On sitting down to watch Withnail and I once again….

downloadApologies to John Keats for mangling the title of his poem on King Lear, but it seemed very appropriate. This blog has always covered an eclectic mix of subjects to say the least, breaking basic rules of blogging (know your niche, focus, give readers what they want etc) but one thing I rarely talk about is film. Yet I had ambitions – I took an Arvon Course on screenwriting eight years ago, when Jane Campion had recently stolen my thunder and come up with an idea for a biopic of John Keats that wasn’t about Keats and announced Bright Star. So I was hoping to focus on adapting a short story I had written about my great-uncle (that went on to inspire my book, Shell Shocked Britain) into a short film. On the first evening the course leaders went round the gathered company asking each of us to name our favourite film.

Now this was a challenge to me as I rarely sit down to watch a movie. My husband and I have very different tastes and although I will happily watch a two-hour episode of Inspectors Morse, Lewis or Montalbano, I am not a ‘movie night’ kind of gal.  I often lose patience mid way through a DVD, and trips to the cinema are infrequent. I do love some films –  Little Miss Sunshine, Lost in Translation and the aforementioned Bright Star; Love Actually is a favourite at Christmas largely because Emma Thompson is so brilliant in it, and at the same time of year the Muppet Christmas Carol is an annual treat.

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Posted in Art, Film, London, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Thank-you. Five Years of London Historians


I just had to reblog this piece by Mike Paterson, who founded London Historians exactly five years ago. Five years!!! I am proud to be a Founder Member of what has become a hugely popular and brilliantly run organisation, offering talks, walks, newsletters and pub meet ups for anyone with an interest in our lovely capital. I am living in exile in Somerset at the moment, still yearning a little for the city of my birth (which I visit only occasionally for research trips) .Mike has done a great job and keeps me in touch with everything I am missing! Thanks Mike.

Originally posted on London Historians' Blog:

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the founding of London Historians.

The first London Historians member card. Somerset House. The first London Historians member card. Somerset House.

I’d like to thank every single member who has joined us in that time. I’d also like to thank all the friends we’ve made at museums, libraries, historic buildings, local history societies and other heritage groups, the London Topographical Society, to pick a random example. Curators, librarians, authors, academics, genealogists, archaeologists. And tour guides, a special mention for them: there are several dozen among our membership which now stands at 520. I wonder if we can make that 600 in 24 hours?

SPECIAL OFFER NEW MEMBERS. This Day Only, ends midnight.
If you’re a non-Member reading this and would like to take the plunge, we commemorate this anniversary with a £10 discount on joining. 24 hours only! Please proceed to this page. (for “Qualifying Group”, please put LH5).

Here are some…

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My next book on 18th & 19th Century medicine – and a competition to come up with a title!

L0025088 Death as an apothecary's assistant making up medicines in aBefore you read this post, I would love to know if, after hearing a little bit more about my next book, you can think of a fabulous, attention-grabbing title. The working title is ‘Death Disease and Dissection’ but it hardly covers it! If your title is chosen (just add it to the comments below the post) I will include you in the acknowledgements and ensure you get a free copy of the book….!! 

I am actually working. Posting this is part of a proper writing day. Admittedly I have been sending lots of emails, arranging research trips and talking to people who have information that may be useful, but now I am getting words down on paper, and will continue to do so off and on for the rest of the day.

I am currently researching two commissions. The first is a book about medicine in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, focusing on  young apothecary apprentices and their education to the required standard to undertake the role of surgeon apothecary, a career roughly equivalent to present day general practitioners. In a past post I have bemoaned my lack of progress, and inspiration, but something has changed in the past couple of weeks, and writing this is, to me, a proof of  my commitment to the project.

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Posted in Books, History, Keats, London, Medicine, Mental health, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Don’t leave it too late to live in the moment: Rooting our lives in the present


I wrote this piece for The Terrace Psychotherapy & Complementary Therapy Clinic in Taunton. and wanted to share it on here. I just love the poem, and having read the article referred to in it, about the nature of time passing, seemingly more and more quickly, I want to try and make the most of every moment. It is such hard work to rein ourselves in though, isn’t it?

