Mab Dispenses More Pharmaceutical Advice.



18 X 00

Dearest Tommie

If you can spare the ‘ready’ will you get me that book about the war and send it out to me. I want to give it to George for a Xmas present as he has just said he would like to have it. It says there will only be a limited number printed so I hope I am not too late. I wish I could send you the money straightaway but we shall be able to send it all soon as George owes his mother some too so it will come to a respectable sum.

I am very busy making Xmas presents. How you will all laugh when you see them but necessity is the mother of invention.

Everything is very quiet here and we are having a good deal of rain. We got the mail last night, very late, but the boat was delayed in the Canal by another one getting stuck so it came in two days later.

I do hope Mother came home better from Fairbank. She certainly does not sound up to much in Kate’s letter. Why don’t you try Blaud’s pills if you are anaemic. I do believe in them, don’t you? I should think your system wants iron and they would be just the thing.

I’m scribbling this off as I’m afraid George is going to send the post boy off and I want to get this down in time. I expect he will wonder why I am writing to you intermediate mail but I shan’t tell him. He is very inquisitive. I hope you won’t think I am always writing for things.

lots of love and kisses from Sammie*

*I don’t know why Mab signs off this letter as ‘Sammie’, but her sister Amy is always addressed as ‘Tommie’.

#100WomenNovelists of the 20th Century

On May 11th 2017 I posted my first blog with the above title. The idea was that over the following year, on the run up to my 50th birthday, I would read a hundred books and review them here. The only prerequisites were that they had to be novels written by women during the 20th Century. As well as revisiting some of my favourite novels, the plan was also to read and write about novelists who have perhaps been overlooked or neglected.

Two and a half years later (aged 51 and a 1/2), I have only reached number 37. Not because I haven’t enjoyed this project – it’s been a privilege to read some of these largely forgotten writers. But because a couple of months after starting this journey, I was offered work. Actual paid work. And being a full-time writer, I accepted.

Launch night with Huxbear Vineyard

The commission was from Allen and Unwin to write a novel about gin, under the pseudonym Lizzie Lovell. The Juniper Gin Joint was followed a year later by a commission to write another novel, this time about wine. (You might see a theme emerging here.) During that year I had a relaunch of my debut novel The Generation Game by Legend Press. And a couple of months after the publication of The West Country Winery, my fourth Sophie Duffy novel was released – Betsy and Lilibet, a story of two women born on the same day (you can probably guess who one of them is).

In other words, I got a bit busy and the reading lapsed. But now I am determined to crack on with it and so during the next few days, number 38 should magically appear.

In the meantime, here’s a recap (in chronological order of posts):

1. The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon (1983)

2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)

3. The Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield (1930)

4. The Bottle Factory Outing by Beryl Bainbridge (1974)

5. Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (1985)

6. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)

7. Anita and Me by Meera Syal (1996)

8. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (1948)

9. Octavia by Jilly Cooper (1977)

10. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (1997)

11. The Dress Circle by Laurie Graham (1998)

12. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark (1961)

13. Sula by Toni Morrison (1974)

14. The Garrick Year by Margaret Drabble (1964)

15. The Wild Girl by Michele Roberts (1984)

16. By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart (1945)

17. Mr Wroe’s Virgins by Jane Rogers (1991)

18. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (1945)

19. The Shooting Party by Isabel Colegate (1980)

20. Real People by Alison Lurie (1969)

21. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym (1952)

22. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (1972)

23. Larry’s Party by Carol Shields (1997)

24. The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side by Agatha Christie (1962)

25. Back Trouble by Clare Chambers (1994)

26. The Secret Diary of Adrain Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend (1982)

27. Summer by Edith Wharton (1917)

28. Heartburn by Nora Ephron (1983)

29. The Queen of the Tambourine by Jane Gardam (1991)

30. Mrs Miniver by Jan Struther (1939)

31. The Tortoise and the Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins (1954)

32. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor (1971)

33. The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley (1984)

34. Mariana by Monica Dickens (1940)

35. The Trick is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway (1989)

36. The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (1956)

37. After Leaving Mr Mackenzie by Jean Rhys (1930)

George and the Hockey Stick.


Dearest Tommie

Oh, wot a day we’re ‘aving, and ‘ow cheap!

