Saturday, 31 December 2011

Happy New Year

It's that time of year again - halfway between Christmas and New Year. All things have to end and at the end of this year, I'm beginning to think about 2012. What do I want to leave behind this year? Is there a situation that I want to change? What do I want to concentrate on this year?

I want to leave behind all the negative influences in my life. I would like to be valued by my employees and offered more hours as I am finding it increasingly difficult to manage on part-time hours. This year I want to concentrate on finishing my novel and submitting it to a publisher. I want to also illustrate the children's story that I'm working on and really get going on the autobiography.

Wish me luck!

Happy new and creative year to everyone.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas

Here are this years Christmas stamps.

They represent the original meaning of Christmas, something we have all forgotten over the self-indulgent, materialistic years. Putting up decorations, posting cards, buying presents...what does it all mean? For some, spending time with family, though there will be many who for whatever reason cannot be with theirs. For others it is just about buy, buy, buy. My partner and I will will go to the Carols by Candlelight service at my local church, we will try to visit St Albans Cathedral and even go to church on Christmas morning. Is this enough? I don't know. I would love to have enough money to only buy presents from Oxfam or some other worthwhile charity but I have to confess, I, like many others, am feeling the pinch and finding it hard to make ends meet, so some of my presents will come from not so worthwhile shops. I visited my local Christian shop earlier today to buy cards and a few other little bits including The Grumpy Shepherd (for my grandaughter not partner) and The Spirit of Christmas for one of my sons. I also got a lovely photo frame and wedding candle for another son who has recently married. When I got home, I cut out M E R R Y C H R I S T M A S and stuck it on the wall, I felt I was taking part in the celebration of the birth of Christ and this seemed to give what I was doing, a bit more meaning. I'm lucky, I was brought up in the Catholic tradition, so I have some idea of what Christmas means but children today have no idea of God or the church. Our schools have become so politically correct, that they've become frightened of even mentioning Jesus.

Maybe this years stamps will add that special something to our lives when we buy our stamps and post our cards. The stamps illustrate the theme of the Nativity. The seven new stamps are inspired by verses from the Gospels of Mathew and Luke, and recognise that 2011 is the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

2nd Class – Joseph visited by the Angel
Inspired by Matthew 1:21 where the angel tells the sleeping Joseph: ‘And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins’

1st Class – Madonna and Child
Inspired by Matthew 1:23, ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us’

2nd Class Large – Joseph visited by the Angel
Inspired by Matthew 1:21 where the angel tells the sleeping Joseph: ‘And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins’

1st Class Large – Madonna and Child
Inspired by Matthew 1:23, ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us’
The wider format of the Large stamp reveals the stable in the background.

68p – Baby Jesus in the Manger
Inspired by Luke 2:7, ‘And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn’.

£1.10 – Shepherds visited by the Angel
Inspired by Luke 2:10, ‘And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people’.

£1.65 Wise Men and Star
Inspired by Matthew 2:10: ‘When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy’.

And I hope these stamps will bring joy to all those who use them.

God bless everyone.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Greenacre Writers Anthology

Our first anthology!

Co-editor Lindsay Bamfield and I are very proud to announce the publication of our first anthology. There are six prize-winning stories from our recent short story competition and nine stories from members of Greenacre Writers.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Greenacre Writers Short Story Workshop

Greenacre Writers invite you to a Creative Writer’s Afternoon:
Short Story Workshop. Dramatic, strange, dangerous happenings with twists, rock stars, remembrance and romance. Intrigued? Come along and find out more.
Saturday 12th November 2011 2.00pm - 5.00pm
Chislehurst Avenue, Finchley, London N12  The workshop will introduce you to the skills needed to think and write a short story – suitable for beginners.  The aim of the afternoon is to meet fellow creative writers, to work on creative writing exercises, and share your work to receive supportive feedback and ideas in a friendly and stimulating environment.
There will be a small charge to include refreshments:
Members £5; Non-members £10
(Cheques payable to: Greenacre Writers - cancellation available up until 7 days before the event)
For further information or to reserve a place contact:

Monday, 12 September 2011


The third book that saved my life was again not a book but this time a film: The Wizard of Oz. A film can act in the same way as a book. In books we escape into a different world where we make up what the characters look like, where their world is and what and who is in that world whilst being guided by the narrator. It is being connected to the STORY that allows this engagement (and in some instances learning and change) to take place and this is also the case with a film. This a story in a couple of hours, a journey, and perhaps for a child made more powerful because of the images on the screen: the colour, the music, and the characters.

Have you ever wondered why 'The Wizard of Oz', is such a popular film?

My mother took me and my brother to see this film, I was about 6 and my brother was 5. For me, this film was one of the most important films I ever saw. Coincindentally I saw it at a time when my understanding of what had happened to me, made no sense.

I had only been living with my mother for a few months and to me she was a stranger. Previous to this, I had been placed with a foster mother whom I called Auntie Joan. She had two sons and lived in Burnt Oak. I was placed with her at two and half and I think it was quite an unusual situation. Usually children were placed with a mother and a father.

Auntie Joan was recently widowed and I imagine she decided to foster both to help out financially but also to take her mind off her loss. She had two grown up sons and I guess that Social Services thought they would act as a sort of male role model in the absense of a father.

Auntie Joan and her two sons, Tony and Frank, were the epitomy of the sixties. Tony had a motorbike with a side car and sometimes he took us to Canvey Island. I seem to remember being squashed in the side-car with Aunty Joan who spent the whole journey petrified and hanging on to me as tightly as possible. I was welcomed into the family and well looked after. I loved them all and was very happy there.

Unbeknown to me, my birth mother had been to see Social Services to give her a council house. It was a lot easier in those days, and there were a lot of new developments appearing across London. She was offered a council house in Cricklewood on the understanding that she would have to take me out 'of care'. I remember being taken to see her and screaming the place down before leaving the flat in Burnt Oak. The only way I would quieten down was on the proviso that Auntie Joan would be coming with us.

So the Social Worker agreed but of course they didn't explain things properly in those days and no sooner had I been introduced to 'my mother' than Aunty Joan disappeared and I was left with this strange woman and my 'new' brother.

L.Frank Baum first published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, and the success of that book led to several sequels. A number of adaptations of Baum's Oz stories for stage and screen appeared before MGM's classic movie was released in 1939.

The cyclone in the Wizard of Oz could be symbolic of a chaotic journey into the unconscious. It could also be a metaphor of the upheaval which Dorothy must have experienced when her parents died. Dorothy is lonely in her black and white - dark, surroundings with an aunt and uncle who never smile. Indeed, her only connection to her happy past life is Toto, her dear dog. "It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing gray as her other surroundings" (p. 4). There are many explanations of the psychological impact connected with The Wizard of Oz - lonliness, loss (Dorothy has lost her home), emptyness (Scarecrow has an emptyness in his head and needs a brain), (The Tin Man is empty inside and needs a heart) and not forgetting the evil mother represented by the Wicked Witch of the West whom Dorothy must conqueror and thereby release herself from the bad feelings towards the dead mother who abandoned her. And of course we must not forget the wonderful yellow brick road that is symbolic of a journey, travelling from one place to another (moving on) and of the bright yellow hope that Dorothy radiates at the start of the journey. Whatever its pshychological meaning, children relate to the film and for me it is still as powerful and popular today as it was back then.

The physical act of watching the film acted as a way for me to escape the confusing and frightening new place I was in. I joined Dorothy in escaping the grey, world of reality and flew over the rainbow to a beautiful world. But even there all was not as it seemed. Evil witches lurked around corners ready to take Dorothy away from her new friends and stop her reaching her hearts desire, to return home. There's no place like home! Dorothy was told she had the power to get back home all along. And for a while I too believed I could get back home.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Book People

The Book People - A Very Short History of Libraries by Rosie Canning

When I was five years old I used to visit my local library. I spent many happy hours sitting cross-legged on the wooden floor discovering the magical world of books that took me on journeys to make-believe lands. As I grew older I progressed from fairy stories to teenage adventures and then to murder mysteries, romance, horror and literary fiction. Although I loved Lord of the Rings and the Narnia adventures, for some reason I couldn’t abide Science Fiction. That lasted until I went to university and discovered the intellectual worlds of Arthur C. Clarke and others. What I also remember about my childhood visits to the library were the clandestine experiences of discovering what I thought were secrets on the shelves. Books, I was sure, that had been accidentally left behind and should really have been removed. I loved peeping into the lives of other people whilst at the same time keeping a furtive eye for the Librarian who would surely discover the book I was reading should have been removed or withdrawn. Oh how I sweated at the issue desk! And I never minded the peace of the library, in fact, I hoped library staff would tell those noisy people to be quiet, it was the hallowed space, the wardrobe into other lands, a place to study, to read and to write. Libraries were my escape from a sometimes, harsh world and books my medicine, they made me well.

When writing Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury explained how he needed somewhere quiet after the birth of his daughter. He was wandering around UCLA and heard typing in the basement of the library. He found ‘a room with twelve typewriters that could be rented for ten cents per half-hour.’ Nine days later and $9.80 poorer the book was completed. Fahrenheit 451 is about book burners, the book explored the effects of television and mass media on the reading of literature and describes how:
‘…the books were burned first by the minorities, each ripping a page or a paragraph  from this book, then that, until the day came when the books were empty and the minds shut and the library closed forever.’
This is not a new fear as far back as 378AD, the historian Ammianus Marcellinus commented, "The libraries are closing forever, like tombs,” and as the Roman Empire fell, libraries seemed doomed to extinction.

A reconstruction of the The Great Hall of the ancient Library of Alexandria in Egypt.
One of the first libraries was the Great Library of Alexandria founded about 300BC. Books were not what we think of today, the library held nearly 750,000 scrolls made mostly from papyrus, but sometimes of leather and kept in pigeonholes with titles written on wooden tags. However this was not a lending library but was a public library open to those with the proper scholarly and literary qualifications.
Though the public library first appeared by the 4th century BC, the private library was more prevalent. Aristotle, for instance, amassed a large private collection. He was the first to have put together a collection of books and to have taught the kings in Egypt how to arrange a library. It was, Demetrius, Aristotle’s disciple, who suggested setting up a universal library to hold copies of all the books in the world. Thanks to the Great Library, Alexandria assumed its position as the intellectual capital of the world and provided a model for other libraries to follow. By the middle of 2BC, Rome also boasted rich library resources. Initially comprising some scattered private collections, holdings eventually expanded through the spoils of war. Even Aristotle's famed collection was among the bounty. Julius Caesar dreamed of establishing a public library in Rome, but his vision was cut short by his assassination. After Caesar's death, Asinius Pollio acquired the requisite funds to make the dream a reality. The library was divided into two sections - one for Greek and one for Latin, serving as a model for subsequent Roman libraries.
Rome had only three public libraries at the time of Augustus' death in 14AD. But libraries remained the domain of the learned: teachers, scientists, scholars. Where were the masses to go? To the imperial baths, of course! At the baths, men and women, rich and poor could take a bath, meet with friends, play ball - and read a book. Libraries were added to the baths until the 3rd century. In 350AD there were 29 libraries in Rome.
In the early 500s in Egypt, Pachomius established a monastery and insisted on literacy among his monks. This was to have a long-lasting effect and throughout the rest of the eastern empire, monastic communities emerged with small and mostly theological libraries. Even though libraries disappeared in the western empire owing to invasion, lack of funds, and lack of interest, monasticism gave rise to an explosion of learning.
As Europe emerged from the depths of darkness into the light of learning, its people began to look to the Greek and Roman artistic and literary classics for inspiration. Many aristocrats of the period were dedicated to developing their private libraries. Cosimo de Medici of the famous Florentine family established his own collection, which formed the basis of the Laurentian Library.

