Sunday 30 March 2014


  I’ve just finished reading a book recommended to me by Tonythebook of Formby Books called THE ROSIE PROJECT by Graeme Simsion who is an Aussie. Previously an IT consultant with an international reputation and married to a professor of psychiatry who writes erotic fiction, this is his first novel. It gets good reviews and some stress that it’s a laugh-out-loud book. I enjoyed the novel and learnt something from it which is something I like to do when reading. But I didn’t laugh out loud once! I put that down to my age and you, dear reader, might find it hilarious. Years ago when I saw THE PINK PANTHER for the first time I nearly choked because I was laughing so much but when I saw it recently, alas, I only smiled faintly.

     When checking my emails earlier I received one from the VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas). It was sent by a man in Nepal, who was telling me about the different my support makes to those girls, who without it, wouldn’t have been able to go to school and learn to read and write.

     The thought of not being able to read or write fills me with horror. Yet if I’d been born two hundred and fifty/two hundred and sixty years ago into a working class family in Liverpool, it was highly likely that I would have been illiterate. In 1865 when my Norwegian mariner great-grandfather Martin Nelson, married my great-grandmother, Mary Harrison, neither of them could sign their name but made their mark with an X.

     I’ve often wondered why an X? Why not an O or another letter? It’s the same with voting papers or questionnaires. Why an X?

     By the time their son, my grandfather, William Nelson married my grandmother Ada Florence Cooke in 1896 now they had been taught to read and write and were able to sign their own names.

     Education is a marvellous thing.

     Whenever I do a talk on how I became a writer and my writing life, I always mention how my dad taught me my alphabet from a sign writing book. The letters were in all different kinds of scripts, some fancy, some plain, but I learnt my letters backwards and forwards before I went to school. That book was the only one in our house barring another one on how to draw figures. They were in Dad’s possession because he had a sideline in sign writing for shops and also enjoyed drawing, painting and making plaster models, him being a plasterer. If there had been more money in the family, then he might have become a commercial artist as his commanding office suggested when he was demobbed from the army after the war. He used his talent to decorate the envelopes containing the letters he wrote to my mother while in the army. I’ve often wondered where he got his artistic talent from and whether there were ever any-would-be writers in my ancestry. I suppose I'll never know but both my brothers followed in my father's footsteps and I have originals by my eldest brother Ron on my wall. 

Above is a link to all my covers, including the latest ones to be published and reissued under a different title this coming year.



Sunday 16 March 2014


For hundreds of years the Irish have been leaving Ireland’s shores but their patron saint, Patrick, whose day is celebrated on Monday, did it in reverse. He wasn’t Irish but a native of Briton in the 5th century. Believed to have been kidnapped by pirates at the age of sixteen, he was taken as a slave to Ireland and lived there for six years before escaping and returning to his home in Briton. He became a cleric and eventually returned to northern and western Ireland as a missionary and in later life became Bishop of Armagh.

Of course, there will be celebrations in Liverpool of one kind or another this weekend and on St Patrick’s Day, what with the city boasting a large number of Irish. There’ll be food, music and dancing.  Liverpool FC headquarters is said to be putting on a special menu that day which will include potato and leek soup with soda bread for starters and finishing with chocolate bread and butter pudding. No doubt Irish whiskey and Guinness will be the drinks of the day. 


I was amused to find online that - just for fun -  you can play a scene from films of the worst Irish accents created by famous film stars -  they included - Tom Cruise, Sean Connery, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, and I must  mention Irishman, Pierce Brosnan. It also says somewhere else that a number of famous people (mainly Americans) claim to have Irish blood. Writers have to be careful about dialect. Overdo it and the reader cannot understand what your characters are talking about. So I'm careful to play the Liverpool accent down and have just one talking the lingo.


I’ve probably mentioned before that I was one of those Liverpudlians who when I went to Ireland, denied having  a drop of the Irish in my veins. The taxi driver in Co Mayo on the west coast, refused to believe my sister and I, saying if you came from Liverpool, you were bound to have some Irish in you. His words have since proved prophetical because I discovered on Ancestry that I have a great-great-great grandfather who was born in Ireland, also my husband’s grandfather was born in Co Antrim. The Irish family connection was strengthened when one of my nieces, Christine, married an Irishman. The wedding took place, not far from Naas, which happened to get a mention in one of my old Mills & Boon romances set in Ireland during the reign of Richard II. It was great fun writing it because for me Ireland had a touch of magic about it even in those days. As according to legend, St Patrick discovered in his day when he battled against the Druids for the souls of the Irish and eventually won.


Sunday 9 March 2014

PART 27: IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN This blog is copywrited.

Today is the first Sunday in Lent and last Wednesday (Ash Wednesday) signalled the beginning of a time when thousands of people decide to give up something they enjoy, such as chocolate, wine or cake for Lent. This despite the fact that often they’d say that they weren’t religious. I only discovered recently that some churches burnt the palm crosses from the previous years Palm Sunday and it is the ash from them that the priest would smear on penitents' foreheads at the start of Lent. I purchase the palm crosses for my church from a church in London, who see to the distribution of them throughout the country. They, in turn, buy them from a village in Africa called Masasi. They aren’t expensive but they provide a welcome income for the villagers who make the crosses from palm leaves.

When I was young growing up in Liverpool my parents weren’t churchgoers, although us children were sent to Sunday School with our penny collection clutched tightly in our hands. The one I went to was in Dawber Street, and was attached to St Chrysostom’s Church on Queens Road, Everton. Along with the stories my father told me, those Bible stories I learnt at Sunday School made a big impression on me as they were full of drama and courage and often humour. I also learnt to think of others worse off than myself. We used to collect halfpennies to help the Leprosy Mission, although I think in those days it was called Mission to the Lepers. It was a marvelous day years later when I heard about the drugs that had been developed to cure leprosy. There’s a wonderful novel by Victoria Hislop called “The Island” The title refers to Spinalonga, off the coast of Crete, that was a leper colony. The story stirs the emotions and deserved to be the million best seller that it was.

We kids also used to go to a Christian Endeavour hall on Breck Road where they would show films and sometimes lantern slides. It was there I saw my first photo of a chimpanzee so that when later we went to watch Tarzan films at the local cinema, I recognised Cheetah, Tarzan’s animal companion, straightaway.

This Lent I’m not really giving anything up but rather taking something up. There’s a book I read every now and again called “Finding Sanctuary” by Abbot Christopher Jamison who had an important role in the TV series THE BIG SILENCE and THE MONASTERY. "Finding Sanctuary" also has a sub title, Monastic Steps for Everyday Life. I grew up C of E but in the Seventies the ecumenical movement took off and, I’m glad to say, the different denominations of Christianity in our area came together during Lent and we got to see the inside of each other’s churches when we met to study aspects of our faith. So different to when I considered it daring to peep inside a Catholic church.

The book led me to a website called Sacred Space. It’s organised by Irish Jesuits and there is a Daily Prayer and reading for each day. You can also click on a Guide button and Looking for Inspiration button which is helpful for meditation. So I plan to visit the site everyday. The good ol’ C of E also has a good website with readings and prayers which I’ve often visited when leading the prayers in my church.

It’s good to mark off the year with special occasions. My mother always made pancakes on Shrove Tuesday which was often at half term and we always had fish on Fridays. Come the end of Lent no doubt it will be fish and hot cross buns in our house and chocolate eggs on Easter Sunday to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus and the new growth of Spring. One of the first pieces of writing I had published in MY WEEKLY magazine was about Easter Customs, come Easter, maybe I'll remember to blog part of the article.