Here they come, ‘The Saturday Girls’

Here is the News.

As you know, last year a new publisher, Bonnier Zaffre, bought Beyond the Beehive – my book about life in Chelmsford in the 60s – and after some additions and some editing, it was decided to rename the book ‘The Essex Girls’ and publish this April – next week in fact.

BUT

things have changed. The title of the book has changed (I think Essex Girls gave the wrong idea) and now it will be called The Saturday Girls and have a different cover and will come out in August.

I’m sorry for all this chopping and changing. I, for one, was getting very excited about the publication date – but I think the new title serves my Essex Girls better.

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Colchester days

 

I did my A levels at the North East Essex Technical College and School of Art in Sheepen Road, Colchester (now the Colchester Institute). During my time there I worked on the student newspaper Outlook, in particular on the fashion pages. Last week, preparing my talk for the Essex Book Festival, I went through an old box of papers, looking for my Beatles scrapbook and my postcard collection. Amongst them all, I found this copy of the college newspaper.

Apart from letters to the Tinkers Club in the Chelmsford Newsman Herald, I think this was the first time my writing had appeared in print. Unfortunately there was no by-line to this December 1967 article about the style inspired by the film Bonnie and Clyde, but I remember the angst of discovering that the illustration accompanying my article was just too small. And I clearly had not explained the brief properly to the artist (doubtless a talented student from the School of Art, but who, like me, was not acknowledged by name) so that she did not give boots to the image of Bonnie Parker. This is probably because she had seen the film and had noticed that Bonnie did not ever wear boots.

Interesting to see the longer hemlines when we were still wearing short skirts in real life. But it wasn’t long before I bought myself a maxi skirt and a pair of (admittedly unattractive) boots.

And a good beret is always good to find. 

As is Georgie Fame.

A date for your diary

Essex Book Festival

Saturday 17 March 2018 Essex Authors Day

12.00 noon – 12.45pm  Writing from my experience

‘How can authors draw on personal experience? In the sixties Elizabeth was a Chelmsford mod and used that background as well as research to create her books.’

Chelmsford Library, Market Road, Chelmsford CM1 1QH       Free    BOOK NOW

And then, come and chat. 1 -2pm Meet the Authors

o o O o o

 

Angel Cake

 

The Essex Girls are on the way! For people new to the blog, The Essex Girls is my novel about two working class girls in the Sixties – mods, Motown and milkshakes. The book comes out in 2 months. A few final touches and we’ll be ready to go. One of those final touches is putting a recipe in the back of the book, based on a dish from the novel.  At first I couldn’t think what that might be – most of the time Sandra and Linda eat beans on toast, egg and chips, and Ready Brek. For special occasions, it might be ham salad.

But then I remembered the cake! There is a birthday cake (not in Linda’s house, it should be said), and it’s an Angel Cake. So – not only will readers get a cracking good book (as we say in the literary world) but a recipe too! For Angel Cake.

I have to admit that when I wrote about the cake, how soft, creamy, even moist it was, I hadn’t knowingly eaten Angel cake. Of course, this is why it’s called fiction. Writers make things up. But they must do research.

For me, writing about the Sixties, research is usually looking at my old diaries. However, while in a popular supermarket yesterday, buying frozen, microwaveable chips for my Aunty Rita (89) I was walking past the cake section and saw a packet of Angel Cake Slices, Tesco’s own brand. In the pursuit of knowledge and experience – who knows what questions I might be asked when the book comes out – I quickly snatched a packet from the shelf, paid and took them back to Rita’s flat. We had a cup of tea and a piece of Angel cake. Delicious, soft, moist and a little cream. The perfect cake to go in the back of the book! I left the slices with Rita to enjoy in her own time.

This morning, needing to double check my facts, I bought a packet of Mr Kipling Angel Slices. I have to say, they are not as delicious and unctuous as the Tesco brand.

Clearly, there must be a way forward for readers. Here is my 5-step plan.

  1. Pre-order The Essex Girls here.
  2. As soon as you receive it on or about 19 April, read it and thoroughly immerse yourself in the glorious decade that was the 60s.
  3. Find the recipe at the back of the book.
  4. Make the cake.
  5. Eat the cake.
  6. (optional) Think about angels.
  7. (even more optional) Wonder why you can’t take your eyes off that male dancer with the floppy hair.

 

Top 3 pictures – Christine Wilkinson

 

The Beat Goes On

I apologise to my faithful readers, I haven’t posted for a while. This is because I have been editing The Essex Girls (formerly known as Beyond the Beehive) in preparation for its publication on 18 April 2018 – hence photo above of a lovely old typewriter seen in a dark corner of a pub in Farringdon. I have not been sitting in a pub in Farringdon, nor indeed, working on a typewriter, but it’s the atmosphere that counts.

Some of you will know that in the book Linda, mod, Essex girl, narrator – is required to learn a poem at school and the poem she learns is by the Beat poet Lorenzo Fabbrano (my thanks to Roy Kelly for his assistance in obtaining permission to use the poem). And so it was a pleasant surprise to receive an email from a friend directing my attention to a lovely programme The Beat Hotel which combines many of my favourite things – Paris, the Sixties, and coffee – in particular a mention of the Cafe de la Mairie in Place Saint Sulpice, one of my favourite hangouts.

.

It’s just half an hour, but it’s very interesting as a slice of social history with some good stories about the old style hotel managers.

Listen here

The Essex Girls is available for pre-order here

 

Good Morning Little School Girl

This week it’s all been about The Essex Girls (formerly known as Beyond the Beehive). I’ve been editing the book for its new publishers, adding a couple of extra scenes, re-reading it all, reminding myself about Linda and Sandra’s exploits in 1965.

In the process I was working on the chapter Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. In the Sixties, at my school we had to wear a uniform. The colour was navy blue. The rules were very strict. A beret (that I always folded in half and clipped as far back on my head as possible) had to be worn at all times on the way to and from school, as did a navy blue raincoat or duffle coat. If the weather was warm we would go home in a navy blue blazer with the school’s crest on the breast pocket, or simply the navy jumper, navy skirt and pale blue shirt and tie that we had worn all day at school.  There was a summer dress of a strange shape and flowery material, but no-one who was cool wore that.  And it all cost money. My mum knitted my V necked sweater which was seen as rather risque. As the mini-skirt became popular rules were made that skirts could be worn no more than three inches above the knee.

Backcombed, beehive hairdos were frowned on, so neat mod hair worked well, and my class mate Corinne and I tried to perfect the Cathy McGowan Cleopatra hairstyle. Corinne was more successful than me.

I would walk home from school along the Main Road till I reached the parade of shops at the bottom of Patching Hall Lane, where I would meet my best friend Chris whose school, the Blessed John Payne, as it then was, was just up the road. In the picture she is holding a guitar which she did not own or play. And then we would walk home together, planning what we would wear when we went out in the evening to the Orpheus coffee bar.

And here is the song that inspired the chapter.

Writing

I’ve been working on The Girl in the Green Mac, the next 60s Chelmsford book.  The year is 1966, the Orpheus has changed its name to the R&B and the new owners are putting a stop to the four-hour cup of coffee.  Another boutique opens near the Shire Hall, run by a man with an unreal Italian name, and mini-skirts creep into the High Street. And the World Cup promises success for England and particularly for Chelmsford because of local boy Geoff Hurst.

When I’m writing it doesn’t really matter where I am, but what is important is to be able to listen to a song or a piece of music that captures the mood of what I’m writing about. This week I’ve been working on a chapter about the boutique owner, Gene Battini, who likes the cool music of Mel Torme. So I’ve been listening to ‘Comin’ Home’ which came out in 1962 but sounds good, even today.

