Monday 21 November 2016

One of the things about getting out and about is meeting people

I've just returned from a week in Keswick, Lake District and no, it didn't rain all the time. Hopefully there won't be the floods there were last year. There is still a bridge not in place from last year.  The trees were still ablaze with colour and Derwentwater was not as high and on my birthday was calm and shimmered in the sunlight. People strolled about enjoying the fresh air and scenery, pausing to converse with complete strangers now and again. There were a few moments when we enjoyed watching some children attempting to feed some geese, not the common or garden Canadian kind but those my son, Iain, thought were called Graylings. I was a bit concerned for the smallest child because I remembered staying with my aunt Agnes, uncle Jack and my cousin Patsy in the Old Roan which was country to me living in the back streets of Liverpool. My uncle took us for a drive to a farm where there were geese and one pecked me. It hurt! Which is what happened to the little lad when a goose took bread from his hand.

One of my most enjoyable conversations was when Iain and I went into a small art gallery. The young man behind the reception desk was painting and so we took a peek and asked him about his work and what was his name. He told us that it was Chris Nelson and that interested me because my maiden name is Nelson. I knew there were painting in the gallery by an artist by the name of Nelson and Chris said he was his father. Their styles were very different. I told Chris that my great-grandfather was a Norwegian mariner who had sailed into Liverpool and married a local girl. He told me that he had visited Norway three times and that one of his favourite places is Bergen. One of my ambitions is to visit Norway myself but I don't want to go on a fjords cruise but to stay in Norway and one of the places I'd like to visit is Arundel as I believe it possible that my great-grandfather's ship sailed from there in Victorian times. I also mentioned that my brothers and father and two of my sons were artistic and had done a fair amount of drawing and painting pictures as a hobby.
     Naturally I bought one of Chris's paintings which he kindly reduced the price of as it was my birthday. I can't say that I'm much of a painter but I did treat myself to a colouring book for adults at one of the shops as well as buying a jigsaw from a Dr Barnardo's charity shop and chattered to the women in both places.

I've found most walkers are prepared to pass the time of day for a short time and on one of our walks along the old railway trail a couple stopped to talk to us. My husband had gone on ahead of me and Iain and Tim as the latter had set up his tripod and was taking some photos. The river Greta was roaring over some rocks and worth a shot or two. Anyway, the couple remembered meeting us all earlier and  told us they had seen a man in a red jacket further on where a bridge was closed due to a landslide but they had not seen him on the way back and he had mentioned not waiting for us any longer. We said we hadn't seen him so we were all puzzled to where he was but I then reckoned he had managed to get the other side of the river and was walking through the woods on the other side and gone back to the house but he was not there when we got back but arrived shortly after and said he hadn't crossed the river but found a track that took him to the road and had come back that way.

When in Liverpool I'm always falling into conversation with people on the street or in the cathedral but it's good to know that it's not only us Scousers who enjoy a gab.

Thursday 10 November 2016

Memories that Time and Distance can Never Destroy

A few days ago I had a visitor from New Jersey. It was great to see my cousin Irene who I hadn't seen for several years. It's true that these days we can keep in touch via email or on facebook but it isn't the same as actually seeing someone in the flesh and chatting and giving each other a hug. Interesting, her middle sister lives miles away on the west coast of America in California, New Jersey is on the east coast. Two scousers who have chosen to live near the sea when they emigrated. It's in the blood. My mother was fond of saying that Liverpudlians have salt water in their veins. Their eldest sister lives in Liverpool. My eldest brother, Ron, when he went south, ending up living in Westcliff -on- Sea, on the outskirts of Southend in Essex. my other brother, Don, went to sea, following in the footsteps of our maternal grandfather.

When we were kids we used to go camping to Towyn, nr Rhyl, N. Wales. Our mothers being sisters meant we were all very close and those camping holidays remain strong in our memories and we remind each other of those happy days whenever we meet up.
This time my cousin said to me, 'You were always singing when we were on holiday.'
I thought 'Always!'  I know I love music and have been in various choirs in my time and never miss 'Songs of Praise' and singing along if I can but I'd soon be sat on if I never shut up by my menfolk. Then my cousin reminded me of the times when we had a choice of catching the bus from Rhyl to the campsite or walking and having a bag of chips. More often than not we chose to have the chips. On the walk I would start singing 'Take me back to the Black Hills, the beautiful hills of Wales,' to the tune of the Doris Day hit, 'Take me back to the Black Hills of Dakota,' from 'Calamity Jane'.
She had been reminded of that the other year when my cousin who lived in California and her husband decided to go on a road trip and asked her along. When looking at a map they spotted Dakota and immediately my cousin recalled those days in Wales and us singing and eating chips as we walked home to the campsite from which we could clearly see the hills of Wales dark against the sky, so straightaway, Dakota was one of the places they had to visit.

It was my brother, Don, who reminded us of visits to the outdoor swimming pool of Rhos-on-Sea, nr Abergele, and how we dared each other into climbing higher and higher until we stood on the uttermost highest diving board. I do still remember jumping from it but no way would I have dared to dive. Another place we liked to go during the evening was to the penny slots arcade near the beach at Towyn. We never had much money to become addicted to gambling and some of our money went into the juke box. One of the hits of the time was 'A White Sports coat and a Pink carnation'.  He and my elder cousin Maureen recalled outings to the Pivvie after Christmases to see a pantomime when part of the entertainment was a sing-a-long to words on a sheet dropped in front of the stage.

At times as we remembered those days so long ago for a while we forgot our health problems, the hip replacement, the new knee, high blood pressure and stroke and were
back together as children and the Atlantic ocean that separates us can never take that away.

Friday 7 October 2016

Queues have their upsides; Part 71

A few days ago I was in Manchester airport having landed from a flight from Rhodes in the Greek isles where we had left a chaotic airport only to find a different kind of chaos here in the good ol' UK. The queues to get through passport control were unbelievable long and John and I had visions of being stuck there for hours, knowing son Tim was waiting for us in Arrivals. I imagined that the cost for the car parking would be outrageous, just as the cost for 3kilos of baggage over the limit had been in Rhodes (54 euros) I think the carpark charges were around £9. At least there were no terrorists. Thank God!

Anyway, as one does in queues, we got talking and the woman I was speaking to said that she was from Blackpool. I mentioned that I had been born in Blackpool because Mam had been evacuated doing the war to have me as the local maternity hospital had been bombed. The woman asked where in Blackpool had I been born and I told her in a hotel on the front. This surprised her. But in those days, of course, no doubt the hospitals in the resort had run out of beds and hence my being born in what in those days had been a guesthouse but is now a hotel. I found a photo of it when doing my ancestry. And no - there isn't a blue plaque on the wall saying June Francis born here. I have no idea what I looked like as a baby because Dad wasn't around to take photos even if he'd had the lolly to afford a camera. Mam did tell me that I was dainty and had curly blonde hair.

We discussed our holidays and I said that I'd had enough of going abroad. I'm not that keen on the heat and flying and airports, although John loves the heat. She said that I should take my holidays in Blackpool. I said we were going to the Lakes in November for my birthday. Besides I know that I'll never get John to Blackpool as he has to have mountains or hills to climb and we like to get out of towns. The other suggestion I've had for holidays is to go on a cruise which is another no, no. as no hills to run up for John. For me it would be a nightmare trapped at sea with hundreds of people.

I couldn't help thinking back to those days when cruising from Liverpool was popular, even if it was only a trip to Llandudno or an evening trip along the Mersey on the Royal Iris. Of course, if you had money you could go further afield. In researching my books I even discovered that there used to be gambling cruises, where ships would go out as far as necessary to where people were safe from the law to have a flutter.

Also I was remembering those years after the war when British housewives were still having to queue up at the shops. My outstanding memory is queuing up with Mam at the fish shop on a Friday in Breck Road. The shop was called Charles' and there was a padded bench alongside one wall for us to rest our weary legs and backs. The shop not only sold lots of different kinds of fish, included salted fish for Dad's Sunday breakfast but also rabbits with their fur on. Mam loved a bit of skate and hake. I remember skate was sticky and hake was delicious white fish. I loved kippers. Perhaps  that's the Manx in me. I remember our Don working on the I.O.M boats bringing home kippers. My only trip to I.O.M was when John used to skindive and Liverpool subaqua club went there for a weekend of diving at Port Erin. I wish I'd known then I had Manx blood I'd have found it a whole lot more interesting. Anyway, I'll have to get to work on John to visit there again. As it is we've had several holidays in Anglesey before I knew I had ancestry from there as well as the Lakes where some of my maternal forebears come from.
  As for Blackpool when I worked as a cash clerk for Littlewoods, we had a works outing there every year, so I know the resort reasonable well and have never forgotten screaming my head off on the Big Dipper.  The one and only time I have been on one and I won't be queuing up to go on ever again.