George has been nearly put in jail for manslaughter, only luckily the man is recovering and George didn’t hit him either but some other ruffian. You know I told you in my last letter about the row between the head packer and the sheller who went and annoyed him. A lot of them are jealous of him because he is getting on so well. Well! George and Mr Van Dort went down to the Court House the next afternoon to defend Juanis as the sheller had taken out a case against him for assault. It was adjourned until the 23rd and they thought the matter would drop till then. But in the evening just after dinner, about 8.30, Juanis sent a man to ask George to go over to his house as a lot of these men were abusing him and he wanted George to stop them. When I heard there might be a row, I made him take his hockey stick as I thought it might be some sort of protection and might frighten them.

When George got there he found an excited crowd, but being dark he could not see much who they were. So he took hold of one man by the arm and said, ‘who are you?’ The man said he was the owner of the piece of ground (it was just outside the mill boundary). George let go his arm and turned to speak to Juanis. As he did so, the man gave him a little knock over the head with his hand. Anthony, the watchman, was standing behind George and was so mad with the man for touching the ‘master’ that he gave him a punch with his fist and then Juanis flew at the man and a general row began. They shouted and bellowed. I was nearly frantic with fright as I thought George might get hurt. However, Anthony made him come away directly they began to fight as he said his being there only made things worse.

So he came to the house and sent off for Mr Van Dort and the head man and then hearing that the former had already got there, he went back to the scene of the fray. When he arrived he found that Juanis had been knocked senseless and one of the men on the other side had got a most tremendous blow to the head and was bleeding horrendously.The man was not insensible and both he and his friends declared that George had hit him with his hockey stick and they wanted him taken off to prison then and there. Mr Van Dort who is splendid at managing natives sent George back to the house to be safe and then started trying to pacify them. He had to talk for a good time but at last he managed to calm them down and thee two wounded men were taken off to the hospital. Juanis was not really hurt much, only badly bruised and was able to appear in Court the next day but the doctor said the other man only got there just in time. Another half hour he would have been dead. And yet that man, although he knew he had nearly died, swore the next day that it was George who had hit him.

The head man came to fetch the hockey stick in the morning and they were all very disappointed to find it had not got an iron tip, also that it was not covered with blood. They all went off to the Court House the next morning. George and Mr Van Dort started at 9 o’clock and did not get back till 8. I can’t say I passed a very happy day. The way those men lied in the witness box was enough to turn you blue, the only thing was a great many points in their tales did not tally but they all swore George hit the man. There was only Anthony who could speak for George and they had got hold of him (he is quite young) and so terrified him that he declared he did not go near the place till after the man was hurt. Of course, the magistrate knows that George is speaking the truth and the men are lying but he could not dismiss the case straight away as they would be sure to appeal so it has been sent to the Attorney General to decide and he will either dismiss it or send it to the District Court to be tried again but both the magistrate and George’s proctor think it will be dismissed. George and Mr Van Dort think this is really a put up job directed more against the Company than George personally and they think a man who was dismissed for stealing coconuts some time before we came is really at the bottom of it. When the row began they hoped George and Mr Van Dort would go so that they could mix them up in it.

2 p.m. It is raining hard and thundering. The N.E. Monsoon is on us and it begins to rain a little earlier every day and soon I expect we shall have whole days of it. But it is delicious to have it cool. It is quite chilly early in the morning and the water makes my hands quite cold. We have not taken to a blanket yet although have had it aired all ready. George is writing an account of his adventures to his mother and I have sent one to Kate and also written to Maggie. I am rather sorry the baby is a girl. It would be good for Dudley to have another boy and I hope Gwynie won’t be jealous. Mrs Gillespy said that Mr Bois is rather pleased that it’s a girl as he says he likes girls.

George and all the men have to go to the Court House on the 26th to hear the result of the Attorney General’s decision. If it is all right and the case is dismissed we are going up to the Nuwara Eliya for a fortnight’s holiday. Of course if it has to be tried again, we shall wait till after that but anyhow we shall go away directly it is all settled. We both feel as if we should like a change after all this bother and worry. It rather shook my nerves that night hearing all the bellowing and shouting and then being by myself all the next day was not very cheering as I kept on imagining all sorts of things when George was so late. He wished afterwards I had gone with him to the Court House but it would have been very uncomfortable for me there and besides he was riding my bike as Mr Van Dort’s had come to grief so he had to lend him his.

Mr Norman, the manager, came up on Thursday and stayed till Sunday. Of course he could not actually do anything but George thought it best to send for him, it is so difficult to explain things in writing. There is a slight chance of our being moved from here soon. I only hope it will come off. But Mr Norman says that the Company would like to get rid of Mr Harton but as his agreement is not up for a year they could do it without paying him six months salary. If they do that they will make George sort of visiting agent to both factories and we shall live either at Veyangoda or Colombo. Mr Van Dort will be in charge here with a responsible fitter for the machinery and George will come down regularly once a month to inspect. Of course this is very vague and they may keep on Mr Harton for his year and then move us but Mr Norman says Mr Harton is doing nothing for his money so they would really save six months salary by letting him go. I suppose we shall know by about Christmas time.

Very many thanks for the films which came all right. They are beautifully fresh aren’t they and might be all right.

I hope Mother’s finger is quite all right. It sounded a nasty place.

George says will you find out the price of sparklers per dozen.

Well, I think I have told you everything. This has been such an exacting week. I have not had time to think much.

Good bye, lots of love and kisses to everybody

from Mab

The one where Mab is racist and takes drugs.

Here’s the next instalment of my Great Grandmother’s letters to her mother, sent from Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1900. (Please don’t hold them against me!)


My dearest Mother,

I hope you came back from Kate nice and fat. I wish you could come here for a time and lead the lazy life I do, but I don’t believe you would like the heat, even with nothing to do, it would pall after a time. I do so pine to wear a woolly frock again, I do get so sick of everlasting cotton things. I am having a fight with the dhoby just now, he will make my frocks so frightfully stiff, my skirts are like crinolines and my blouses like cardboard. I spoke about it a few weeks ago and they were better for a time, but he has gradually got them stiff again. I suppose he thinks it is correct but it makes them so frightfully hot. I am busy making a cycling skirt. I have altered my dark blue gingham into one and for this one I have bought some holland. I got it very cheap as the shop is selling it off. It was only 45 cents a yard, that is about 6 1/2 pence. It is rather a loose one so I expect will shrink a good deal but I am going to allow for that.

I am getting on very well with my biking, although we have only been on very little rides at present as it does not get cool until half past five and it is dark soon after six just now. When the weather is cooler and we can get out earlier, we shall be able to go down to the sea. It is only about half an hour’s ride.

The people at the mill are so idiotic, they are always quarrelling about something. They are like naughty children, only very spiteful to one another. Last night one man who had finished his work went into the mill and began worrying another man who had not finished. They finally hit each other and then some more joined in and they began throwing stones. Then George came on the scene and took the man who began it outside to ask a few questions and in the middle of his talking, the man rushed away into the mill again and began hammering away at the other individual. So George sent for the head man and gave him a charge for a breach of the peace. Now he and his friends are going to bring an action against the other one for assault. This is ridiculous, they do so love going to law. If two men fight, the one who gets the worst of it nearly always brings a charge against his opponent or if not he gets a lot of men together and they fall upon the unfortunate man when he is alone and unprotected. George will have to go off to the courthouse at Marawila this afternoon to bring his charge against the man. This man had really no business inside the mill at all as he is a ‘sheller’ and works outside while the other man is head packer and it was just his busiest time. He is a very good worker, one of the best they’ve got, and if only instead of hitting the man for worrying, he had reported him to George it would have been all right and he would have been punished. The worst of it was that a poor unfortunate stoker who had nothing to do with it got a nasty cut on the leg with a stone. George bound it up with lint and a bandage but these people have got the most dreadful flesh for healing, just an ordinary little cut usually swells up. I suppose it is because they eat filthy dried fish and stuff. Unfortunately Mr Van Dort is away just now buying nuts so George is the one to help him in the talking. They all get so excited and will talk all at once that it is most difficult to understand them unless you are very well up on the language. It just shows you what silly people they are, we are always having little rows like that, only George generally manages to stop them from going to law.

I hope you went down to Seasalter* a nice lot of times when you were at Fairbank. You always enjoy it so. My tummy has been much better lately, in fact rather the other way about but I think that was the effect of the coach coming back from Colombo. It was even worse than usual, the roads were being mended. However I’ve got some camphor water which I imbibe if I get too bad and of course we always have Chlorodyne**.

The mill works has been going on very satisfactorily lately, last week they broke the record in the amount done, and the reports from London have been good too.

I do hope the bottle of beasts has come by this time and not smashed up.

The puppies are flourishing. Mr Van Dort is going to have Ginger, he is the only one we can spare. Moses and Tuppence are so sweet and cheeky.

It is breakfast time and George is hungry so I must leave off.

Lots of love and kisses to everybody

Your very loving daughter,


We shan’t get our mail till this evening.

*Village on the north coast of Kent.

**a mixture of chloroform, cannabis, and morphine used for upset tummies etc.

The West Country Winery

I had a lovely evening on Thursday with friends and family celebrating the publication of my second Lizzie Lovell rom com, The West Country Winery.

What made the evening extra special was sharing it with Lucy Holland from Huxbear Vineyard, drinking her sparkling wine and hearing the story of how she and her husband started their own vineyard back in 2007 and have made a huge success of it, catching the wave of a growing appreciation for English and Welsh wine. Their sparkling wine is delicious and I’m looking forward to trying the still white.

Here’s me talking about my book and waving my hand for dramatic effect.

Please buy English wine, especially Huxbear’s, available at Dart’s Farm and Ben’s Farm Shop.

And please buy my book and make this writer’s day.

Mab Makes Some Biking Knickers

mechanical world

Horekelly, Madampe, Ceylon

October 2nd 1900

Dearest Tommie

The N. E. Monsoon will soon be on us now. Last night it was gusty at times and the wind came all ways and it rained a good bit too. Now is the time we have to be careful and not let the wind blow on us at night as it is a feverish wind as it comes right over the land instead of straight from the sea. We are going to start taking quinine and will keep our north windows shut at night. This is where the benefit of sleeping upstairs comes in. It makes a huge amount of difference.

Oh, I was tired after the coach journey on Thursday. It seemed much worse than usual. I did not get over it till Sunday. I don’t think I shall go for a such a short time again, it isn’t worth it, only we could not afford to stay any longer. To our horror the Galle Face Hotel is much more expensive than the G. O. H. although we had always heard it was the same. But at the G.O.H. they always charge you so much per day however short a time you stay, but they don’t at the Galle Face unless you make special arrangements, but charge each item separately which of course makes it come to much more and also they charge half as much again for their drinks. Wasn’t it a sell and we were so pleased with everything. But we have bought our experience and shan’t be caught again.

I am making some knickers for biking, grey print ones. I hadn’t a pattern so cut them out from George’s and they aren’t half bad. We went on a ride Sat and Sun night and I am getting on capitally although I can’t go far as it makes my legs ache. While I think of it, George would like Hockey very much if you can really afford the ready and pay for it, but you are not to send it if you can’t as he wouldn’t mind a bit. He doesn’t know if it is still in existence, you must write and enquire. You must keep a strict account of what you spend for us and tell us when it is a respectable amount but it is not worth while us sending less than £1, if you can wait till it comes to that, but perhaps it has come to that by now. You seem to be always spending money on me. I hope you enjoyed the lengthy list of my wants that I sent you. It was certainly long enough and George would suggest the most ridiculous things, he very much wanted me to put down a ladies rifle. He thought I would like to shoot snipe, poor little things. I shall be very cross if you spend much on a present for me. I put down lots of nice useful small things for you to choose from. I am saving all my bestest table cloths and things in case we go to Colombo, there is always a slight chance of that.

Have I told you the manager, Mr Waldrock, who went home for a holiday just after I came out, has got the sack. They did not think he managed things well and he seems to have rubbed the directors up the wrong way so they have made the man next to him manager (Mr. Norman). He is a bachelor and fairly nice, very like Mr Humphrey, both in appearance and manners. I don’t get on with him extra well but I have never seen much of him. All the men in the office now are bachelors. George is the only married one.

Please thank Carrie very much for her letter and also kiss the chicks for theirs. I was pleased with them and so was George with his. They are without a cook again then, how unfortunate they are!

It is so silly about George’s books. Mrs Gillespy is really most foolish. He told her most distinctly he wanted every one of his books of any description especially the bound Mechanical Worlds and also his manuscript note books. He says they have all got their name inside. He doesn’t want the Engineers that is all. And a few more books won’t make much difference to the amount we shall have to bring home and besides we may be here another two years. He does so wish now he had brought them all out with him but as he thought he would be home again in a year he only took the very necessary ones, but he has often wanted to refer to some he left behind, especially the M. Worlds.

Thank you ever so much for getting the films but I do hope you can spare the money for them. Isn’t the difference in the price ridiculous? I suppose they often get them spoilt so they charge that much extra to make up.

How is your neuralgia, you didn’t say anything about it? I hope the rest at Fairbank has done Mother good. Don’t I wish I could have her to stay with me. It is beastly being so far away.

lots of love and kisses to everybody, from Mab

Mab is back and she’s living the dream!


