Spanswick’s programme, I’d sold another shed-load of books!

Of course, for me obviously it is all about art and literature. I merely include information about sales because I know some people are interested.

Thanks to everyone who provided support and to all those who came. It was a great evening.

launch-4-2                 launch-97                                    launch-6       sisters-28-10-16


News and Beehive reviews

beyond-the-beehive-banner-with-ew-2-2Preparing for the Beehive bash* on Saturday evening.  We have the banner! Getting the books, the posters and the 60s quiz all ready to go.

*Chelmsford Ideas Hub, 6.30 (Hub 1 1-4 Market Square High Chelmer Chelmsford CM1 1XF)

And so here are a few recent reviews.  I know –  all these three people are people I know, and one is even a relative, but I think their views deserve to be heard!

‘Buy the book everyone I am on chapter three and it is good!’ Sue

‘On chapter 8 – it’s a great read so far.’ Christine

‘I’m half way through and can’t put it down.’ Billie


‘I am a slow reader but now on chapter four and it is still good.’ Sue

What more can I say? The book is available and will be on sale on Saturday evening, when you can get yourself a signed copy AND listen to the magical sounds of Mark Shelley and the Deans.


You can also buy it here.

In the meantime – listen to the sounds that mark that start of the book – Green Onions, by Booker T and the MGs.


Reading Rhys

Voyage in the DarkWhen I am asked who my favourite authors are, the person who comes top of the list is Jean Rhys, author of Wide Sargasso Sea, Voyage in the Dark, Good Morning Midnight, and more (Find some of my other favourite authors below).

So imagine my delight when by chance I saw a tweet saying there was to be a Jean Rhys Reading Week, organised by JacquiWine and Eric Karl Anderson reading and re-reading her books, discussions, blogs, starting on 12 September.

My voyage with Jean Rhys began in about 1969 – I was at Birmingham University, I was 18 and on my occasional trips into Birmingham Town Centre I would drop into Hudson’s Bookshop and browse the novels.  What took me to the R section I can’t remember, but I was intrigued by the description on the cover of Wide Sargasso Sea.  Jane Eyre was my mum’s favourite book and there were several copies in our house. I had been reading and re-reading of Jane’s doomed affair with Mr Rochester for as long as I could remember.


I wasn’t a feminist in 1969 but did have a strong sense of justice and injustice and I was very pleased to find a book that gave Mrs Rochester’s side of the story.  Her life in that bleak bare room at the top of Thornfield Hall was awful (as was Grace Poole’s – surely a novel waiting to be written). I was glad someone was rooting for her. I bought the book, took it back to Mason Hall (the hall of residence I was living in), read it and loved it.  I took the 63 bus back down the Bristol Road into town and once more made my way to the R section in Hudsons.  I bought Voyage in the Dark, After Leaving Mr Mackenzie and Good Morning Midnight. Although Voyage in the Dark was written after After Leaving Mr Mackenzie, it tells the beginning of Jean Rhys’ story.  In it she describes leaving the West Indies and coming to the cold grey world of England.  She is something of a dancer, she becomes a chorus girl, travelling around the country, and begins a doomed affair.  She mentions Chelmsford.

Jacqui Wine suggested it might have been quite a frightening book to read at that age, but I liked that tragedy, I liked her life, being on the stage, staying in dreadful boarding houses, meeting and charming new people, having periods of despair.  I wanted to be an actress, I wanted to have affairs, I told myself I knew what despair was.  And I loved her humour, her dry way with words. She had supreme confidence in herself when she spoke to people coupled with a sense of uncertainty about her place in the world – which is how I felt most of the time.

I was also writing my own stories (earlier work to be found in the recycling bins of history) and reading Jean Rhys’ own story I was fascinated by the way her work was criticised by those fancy schmanzy boys she hung about with who said it was too easy to read, too accessible. I think it was Ford Madox Ford who said something about her sentences or her words not being long enough.  And I thought, that’s how I write, short easy sentences, very few long words.  Jean Rhys is my kind of writer!

In the 70s there was an article in the Guardian about her and I wrote to her via the Guardian.  I never had a reply.  It was probably not the best way to contact her.  I kick myself for not pursuing it – I wanted her to know she had written the lives of many of us.  And a few years later she died.  There was a more recent, lovely article in the Guardian about her by Linda Grant.

I haven’t read Voyage in the Dark for a long time.  This is the book I have chosen to read this week as part of #ReadingRhys. I’m really looking forward to it.


The other writers in my top three are Rosamond Lehmann (especially The Echoing Grove) and Barbara Pymm (especially Excellent Women). More on them later.

Opening the Beehive

Beyond the Beehive front cover

What a great evening at Waterstones Covent Garden on Friday night.  This was an event organised by Novel London and it was standing room only.  There were three authors, Christopher Bowden (the Purple Stain), Laxmi Hariharan (Taken) and me (Beyond the Beehive), each reading the first chapter of our latest novels.

The Covent Garden branch of Waterstones is in Garrick Street, in the middle of  busy Covent Garden.  It also has an entrance in New Row.  It is a place of nooks and crannies, layers and stairs, and shelves packed with enticing books. As I arrived, as the chairs were being arrranged and the wine glasses set out on the table, Norma Cohen who compered the show, gave the readers some last minute professional advice (only project).  Then the cameras were focussed, the mics were attached and, standing in front of a shelf with the title Smart Thinking, the evening began.

All three books were very different, mine about working-class girls in the 60s, Christopher’s about crime in Paris and London and Laxmi’s many-lives novel.  The evening was compered with enormous charm and humour by Norma Cohen.

Eizabeth Woodcraft & Norma Cohen at Waterstones Covent Garden

It was a great birthday party for me.  Several of my Christine-friends were there (people whose names are Christine) including my oldest friend Christine who is the inspiration for Sandra. Apart from arguing that she would never have worn caramel flavoured lipstick, I think she liked it (of course she hasn’t read the whole book yet) (Don’t sue me, I’m a lawyer).  There were people from my French class (merci!), writing pals, my relatives, barristerial colleagues and chums we see in Paris. I didn’t have copies of my book to sell, but I did have postcards! and there were a few copies A Sense of Occasion.  Afterwards, a few of us went to Carluccio’s across the road for a bowl of pasta and a glass of red wine and I went home with roses and gifts and cards.

So a huge vote of thanks to Waterstone’s Covent Garden and to Cameron Publicity for supporting such a great event, and of course to Novel London for setting it all up.

Beyond the Beehive front cover

Beyond the Beehive

Beyond the Beehive front cover (squared)Beyond the Beehive is about to make its first appearance into the world.  It has been a long time coming but now it is really happening.  I shall be reading the first chapter at Waterstones in Covent Garden on 2 September at 6 pm.

It’s a book I’ve wanted to write for most of my life, because it seems the world has not paid much attention to the lives of mod, working class girls, and I wanted to redress the balance.  When I was about 10 I started to write a book about a girl who didn’t go to boarding school.  Somehow, apart from the Secret Seven books by Enid Blyton, there weren’t that many books around about children who went to day school.  All those boarding school kids had to have their adventures in the long hot summer holidays, whereas in my world we were having adventures on weekdays and weekends. I say adventures – I mean writing the local newspaper, cooking ourselves little restaurant meals, putting on plays for the other kids in the street, and following someone on the estate we were convinced was a spy and noting his movements down in our notebooks (a spy with a very dull life, it turned out).

The problem grew more acute as I got older and became a mod.  There were limitations with being a mod – if you weren’t interested in clothes and music and possibly scooters and if your mum and dad would not have let you go to Clacton or Margate on a Bank holiday, even if you’d wanted to, then there wasn’t  much going on – but there was still a life, and one with a lot of action.  The film Quadrophenia demonstrated that people were interested in mods, but the girls don’t get much of a look in, in the story.

So, out came the notebook and over the pages flew my pen, and then my word processor and then one computer after another.

I hope I’ve captured some of the essence of the excitement of Saturday nights, walking into a dance hall in time to the rhythm of Green Onions, or the smell of Wishing perfume by Avon, or seeing people you knew wearing parkas and leather coats, swooping along the road to park outside the mods’ coffee bar.  It was a great time.

Beyond the Beehive front cover

Beyond the Beehive is out on 26 September 2016.


Thinking about what a friend had said

A 45 record

I was looking at Twitter this morning (part of my 24 hour a week habit) and noticed a tweet by @thomhickey55 talking about the recordings of the song Sea of Love by Phil Phillips, Tom Waits and Del Shannon.  My heart always flutters a little at the name Del Shannon, famed for Runaway, Hats Off to Larry and Little Town Flirt, songs that accompanied my first steps into love and romance and also songs to hear, with breathlessness and expectation, at the fair, because of the organ music and the echoing sound, and the prospect of what might happen next.

But the main reason my interest was piqued was because it reminded me about the 1989 film Sea of Love starring Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin. I love that film.  Ellen Barkin is such an interesting actress, husky voice, lopsided smile, good with one-liners.  The film is funny, clever, romantic, erotic and it’s a thriller.  What more could you ask? It even has John Goodman.

It made me think about the films I love.  There’s the Big Easy (1986) another Ellen Barkin movie, this time with Dennis Quaid.  Another thriller, with atmosphere and romance and some great Cajun music.  When I first saw it I wasn’t that impressed.  Perhaps it was the cinema seats – not comfortable, people talking, no good snacks.  I don’t know, but when I watched it again and again, I really enjoyed it.  Dennis Quaid is the laid back cop in down town New Orleans and Ellen Barkin is the out of town big shot who comes in to shake up the team and root out corruption.  Sparks fly.  What do you expect?

And last weekend I was talking to my niece about films everyone should see.  My immediate response was Klute (1971) (I’d just been to see The Trial of Jane Fonda at the Park Theatre – worth a visit, catch it before it closes).  Klute is the story of a man from a small town who goes missing in New York, and small town cop Klute (Donald Sutherland) comes to look for him and meets the wannabe actor but for the time being call girl Bree Daniel, who is being followed. Another thriller. I loved it then for the story and for the look of Jane Fonda, her life, living in New York in an odd, pretty apartment, reading books in bed at night, buying flowers, and Donald Sutherland, tall and loping, easy going but yearning, and a beautiful couple.

And Cabaret (1972) because of the story – Germany in the 30s – and the way the politics are explained and described.  It’s so neatly done.  The wonderful Liza Minnelli really is extraordinary.  It was the first time I had really enjoyed watching a musical – Oklahoma, South Pacific and the like had never done it for me – because in Cabaret, the songs add something, they highlight and enrich the dialogue.

Then rushing through to the 21st Century The Connection (2014) – a French film, La French, this is the French reply to the French Connection.  It’s a great film with Jean Dujardin (known for the 2011 black and white movie the Artist), as the local magistrate who has been dealing with family cases but who is given the task of breaking up a successful drug ring. It’s fast, pretty and tense, based on a true story.

They say the weather this weekend will be good, but if it rains – it’s one to watch.