I was bought up in a pub in a small market town called, Lutterworth. For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be an actress and a writer. The pub was a great place for an aspiring actress and writer to live, there were so many characters to study and accents to learn. I was offered Crossroads the first time around, but my mother wanted me to have a ‘proper’ job that I could fall back on if I had to, so I did a hairdressing apprenticeship. Eight years later, aged twenty-four, I gave up a successful salon and wig-hire business for a place at East 15 Drama College and a career as an actress, working in Repertory theatre, the West End, film and television.
In 1990 I gave up acting for love and ten years later love gave me up for someone half my age. However, by then I had taught myself to touch type, completed a two-year correspondence course with The Writer’s Bureau, and was writing articles and presenting radio.
In 2010, after living in London for thirty-six years, I moved back to Lutterworth. I swapped two window boxes and a mortgage for a garden and the freedom to write – and I love it.
A member of The Society of Authors, The Romantic Novelists Association and Equity.
Sunday, September 1st, was a wonderful day. Men and women who had worked at Bletchley Park, or at secret locations – outstations – all over Britain and abroad, were invited to Bletchley Park to be officially thanked and honoured for the work they did in WW2. And, for the first time veterans talked about their experiences on camera as part of the Bletchley Park Trust’s oral history project.
During World War Two 12,000 people worked at Bletchley Park. On September 1st 2019 around 80 of them, men and women who had worked on signals intelligence during the war, codenamed Ultra, attended a reunion to coincide with the 80th anniversary of Nazi Germany’s invasion of Poland
I visited the Mansion at Bletchley Park. It’s an original Victorian mansion and houses a number of temporary and permanent exhibitions including:
The Office of Alastair Denniston, Head of the Government Code and Cypher School, and the room where the US Special Relationship was born
The Library, atmospherically dressed as it would have looked during WW2 as a Naval Intelligence office
Veterans’ Stories exhibition
Wartime Garages, complete with WW2 vehicles. And information on how top secret intelligence material was transported
I was lucky enough to met some remarkable people. The first was Mervyn Evans, a veteran was with The Royal Signals. Mervyn spent much of WW2 working undercover in Italy, sending vital information back to Bletchley Park using morse code.
Another remarkable man was, Pat Field. Pat was a Japanese translator. He said some of his colleagues went out to Japan, but he spent most of the war at Bletchley. Pat was recruited from the Army. A lovely guy who was full of fun. I think his smile shows that.
Last, but by no means least, I met an incredible woman named Beryl Middleton. Beryl was a codebreaker at Bletchley in the war and worked with Alan Turing and Dilly Knox. She was accompanied by her grandson and his wife. Thinking about it, there were a lot of young people with the veterans. But I digress. Beryl told me she didn’t write much now, but she loved to read. I told her about the novel I’d written, The 9:45 To Bletchley, and she asked her grandson if he would get the book for her. I told her I would be honoured to send her a copy. It was in the post the next day.
When I was researching my fourth novel The 9:45 To Bletchley I met Jean Budd, the daughter of Robert George Budd, a retired Naval Petty Officer who, in 1938, in the guise of Head Grounds Man was charged with the task of employing builders, electricians, plumbers, carpenters etc. to fit-out the mansion and to build and furnish buildings and huts in the grounds. Jean told me that after school, when she and her sister and two brothers were doing their homework, they had strict instructions not to make a noise because uncle Dilly’s ladies were working next door. Jean and her family lived at Number 2 Cottage, The Stableyard. Dillwyn Knox – and a team of codebreakers known as Dilly’s Fillies who Dilly called his Harem – worked in Number 3 Cottage. (The code used by the German Abwehr was cracked by Dilly and his ladies in 1941).
I looked for Jean Budd on Sunday. She was there, still fit and still full of life I was told, but I didn’t find her. I have a lovely photograph of Jean that I took the last time I was at Bletchley Park. I shall add it to the post when I find it.
I bought a sandwich and a cup of coffee from the cafe in hut 4 and ate it sitting in the sunshine by the lake while I waited for 2 o’clock when a WW2 Lancaster was going to fly over the park.
Waiting for the Lancaster I met a very interesting guy called Martyn. He was the National Radio Centre Coordinator. He was a mine of information and took a video of the flypast which was a heck of a lot better than the photographs I took with my mobile camera. I have a dozen photographs of the sky and clouds, but only three of the Lancaster.
I had a wonderful time. There was filming going on in the mansion, so I wasn’t able to look around the library or Commander Dennison’s office, but I visited Block B Museum where the different cipher machines, including Enigma and codes of WW2, are exhibited. My favourite huts are 8 – the German naval codebreaking hut where Alan Turing’s WW2 office has been recreated, and 11A – The Bombe hut. It’s a permanent exhibition that explains in detail how the team during WW2, led by Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman, helped solve the challenge of Enigma with the creation of the Bombe machines.