Saturday 3 September 2016

Skinny-me-link - Those were the days; part 70

I was watching Trust Me I'm a Doctor last evening and of course, Obesity, exercise and diet was on their menu for discussion. This morning as John and I were having or early morning walk I was thinking about the programme and remembered being called Skinny-me-link when I was a young girl. Despite being an avid reader and spending time curled up in a chair in our parlour, I still got plenty of exercise daily without thinking about.
     At the moment I've going through my agents' comments on my latest book WALKING BACK TO HAPPINESS and one of the comments she made was to do with some children playing out in the evening towards the end of winter. Surely they wouldn't be playing out in the dark? she had typed. This is the very early sixties and in my opinion children still played out with their friends. Television hadn't a strong grip on their minds as there were few TVs around, neither were there that many cars. I know I was a child of the forties and fifties but it wasn't until later in the sixties that so many things began to change and the lives of many working class children didn't change that much.
       I look back to times when children and teenagers often remained outside playing or just hanging around beneath a lamp post and talking because it was preferable to going indoors where our parents would be listening to the wireless, so we'd have to be quiet. It was much more fun and exciting outside with friends and we could get the fidgets out of our legs after a day spent sitting at a desk. On the whole we were fearless. We avoided going up back entries because our mothers warned us against doing so, having told us girls that there were men who weren't very nice, so never to go with those who offered us sweets. During the long summer holidays we would go in a group together to the park or play street games whilst our mothers gossiped as  they brushed or washed the front step.
     There is much that is good and enjoyable about today but years ago we didn't seem to need advice on doing what should come naturally, exercise and eat sensibly.
     I didn't lose my Skinny-me-link nickname until puberty when I started to get curves and had a sedentary job in an  office, watched telly evenings or went to the pictures which also meant eating a bag of sweets during the films or having a romantic meal for two at a restaurant in town. I did walk there and back to the cinema like most of those who went. Unlike today when we go in the car to one of the multi cinemas on the outskirts of the city.   Reason enough for me these days to have that early morning walk and to visit Total Fitness for a swim three times a week.
     As for children playing in the street at any time these days it is a rarity, except at Halloween and that's not playing, unless one calls dressing up play and knocking on doors and asking Trick or Treat?

Saturday 13 August 2016

Here's wishing you good health!

Last week I visited Fazakerley hospital's Stroke outpatient's clinic where I was signed off. The specialist being very satisfied with my recovery from my stroke eleven months ago. These days we regard hospitals very much as places where we can be cured of disease and sent home to get on with our lives.

This week I have been working on my faction book which is a mixture of fact and fiction and is about my ancestors of whom I know certain facts but naturally not all so I have been filling in the gaps in my knowledge by researching with the help of my researcher son Iain the times in which they lived. I am planning on writing three books but this first one begins in 1832 when cholera broke out in Liverpool. At that time the medical profession did not have a definite idea of what caused cholera but from their experience of dealing with this terrifying disease they considered it could be caused by three things and could only guess at how it spread. Something called Miasma from the Greek for pollution was popular and some thought it was spread by touch. They were keen to get sufferers into the cholera hospital as soon as possible so they could be nursed properly under suitable surroundings and had met with some encouraging results.

The drawback to this was the families of the suffering poor had it fixed in their heads that the medical profession had ulterior motives for wanting to take the sick members of their families into hospital. This was only about four years after the scandal of  body-snatchers and murderers, Burke and Hare, had been detected selling the bodies to doctors in Edinburgh and had shocked the nation. So poor people had little or no faith in hospitals as a place of healing and instead believed that their sick would never come out of hospital cured. In fact there were riots and protests outside the hospital against doctors who were nicknamed Burkers.

The newspapers of the day and those who genuinely wanted to help the underprivileged and poor set about doing what they could to improve the situation.
If nothing else the shocking conditions under which the poor lived was brought to the attention of more people of influence. The Church and other well-meaning people were already aware of the overcrowding and filthy conditions the poor lived in and so began the struggle to alter things. It was to take a long time because over the next few years more people flooded into Liverpool, mainly Irish escaping the potato famine in their own country. Most had little or no money and has there was not enough housing, they ended up crowding into unhealthy court and cellar dwelling which meant that when the cholera visited Liverpool again in the hot summer of 1846 the number of victims was high and so was the mortality rate in these areas. Some of the Irish victims had been suffering from typhoid when they fled Ireland which meant those that survived were already in a weakened condition so not able to fight cholera.  We know now that cholera is a water-borne disease but it was only guessed at during the time of the outbreak and at a time when people were thirsty due to the heat, so some were not fussy about where their drinking water came from.
       Two names stand out during those terrible times Dr William Duncan, Liverpool's first Medical Officer of Health. Of Scottish descent, he was born in Seel Street, Liverpool, but gained his medical degree at Edinburgh University but returned to the city of his birth. It is known that he had two practices. one in Rodney Street, the Harley street of Liverpool, and another in the North Dispensary in Vauxhall Road, one of the worse slum areas in the city.
       He was 19 years younger than Kitty Wilson, who was famed for her actions being the instigator behind the Corporation's introduction of public washhouses a few years later. During the epidemic she had one of the few boilers in her area and washed the bedding and clothing of those families struck down. Dr Duncan was outspoken in his condemnation of the Corporation's apathy towards hygiene and housing. He campaigned with his colleague, Dr David Baird, for slum clearance, re-housing and a radical approach to hygiene. This did not make him popular with the hierarchy but eventually conditions for the poor began to improve with the help of Liverpool's first Borough Engineer James Newland.

It is to these people and their successors that Liverpool owes its improved health services, its hospitals, medical centres and university research departments. Thank God for them, I say.

