Beyond the Beehive

Get ready.  It’s coming.

The characters you enjoyed, the music you loved, the period you know from A Sense of Occasion are all about to reappear.  And this time it’s a novel.

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Beyond the Beehive takes us back to Chelmsford, 60s boom town, and follows Linda and Sandra as they dance  to the Animals at the Corn Exchange on Saturday night and order coffee in the Orpheus while they listen to Hi-Heel Sneakers by Tommy Tucker on the juke box.

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Linda and Sandra are looking for a future away from the estate.  Sandra dreams that hers will be with Danny, a petty criminal.  She and Linda visit the local magistrates’ court, Wormwood Scrubs prison, the Wethersfield USAF airbase, and Littlewoods cafeteria in Oxford Street.       And then there’s Sylvie the Bohemian who lives down the road, who has been to Paris and is now the mother of an illegitimate son.  She needs help too, to find the baby’s father.  Beyond the Beehive captures the essence of the Sixties – Motown, milk bars, CND and the Vietnam war.

And the final preparations for the book are underway!

You may remember that Christine Wilkinson designed the cover of A Sense of Occasion.  It was an onerous task – one which began in the cafe of a bookshop – the proximity to literature was an artistic necessity – followed by a Betty Crocker cake-making session with black and white photography to get us into the 60s mood.  It must be underlined that the three eggs required in a Betty Crocker mix were a luxury on their own before the exorbitant price of the mix.  My dear old mum knew that a Viota cake mix provided all you could need in a cake.

So this is the way the artistic process works.

Chris took many photos,

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we baked a cake, we ate the cake, we listened to the Chiffons (there’s a cookery allusion in there), I dug out some old snaps – and Lo!  a cover emerged.

Christine and I met recently in the tearoom of another well-known bookstore.

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As we sat at the window, overlooking  Jermyn Street with its parade of fancy dressers, our order of a pot of English Breakfast tea for two and a slice of lemon drizzle cake in front of us, once more the ambiance of quiet study and powerful prose made for a productive session.    We talked colours – those mod colours, navy, maroon, bottle green.  We discussed the style.  We discussed the font.  We have a framework.

And next Saturday we shall mooch into Soho with our fabulous model and start the search for the perfect cover.  With necessary breaks for frothy coffee and possibly Horlicks.

No never Horlicks.

More news as it happens.

The Sixties Begin

Tommy Steele had released the tragic Little White Bull.  Everything now depended on Del Shannon.

In 1962 on a Tuesday evening on ITV the Beatles appeared on Five O’Clock Club, introduced by Wally Whyton, and sang Love Me Do.

In the January of the long bad winter of 1963 I began keeping a diary.  I was 12, I was still going to Guides and Sunday School, but I listened to Pick of the Pops on Sundays, on the Light Programme.

On 7 January my best friend Sandra and I went to see Kid Galahad starring Elvis Presley.   When I went back to school after the Christmas Holiday on 9 January, two of my friends Sue and Penny were wearing stockings for the first time.  Sue, I noted in my diary, was wearing Incatan and Penny wore Bronze.

On 18 January my sister Judith went to London to see West Side Story, and Hugh Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour Party, died after being ill for 15 days.  On 27 January Little Town Flirt was at number 12.

The winter was dragging on.  Piles of dirty sludgy snow lined the roads.

By May the Beatles were number 1, Gerry and the Pacemakers number 2 and Del was at number 9.

Then Sandra bought ‘He’s So Fine,’ by the Chiffons, and our relationship with those great American girl groups began.