Talking About My Generation

A great website – Female First – asked me to talk about my new book The Girls from Greenway. The book covers the early Sixties – when people were enjoying the security of the National Health Service and other social welfare reforms put in place after WWII. Everything seemed possible.  But people were also dreaming of an even brighter future – going to Australia as a ten-pound pom, or winning the pools – filling in their coupons every week and watching Grandstand to see if their life was going to change for ever.

Angie and Doreen are sisters, living on the Greenway Estate in Essex. They have hopes and dreams but unfortunately fall in love with the same man  in the meantime they listen to some cool music. like Dave Brubeck playing Take 5.

And I’ve been talking about my generation to Sadie Nine on BBC Essex. We talked about The Girls from Greenway but also a bit about my later life! You can listen to it here. I come on about 2 hours 20 minutes in. It was a great morning.

A couple of years ago when Sadie Nine did the Breakfast Show I used to go and do newspaper reviews – stumbling in to the studio at 6.15 in the morning. Sometimes the papers didn’t come in till the very last minute – but hey! If you come from Essex, nothing phases you!

 

 

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The Girls from Greenway

Today is paperback publication day for my new novel The Girls from Greenway! Cover high res

Life in the Sixties – Motown, jazz, frothy coffee, ten pound poms, the pools, love and betrayal. The book is set in Essex. Two sisters, Angie and Doreen have a difficult home life on their council estate in Chelmsford. And then things get worse – unknowingly they fall in love with the same man.

But they still have the music. Here’s an example of how cool it all was:

It’s been a great day, cards, flowers and champagne. Sometimes, it’s not bad being a writer.

The Girls from Greenway

Great news! The Girls from Greenway is out as an ebook from Thursday 22 August.  Chelmsford in the Sixties, mods, rockers, scooters, fashion, frothy coffee and music.

Two sister, Doreen and Angie, live on the Greenway council estate. It’s not an easy life, but things get even more difficult when they both fall in love with the same man.

But how can anything go wrong when there’s Dave Brubeck around? Let’s all Take 5.

Get a taster of the book here

Sixties Celebration

BBC Essex mods and rockers special 2 (2)

Bank Holiday Monday

It’s 55 years since the historic meeting of mods and rockers on Clacton beach. Where were you on Bank Holiday Monday 1964? It was August 31st – I was in Chelmsford.  ‘Have I the right?’ by the Honeycombs was number 1 in the charts. ‘Doo-wah diddy diddy’ by Manfred Mann was number 2. I had just heard ‘Under the Boardwalk’ by the Drifters.

On Monday 31 August 1964, according to my 1964 diary, most of the mods I knew spent the day in Chelmsford. Why go to Clacton, when you’ve got Chelmsford?

Again according to my diary, I had a ‘fabulous day’. I went to the Orpheus cellar coffee bar in New London Road, where all the mods hung out, listened to the Ronettes on the juke box, had a discussion about a mouth organ, noticed someone wearing a very nice navy blue suede with a leather collar and then went home for my tea. In the evening my best mate Christine and I went to see Chelmsford City football team play, in their ground on the far side of the rec. My diary is strangely silent about who we were playing and what the score was – I was much more impressed with the fact that after the game we got a lift home in the mini of Pete B. A mini!

         BBC Essex mods and rockers special (3)    

A few weeks ago I went into the BBC Essex Radio studios to talk about my memories of those early mod days, with Laura Doyle. She’s put together a BBC Essex Special, Leathers and Lambrettas, which will be on BBC Essex at 12 noon on Monday 26 August, presented by Marty Wilde, to mark the 55th anniversary of the historic clashes between mods and rockers. The programme asks the question, ‘Was it all about throwing deckchairs at each other on the beach?’ The short answer is of course, no. It was about clothes, and music and transport and just hanging out with your mates. We talked about the music I was listening to, and I described that feeling, sitting in the Orpheus, coffee in a glass cup in front of me, my suede on the seat beside me, chatting to Christine, when the first drum beats of Be My Baby rolled round the room. Heaven.