Saturday 23 July 2016

Crabs, flowers and music;

The other day my son, Tim, arrived home sunburnt and happy, having spend hours on New Brighton beach which was something he had never done before, unlike myself for whom that destination was a regular place to go as a child with my parents and siblings but it is a place that my husband and I did not take our boys as children. Most likely that is due to them growing up here in Litherland on the northern skirts of Liverpool which meant visiting Crosby beach or Formby generally. Whereas I grew up in the city itself so like thousands of other Scousers it was a trip on the ferry across the Mersey to New Brighton where not only did I paddle in the sea and dug in the sand, I also went crabbing because there were plenty of rocks and rock pools to explore, something which Formby lacks and there's not many worth mentioning in Crosby. When I said to Tim that I was sorry he'd missed out on crabbing. Immediately he waxed lyrically about caravan holidays in Anglesey where there were lots of rock pools with eels, sea anemones and kewins.

It was Tim who again reminded me of the old days when he mentioned the orange flowers that had just appeared in our back garden. We had planted nasturtiums seeds, something we hadn't done for years but having seen some seed packets in Lidl I was reminded of my mum planting them in the window boxes in the back yard of our terraced house in Liverpool and how colourful they had been. She used to plant Virginia stock and night scented stock in our very small front garden and I remember her having a single peony in the centre of that garden and when at the beginning of the Seventies when the corporation in its foolishness decided to demolish more of Liverpool than was sensible and erect flats which have since in their turn been demolished, she dug up the peony and transplanted it to my garden.

Today Tim is going with a friend to a music festival in Sefton Park. When I was courting, my future husband and I used to visit Newsham Park and listen to a band play there some weekends or even the odd evening in summer. A love of music is international. Liverpool has gained world fame as a city of music and not only because of the Beetles.
     Yesterday evening I was in the small ballroom of the Liverpool town hall with my husband and no 1 son, Iain, listening to a concert given by the Ten Strings Duo, Davide Sciacca on guitar and Marianatella Ruscica on violin. Sicillian, they played Italian classical musical as well as a touch of French and Brazilian before paying homage to the Beatles with their rendering of Yesterday and Let it Be. It was a magical evening and I almost had to pinch myself to see if it was real as I gazed up at one of the fabulous chandelier as I let the music wash over me. The light danced on the crystal droplets so that different colours twinkled from them. Thanks go to Tony Higginson, erstwhile proprietor of Formby Books and who afterwards was party to the move to the WriteBlend Bookshop and Coffee shop on South Road, Crosby for arranging the event.
     We were all invited to have a drink with the deputy Lord  Mayor, Malcolm  Kennedy, and one of the staff offered to run off a brief history of the town hall when I mentioned being a writer and how at Crosby Writers Club, one of our members mentioned his Irish grandfather had been a Fenian. I had remembered a Fenian plot to destroy the town hall but could not remember the date. Hence her kind gesture and I can give you the date now. It was 1881 and the attempt failed. The first town hall was build in 1515 and presented by the Rev John Crosse but by 1673 it was decided it needed replacing but that building did not last long due to inadequate foundations  and so in 1748 John Wood, a famous architect from Bath, designed a new Town Hall which was opened I'm 1754.
     In 1795 fire broke out and destroyed much of the building but almost immediately plans were set in motion for restoration and a London architect, James Wyatt supervised the rebuilding and expansion on Wood's design. The result is basically the town hall as it is today.
   Edward V11 compared the Town Hall's magnificent suite of rooms with the Czar's Winter Palace in St Petersburg as  being 'the best proportioned in all Europe'.

Saturday 25 June 2016

A Royal Visit to Liverpool

Liverpool had a visit from our queen and the Duke of Edinburgh this week and although I wasn't in the city to see them, there was a great special edition in the Liverpool ECHO and the visit was shown on NW television. I mightn't have been there but there were thousands of others present to get a glimpse of them as they visited the Town Hall and Alder Hey's children's hospital. about the queen
Despite being situated in the North West of England, so a good few miles from London. Liverpool has done well when it comes to visits from royalty. I remember my sister and I being taken by Mam and Dad into the hub of Liverpool after WW2. My sister and I took turns of being hoisted onto Dad's shoulders and we were fortunate enough to see King George V1 and Queen Elizabeth and the king's mother, Queen Mary of Teck drive by in an open top shiny black car.

Our present queen has attended the Grand National several times as has the late Queen Mother. One never to be forgotten occasional was when the queen's horse Devon Loch, ridden by Dick Francis, collapsed a short distance from the finish. Who'd have thought he would have gone on to become a best selling crime author when he retired from racing? The queen's grandfather, George V was in Liverpool to open the first Mersey tunnel, the Queensway in the Thirties. Our queen was to open the second tunnel in the Seventies, known by most as the Wallasey tunnel, although it's proper name is the Kingsway.

I remember when I worked in town coming out of Lewis's just as Princess Margaret was passing. I was unaware that she was in Liverpool so it was quite a surprise. My husband has never forgotten the Duke of Edinburgh arriving by helicopter at the Borrowdale Fell Race, Lake District, in which John was participating and His Royal Highness saying they were all mad as he awarded the prizes. I am in utter agreement with HRH as are many people. John was made up that HRH had made the journey because fell racing doesn't get much press, although in the last few years some fell runners have brought the sport to the notice of more people. Fell runners such as Joss Naylor and the like. The Three Peaks and the Munroes are gaining fame as mountains to be run and conquered.

But getting back to royalty I was doing some research for one of my books a while back when I came across a mention of a visit from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The queen opened St George's Hall in 1854 and Prince Albert opened the Albert Dock, which is now one of the most popular tourists sites in the country. In 2007 Prince Charles reopened St George's Hall after a major renovation. My father has a connection with the hall, he was a plasterer and after WW2, he was employed in repairing some of the internal plaster work at the top of some of the pillars that had suffered damage during the Blitz.

Sunday 5 June 2016

more about last post and other things:66

This week the news came that writer Carla Lane had died. How could I have forgotten her?
Creator of The Liver Birds and Bread which provided me with a lorra lorra laughs.

One of my nephews' wife who hails from Windsor, reminded me that I had also forgotten to pay tribute to Liverpool City of Culture 2008 and the Echo reminded me of Phil Redmond and all he had done to promote our fair city.

I am preparing to get out the bubbly because I have finished the book I have been writing - the first since my stroke. Fittingly it is called Walking Back to Happiness and is set at the beginning of the Sixties. The title is that of the Helen Shapiro song which was a hit towards the end of 1961. I am just waiting for my agent's comments and then hopefully the publisher's.

In July I do have a paperback and Ebook out called A SISTER'S DUTY by Ebury, which is a reprint of my FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHILDREN.  LILY'S WAR is out in paperback and has just been released as a Ebook and audiobook as well.

I am now planning to write a series of faction sagas centred on my ancestry  starting in the 1830s up to modern times. It is a big challenge and entails a lot of research and the first book will be titled AND THEY CAME TO LIVERPOOL.  So wish me luck, please?

Saturday 14 May 2016

What's been going on and what's coming up;

It's all happening at the moment in Liverpool and around about. A week ago I was at Croxteth Park preparing to do a sponsored walk for the charity Stroke Association. Fortunately it was a beautiful day and the whole occasion was enjoyable and well supported. The starting ribbon was cut by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and we were led off by the children from two nearby schools who also sang beautifully to encourage us. I'm pleased to say that I've raised just over £140, more than I expected and I'm grateful to all those who supported me. If you want to know more about the Stroke Association, go to their website. As I know by experience Stroke comes out of the blue and it's good to know what to do when it happens.

Last Wednesday, 11th May, I went to St MargaretMary's in Knotty Ash, to give a talk to the Catholic Mothers' group which was very enjoyable, then on the Thursday, I attended a lunch at the Royal Hotel, Crosby to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the forming of Crosby Writers' club. I have been a member for 34years, a good time was had by all and we had a very interesting talk from Amanda Brooke, author who lives Halewood way, which is the south side of Liverpool.

On Thursday, 19th May, I will be talking and signing books at Crosby Library at 2pm and on Saturday, 28th May, I will be talking and signing copies of my latest books at the WriteBlend bookshop on South Road, Crosby at 2pm. All welcome.

In July, 'A Sister's Duty' will be released by publishers, Ebury Press in paperback and as an ebook. It was previously published under the title 'For the Sake of the Children' in hardback and paperback.

I remember way back in my late teens and twenties it was said that Liverpool was dying, people were leaving for the south and emigrating to different parts of the Commonwealth and not only people but companies, including shipping companies, which meant less jobs in my fair city.  Then things started to change and it proved that Liverpool was still alive and kicking and it was still a city that had a strong position on the map of Great Britain. Our two fabulous football teams were famous in places far beyond these shores. I never forget going to Austria a few years ago and meeting a man from Latvia and when my husband and I said we were from Liverpool, immediately he recognized the name. Then, of course, there were the Beatles and other music groups who played their part in making Liverpool famous worldwide. And the Grand National horse race has brought crowds flocking in to the city for years and still does.

Liverpudlian actors and theatres have also played their part - as have writers, and I don't just mean playwrights, such as Willie Russell and Jimmy McGovern, but saga writers, like myself, and Lyn Andrews, Ann Baker, Joan Jonker, Elizabeth Murphy, and the woman who could be said to have started it all, Helen Forrester, I mustn't forget Katie Flynn and Annie Groves/ Sheila Riley. Not all these are Liverpudlians but they have made the city their own.  On the crime side I must remember Martin Edwards and Ron Ellis. Then there are also writers, Beryl Bainbridge,Carla Lane, and Lynda La Plante who made their mark on television and the literary scene.

Now Liverpool is buzzing and it is one of the most popular tourist places in the country. The ships are back in the shape of enormous cruise vessels and it's just great.
Last night son Tim took his camera into the city centre because there was some Light festival or scene going on - also the Beacon was open for visitors to go up to the top where the view would be fantastic. One can also get a brilliant view from the top of the Anglican Cathedral. For information about more events coming up go to the Liverpool website or that of the ECHO.

Saturday 9 April 2016


Friday evening between 6-8 I was at the Frodsham Literary Festival at a Meet the Authors event before there was to be a talk by poet Roger McGough at 9pm. There were 25of us authors with their books on display. Besides my friend Mills & Boon author, Annie Burrows, who lives near Warrington and myself, I knew only about five of the other authors, such as Margaret Murray who writes crime and I think lives in Manchester, but there were children's writers, poets, saga and thriller writers, the author at the next table had come all the way from Ulverston, birthplace of comedian and actor, Stan Laurel, in the Lake District, I wish I could remember her name but it's gone. Next to her was a woman who was a volunteer for VSO who had written of her experiences working in Africa. I found this interesting because I'm a supporter of VSO.

Actually getting to the event was a chore because although my husband and I had both visited the Frodsham area as children, we had not been there since and I had it fixed in my head that it was on the Wirral but it is in Cheshire and lies close to Runcorn, the other side of a narrow stretch of the Mersey from Widnes, and as a lot of you will know they are joined by the Runcorn Bridge. Fortunately, we discovered that there were road works going on in the area because a new bridge is being built presumably to ease the congestion there, so we decided to have a day out a few days before the festival and take a different route to the town of Frodsham which involved travelling through the Liverpool-Wallasey tunnel and the M53, crossing onto the M56 just before Chester which would take us to Junction 12 Frodsham and Runcorn.

Our memories of Frodsham were of - in my case, picking blackberries with my mam, sister and brother on the hill, for John, he remembered doing a run up the hill. The town is easy to get around and parking was no trouble. It has some ancient buildings with thatched roofs and a number of shops of the kind you see in small market towns, but there was a Morrison's and a W.H.Smith's. We went into the latter because John wanted to buy a copy of the Highway Code and I was delighted to find some 1000 piece jigsaws priced 2 for £20 with the kind of pictures I liked as doing jigsaws is something I enjoy doing when not writing, swimming or walking or reading. Then we found a fish and chip shop and bought some chips.

We did not remain in the area to eat them as John had suggested going to Thurstason on the Wirral before we'd left Liverpool as it was ages since we had been there. As children we had been wont to visit there via the ferry to Birkenhead and then bus.
So off we set with the chips wrapped up tightly to keep them warm. We never did reach Thurstason because the journey across to the Wirral took longer than we reckoned on as Thurstason was not mentioned on the motorway boards, so we came off at Heswall and headed in the direction of West Kirkby and Hoylake. We decided to stop in West Kirby and parked on the front where there was a marina with several windsails  skimming along the water, so we sat on a bench eating our chips and tuna sandwiches, watching them and looking beyond to the land on the other side of what John told me was the river Dee. We could also see right across the sands to Hilbre island at some point when we walking along the front. A place to which John and I had walked while the tide was out when much younger.
An experience I put in one of my M&B historical novels, REBEL LADY, CONVENIENT WIFE, a story which is set partly in France.

Maybe it was because I could see Hilbre island that I was half-convinced that the water was not the Dee but the Irish Sea  but the next day when I checked out the map, I realised that West Kirkby is just round the coast at the mouth of the river Dee and that's why we could see both Wales across the Dee and the Irish Sea as well. As for Thurstason that was further inland along a minor road and we must have passed it just after Heswall.

Heswall hospital was the place I was moved to from Myrtle street hospital in Liverpool after fracturing my skull and spine after falling ten feet from a wall at school when I was fourteen. I can't remember a thing about falling or how I came to climb the wall but I do remember being taken through the Mersey tunnel in an ambulance to the orthopaediac ward at Heswall hospital where I had to lie on my back for six weeks. An experience I've used in a saga.

While sitting at the front in West Kirkby, I thought how we could have saved ourselves a long journey if that was all we were going to do, by heading homewards and  travelling just a couple of miles to the marina at Waterloo and then to the front near the coastguard station at Hall Road on our side of the Mersey and the Irish sea. From the latter can be seen the Wirral coast and the Welsh mountains and we can sometimes also see Blackpool tower in the distant northwards.


Saturday 26 March 2016

Easter remembered; Part 62

When I was a girl living in postwar Liverpool, that is the latter half of the forties and the early fifties, Easter was one of the few occasions when my sister and I were bought a new frock; the other times were Whit and Christmas. We didn't have much say in the style or colour as it was Mam who did the choosing and price was all as she couldn't really afford to buy us frocks and she was no dressmaker or knitter come to that. So it was a case of her getting a cheque from Sturla's on Breck Road and paying the money back over a period of time, either that or visiting a van that used to come round and park on waste ground. We'd go up steps at the back and inside there would be clothes on hangers hung on racks that could be bought on tick. I don't know if Dad knew about these goings-on but I remember Mam running up a bill at Begle's, which was a tiny shop that you reached by going up a back entry and into a yard and thence into a room with a counter and behind that on shelves were groceries. Dad was furious when he discovered Mam was in debt and the bill was paid in double quick time.

Mam and Dad didn't go to church but us kids were sent to Sunday School at a mission hall, connected to St Chrysostom's church in Everton, so we had to have new frocks for Easter Sunday so Mam thought. Interestingly despite their lack of churchgoing, we not only always had fish on Good Friday but Mam would never hang washing out on the line that day. On Easter Sunday Dad would boil onion skins and place hen's eggs in the water. The eggshells would get a pattern on and turn a different colour. Despite a shortage of money we always were given a chocolate egg as well. A real treat.

Come Easter Monday, Mum and Dad would take my sister and I out, For some reason our older brothers never came on these outings. Maybe they considered themselves too big to go out with their little sisters and had other plans to do with their mates. Occasionally we would go farther afield to places such as New Brighton by bus and ferry or even to Chester. More often than not it would be to Newsham Park or Sefton Park, the latter meant taking a bus. We would feed the ducks and play ball on the grass.
We would have never thought of these occasions as Quality Time as a lot of working parents and their children regard them now.

Mam did not go out to work until my younger sister was at secondary school, so for years we had plenty of time to spend with her, unless we were playing out in the street with our friends; games such as skipping, rounders, tick, giant strides, top and whip, two balls, hopscotch, etc.  There were numerous games which kept us fit and prevented us from getting overweight. We also walked most places.
This is turning into a real nostalgia indulgence so I'll finish by wishing you all a happy Eastertide.

Sunday 20 March 2016


Two weeks ago John and I went for a two night break in the Lake District. It only took us an hour and three quarters to get to Ambleside. Staying in the Elder Grove B&B among the guest were four blokes (note that word, not guys but blokes. I am utterly fed up of the use of the word guys which is used not just for men as in the musical Guys and Dolls, but for women and children as well. I don't know how many times my husband and I have been referred to as You guys and as you'll have gathered I don't like it one little bit.) Rant over.
Anyway, these blokes were from Suffolk and one of them asked me 'How long was the drive to Liverpool from Ambleside?'
Apparently it was about fifteen years or so since he had visited Liverpool to see a football match and he would like to go and visit our fair city again and have a proper look around.
I told him he would find it much changed. Immediately he mentioned Liverpool One. I said that there was much more to see than that and named several places , beloved of Liverpudlians and tourists alike so whetted his appetite to set foot in Liverpool even more. Another guest from London stressed how fortunate John and I were living where we did, not only were we within a shortish drive of the Lake District but Chester, the Wirral, North Wales, the Pennines and the beautiful Lancashire countryside as well.

John and I didn't need telling that because we've always known we live in one of the handiest places to visit beautiful countryside and coast and places of historical interest around as well as having some of the friendliest and quirky characters going.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Bay Television: Part 61

Last Thursday evening we had a camera crew visit Crosby Writers Club. I had never heard of Liverpool's own television channel until then. The reason for the visit was that our club is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year and it is believed that we are the oldest writers club in the country. During the proceeding I was interviewed about my writing life and membership of the club and I had the opportunity to promote my latest book MANY A TEAR HAS TO FALL as some copies had arrived that morning. I also did my best to promote our libraries which are in danger of vanishing from the face of this fair isle of ours and that is a disgrace. I doubt  I would have ever succeeded as a published writer if it were not for our libraries and Crosby Writers Club. For all the talk we hear about the need for literacy for the country's children, there is never mention of the damage that closing our libraries is doing. The part that free public libraries did in helping educating working class poor families is phenomenal and it is time the government and local councils thought again when it came to the subject of what is more important to the nation.

Right, now I have that off my chest I want to inform you a bit more about Bay Television - according to my son Tim it takes its name from Liverpool Bay which, of course,  takes in more than just Liverpool itself. Think of the Wirral for instance.
Anyway, it is on freeview so anyone in the country can view it. I don't know when the film will be shown yet but when I do, I'll blog about it. The programme is a Books programme.  In the meantime you could take a look at their website:

Saturday 20 February 2016

Last night I watched this great programme called sea ports about Liverpool: PART 60

After a busy day swimming, shopping, writing and reading, my son Iain brought up on iPlayer the above programme which I had missed on Thursday on BBC 2 because I had gone to Crosby Writers Club where Roger Philips of Radio Merseyside was judging our Article Competition, he also told us something about how he because a presenter on Radio Merseyside which proved very interesting. Roger was a Mancunian and for those who haven't heard that term it means he's from Manchester but he is now a honorary Liverpudlian. Anyway the above programme was mentioned as was Liverpool's new cruise ship terminal.

But the programme was about more than the new cruise ship terminal and all that the team there are doing to make tourists welcome and to get the best out of their visit to Liverpool. We had an insight into the working day of a family of tug boat sailors who tugged large ships along the Manchester Ship canal. Then we were taken to the beautiful island of Anglesey where a couple of pilots awaited a Greek tanker to guide it through the Mersey estuary and along the river to a oil refinery on the Wirral side of the Mersey. I knew already there were wrecks in the river as well as sandbanks.
 When I was a girl I was often taken on the ferry across the Mersey to Seacombe or New Brighton and Dad would point out the buoys that marked wrecks of ships sunk during the war. As for the sandbanks, my grandfather was a stoker on a dredger that helped stop the river from silting up. There were lovely views of both coastlines of the Mersey and of course the iconic Liver birds atop the Liver Building always brings a lump to my throat. Apparently Liverpool is one of the few ports were when passengers land they are immediately in the city and there is so much to see of interest in the immediate vicinity.

