The Girls from Greenway

Today is paperback publication day for my new novel The Girls from Greenway! Cover high res

Life in the Sixties – Motown, jazz, frothy coffee, ten pound poms, the pools, love and betrayal. The book is set in Essex. Two sisters, Angie and Doreen have a difficult home life on their council estate in Chelmsford. And then things get worse – unknowingly they fall in love with the same man.

But they still have the music. Here’s an example of how cool it all was:

It’s been a great day, cards, flowers and champagne. Sometimes, it’s not bad being a writer.

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Mods: Shaping a Generation

Day trip to Leicester to see the Mods: Shaping a Generation exhibition in the New Walk Museum. Some of you may know that once I lived in Leicester so it’s close to my heart. I wasn’t there in the 60s but I was a student and then taught there in the 70s so I was hoping for many nostalgic highlights.

                 

The exhibition was great. Fab exhibits – suede and leather coats to die for, sparkling Vespas and Lambrettas, wonderful music – Green Onions was playing as we walked in, followed by Harlem Shuffle.  Milling around with the other visitors was like being at a Corn Exchange reunion. Everyone talking, remembering their coffee bar and their dance hall, sharing stories.

One item was a silk headscarf (we all wore them) that had been soaked in perfume. The note beside the scarf said that in Leicester in the 60s girls wore Youth Dew – who knew? In Chelmsford it was always Avon.

           

I spoke to a woman who said she had always worn Youth Dew. We discussed the North South divide. But our experiences were so similar her husband asked me if he’d met me before in the Dungeon (answer no).

    

To the sound of Harlem Shuffle I stood looking at the scooters next to a man who was almost sighing with nostalgia. He had had a Lambretta 175 he said. He preferred Lambrettas to Vespas because he felt you could personalise the panel, and I talked about the advantage of a Vespa bubble. He had been at Art College and then gone on to Coventry. I did my A levels at a Tec College that was also an Art School. We discussed our life experience.

I saw this quote from an old mod – how alien it was when flower power hit the scene. I felt that too, when I got to Birmingham in 1968 – nowhere near enough ironing with hippies.

Then I noticed this article about mods and rockers.

Who knew we were considered so radical? ‘overdressed mannequins’ indeed! The chance would have been a fine thing. But really I was a mod because I wanted to listen to great music and wear the fashions of the day. And sit on the back of a good scooter. And have fun.

The New Walk museum is a lovely building. The exhibition is very well laid out, everything is clear, and there’s a lot of room to stand and gaze. Read what the Independent had to say about it.  A history to be proud of.

On top of the exhibition in New Walk, there was Richard III in the cathedral, and the market in the centre of town (a place I always loved) and a great meal in a very nice restaurant.

Get down there. The exhibition is free and it’s on till 30 June 2019, every day 11am – 4.30pm. It was a very good day and well worth the trip.

#generationmods  Leicester Museums

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi Heel Sneakers

It’s funny to think that in our house it was my dad who originally went to the Orpheus.  It was a coffee bar in a basement in London Road near to his office, and beatniks and Swedish-looking girls with long straight hair went there.  For a while Dad abandoned Wainwright’s Milk Bar and arranged to meet his friends at the Orpheus, Richard, the Labour party agent, other union officials and Jimmy Peacock a reporter on the Essex Weekly News, but soon the Mods came and took it over, attracted by its dark interior and superior juke-box, and dad and his mates returned to spending their coffee breaks in the light of the upstairs room of the Milk Bar. 

When Sandra’s older sister Marie became a mod she became a regular at the Orpheus.  She told us about it, the scooters parked outside, swanky Vespas with chrome bubbles, and Lambretta’s with maroon panels, the good music on the juke box, the slice of lemon you got if you ordered Coca Cola.  Sandra and I longed to go there, but we were too young and unstylish.  It was only after Marie and her friend Rita sold us their suedette jackets that we dared even to contemplate it.  Of course, they sold us their suedette jackets because they had moved on to the real thing, suede. 

One Saturday afternoon, after we had passed Walkers Jewellery Shop where we had looked at eternity rings, and Bolingbrokes where we had sneered at the lack of modern clothes on display, Sandra and I strolled casually down London Road.  Outside we dared each other to make the first move.  Together we stepped into the entrance.  We stood in a narrow hallway.  On the left was a door leading into an art supplies shop and at the end was the narrow twisting staircase leading to the Underworld.  Cautiously we made our descent.  Almost as soon as we reached the bottom stair and stepped into the gloomy cavernous space, I realised how wrong suedette was.  People wearing leather coats, suede coats, girls in twinsets, boys in Fred Perry shirts, turned and stared.    I felt young and silly, like a kid still wearing short socks.  My suedette jacket couldn’t cover my twist skirt.

An orange bulb glowed over a large silver espresso machine.  Boys in parkas, leaning on the counter, looked up as Sandra marched across the room.  Reluctantly I followed her, wanting to hide in one of the dark booths which were faintly visible around the walls.  I was relieved to see there was another young girl with a frightened-looking face in the place, till I realised I was staring at a reflection of myself in a mirror.

And then the first twanging notes of Hi Heel Sneekers bounced round the room.