Also in Italy, the Vatican Library opened in the 1400s. Rome's Vatican Library is one of the richest manuscript depositories in the world, with more than 65,000 manuscripts and more than 900,000 printed volumes. Most works are in either Latin or Greek. Accompanying the growth of universities was the development of university libraries, which, in some cases, were founded on the basis of a personal donation. For example, Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, donated his large collection to Oxford University in the early 1400s. Gutenberg's movable type innovation in the 1400s revolutionized bookmaking. Printed books replaced handwritten manuscripts and were placed on open shelves.
A lot of factors combined to create a "golden age of libraries" between 1600 and 1700: the quantity of books had gone up, as the cost had gone down, there was a renewal in the interest of classical literature and culture, nationalism was encouraging nations to build great libraries, universities were playing a more prominent role in education, and renaissance thinkers and writers were producing great works.

Some of the more important libraries include the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the Mazarine Library and the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, the National Central Library in Italy, the Prussian State Library, and the M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin State Public Library of St. Petersburg (founded by Catherine the Great). The earliest public library in the UK was associated with London's Guild Hall in 1425. A second opened in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1580. Neither of these still exists, but one established in 1653 in Manchester, England survives.
The beginning of the modern, free, open access libraries really got its start in the U.K. in 1847. Parliament appointed a committee, led by William Ewart, on Public Libraries to consider the necessity of establishing libraries through the nation: In 1849 their report noted the poor condition of library service, it recommended the establishment of free public libraries all over the country, and it led to the Public Libraries Act in 1850, which allowed all cities with populations exceeding 10,000 to levy taxes for the support of public libraries. It was after this that libraries began to spread throughout the nation. Another important act was the 1870 Public School Law, which increased literacy, thereby the demand for libraries, so by 1877, more than 75 cities had established free libraries, and by 1900 the number had reached 300. This finally marks the start of the public library as we know it. Also at this time, Florence Boot, married to Jesse Boot (son of John Boot 1815-1860, who was founder of Boots, the chemists) inspired by her interest in literature and the arts, founded a subscription library, the Boots Booklovers' Library.

She also had the idea of opening elegant cafés in the larger stores. These had an impact on sales, attracted the more affluent middle classes to shop at Boots and encouraged loyalty. By 1935, the Booklovers' Library was flourishing, with branches in 450 stores supporting over half a million subscribers. Just 30 years later in 1965, it was announced that the Booklovers' Libraries were to close - the last branch shut in 1966.
Public libraries exist in most places in the world and are often considered an essential part of having an educated and literate population. Public libraries are distinct from research libraries, school libraries, or other special libraries and are there to serve the public's information needs, as well as offering materials for general entertainment and leisure purposes. Public libraries typically are lending libraries, allowing users to take books and other materials off the premises temporarily; they also have non-circulating reference collections. Public libraries primarily focus on popular materials such as popular fiction and movies, as well as educational and non-fiction materials of interest to the general public; computer and internet access are also often offered.
When deciding what changes to make to public libraries, local authorities are legally obliged to abide by the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. The legacy of the Act can be followed through subsequent legislation that built on and expanded the powers granted in 1850 and the 4,540 public libraries that exist in the United Kingdom in 2010 can trace their origins back to this Act. This law means that public libraries are a statutory service; councils have a legal duty to provide them. Councils must ensure that the service they provide is “comprehensive and efficient”. They also have a duty to promote the service and to encourage people to use it. The Law also makes it clear that councils cannot charge people for library facilities that make up part of their statutory provision.
What is now, generally speaking, the Public Library service grew through commercial, religious and secular libraries. For example, Cowings Library in Chipping Barnet, a commercial library that was accessible to the public, was established in 1805 and charged a rental fee for books. Later in the 19th century religious organisations and institutes also endeavoured to provide libraries:
“I may mention that the Parochial Lending Library, which has lately been disused, has been replenished with some new books and is open to any who like to avail themselves of it, at the charge of 1d per month.”            (Reverend Robert Morris, Vicar of St James’s Church, Friern Barnet, 1850)
Philanthropic provision of books was a common Victorian activity. From the mid 19th century there was a rise in secular libraries. In Seymour Terrace, North Finchley, a voluntary library was opened in 1896 called The Finchley Public Library. The stock of books started with around 1,200 volumes, which expanded by March 1897 to over 5,500 volumes.
However, by the end of the 19th century, many libraries were finding it difficult to cope with demand and members of the public began to request funding from local authorities. And so local councils began to fund and build public libraries. Within the area that is now the London Borough of Barnet, there were five smaller local councils: Finchley, Friern Barnet and Hendon that were with Middlesex County Council and Barnet and East Barnet that came within Hertfordshire County Council. If we look at the list below, we can see that the 1930s were the ‘boom years’ for public library openings.
Hendon Library  Dec 1929 
East Finchley  Oct 1938
Friern Barnet  Mar 1934 
Totteridge  Jul 1942
Golders Green  Nov 1935 
Edgware   Nov 1961
North Finchley  Nov 1936 
Child’s Hill  Mar 1962
Osidge (Cat Hill) Dec 1936 
Church End  Nov 1964
Mill Hill  Sep 1937 
Burnt Oak  Nov 1968

Many of our libraries in the Borough of Barnet grew from those initial part-time commercial, religious and secular libraries, so although the above list illustrates the ‘public’ opening many of the libraries already had a part-time library service.

Fast forward to 2011 and public library users face the same fears as Ammianus Marcellinus back in 378AD – that the libraries are closing forever and once they are gone they will NOT be reinstated. Back in 2004, Totteridge library was closed and sold to property developers for £1.5 million.
As reported in the local Times Series, one local councillor, Cllr Robert Rams (already gaining a reputation for axing public sevices such as museums, library services and cycling grants!) said: “Maybe people could order books online and pick them up at their local supermarket.” Can you imagine trying to read a novel in a supermarket? Does Cllr Rams even use the local library service? Does he have any idea of how important it is, especially during a recession when libraries are needed and used even more? He seems to have totally undervalued the breadth of what library staff do or what the library can offer the local community:
"My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library."     (Pete Golkin, Arlington, Virginia)
In response to planned funding cuts and library closures, the East Finchley Library Users’ Group (EFLUG), Barnet Unison and Barnet Alliance for Public Services have held a series of protests earlier this year at East Finchley and East Barnet libraries. Stalls were set up for the public to sign a ‘Save Our Libraries’ petition, which has already been signed by more than 1000 residents.

There was also a demonstration outside Friern Barnet Library in May this year, organised by residents opposed to the planned closure. Hampstead Garden Suburb library in Marketplace, which has been in its current location for some 60 years, will close and there are plans to relocate North Finchley (in the artsdepot), Finchley Church End and Graham Park. Barnet Council have announced plans to cut £1.41 million from their library budget over the next three years. According to Barnet’s Strategic Library Review, library services will be provided from the artsdepot to compensate, but residents say the artsdepot is too far for many users to travel. And let’s not forget back in 2004, Mike Freer, the then leader of the council, stated that a replacement library facility was planned for the High Road, Whetstone to replace Totteridge library that was sold for £1.5 million to property developers. This never happened. Was the £1.5 million part of the £27.4 million lost in the Icelandic banks fiasco? And is this real reason why Barnet have made such drastic cuts to our public services?
Over 10% of UK libraries are currently under threat – over 500 out of a total UK public library provision of just over 4500. Some councils are suggesting that library services can be run by volunteers. This takes no account of the professional and ethical standards to which professional librarians must adhere, including data protection. On a local level, a number of councils including Gloucestershire and Somerset are facing legal challenges because they appear to be in breach of the Public Libraries and Museums Act, as well as other laws including the Equality Act 2010. If it looks as if a council seeks to make changes to the library service that may be illegal, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Hunt, has a duty to intervene. Many people around the country have made requests for him to do so, but as yet, he has not stepped in. As a result, Alan Gibbons, an author and library campaigner who runs the Campaign for the Book, has launched a national legal challenge because he believes that national government have failed in their duty. Voices for the Library ( are helping to collect information for the case.
What is also becoming apparent is that the ‘google generation’, lack the necessary skills for evaluating information and developing “effective search strategies”. Young students just do not read a screen in the same way as books are read, they flick from one piece of information to another not really digesting or getting to grips with the heart of the study. Their research will ultimately lack depth and future research will be seriously threatened and compromised by researchers that use basic searching tools, do not visit libraries, do not take time to investigate ideas in depth and lack the concentration to produce gold standard findings. Librarians still have theses skills, libraries still have the physical space that remains important and is where real people meet and real objects are used but as the libraries change, close and are devalued, there can be no doubt the future of humanity will be at risk:
"It is, however, not to the museum, or the lecture-room, or the drawing-school, but to the library, that we must go for the completion of our humanity."       (Owen Meredith)
The thought of a world without libraries fills me with horror and leaves me in a cold, dark place. Will children of the future read everything through a screen? Will humanity forget the pleasure of opening a book, turning a page or discovering some old forgotten masterpiece? The Greenacre Project will do all it can to reverse this trend and to begin with is collecting literary books and books about the writing process to form our own Greenacre Library for which we welcome donations. Quite simply, in the words of Ray Bradbury:
"What a wonderful experience it was to be in the library basement to dash up and down the stairs reinvigorating myself with the touch and smell of books that I knew and books that I did not know until that moment."
As we go to press, more than 5,000 Barnet residents signed petitions against the closures. Their pleas fell on deaf ears. Friern Barnet, North Finchley and Hampstead Garden libraries will close. Totteridge is already closed. There is talk of the community taking over some of the libraries, the council’s idea being that the community should find ways to save the libraries itself. It is not the responsibility of the community to run libraries with untrained volunteers. The Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 says a local authority which is a library authority must ‘provide a comprehensive and efficient library service for all persons…’ Its stock of ‘books and other printed matter, and pictures, gramophone records, films and other materials’, must be ‘sufficient in number, range and quality to meet the general requirements and any special requirements both of adults and children’. If the local authority has been providing this service ANY reduction is likely to be unlawful and the statutory duties will not be adequately fulfilled. We will end this piece with Kate Salinger, councillor for Coppetts ward, who told the cabinet at the Hendon Town Hall library closures meeting, "…You are going through the motions of democracy – some of you don’t even look like you’re listening." And of course, she was right!

First published Greenacre Times, Summer 2011

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


The second book that saved my life.

The trouble is I can't remember what the second book was! I do remember a television programme. So what I'd like to do is include different media under the heading of bibliotherapy...yes I realise 'biblio' is book. But what about film therapy? Or television therapy? Or music therapy? Or art therapy? Art, theatre, music, dance, cinema, books, they all have a story to tell and can be therapeutic. Cinema therapy can be a powerful catalyst for healing - it allows us to use the effect of imagery, plot,and music, in films on our psyche for insight, inspiration, emotional release or relief and natural change. How much better do we all feel after watching a weepie film, yeh right heaps better!

So I will go back in time to when television first appeared in our living room.

I was still five and living with my mother, wicked stepfather, and brother. We had a big ol' tv set with a special box on the back that had a slot for coins, I think it was a shilling back then (5p in todays money). Oh the disappointment when the money expired and the TV switched itself off.

My favourite programme was Twizzle.

Although Twizzle was described as a 'living boy doll', to me he was a she. Twizzle had the ability to extend her arms and legs to amazing lengths. She lived in a toyshop with her other toy friends where, priced at two-shillings-and-sixpence, she was a little too expensive for most peoples pockets. She had already resigned herself to living on the shop counter forever when, one day, a horrible little girl called Sally Cross came into the shop and bullied the shop owner into selling her for just two-shillings. Horrified that she will have to go and live with Sally Cross, Twizzle hides in the Jack-In-The-Box until nightfall when she escapes the shop by using her 'twizzling' ability. She takes refuge in a dog kennel where she meets Footso, a big black cat whose paws are so enormous that she keeps falling over them.

Footso has also run away from home, and so the two become firm friends before setting off on a series of adventures. One of these involves Twizzle using her unique abilities to rescue a little girl doll from a house fire. As a reward, Twizzle is given a shiny new racing car, but after crashing it she exchanges it with The Garage Man for a red breakdown truck and sets about rescuing broken toys such as Chawky -the white faced golliwog, Jiffy -The Broomstick Man, Bouncy -a ball that has lost its bounce, Candy Floss -the mama doll that can't say 'mama', The China Doll, Thin Teddy Bear, Jack-In-The-Box and Polly Moppet. Needing somewhere to live Twizzle and her new found friends build a town of log cabins which they name Stray Town where all the stray toys in the world are welcome. From time-to-time they are visited by The Toy Inspector, a sort of patriarchal figure who ensures that the toys are alright.

So while the drama of the wicked stepfather and neglectful mother was acted out, I too was able to run away, leave the unsafe world of the living room and join the rest of the rejected toys where we lived in peace forever after or at for half an hour when the programme was on.

Strike up the band:

When I live my dream, I'll take you with me
Riding on a golden horse
We'll live within my castle, with people there to serve you
Happy at the sound of your voice

Baby, I'll slay a dragon for you
Or banish wicked giants from the land
But you will find, that nothing in my dream can hurt you
We will only love each other as forever
When I live my dream

David Bowie (1967)

Friday, 12 August 2011


Books That Saved My Life

When I was five years old I used to walk to my local library. It was 1963 and it wasn't so strange then for young children to walk the streets. I used to sit on the wooden floor of the library and flick through the sparsly worded adventures of a little boy in Africa who faced the wrath of a tiger.

His mother made him a beautiful little red coat, and a pair of beautiful little blue trousers and his father bought him a green umbrella and a lovely pair of purple shoes with crimson soles and crimson linings.

On the inside cover is a picture of Little Black Sambo crying. I don't remember ever crying in those days but somehow I knew those tears were mine. Of course if published nowadays, the title, Little Black Sambo would cause a huge outcry, it did in fact have a controversial history.

The original illustrations by Helen Bannerman showed a caricatured Southern Indian or Tamil child. Bannerman wrote the story for her two daughters in 1898 when they were sent away to a hill station to escape the worst of the heat while their parents remained in Madras. Sadly it's thought, the story may have contributed to the use of the word "sambo" as a racial slur. The book's success led to many pirated, inexpensive, widely available versions that incorporated popular stereotypes of "black" peoples. In 1932 Langston Hughes, poet, social activist, novelist, and playwright confronted racial stereotypes, and criticised Little Black Sambo as a typical "pickaninny" storybook which was hurtful to black children, and gradually the book disappeared from lists of recommended stories for children. The book was banned in Japan as late as 1988.

However to me the book was my saviour. I didn't understand what cruel connotations Sambo had or that this little boy had a different colour skin to me, I would learn those lessons later in life. In 1963, Little Black Sambo was my hero, he faced the tigers who wanted to eat him and used cunning to outwit them. This was one of the first books that saved my life!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Memoir and Autobiography Club

Greenacre Writers are planning a Memoir & Autobiography Club to
commence Tuesday 26th July. It will run alternate months on Tuesday evenings at 7.00pm (the 4th Tuesday of the month) The group is for those who are already working on memoir or autobiography. 
Membership is £10 per year and will be on a 'first come, first in' basis!
So please let us know if you are interested.
For those who are not already in a GW group we do request you send in
a sample of writing.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Wishing you a creative New Year!!!!!

What were you doing as the clock struck 12 midnight?

Were you writing? Painting? Playing the piano? Kissing?

There is an old superstition that says whatever you were doing at midnight on New Year's Eve, like pulling a face as the wind changes, you will be doing a lot of in 2011.

I was watching fireworks and thinking about writing, hoping that my new creative venture would take root and grow this year. I have too many ventures on the go and am determined that this year some of them will get the CHOP so I can concentrate on writing stories.

Try a bit of creativity on the net. Click the link below to see a WORDLE made up from a short story about a pink cat. It's great fun, just cut and paste a lump of text and see what happens - once the wordle magic has finished, you can delete words by right clicking on a word and choosing delete.

Have fun!!!!

title="Wordle: The Pink Cat"> src=""
alt="Wordle: The Pink Cat"
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