There were interviews with some of the tourists from a cruise ship which I think was called Sea Princess; a number of them had come primarily to see the Cavern and Penny Lane because of their links with the Beetles. We also were invited to empathise with some hardy souls who swam across the Mersey for various good causes in terrible weather conditions. We also saw some amateur boat builders on the Wirral, renovating an old sailing boat - smallish - and watched as with the wind in its sails it braved the waves.
The programme finished with shots of the visit of the three queens, Victoria, Mary II and Elizabeth in celebration of Cunard's 100 anniversary - a never  to be forgotten sight.

P.S. At 6-8pm Friday, 8th April, I will be at Frodsham Community Centre at a Meet the Author session as part of the Weaver Words, Frodsham Literary Festival, Wed.6th April to Sunday 10th April. There is a short story competition and various speakers.
for more information visit their website; Weaverwords, Frodsham Literary Festival.

My website is

Saturday 30 January 2016


It’s ages since I’ve been in Liverpool after dark but having bought tickets for the Liverpool Echo Carol Concert at the Anglican Cathedral, son, Tim, who goes into the city most days, decided he would drive us there, avoiding the city centre. It was the last Friday before Christmas and a lot of the shops would be open for late night shopping, so it was going to be chaotic. When we said we’d walk down to Central Station and get the train home, he said, ‘Definitely not as the trains would be packed. He would come and pick us up.’

I’m glad he did.

The cathedral was magical with a beautifully lit up Christmas tree and it was packed with people.

Joe Riley who writes for the Echo was the Compere and there were several special guests, including Pauline Daniels who has played Shirley Valentine on the stage, a 14 year old girl, Angelina Dorin-Barlow sang three solos and had the voice of an angel, John Hayden, an expert on bell-ringing, spoke about how the clappers on bells are muffled when they ring out the dying of the old year, but the leather mufflers are removed to ring in the new year with a joyous sound. The cathedral bells have a claim to fame which Joe told us about but which I can’t remember now but the cathedral has a very good website if you want to know more. The really special guests were the Appleton Family whose son has been undergoing treatment at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital for the last five years. The concert was in aid of the hospital which is known worldwide. There were also several guest ensembles: Liverpool Cathedral Youth Choir, Choirs of St Mary, West Derby, and Holy Trinity, Southport. All the singing was glorious and I pitied those exhausting themselves doing their Christmas shopping.

For me, the occasion brought memories flooding back because when I attended Liverpool Girls College, our school and St Edmund’s used to celebrate Ascension Day in a service at the cathedral in the fifties, there was no shop or restaurant then. I was also confirmed there.  As for Alder Hey Hospital, Tim and I were to visit there over a period of six weeks after Tim fell out of a conker tree and broke both wrists, cracked a kneecap and broke his nose. It was to be eight years before his nose was to be fixed as his bones were still growing. At twenty-one, a slither of bone was taken from his hip and a new bridge made for his nose, but this was done at Whiston Hospital’s special plastic surgery unit.

We were also reminded of this when I fell from some steps outside a shop recently and landed on my nose. Fortunately I suffered no broken bones but my face was a mess with cuts and a swollen nose and two black eyes. Still, I’ve had a lot of sympathy from folk and encouragement from Tim and my husband thinks I’m brave and uncomplaining.

But setting this aside, I must tell you about the view from outside the cathedral which stands on St James Mount, we could see the lit up ferris wheel down by the waterfront and it was down to the waterfront  that Tim took us as he had returned home earlier via the dock road, after going past the Albert Dock where there were trees decorated with lights but also a couple of sailing ships. The way one ship was lit up was in the outline of a Christmas tree.

Whilst considering the amount of electricity being used, I was also thinking of my ancestors’ day when they didn’t have electricity so never had the pleasure that Christmas lights  provide us with in the darkest times of the year.

Last time I blogged was in September after I suffered a stroke and I told you I would be taking a break from writing. Well, now I am writing the next book. "Walking Back to Happiness" and I'm into the era of the sixties. My latest saga  “Many A Tear Has To Fall” will be published in March in hardback. Check out your nearest library. For those with a Kindle two of my historical romances which I wrote years ago are out in Ebook format for the first time on Amazon.
My next paperback will be Lily's War published 21st April

P.S. My son Tim Francis also has an E-book up on Amazon called  “It’s Still Out There”. A children’s book that he has written and illustrated.
Kindle medieval: Love's Intrigue and My Lady Deceiver.
As a local writer I have been invited to appear at the Frodsham Literary Festival at the Community Centre on Friday, 8th April 2016 between 6-8pm to promote my work and sign books.