I’m Dreaming

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It’s nearly Christmas.  The snow isn’t snowing, the wind isn’t particularly blowing (not down here in the South, anyway), though at this time of the year there’s always a bit of a storm.  But what better way to weather the storm than by listening to the Phil Spector Christmas Album and singing along at full volume as you queue to get out of the car park at the supermarket.

My particular favourite is Santa Claus is Coming to Town by the Crystals – the actual song starts at about 30 seconds in.  Great stuff.

2016 – what a year it’s been.  I’ve written a sort of on-line round robin here about my year, but today, in this post I wanted to say thank you to all of you who’ve read this blog and been with me on the path to bring Beyond the Beehive into the warm light of day.

I’ve been writing the book for a very (very) long time, but it began to really take shape in March when I was contacted by Patrick McGrady of Wavelength Films to take part in the programme ‘Living in ’66.’  You can watch it here.

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That programme and the email I received from Pete Searles of Mark Shelley and the Deans – who later agreed to play at the Chelmsford launch – spurred me on to finalise the book and get it out there.

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And since it came out – the reaction has been fantastic.  People have bought the book, come to the events, laughed at the jokes, talked about their own experiences, and asked for more. I really loved writing this book and it’s been great for me to see it on the shelves of Chelmsford Foyles. So thank you to everyone.

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Have a Cool Yule and here’s the whole Christmas album.

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Soho

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I was interviewed by Radio Gorgeous last week.  We had arranged to meet in the Society Club, a small cosy coffee shop and rare bookshop in Ingestre Place, but they were clearing up from a photo shoot, so we adjourned to the John Snow pub. It’s a dark wood, Victorian saloon bar, on two levels, filled with the low hum of conversation.  We talked about Beyond the Beehive, life and the universe.  The interview will be broadcast in January.

After I left the pub, I wandered along Broadwick Street in the direction of Carnaby Street.  I passed a row of shops.  One of them had a mod target outside.  I stopped and looked in the window.

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There were Fred Perrys and suits, a particularly delectable mauve suit on a tailor’s dummy, but there were also books – books aboout the Who and books I have myself including Sawdust Caesars by Tony Beesley.

It was Sherry’s.  I went inside and met Perry who works there.  I told him I’d written a book about mod girls.  ‘If it’s mod we should have it,’ he said.  ‘Speak to Bubbles,’ he said.  Bubbles is the owner.

So on Tuesday I went into the shop with a few copies of Beyond the Beehive.  Bubbles was there and was very friendly. ‘Yes,’ she said.  ‘We’ll display them.’

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Which all means that if you’re in Carnaby Street, buying new shoes or just looking at the lights, but despairing of knowing what to buy the mod in your life for Christmas – you can nip along the street to Sherry’s, buy a copy or two of the book and order yourself a sharp suit at the same time.  A Christmas outfit!

 

London launch of Beyond the Beehive

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Last Friday evening it was all go.  First the interview at Broadcasting House with Georgey Spanswick (listen here  my interview starts at 1 hour 10 minutes in).  She was so friendly and chatty I could have stayed talking all night – but had to dash from Oxford Circus to Shaftesbury Avenue to ensure everything was ready for the launch in the heart of Soho (Bakerloo line, one stop to Piccadilly Circus and then, if desired a one stop bus ride to the Curzon cinema and then a 20 yard walk to St Anne’s Church in Dean Street) (I know people like geographical details).

And it was ready! Team Beehive were working like … well, worker bees, and the room and the garden looked lovely (and that was without the bowls of crisps, popcorn and Twiglets).   Billie was there, looking even lovelier than she does on the cover of the book, Leila was poised ready to pour the drinks, sister Tess was arranging lighting and chairs, Gill took up her position behind the book stall, Caroline was lugging boxes around and ensuring everything was where it should be and then Christine (aka Sandra) and Barry arrived and got down and technical.  People trickled in and then a tidal wave of guests arrived and the hall was buzzing.

launch-91You can read the pieces from Beyond the Beehive which I read on Friday night here.

I’ve also written about the evening here.

It was a great night!

Beyond the Beehive – Woman’s Hour

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I had had a conversation with Bev, the producer, the day before.  We had gone over the sort of questions that might be asked, why I wrote the book, was it semi-autobiographical? and what about the music? so I felt quite relaxed walking up from Oxford Circus tube to Broadcasting House at 9am on Thursday morning.  But people were sending me supportive tweets and texts, and Facebook comments, and being amazed and thrilled that I was to be on Woman’s Hour, so that by the time I got to the large imposing doorway, my mouth was a little dry.  This was really something.

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It is a magnificent building, dominating Portland Place. I passed the man with the banner about drug pushers, and the people rushing to work holding cups of coffee, I pushed open the door and I was in.  I was given a visitor’s badge, waited a minute or two for someone to come and meet me and then I was whisked up several floors in the lift to the Woman’s Hour area.  Bev met me at the lift and took me to a studio where I recorded a couple of paragraphs from Beyond the Beehive to introduce the piece.  I started, I stumbled, started again, missed a word, and then, a little cough and third time lucky, I read it straight through.

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Then I was directed to the Green Room where there was coffee and papers – and a copy of Ready Steady Girls – the new book about mod girls in the 60s.  Some great pictures! A real nostalgia fest.  So while I was waiting to go on air I ordered a copy! I was also answering emails and texts from people who might loosely be called Fans, and responding to people contacting me that I hadn’t heard from in years- decades even. Hello Jane, hi Anthea! So nice to be back in touch again.

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There were some really interesting women on the programme on Thursday, one of whom I knew, Polly Neate from Women’s Aid and Susan Bewley, obstetrician and academic, who I’d not met before.  But it doesn’t take long to discover you have a lot of shared history! One by one they disappeared to the studio for their moments on air, Polly to talk about an issue around Scottish Women’s Aid and Susan to discuss the Woman’s Hour Power List.

Then at about 25 past 10 my Keeper came and we crept round the corridors to stand outside the studio to wait for the green light to go in.  The green light came, in the form of a nod from someone nipping out from the control room, and in I went.  The recording I’d made earlier was played and then Jenni Murray (for it was she) asked me about the book.  Was I really allowed out in the evenings when I was still at school? How important were the clothes?  And what about the politics? I really enjoyed it.  I do quite like radio! The time passed in a flash and then Jenni was introducing the serial.

But what a popular programme Woman’s Hour is – so much twitter and Facebook activity about the programme, lots of people writing to me to say they’d heard it, and then a load of visits to my website (and quite a few books sold too!).  It was a great morning.  If you missed it and you’d like to listen or just listen again, you’ll find it here for the next 28 days or so (my bit starts at 33 minutes in).  You can download the podcast – I think that means you can keep it forever, almost.  How cool is that?

And for a visual flavour of the book, consider this outfit, black dress, red beret, black patent shoes with a flower detail, and wait till you get to the last chapter of the book.  I’ll say no more than that.

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Beyond the Beehive – reading allowed

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Some of you may remember September 2016 – gloriously hot days, a bit of rain, the start of Strictly Come Dancing.  But you may also remember 2 September when I appeared at an event in Waterstone’s Covent Garden and read the first chapter of Beyond the Beehive.  It was an event organised by Novel London

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You may also remember that the event was videod and I know many people were anxiously waiting for the video to come out so that they could share in the joy of the occasion.  Unfortunately, and I am convinced it was not my fault, something happened so that there could be no video.  However, you can listen to me reading Chapter 1 here (this link takes you to my website, scroll down and it’s there after the blurb about the book).  Sit down with a cup of tea and a Bourbon biscuit and remember the 60s, the clothes, the perfume, the mods, the music.

The London Book Launch for Beyond the Beehive is on Friday 28 October – contact me for more details.

Before that listen to an interview on Woman’s Hour on Thursday 27 October at 10am.

Be there or be square!

The Beat Goes On

img_5520-2      It’s been a very busy week for Team Beehive.

It started with an interview with Jo Good on BBC Radio London.  It almost didn’t happen – the BBC building in Portland Place, just off Oxford Street in London, is a huge and sprawling place.  And sometimes people giving you directions forget which is left and right (don’t we all?).  I went into the main building and asked directions and following those directions, I turned left. They were setting up baricades for a TV One Show event.  One hopeful fan was hanging over the railing, but otherwise the place was full of people in puffa jackets with clipboards and people in hoodies rolling heavy black and silver equipment around.  I turned left again but that was the wrong building.  I hadn’t crossed enough roads.  Roads! Eventually someone gave me the right directions – he pointed – and in I went through the glass doors and up in the lift to the studio.

Jo Good was wonderfully friendly and began the interview by playing House of the Rising Sun by the Animals.  When you hear it played on good loud equipment you really understand why it has stood the test of time.  It’s over 50 years old for goodness’ sake. We talked about Beyond the Beehive, about life in the Sixties, saving up for weeks and weeks for a coat or a bag that you wanted, the importance of colour and style.  She asked me whether I thought the battles on the beaches at Bank Holiday time really had taken place.  Of course – I wasn’t there, my mum would never have let me go, even if I’d asked her.  But I think they did.  Maybe not as full on and terrifying as it seems in the film Quadrophenia but something went on.  And not just Brighton of course, Margate, Clacton, Great Yarmouth… I cut this letter out of the paper at about that time when there was talk of raising the age at which you could ride a scooter or a motorbike.

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You can listen to the interview here.** It starts an hour and 10 minutes in, and runs for about twenty minutes.  The interview finished with Pinball Wizard by the Who.  Jo Good said listening to it always made her feel very happy.  And I can see what she means.

**For those who listen to the interview and the piece that Jo Good read out and think – Panorama, on a Saturday? I don’t think so! Rest assured, I know Panorama was never on a Saturday. The piece she read was about a week night.  In fact, later in the programme – keep listening for a wonderful story about someone who had a scooter, and a helmet and a beehive, and the solution she found for keeping her hair-do in tact – someone picked up on that piece and Jo Good realised it was in fact, a school night.

Then it was up to Stroud Green Library for a meeting about a 60s Saturday which is happening on 12 November. There’ll be 60s music, memorabilia, Beyond the Beehive and you can take a selfie wearing a beehive wig!

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And then on to Chelmsford for an interview with Tony Fisher on BBC Radio Essex. No trouble locating my destination. I know where the BBC Radio Essex building is – it’s on New London Road, a ten minute walk from the Orpheus!  Listen to the interview here. It starts 2 hours and 10 minutes in and lasts about 20 minutes.

The interview began with Be My Baby by the Ronettes.  We talked about life in Chelmsford in the 60s and also about Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature – because in 1966 I saw Bob Dylan at the Albert Hall.  I’ve written about it here  It was the time when Dylan was changing from acoustic to electric and people in the audience called out ‘Get back to the good stuff.’  Dylan who was playing the organ at the time, rocked back and forth and said, ‘Good stuff, bad stuff, it’s all the same.’ So I told this story on the radio.  A friend who was listening said it was so realistic she thought she was listening to a news item.  See what you think.

Tony Fisher was really into Beyond the Beehive which was great.  Sometimes when you write a book you’re so immersed in it you don’t see the characters as they appear to the rest of the world.  He immediately understood bad boy Danny and he played Shotgun Wedding by Roy C, a record that used to float through the Orpheus if people announced they were getting married.  It was a really good afternoon, and not just because of the cake (it was Tony Fisher’s birthday).

Launch Party

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It was a great evening at the Ideas Hub – good book, great quiz (more details to follow) and a fantastic crowd.  My Auntie Rita (88) made it unexpectedly.  My sister-in-law struggled through the Saturday, post-football traffic, friends from Norfolk I hadn’t seen for 50 years suddenly appeared.  New friends came via the Chelmsford Remembered Facebook page and the Chelmsford Civic Society.  Old friends from those heady days in the Orpheus and the Corn Exchange.  And the piece de resistance was the group – Mark Shelley and the Deans, who did us proud. Christine and I even jived.  Video of this possibly to follow…

img_5982-3          Mark Shelley & the Deans 1.10.16

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Beyond the Beehive is out!

Beyond the Beehive front cover

This is almost unbelievable!  Beyond the Beehive is on sale now.  You can buy the paperback here and the Kindle version here. Thank you for the support of the readers and followers of this blog, and to Christine Wilkinson who designed the wonderful cover – back and front!

beyond-the-beehive-back-cover-1   Beyond the Beehive front cover

And also thanks to my oldest best friend Chris Wallace – without whom none of these stories would have been possible.  As I keep telling her, they are just stories, but if she and I hadn’t met in Chelmsford on the Woodhall Estate, all those years ago, we’d never have gone to the Orpheus together, we’d never have gone dancing at the Corn Exchange, or to Dace’s to buy records or Clarke’s to buy Valentine cards, and the book would never have been written.

Liz and Christine + mod boy + miniLots of things are happening over the next few weeks.  The first thing is the Chelmsford Launch. It’s next Saturday, 1 October, 6.30 pm and Mark Shelley and the Deans will be playing!

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I first saw Mark Shelley and the Deans in about 1963 playing at the YMCA.  I remember listening to the rhythm of the guitars and the crash of the drums, as they played all the rock classics – Chuck Berry’s Sweet Little Sixteen and Nadine, the Isley Brothers’ Twist and Shout, and the Buddy Holly hits – That’ll Be the Day, Peggy Sue, and True Love Ways.  I know the group have been brushing up on all the old favourites for next Saturday (I’ve even written to Brian Matthew on Sounds of the Sixties, Saturday mornings on Radio 2, asking for a request to be played next Saturday for my sister – who gave me the idea for one of the characters in the book – and all the old Chelmsford mods – but I’m not holding my breath!) and it will be like stepping back in time!  You will think you really are back in the Corn Exchange.

If you would like to come to the launch it would be great to see you.  Contact me here. 

Be at the Beehive

img_5520-2   Two dates for your diary

1 October – Chelmsford launch party

Mark Shelley and the Deans – Chelmsford’s greatest product (after Marconi’s radio) – will be playing at the Chelmsford launch of Beyond the Beehive.

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Saturday 1 October 6.30 – 9pm The Ideas Hub

It’s going to be a great night! Numbers will be limited so please contact me here  if you would like to attend.

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25 October – What it was like being a teenager in the Sixties

If you can’t attend on 1 October, or if you just can’t get enough of the Sixties, I shall be speaking at the Ideas Hub in the afternoon of 25 October as part of the Chelmsford Ideas Festival – What it was like being a teenager in the Sixties.  

25 October 2016 2.30 – 4.30 Ideas Hub  For more information check here

It could get wild!

mark-shelley-the-deans-3But it probably won’t.

Look forward to seeing you there!