Sept 26th 1900

Dearest Tommy

Behold us luxuriating in civilisation! Only for two days though, we came on Monday and go back tomorrow (Thursday). But still, it makes a little break in the monotony of one’s existence. We are staying here this time, we thought we would see what it was like and we like it better than the G of H which is right in the town. This is a little way out, quite on the edge of the sea and is much more breezy and open. We have got such a jolly bedroom with one window looking onto the sea. The beds, washstand and dressing table all up one end, there are thick curtains which can be drawn right across that part and the rest is furnished as a sitting room, with comfy chairs and sofa and a sort of little sideboard and tables. One could live quite comfortably in a room like that, in fact a lot of people do live here and at the G of H. It is almost less expensive than having a house.

We have had early tea at 7 in our room and George has gone down to the office. I have had a cold bath and have been sitting opposite to the sea to get a freshener. There is such a jolly breeze coming straight off it. There is a seawater swimming bath in the hotel but I have not the courage to go alone. I wish it was mixed so that George could come. Between here and the town is a long parade and drive (3/4 mile) by the edge of the sea. Everyone takes a constitutional along it early between 6 and 7, either driving, riding or hiking.

Yesterday morning I went shopping and then picked George up at the office and had a chat with the men there. Mr Waldrock, the manager, who went home just after I came out has got the sack. The reasons have not come to light, but he had been rather unlucky in his work lately and the directors, being in a cantankerous mood evidently, came to blows with him. It is hard times as he is married with two children, but he has heaps of friends out here and has got one small appointment already and will doubtless soon get one again. Mr Norman, the man next to him, is the manager now. They don’t seem as if they are going to put another man in at all.

Yesterday afternoon we went to call on the Stanley Bois but they were not at home and we have an idea that they, or at any rate she,  is up country as their drawing room floor was being relaid. I was sorry as I should liked to have seen her. In the evening after dinner we went down to the G of H to see Mrs Maxfield. I expect I have told you about her. She is the mother of the man in charge of the Mill at Veyangoda. She is the matron, or whatever you call it,  at the G of H.

The night before we went along Galle Face to get a blow before we went to bed. It is rather fascinating spinning along in a rickshaw at night, by the side of the sea with only the lights of the town in the distance.



I have been into the town again with George and now he has gone on to the office and I came back to write. I don’t think we are going to do anything much this afternoon except go to a nursery garden and try to get some little ferns for the table.

We got the mail last night, or rather I did. George was very disgusted as all the letters were for me. I had quite a bundle. It was jolly. Five altogether, from you, Kate, Jo, Mother and Maudie, the first time she has written to me. I shan’t have time to write to people this week so I am going to send Mother, Kate and Mrs G. pictorial post cards as they are rather good little views. I have put a mark against our bedroom windows, the front one is over the porch and the sea is to the right by the coconut trees. You can get a little idea of the Galle Face from the view on this paper. Then there is a view of the lighthouse which is in the middle of the town and you get a view of a bullock cart with its great big thatched roof. Then there is a picture of a catamaran. The one we went out in at Negombo was a little bigger than that I think. You can see the out-rigger where they put the braid across for us to sit. You can see a rickshaw in the hotel scene. They are not very comfortable as you have to sit forward and it makes your side ache after a bit.

This hotel is really quite palatial like the Metropole only of course with huge verandahs and corridors which make it more airy, but all the appointments are very good and plenty of servants about. I am using all sorts of paper as I began to write in the reading room. Now I’m in the Ladies drawing room and they give no smaller paper.

Then I am going to make your mouth water as it never did before – I’ve got a bicycle! We got so sick of walking along those beastly roads always the same way and George would not go out for a ride without me, so he got it for me, and it came down as a surprise. Wasn’t it sweet of him? It is an American machine. White is the maker and it is to cost R.187. George is going to pay for it in three monthly instalments. It would have been R.170 cash. Of course it is a fairly cheap one but it is strong and well-made and suits me capitally. I’ve only had it since last Wednesday and have been out three times. I got on all right only the roads are so rutty that sometimes I get off a little unexpectedly. But tell Mother I will be very careful. She is not to think I am going to be reckless and try to go fast or anything and besides George is much too cautious over me to allow me to do anything rash. But it will be so much nicer for us to go out for a little spin of an evening instead of just meandering along the road and of course the exercise will be much better for us and will be just the thing for my tummy.

I do hope you did not hurt yourself when you fell down those steps. It sounds horrible. The Long’s party does sound jolly. I wish I had been there. Your blouse does sound sweet, I do want to see it so badly. You must keep it till I come home.