In 2009, Gordon Brown – Prime Minister at the time – issued an unequivocal apology on behalf of the government to Alan Turing who took his own life after being sentence to chemical castration for being gay.
Describing Turing’s treatment as “horrifying” and “utterly unfair”, Brown said the country owed the brilliant mathematician a huge debt. He was proud, he said, to offer an official apology. “We’re sorry, you deserved so much better.” Most famous for his work in helping create the “bombe” that cracked messages enciphered with the German Enigma machines. He was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 after admitting a sexual relationship with a man and was given experimental chemical castration as “treatment”. His criminal record meant he couldn’t continue his work for the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) because his security privileges were withdrawn. Two years later he killed himself. He was 41.
Before I left I called into the gift shop. I love notepads and notebooks, especially the ones at Bletchley Park because they have codes on the covers. However, on Sunday I bought two bookends of Sir Winston Churchill, to sit on either sice of the novels I have written.
I first met Diana Cavender when I was eleven years old and Diana was about fourteen. I spent my school holidays in America on a Dakota Sioux Reservation in Minnesota. I was adopted into the Dakota Sioux Tribe in the summer of 1961, and in 1992, I was given my native American name, Waccantkiya Win. It translates to, Charitable Girl.
Diana and I, Bletchley Park Sept 1, 2019
Having not seen each other for 18 years, two hours really wasn’t long enough, but Diana had come to England with a holiday company that had arranged a hugely busy itinerary and the only time I could see her was at Bletchley Park.
Bletchley Park is a wonderful place to meet. Next time we’ll meet in Minneapolis, USA.
Mooching around the Bletchley Park gift shop for notebooks to satisfy my addiction, I came across two bookends. I have been looking for small, reasonably priced, bookends for some months now. The bookends I fell in love with are not small, nor were they reasonably priced, but I had to have them.
I have my hair cut every time I publish a book. Joking apart, Philip has bought all the books in The Dudley Sisters Saga for his mum and sister. He’s a great hairstylist too. xx
I look like a thief making a quick get-away. Truth is, I did pose for a photograph to show off my new hair cut, but I looked awful. Too early in the morning. Or something. Probably, something. I thought a funny photo was best. 😉
I woke this morning with the voices of the four Dudley sisters in my head.
I have already written 6,000 words of my next novel, number 8 in The Dudley Sisters Saga. However, in ten minutes the work I have done so far will be chopped and pasted to the Dudley Sisters’ Cuts File. The four Dudley sisters are joining forces to solve a major injustice that needs the cool head of Bess, Margot’s determination and her knowledge of London’s nightlife, Claire’s knowledge of languages, and her ability to read people and blend in, and Ena’s need to do what is right and see that justice done.
Three 5* reviews in three days. Thank you. If you liked There Is No Going Home or any of my novels, would you please give the book a review. There is nothing I like – no love – more than knowing my work has been enjoyed.
I think reviews are important as are quotes like this one.
Three fabulous 5* reviews in the first three days.
Yesterday’s challenger was Karen Baker. Karen’s response to the challenge to ‘Write a story in less than one hundred words’ comes in the form of Skimming which you can read below.
It’s flat, smooth, shapely, sensual, and fits perfectly in my fingers, an extension of my right hand. Calm and motionless, I stand for a long meditative moment eyes closed.
Reminding myself of the Zen of this exercise with three deep intakes of breath, I turn sideways-on and take the correct stance, knees bent. Then raising my arm, elbow flexed, I lean with a slight sway that tests my balance.
My arm swing and wrist-flick catapult the stone across the water. One… two… three… four… five…
Still the same jubilation.
Today’s challenger is Anne Craig. Her response to the ‘Write a story in less than 100 words’ comes in the form of The Longing. You can read Anne’s story below.
Each evening I took out my needle and dreamt of a daughter. I stitched pure white lawn, creamy calico and fine merino wool into garments. Gingham brought a tear to my eye as I imagined my little sprite going to school.
John took it hard but we never talked about it after the first few years.
I gathered my fabric store and began a quilt. The final border, purple, from my funeral outfit. I won’t wear it again. I have my memories and only have to spread out my quilt to see the whole of my life before me.
There Is No Going Home. A stand-alone sequel to The 9:45 To Bletchley.
THERE IS NO GOING HOME A Bletchley Park Cold Case
London, 1958, Ena recognises a woman who she exposed as a spy in WW2. Ena’s husband, Henry, an agent with MI5, argues that it cannot be the woman because they went to her funeral ten years before.
Ena, now head of the Home Office cold case department, starts an investigation. There are no files. It is as if the woman never existed. Suddenly colleagues who are helping Ena with the case mysteriously die… and Ena herself is almost killed in a hit-and-run.
The case breaks when Ena finds important documents from 1936 Berlin that prove not only did the spy exist, but someone above suspicion who worked with her then, still works with her now.
Fearing for her life, there is only one person Ena can trust… or can she?