 

 

Lazy Sixties Afternoon

Galleywood Heritage Centre – formerly the Galleywood Race Course – was the venue for a great heritage day on Saturday 3 June. Lots of different groups guided visitors to ways of finding out about local history or their own family history, in a room that had once been the base of the Grandstand. It was a really hot sunny day, with much coming and going and sharing information and drinking tea and eating rather delicious cakes.  In a separate room, decorated with a host of interesting pictures of Chelmsford in the Sixties, and with the Kinks and Roy Orbison and the Stones crooning in the background, I was talking about My Generation.

What was very nice for me was hearing the experiences of those in the audience. In the first session there were no (ex)rockers, but in the second session there was a mix of (ex) mods and rockers – I had to be careful what I said. The discussion ranged far and wide from the pop groups that went to Southend to the £10 Poms who went to Australia, from Martin Ford (fashion emporium) where I bought my pin-striped fan pleated skirt, to the trendy straight shift dresses that made it easy to run up a new outfit for yourself. We talked about National Service and pubs and cafes. And I read a chapter from the new book (working title The Girl in the Green Mac) which went down well. So it was a great day all round.

One session ran from 11.30 to 12.30 and the second ran from 1.30 to 2.30. In between, with scarcely enough time for me to eat a cheese sandwich, Andy Stephens, a local reporter, asked me a few questions.  And here are the answers.

Sixties History

Next Saturday (3 June) will be a great day.   In the Galleywood Heritage Centre there will be a whole host of exhibitors showing different aspects of Chelmsford’s History, recent history and further back. I can’t really believe people consider the Sixties history – we are all still so young! but there will be The Essex Society for Family History, the Chelmer Canal Trust, the Essex Police Museum, the Western Front Association, and lots of others too. It’s free and there’s a cafe.

At 11.30 and at 1.30 I’ll be talking about my books ‘Beyond the Beehive’ (set in 1965 Chelmsford and coming out in a lovely new edition in the New Year) and reading from my new book set in 1966 – working title ‘The Girl in the Green Mac.’ Come and join in. What were you doing on 30th July 1966 when the World Cup match was being played?  What was your favourite record? Were you a Stones supporter or a Beatles fan?  Do you still have your Sacks and Brendlor Suede coat?

The Heritage Centre is off Margaretting Road, Galleywood Common, Chelmsford CM2 8TR It would be great to see you there.

And to get you into the mood here’s another chance to see the BBC documentary, first broadcast last year, about East Anglia in 1966.  See you on Saturday!

The letter Z

So here is the news.

Beyond the Beehive has been purchased by the publisher Bonnier Zaffre. Beyond the Beehive is a story of female friendship and the search for love and adventure in Essex in the 1960s, a time of political and social change. The book will reappear in a fabulous new edition with a big Z on its spine, in a bookshop near you in the New Year.  It will be swiftly followed by a second 60s novel, in the summer.

I signed the contract last week, and I also went to Wimpole Street (think Elizabeth Barrett, Wilkie Collins, Paul McCartney – apparently he and John Lennon wrote ‘I Wanna Hold your Hand’ there) for a meeting with Bonnier Zaffre in their swish offices where lots of young people sat in front of computers in rooms buzzing with energy.

I’m so pleased for the characters in Beehive, it is a book which is close to my heart,.  So to all you out there who have bought the book, borrowed it from the library, talked about it in your book group, come to talks. Thank you.  You put it out there, in the air, and Bonnier Zaffre picked it up and run

I also love the way things have turned out because I rather like the letter Z. It is so Other. I can never believe l actually have a Z in my own name.  In my heart I’m surprised I’m not really called something like Penny. But Z has followed me throughout my life. When l was at Birmingham University there was a satirical ‘magazine’ pinned on to a wall in the Student Union building and l had a column on it under a pen-name.  And that name was Zoë Meldrum.  Zoë.  So let’s hear it for the letter Z.