Isn’t Jane awful? Do tell me all about it or send me a paper with her trial. Who is the child like? Sil Ryder is good to take it but why is it a handful? It must be quite small? How lucky Fay is. I should think she’s off her head with joy. I can quite imagine Ma being sceptical.

I am so sorry Aunt Lin has rheumatism so badly and hope it is better now. Tell her she had better come out here and all of the heat will work it out. George will be coming in for lunch in a minute. It is past 1.30 and I’m hungry so I hope he won’t be long.

Tell Jo I was awfully pleased to have her letter and will answer it soon.

Lots of love and kisses to everybody

Yours ever



#100WomenNovelists: Jean Rhys

Blog Post 37: After Leaving Mr Mackenzie (1930)


After she had parted from Mr Mackenzie, Julia Martin went to live in a cheap hotel on the Quai des Grands Augustins. It looked a lowdown sort of place and the staircase smelt of the landlady’s cats, but the rooms were cleaner than you would have expected.

For six months Julia has been living in a shabby Parisian hotel on an allowance from her ex-lover, Mr Mackenzie. But now his cheques have stopped and she returns to London to try again. But on this ten day visit, Julia struggles to eke out even a basic living. She can’t rely on either her embittered sister or her terminally-ill mother. She can’t rely on her ex-lovers who are hypocritical feeble men. She can’t rely on her looks or her waning energy to find a new ‘protector’ as they have been ruined by her hard life and booze. Just how is she supposed to survive?

It was the darkness that got you. It was heavy darkness, greasy and compelling. It made walls around you, and shut you in so that you felt you could not breathe. You wanted to beat at the darkness and shriek to be let out.

Julia is displaced, ghost-like, wandering through the labyrinth of Bloomsbury foggy streets, lost, alone, alienated. Something that resonated deeply with the author herself.

Rhys was born in Dominica in 1890, to a white Creole mother and a Welsh father. She is most famous for writing ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’, a retelling of Jane Eyre which was published when she was 76. Her earlier novels were largely forgotten and she was presumed dead – but was in fact living as a recluse in the West Country. ‘After Leaving Mr Mackenzie’, her second novel, is short and sparse with pared-down prose, crammed full with poignancy and an uncomfortable truth. Published in 1930, it was far ahead of its time and still has relevance for today’s reader. Unsettling. Harrowing. With moments of short-lived hope.

She was crying now because she remembered that her life had been a long succession of humiliations and mistakes and pains and ridiculous efforts. Everybody’s life was like that. At the same time, in a miraculous manner, some essence of her was shooting upwards like a flame. She was great. She was a defiant flame shooting upwards not to plead but to threaten. Then the flame sank down again, useless, having reached nothing.

These moments where Julia is most self-aware – such as when she ignores a proposition on the tube, head held high – are the points of hope, where that defiant flame shoots upwards. And we are left wondering what kind of life she could have led had she been educated or employed, instead of reliant on men.

Of all the idiotic things I ever did, the most idiotic was selling my fur coat…the sort that lasts for ever…people thought twice before they were rude to anybody wearing a good fur coat.

Julia has no protection in a harsh, unforgiving world. A haunting, touching, atmospheric read.

Betsy & Lilibet by Sophie Duffy – Two women, Same birth date, Different Lives

Northern Reader

Image result for betsy &Lilibet

This in some senses is the story of two women. One is possibly the best known woman in the world; Queen Elizabeth II. The other comes from a family well known only in the local area of London, Elizabeth Sarah Sunshine, Undertaker. It is such a personal, clever book which actually tells the story of the more obscure and fictional Elizabeth, looking back over decades of a life lived amongst the people of part of London. Her family, her friends and her clients make up the back drop of a woman who stayed in one place despite war, peace, happiness and sadness, and the departure of so many in all senses. This is the story of an ordinary life, but as with all seemingly ordinary lives, extraordinary things happen. In the background there are the comments of the more famous Elizabeth, always interesting, sometimes broadly relevant, always well known. I…

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Update on The Crown and the Coffin.

If you read my post earlier about the first time I thought about writing #BetsyandLilibet, you would know that I got the name Sunshine from a lovely talented woman who sold me a bespoke candle in a coronation mug at #KillertonHouse, a National Trust property.

Well. I searched the internet and managed to message Sam Sunshine and told her that ‘Betsy and Lilibet’ is published today. And she got back to me and said she has a four year old dog called Betsy! How cool is that?

Here is the fabulous Betsy.