Radio Gorgeous

Wedding outfit

This is a brief post to alert you to the interview I did with Radio Gorgeous which is now up on their website as a podcast. *

Just before Christmas, on a wintery afternoon, Jo Pembroke and I sat in the John Snow pub in Soho, near Carnaby Street and talked – and talked. In the background you can hear the end of the lunchtime rush. Of course we discussed Chelmsford, mods and rockers, the Corn Exchange and music – and the interview opens, like the book, with the haunting organ chords of Green Onions. But the conversation ranged far and wide. Jo steered the conversation to Heybridge Basin in Essex where my dad grew up, Leytonstone in London where my mum was born, Woodford where the World War ll bomb fell on their house, then their meeting in the boom town of Chelmsford, where I was born and grew up.  Then on to Birmingham, Leicester and Tours, before landing back in London.  It’s all here

The picture that accompanies the interview is me in our back garden on the Woodhall Estate.  On the left of the picture is our shed.  People who have read Beyond the Beehive will know the importance of a shed in the life of a young person who wants to keep a secret. Behind me stretch the other houses on our block and far in the distance, on the right of the picture is the beginning of the shops. Important for chips, the purchase of wedding presents, the Off Licence and Sally the Baker’s. Plus the all important grocer’s.

I am wearing a black dress and a red beret. And for real fashion aficionados, the shoes were black patent with Louis heels and a flower detail. An interesting combination for a wedding outfit, and the basis of not a few jokes. But I take comfort from the fact that my niece (whose image is on the front cover of the book) saw this picture and asked me if I still had the dress as she liked it.  Or possibly because she was about to go to a fancy dress party.


* Friend M writes ‘Last night …. could not absolutely could not get to sleep.  Cup of tea etc and then I found Radio Gorgeous and you being interviewed! After that I was ab… z z z z z’

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!’

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.


An Awfully Big Occasion

It is all go in Chelmsford, preparing for the launch party of A Sense of Occasion.

A sense of occasion_white

The Saracen’s Head will be humming – just as it did when mods dropped in, lurching from the Lion and Lamb, via the Golden Fleece and the White Hart, parking their scooters outside, slipping out of their parkas.

The play list for the launch has been one of the most important features.  As regular visitors to this website will know, the stories in A Sense of Occasion trace the lives of four mod girls in the 60s – love loss laughter and scooters.  So the music has got to catch the essence.  The Four Tops, Spencer Davis, Green Onions, a smattering of the Beatles, James Brown, Donnie Elbert and more.  Just listening to the tracks now is like being at the Corn Exchange on a Saturday night.  Everyone smelling their best – Old Spice or Avon’s Wishing. Everyone looking their best in their suede coats and their Hush Puppies.

Books will be on sale, books will be signed.  There will be a prize for the best mod outfit. There will be lights, there will be music.  Can’t wait!

Hear more great tracks at The Sixties Made Me