Listen in at 12 noon on 26 August 2019 to hear the memories and music of mods and rockers in Chelmsford and Essex of 50 years ago. BBC Essex Radio 95.3 and 103.5 FM, and on 729, 765.

BBC Essex headphones       

Mods: Shaping a Generation

Day trip to Leicester to see the Mods: Shaping a Generation exhibition in the New Walk Museum. Some of you may know that once I lived in Leicester so it’s close to my heart. I wasn’t there in the 60s but I was a student and then taught there in the 70s so I was hoping for many nostalgic highlights.

                 

The exhibition was great. Fab exhibits – suede and leather coats to die for, sparkling Vespas and Lambrettas, wonderful music – Green Onions was playing as we walked in, followed by Harlem Shuffle.  Milling around with the other visitors was like being at a Corn Exchange reunion. Everyone talking, remembering their coffee bar and their dance hall, sharing stories.

One item was a silk headscarf (we all wore them) that had been soaked in perfume. The note beside the scarf said that in Leicester in the 60s girls wore Youth Dew – who knew? In Chelmsford it was always Avon.

           

I spoke to a woman who said she had always worn Youth Dew. We discussed the North South divide. But our experiences were so similar her husband asked me if he’d met me before in the Dungeon (answer no).

    

To the sound of Harlem Shuffle I stood looking at the scooters next to a man who was almost sighing with nostalgia. He had had a Lambretta 175 he said. He preferred Lambrettas to Vespas because he felt you could personalise the panel, and I talked about the advantage of a Vespa bubble. He had been at Art College and then gone on to Coventry. I did my A levels at a Tec College that was also an Art School. We discussed our life experience.

I saw this quote from an old mod – how alien it was when flower power hit the scene. I felt that too, when I got to Birmingham in 1968 – nowhere near enough ironing with hippies.

Then I noticed this article about mods and rockers.

Who knew we were considered so radical? ‘overdressed mannequins’ indeed! The chance would have been a fine thing. But really I was a mod because I wanted to listen to great music and wear the fashions of the day. And sit on the back of a good scooter. And have fun.

The New Walk museum is a lovely building. The exhibition is very well laid out, everything is clear, and there’s a lot of room to stand and gaze. Read what the Independent had to say about it.  A history to be proud of.

On top of the exhibition in New Walk, there was Richard III in the cathedral, and the market in the centre of town (a place I always loved) and a great meal in a very nice restaurant.

Get down there. The exhibition is free and it’s on till 30 June 2019, every day 11am – 4.30pm. It was a very good day and well worth the trip.

#generationmods  Leicester Museums

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Girls from Greenway

The Girls from Greenway, the next book about mods in Chelmsford has just gone to the typesetters and it will be out on 19 September 2019! The book features all those iconic aspects of Sixties life – scooters,

the Orpheus, Wainwright’s Milk Bar, the Golden Fleece, the Bus Station,

 

plus a few more – Carnival Queens,

The Saracen’s Head,  the County Hotel, and Bonds Department Store.

All accompanied by the great sounds of Motown, Stax and Mark Shelley and the Deans.

There’s also a slight peppering of fashion and a few magazines, like Honey and Vogue.  And a new men’s boutique in town. Everything to look forward to! And here’s a synopsis

1960s Chelmsford

Angie Smith lives on the Greenway estate in Chelmsford, with her elder sister Doreen, their struggling mother and their drunk, violent father. Bored of her job, and of her dull, ordinary boyfriend Roger, Angie dreams of bigger and better things.

But then she meets boutique-owner Gene Battini, older, handsome, charming – and married. She is completely swept off her feet. Little does she know that Doreen too is falling for Gene, and that their affair will have disastrous consequences.

As things at home go from bad to worse, Angie and Doreen must struggle to fight for what they want.

Can the girls from Greenway ever achieve their dreams?

o o O o o

And in other news, The Saturday Girls is out on 1 May in large print!

What to do

It’s been a long time since my last post. I’ve been working on the next book – The Girls from Greenway. It’s out in September! It’s another novel about the Sixties – life in Swinging Chelmsford, mods, Motown, frothy coffee and Ben Sherman shirts. The editing process has been long, but it’s almost over. And now I have two weeks before the next stage begins.

So I decided to go mad and have a weekend in Paris. But then news began circulating about industrial action by French customs workers, talk of 5 hour queues at the Gare du Nord for trains back to London, and I began to wonder if I should risk it. So I found myself walking along the road humming What to Do by Buddy Holly. And I found I remembered all the words.

I loved Buddy Holly’s songs when I was at school, and would walk home in the afternoons, singing whatever song suited my mood. ‘That’ll Be the Day,’ ‘Oh Boy,’ ‘Raining in my Heart’ and ‘Rave On’ were all on my singing playlist. If there was homework that just wasn’t going to get done, if there was a good group due to appear at the Corn Exchange next Saturday, if the weather wasn’t too hot, I would swing my bag, hold on to my beret and sing out loud. I probably looked quite stupid in my navy-blue school uniform and my sensible lace-up shoes, but I was happy.

In the end I didn’t go to Paris – the advice from Eurostar was not to go unless my journey was absolutely necessary, and by the time I took the decision, there was talk of 6 and 7 hour queues. Well, ‘Maybe Baby’ I’ll go soon.

 

Listen here!

The best thing is going to happen. From 1 January 2019 it will be possible to listen to The Saturday Girls through your very own headphones. The Saturday Girls is now available as an audio book. It’s unabridged so it’s 11 hours long. But think of it – a long car journey, an overnight flight, taking down the Christmas decorations, all those tasks that you dread – all will be so much easier and, let’s face it, more enjoyable, if you can step back into the Sixties, the music, the milkshakes, the money (all in pounds, shillings and pence) with a dash of danger, dancing and delicious Angel cake. Or if you’re just sitting at home, by the fire, maybe sewing on a button, or changing a flat tyre, think of the pleasure of a listening to a good story as you work.

Order it from the library or – hey, splash out on your own copy!

It is of course, still available in paperback.

 

Hi-Heel Sneakers

COMING UP!

Thursday 13 December 10.45am – Hi-Heel Sneakers – Morals, Motown and Milkshakes in the early 60s

As part of the Crouch End U3A series of monthly meetings I’ll be talking about the music, coffee bars, and fashion of the Sixties, and how young working-class people made their way in a rapidly changing and uncertain world. It’s the Christmas meeting so there will be mince pies and tea and coffee. There will be one or two cracker jokes from the 60s and a load of really good pictures. I’m doing a power point and I’ll do some readings from The Saturday Girls and A Sense of Occasion, and maybe even the new book! working title currently The Greenway Girls.

Union Church and Community Hall, Weston Park, N8 9TA  –  doors open 10am

o o O o o

How to be a mod girl

Things are happening fast! The Saturday Girls is selling fantastically well – thank you to everyone who’s bought it – and the audio version is out in January 2019. My interview with Robert Elms was great! You can listen to it here. My piece starts about 40 minutes in, after a track by the Small Faces.

And other things are happening. Some websites have asked me to write for them, about The Saturday Girls and my writing habits, and the first piece to appear has been published in Female First, an online magazine that covers all kinds of things – music, fashion, food and books. My article gives my top tips on how to be a mod girl, so that anyone can do it. Unfortunately Ready Steady Go! – unmissable viewing on Friday nights – is no longer airing on TV, but the magic of social media allows everyone to watch old episodes on YouTube.

So get yourself a dose of RSG!, grab your best friend and stroll round your local town centre. You’re half way there! Find all the tips here.

And as ever, there’s just one song you need to get you into the mod mood, and that’s Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs. Imagine yourself, on a Saturday night, walking into the Corn Exchange  with that best friend of yours, in all your mod finery, looking forward to seeing Georgie Fame or the Who or Wilson Pickett, as well as all the other cool mods from town. That’s it. You’re there.