Originally posted on let's talk!:

mindfulness-meditation-reduces-loneliness-older-adults-study-1343684974Have you noticed how quickly 2015 seems to be flying away from us? Someone mentioned it is just 19 Fridays until Christmas – which sounds terrifying, bearing in mind we hardly seem to have taken the lights down from the last one. There is an interesting article doing the rounds online called ‘How did it get so late so soon?‘, which examines the 21st century perception of time, and why it seems to pass more quickly now than even a couple of decades ago. It seems to be something to do with our need to multi-task simply to stay on top of all the demands made on us in the 21st century. It also offers a reason for the seeming increase in the speed of time passing as we grow older:

“There’s a suggestion that our perception of time may be in proportion to the length of our…

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Four poems on one day – a challenge for my 5 year ‘bloggerversary’

robert-frost-poetry-quotes-poetry-is-when-an-emotion-has-found-its-thought-andIt is 5 years since I started blogging!! I can’t believe it! So much has happened in my writing life just because of this blog so THANK YOU to everyone who has kept reading over the years! I celebrate with, what else? A post about poetry…xxxx

Last week I was challenged by the lovely Lorna Fergusson, writer and inspirational creative writing teacher at Fictionfire, to post four poems in four days on my Facebook timeline.  Normally, this is not something that would cause me too much of a problem – I love poetry, as anyone who reads my blog even occasionally knows. But I am in a funny place work/writing wise at the moment and I just couldn’t allow myself to be distracted. To have the opportunity to think about poetry when I was supposed to be doing client work was, it pains me to say, almost too tempting to resist.  I closed my eyes to my favourite anthologies, Keats books and The Poetry Archive website and cracked on with designing a website and proofreading ( a rather marvellous) manuscript about a holocaust survivor. But oh, it almost HURT!!

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Posted in Literature, love the universe and everything, Mental health, Poetry, Reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Running hard to stand still: Anxiety, writing & a world of confusion…

images (2)I sit at my PC. My hands hover over the keyboard, my mind trying hard to focus on the letters. I will them into words, sentences, paragraphs. I flick through my folders of research; the articles I must read, the chapters I have identified in the books taken  out of The London Library. But it isn’t right. It is never right. The words are there but they are not fit for purpose and refuse to get into shape. I switch to the internet, searching for inspiration on twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Nothing but distraction, they only add to a sense of frustration and an anxiety that increases as the minutes and hours pass.

I turn to the social media and blogging work I do for others – that is fine. My editing and proofreading work is going well. I am not letting clients down, just myself.

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Posted in Books, Mental health, News, Work, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

In which I learn more about spiritualism in the Great War and need some help with ‘Theosophy’….

Whilst writing Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War’s legacy for Britain’s mental health, I became fascinated with the rejuvenation of the Spiritualist movement just before, during and after the Great War, on into the 1930s. People were so fascinated by the chapter in the book that dealt with the subject that I pitched an idea for another book to deal specifically with that subject, and how bereaved families turned to mediums and the spiritualist church in their thousands as a response to grief. That book has been commissioned and I am thrilled to have the chance to do more research on the subject.

Someone who has been a huge support to me as I try to find out more is Ian Stevenson, who has written on this blog twice before, most recently in response to a piece I wrote on spiritualism to highlight how people dealt with the psychological trauma of war. So, when I expressed some confusion about ‘theosophy’and its relationship to spiritualism, he offered to clarify things for me and I thought readers of my blog might be interested too… Here is a summary of his thoughts:


Blavatsky and Olcott in 1888

Theosophy means ‘The wisdom of the Gods’, and the Theosophical Society in England describes it as ‘the thread of truth in scriptures, creeds, symbols, myths and rituals. ‘ It is usually used to refer to teachings of the Theosophical Society founded in New York in 1875 by an American, Henry Olcott and a Russian noblewoman Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, usually called Madam Blavatsky, or HPB. Olcott was a Spiritualist but Blavatsky claimed to be a medium with psychic abilities and beliefs that caused disagreement with the Spiritualist Church. In her view mediums did not usually contact the real person who had died but a ‘shade’. In her view, once on the other side, the essential person began a process of life evaluation and progress to a new life. The personality of the life just left separated and became a shade. It could respond with the memory and characteristics of the deceased but it was not the real, essential person. After a while, it even lost the power to communicate and became a shell which drifted and eventually disintegrated. This did not go down well with the Spiritualists, who grappled with her controversial and often inconsistent views.

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Posted in Books, Guest posts, History, psychology, Shell Shocked Britain, spiritualism, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments