The Saturday Girls

I am really pleased to be able to show you the new cover for The Saturday Girls. The book is about being a mod girl in Essex in the 60s and comes out on 23 August 2018. It’s great to have a new title and a new cover that I think really does do justice to the book! You can reserve a copy here. 

In those days, life began on Saturdays. On Saturday mornings I worked in the local milk bar – it was vital if I was going to pay for my ticket to the Corn Exchange in the evening. I was a mod in a suede coat and danced to the live music of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, the Animals and many more groups who played at the Corn Exchange every Saturday night. I was a Saturday girl in every sense of the word.

What a good time it was. So, I wrote a novel about it. I put in the music and the milk shakes and the magic of those days.

The first record that appears in the book is the one that could almost be called the mod anthem. Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs. Close your eyes and remember where you heard it first, a dance hall, a cellar cafe, a juke box in a coffee bar, a sound-proof booth in a record shop. Remember the excitement of hearing a song that no-one older than 25 liked.

While you’re waiting for the book to come out, stay in the groove by listening to that great organ sound, and maybe practise one or two mod dances, The Block or the mod Jive.

 

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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 In-Crowd

When I was fifteen I got a Saturday job in Wainwrights, the Milk Bar, on the corner of London Road and Tindal Street.  All the girls wore a white overall with a red and black check pinafore apron and when Steve started, he wore a white jacket, like Mr Wainwright.  We served milk and milkshakes, tea and coffee and Horlicks, and egg sandwiches.  There was no juke box, and it wasn’t hip, but it was popular.

There was a group of people, of whom my sister, tragically for me, was one, who came in every Saturday.  Val, the other Saturday girl, and I called them the In-Crowd.  The boys were at the Grammar School and the girls were at the High School.   They always had the same thing, Foxy had espresso – you had to go to the other end of the counter for espresso, and Steve had tea.  Johnny had lemon squash and my sister and Marilyn and the others had the ordinary coffee.  They would get their drinks and take them upstairs and sit for hours, taking up two tables, talking about horse-racing and records.  They weren’t mods, and despite my sister’s best attempts, they weren’t really beatniks.  The boys always wore nice jumpers, plain, no pattern, round neck, navy blue usually, sometimes maroon, and good jeans.  The girls wore mohair coats, or in the summer shift dresses in blue or pink.

They weren’t mods, but they really were a sort of In-Crowd.  And because they were two and three years older than me, it was a crowd I couldn’t join, even if I’d wanted to.  Later, when Foxy worked in London and so did I we became really good friends.  What a difference fifteen years makes.

A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories