The Christmas Kiss and Other Stories

At last it’s here! The Christmas stories you’ve been waiting for.

The Christmas Kiss and Other Stories is a collection of seasonal, feel-good stories, available to buy now.

Step back into the Sixties, when Christmas Eve was the most exciting night of the year and Christmas dinner meant roast chicken and the thrilling possibility of a silver sixpence in the Christmas pudding. Catch up with Marie and Johnny from A Sense of Occasion and Sandra and Linda from The Saturday Girls.

On her way to London for some last-minute Christmas shopping, Marie meets old flame Johnny. In a day full of emotion, understandings and misunderstandings, Marie wonders, should she rekindle their relationship?

On Christmas Eve, anything is possible. Linda and Sandra are out on the town, heading for the dance at the Corn Exchange. Everyone is dressed in their best. Everyone is looking for a Christmas kiss. Will Linda’s Christmas wish come true?

Turn the page and go out on a dramatic call with a fireman on Christmas Eve, solve the riddle of a mysterious Christmas card, consider the effect of the Christmas gift of an exotic tie pin, and meet some new puppies. With the addition of some heart-stopping short, short stories – each of exactly 100 words.

This is the perfect book to curl up with on Christmas Eve. And ideal to slip into the Christmas stocking of someone special.

It’s Christmas in a book!

Buy The Christmas Kiss and Other Stories here.

Happy Christmas!


Stories on Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve I joined Tony Fisher on BBC Essex Radio on his late night show..

As well as chatting to Tony throughout the programme I read four of my (very) short stories from my new Christmas collection (which comes out next year*) – The Christmas Cracker, The Christmas Play, The Christmas Traffic Jam and Boxing Day Party.

Catch up on BBC Sounds here, and step into the world of 60s Christmas, Essex style.

*For a taster of the new book download The Christmas Kiss

and Christmas at Schmidt’s

Happy Christmas one and all!

New!! The Christmas Kiss

The Christmas Kiss by Elizabeth Woodcraft – a new short story to download for Christmas.

On Christmas Eve anything is possible. Everyone is dressed in their best. Everyone is looking for a Christmas kiss. It is 1965 and in Chelmsford, friends Linda and Sandra are out on the town. When Charlie climbs out of his car and escorts Linda in to the dance it seems that her Christmas wish has come true. Linda and Charlie have a secret past. But will he remember and will there be a Christmas kiss?

A sweet short story to make your Christmas brighter.

Available to download here. Price 99p. It is also available to send to friends. An on-line Christmas gift – what could be easier?

Also available, Christmas at Schmidt’s

It’s 1962. Marie is going to London for some last minute Christmas shopping. At the railway station she bumps into old flame, Johnny. They are going the same way. On the train ride Marie starts remembering the good times with Johnny and she agrees to meet him for lunch at Schmidt’s, the German restaurant in Charlotte Street. But things have changed since she last saw him. Now Marie has a fiancé. But she also has a Christmas wish. Will it come true?

Be there or be square!

Events coming up:

Talking about my GenerationLayer de la Haye 18 November 2021 19.45 pm

Talking about Milk Bars and Coffee shopsBBC Essex Radio 20 November 2021 10.00 am  – 103.5 & 95.3FM; 729, 765 & 1530MW and on-line

The books: A Sense of Occasion, The Saturday Girls, The Girls from Greenway

Christmas at Schmidt’s

It’s Christmas. It’s been a hard year. What could be better than a short story to read on a cold frosty morning, to bring a smile to your lips?

It’s 1962. Marie is going to London for some last minute Christmas shopping. At the railway station she bumps into her old flame, Johnny. They are going the same way. On the train ride Marie starts remembering the good times with Johnny and she agrees to meet him for lunch at Schmidt’s, the German restaurant in Charlotte Street. But things have changed since she last saw him. Now Marie has a fiancé. But she also has a Christmas wish. Will it come true?

Follow Marie as she weaves her way along Oxford Street, through C&A, Littlewoods, and Marshall and Snelgrove, battling her emotions.

Christmas at Schmidt's by [Elizabeth  Woodcraft]

If you have a Kindle, and 99p, buy it here

You dance like Zizi Jeanmaire

At 96, Zizi Jeanmaire retires on tiptoe - France 24 - Teller Report

In 1969 I was at Birmingham University living in a Hall of Residence. Most of us used the place just to eat and sleep, but we had a very energetic Entertainment Committee and many rising stars came to play. We went to all the concerts. There was Michael Chapman who I liked a lot because he played a mean guitar;  Al Stewart, who I wasn’t keen on because he sounded so clean. And there was Peter Sarstedt. He was about to become a big star but I didn’t like his style – that clipped, posh voice, and then there was his moustache, not to mention his hair.

Having said that, I knew all the words to his hit song, Where Do You Go To My Lovely, and could, if asked, sing them.

‘You talk like Marlene Dietrich, you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire.’

However, I couldn’t believe there really was a person called Zizi Jeanmaire, it sounded such an impossible name. I thought maybe I was mis-hearing, like people who think Abba sing ‘Dancing queen, feel the beat from the tangerine’, or the Eurythmics, ‘Sweet dreams are made of cheese.’ Perhaps he’d said something about the Folies Bergere.

Folies Bergere poster

So imagine my surprise when I read in the paper today that there was indeed someone called Zizi Jeanmaire, a Parisian who was a wonderful classical dancer as well as an actor and singer. And sadly, she has died. It was her obituary that I was reading.

In retrospect it was my mistake not to investigate her further at that time, when there was even a chance to see her perform. Here she is, dancing in the film Hans Christian Andersen.




Rock and Roll Island

The wonderful ‘Story of Ready Steady Go!’ on BBC4, was followed a week later by Rock and Roll Island: Where Legends Were Born. This was Eel Pie Island, ‘off the coast of Twickenham’, in West London.

The programme began with trad jazz and a well known trumpeter and band leader of the late 50s, early 60s, Ken Colyer.

I have to say in the crowd I hung out with, it wasn’t cool to like trad jazz, but who knew what Ken Colyer did? He joined the merchant navy so he could get to the home of trad jazz – New Orleans – arrived, met a lot of the black blues musicians, played with them and invited them to the UK.

Here they became very popular –


and then, ironically, their music went back to the States and became popular there.

In the second wave playing on Eel Pie Island were the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds,

the Who, the Kinks (Mick Avory said, ‘It was better to be a drummer than delivering pink paraffin’),

Rod Stuart and Long John Baldry,

even Elton John was there, as Reg Dwight, a member of Bluesology.


Knitting them together was Alexis Korner, who played piano and guitar, and who is often seen as the godfather of the blues in this country.

He had started playing in Chris Barber’s jazz band in 1949, and then played with Ken Colyer. The list of those who went on to play with him is long and luminous and includes Long John Baldry, Ginger Baker, and Graham Bond. He was also generous with support and advice. It is said he suggested to the Stones that they should play more blues and this was the reason for their version of the classic Little Red Rooster.

Apart from Cleo Sylvestre, who sang with the Stones, not a lot of women performers were included in the programme. Perhaps the lack of women was a sign of the times, perhaps it was because not a lot of women were playing blues or rock, or those that were didn’t head over to Eel Pie Island. Or maybe they did, but no-one took their photo. Whatever the reason, for me the story of Eel Pie Island starts to take off with a picture of the little-known (to me, anyway) girl group from South Africa who played there. The Velvettes came over to England in 1961 as members of the all black cast of the hugely successful jazz musical King Kong – in itself a fascinating story about the life of the heavyweight boxer Ezekiel Dlamini, which played all over South Africa with Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba.


The Velvettes then became backing singers in the Cyril Davies All Stars.  Cyril Davies was an English vocalist and harmonica player who looked like a bank manager, and who played with Alexis Korner, before setting up the All Stars.

Another view of the way that Eel Pie Island worked was shown in a Look at Life film made in 1967, when the promoter Arthur Chisnall, who ran the club, as a private members’ establishment so that he could sell alcohol, acted as a kind of social worker with the people who came to hear the music. As well as art school and college students, other people came. People who’d left school at 15, had possibly failed the 11+, or who had drifted through jobs, were encouraged to study (several went on to Cambridge) and then began to do challenging and satisfying jobs, in the way that was possible in the 60s, including running Adventure Playgrounds. A different world.

Take a look at life again soon.


The weekend starts here!

IN this new strange world we are living in, there are some shards of light. Tonight there is an Ready Steady Go! extravaganza on BBC4, starting at 8.30. How important RSG! was in those early days. It was on at 6.30 on Friday, and when it first started I was still going to Girl Guides on Friday evenings.

Although I enjoyed, to a greater or lesser extent, being a Guide, I was so envious of my best friend Chris who could sit at home and watch it. Something had to give. I left Guides.

And then life really began. Ready Steady Go! was a programme which was just for us – it had everything, style, music, dancing and exclusivity. This was a programme which had nothing to do with our parents. Keith Fordyce was a shame – he was so old (he was 35 in 1963), his jackets were so square and his hair so, so old-fashioned – but apart from that, everything was just what we wanted. Including, of course, the lovely Cathy McGowan, whose hair we all yearned to copy.


It was in black and white and our TVs were all very small in those days but it was ours.

So let’s hope tonight’s programmes reflect how very special it was.

On a completely different note, given it’s mother’s day on Sunday, I thought an image would be appropriate. I just ask the question: even in the Sixties could they seriously believe that this was a gift that your mother, any mother, would appreciate for the rest of the year? You should live that long.

But let’s finish on a great note – the song that in the very beginning announced the start of the weekend. Wipe Out by the Safaris. Happy days. Great days.

It’s Friday – it must be RSG!

The Story of Ready Steady Go went out on BBC4 on Friday 20 March 2020 (available to view until 20 April). What a joy it was. It had the same excitement, the same exuberance it always had. I was taken back to those Friday evenings when the very act of watching the programme told me that I really was part of a special group.

The Story of Ready Steady Go was fronted by Vicki Wickham, who produced it throughout its three year run, 1963-66 and there were stories from director Michael Lindsay-Hogg, of working with Mick Jagger, and finding new ways to use cameras in the studio.


There was great commentary from Chris Farlowe, Georgie Fame, and Eric Burdon from the Animals.



There were clips of everyone who made the Sixties great.




The Rolling Stones, the Beatles, the Tamla Motown Tour, Dusty Springfield, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, the Supremes, Them, the Animals, the Who and Georgie Fame. It was like Saturday night at the Corn Exchange in Chelmsford, or listening to the juke box in the Orpheus coffee bar in London Road.


Theresa Confrey talked about her time on the programme. Every week she and Patrick Kerr  demonstrated a different dance, some of which came and went – I mean who ever actually danced the Mashed Potato? There was Annie (Anne as she then was) Nightingale with extraordinary hair and Donovan just looking extraordinary, with grey wavy hair down to his shoulders.



There were clips of Michael Aldred, one of the groovy and yet short-lived presenters. Apparently he didn’t have audience appeal. Unlike Cathy McGowan, who sadly didn’t take part in the BBC programme.

The mime competition was included and Melanie Coe (far right of the picture), who won miming to Jump the Broomstick by Brenda Lee. Paul McCartney judged the competition and when Melanie went back to school the next Monday (she was 14) she was asked for her autograph.

It was interesting for its description of those days in the 60s when anything seemed possible. Using the cameras in a way that they became part of the programme itself, as they moved round the tiny studio. It brought it all back. I wanted to dig out my suede and head off to the Orpheus for a frothy coffee and hang out with people with Vespas and Lambrettas.

And there was the famous clip of Otis Redding, Eric Burdon and Chris Farlow singing Shake.

It was a very good programme. Watch it again.

They call it stormy Monday

… but this week they’re calling it Cyber Monday.

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday – bag yourself a bargain.

Look, just LOOK!  at this offer.

The Saturday Girls has been selected for a Kobo ebook promotion. It runs from 29th November until 2nd December and and you can buy the book for 99p !!

So if you’re wondering what to do on a cold rainy afternoon, why not curl up in a comfy armchair, with a cup of tea and a custard cream, or a Bourbon, and read about Sandra and Linda and their friend Sylvie, as they look for love and Lambrettas in Sixties Chelmsford.

Start here…

”The Corn Exchange was never full at half past eight on a Saturday night. It wouldn’t fill up till the group started playing. Tonight the group was Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band. But now it was still just records. We paid our money and then the men at the door stamped our hands and, as always, the ultraviolet light made the mark blue and our skin eerily white.        As we stepped into the empty, cavernous hall, the vinyl hissed and the first notes of ‘Green Onions’ rolled round the room. The single chords of the electric organ, low and smooth, touched the pit of my stomach. It was an anthem to mod superiority. Mods had all the good music, the latest music, the cool music….”

Now read on for more Mods, Motown and Minis.

They call it Stormy Monday …

Also available on Kindle for 99p here