Ten Great British Characters

Ten Great British Characters

James Bond – English MI6 spy, most recently played by Daniel Craig.

Harry Potter – thank you J K Rowling.

Sherlock Holmes – modernised by Benedict Cucumberpatch, sorry, Cumberbatch.

Macbeth – Scottish king by Shakespeare.

Winnie the Pooh – honey-loving bear (was never American despite his accent).

Ebenezer Scrooge – haunted by his past.

Jeeves – saddled with a juvenile dandy footman, for his sins.

Miss Marple – beautifully created by wonderful Agatha Christie

Robin Hood – philanthropist immortalised by Kevin Costner and also never American (Robin Hood, not Kevin Costner obvs).

Mr Bean – English social ineptitude epitomised in a small minded man.  Thank you Rowan Atkinson.

Why Is The UK So Called?

Why Is The UK So Called?

There are a number of names ascribed to the lands that comprise the countries of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, together with their outlying isles.  So the answer to this question is: it depends.

Geographically, the lands are known as the British Isles.

Politically, they are known as the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland. The southern part of Ireland is a republic, and so whilst the land mass is part of the British Isles, the Republic is not part of the United Kingdom.  Northern Ireland is, however, politically a part of the UK, a transition which gave rise to the ‘troubles’ in the twentieth century.

The land also has been known as Albion (from the latin albus which means white, after the white cliffs of Dover), and Britannia.  The Great of Great Britain goes back to the time when Brittany in northern France was under British rule, and was known as Britannia minor (as opposed to Britannia major).

The principality of Wales was joined to England in 1536 forming the Kingdom of England and Wales. In 1707 Scotland and England were united to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. In 1801 the Irish and British Parliaments were combined to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Very few British people seem to know the reasons for, and the difference in meaning between these various terms, so for the record, here they are:

The British Isles: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales.

Kingdom of Great Britain: The political union of Scotland, England and Wales from 1707.

United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland: The political union of Great Britain (above) and Ireland from 1801.

United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland: 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties separated from the UK in 1922, forming the Irish Free State (or the Republic of Ireland).

At the height of its influence, Great Britain was in possession of an Empire, which was composed of about one-fifth of the entire world’s population and covered about a quarter of the world’s total land mass. The British Empire held Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, Western Samoa, India, Burma, Papa New Guinea, Malaya, Sarawak, Brunei, Oman, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Tanganyika, Zanzibar, Mauritius, the Maldives, South Africa, Swaziland, Nigeria, Gold Coast, and Sierra Leone, among other countries during its reign. It has also held a portion of the present-day United States and China. Technically, Great Britain is still in possession of an ‘Empire’, though it’s territories now number fourteen:

  • Anguilla
  • Bermuda
  • British Antarctic Territory
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibralter
  • Montserrat
  • St Helena & Dependencies
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Pitcairn Islands
  • South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands
  • Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus.

The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man have their own constitutional relationship with the UK, but are still under the sovereignty of tBritshsth Crown.

The irony, which most Brits will get, is in the weather.

Source: NewWorld Encyclopedia;; B.Crystal; A.Russ




Ten Things About Me You Don’t Already Know

Ten Things About Me You Don’t Already Know



I took a year out of work in 1994 to backpack around the world.

It’s a long time ago now, and I didn’t actually circumference the globe, but I travelled through Africa, Asia and Australasia.  I had the time of my life and met so many interesting people.  In Africa, I met a witch-doctor who told me he could vomit bees.  He invited me into the jungle so he could show me, but I was too scared and declined the offer!  I still have some of the ‘magic’ carpets I bought in India, and the didgeridoo I bought in Australia.


I regret never having worked abroad.

There isn’t much I regret about my life, but I wish I taken the opportunity to work in another country.  It’s an experience that I hear from others that always makes me envious.  I did work for a dressage rider near Eindhoven in Holland for about a month in the 1980s – but the time wasn’t right – I was a teenager, alone and homesickness prevailed, sending my running back home.


I have only been married for twelve years.

I am fifty now and I didn’t meet my husband until my late thirties.  I did have a long term relationship before, but marriage didn’t suit us. My husband has been married more than thirty years – but to three different women!


I have a passion for animals.

If I am watching a film or something on TV where an animal is hurt, I will be much more traumatised than if a person is pained.  I first knew about this when I watched The Incredible Journey aged five.  I sobbed and gulped all the way through, and don’t get me started on Lassie! I have two horses and two dogs.  I love donkeys and would like to rescue a pair in the next couple of years, once we’ve got some land sorted out!  Trouble is, the animals distract me terribly from my writing – they seem to come before most things, including my husband! Only metaphorically speaking of course!  So when I write, I have to be really dedicated and strict with my time-management.


I have played polo.

I went to school with a girl whose father was a polo player and teacher.  They organised for a group of us to take lessons.  I loved it and went on to play at the Pony Club Polo Championships, where I scored the winning goal for our team!  My polo pony was a rangy Palomino from Argentina called Rocky and the win was more down to his skill than my own.


I have been star-struck

I met my teenage pop idol, Paul Young, in 2007 on a motorbike rally.  We were introduced and I found myself speechless after shaking his hand.  I was so embarrassed, I turned a nasty shade of pink.  He was so nice about it though and put his arm around me for our photo.  Afterwards, I could have kicked myself and thought of all the things I could have said that would have led to a fantastic conversation and a lifelong friendship.  Dammit!


I own a classic car

It’s a Clipper Blue MGTC and was made for export to America in 1946.  I often take her on the road, mostly during the summer and attend rallies and organised drives.  She belonged to my father, who lived in New York, and when he died we shipped her back to the UK.  I wrote a light-hearted poem about her imaginary journey through life, which you can find on my blog.


I hate shopping

All shopping.  Clothes. Food. Holidays.  Online or high street.  The only shopping I like is for my dogs or horses.  I love the smell of a saddlery shop and the endless new colours of rugs and numnahs.  And I’ll browse doggie-treat shelves for extended minutes if I can!  But anything for myself – nah!  I end up with clothes with holes in, and stuff that is so out of fashion I should get a starring role in the next Back To the Future film.  When I find a shop I do like, however, I will overspend massively – and I allow myself to do this because I am compensating for all the times I could have shopped but didn’t.


I love a good old fashioned pub

I really enjoy going to eat, but when the feeling takes hold, I will usually choose a good pub over a posh restaurant.  Especially if it’s after a long, refreshing walk in the countryside with friends and dogs, and we all pile through the door to the unmistakable aroma of a Sunday roast.  Lolling on a soft couch in front of the fire with a good friend and bottle of red wine is winter’s treat, or sitting in a summer pub garden, watching the sun go down with a chilled carafe of rose.  Bring it on!


I developed vertigo in my late thirties.

After doing bungy jumping, bridge swinging, abseiling and ski-parachuting in my twenties, you’d think that vertigo was a far from my reality as a snowball surviving a fire.  Sadly I only found out during my honeymoon when we a crossing a very flimsy, seriously wobbly and extremely long jungle canopy bridge in Borneo.  It swept over me like a wave.  My vision blurred, I began to sweat buckets and had the undeniable need to make myself as small as possible.  I got down on my knees and curled myself into a ball before I fainted.  My husband had to coax me up, and only with his help (he had to walk backwards, bless him, while we absolutely maintained eye contact) and two rangers, one in front and one behind, could I continue the journey.  I will never do that again!


Leaving Corporate Life To Be A Writer

Leaving Corporate Life To Be A Writer

The transition from corporate life was a lengthy process and happened over many years. When I was starting out in my corporate career, at the tender age of eighteen – to write a novel was always a dream, and a goal which I knew I would always work towards achieving ‘at some point in my life’.  But in the 1980s, it was hard to leave school and do creative things.  I actually wanted to work with horses, but my parents and my school career-councillor persuaded me to become a secretary (it was secure).  And I wasn’t appalled at the idea.  I went on to study PA skills and business – but I hated college.  I dropped out before the end of the first year and ran off to be a stable-girl.  I loved this for a while, but the winters were harsh, the pay was paltry and the bright lights of the city called.  I eventually gave in and got a job as a receptionist, for a central London company.  The nice warm office, the fashion and the social life surged over me like a big wave and dragged me under its spell.  Within the next year, I had rented a flat with a girlfriend in leafy Hampstead, and that practically changed my life overnight.

I had many jobs and many flats over twenty-two years, but the most fun was running my own events company – it enabled me to travel, stay in some very nice hotels, meet some wonderful people and experience running a great team – we achieved some high ranking business results together and the company won several awards.  It remains so ironic that I’d snubbed this whole process at college.

Over all these years, I never gave up writing or the idea that one day I could write full time; but it was always just that – an idea.  I kept journals, attended classes, wrote short stories and poems; all of them scribbled on notepaper and stuffed in dark boxes kept in dusty attics or cupboards over the decades.   In 2007, things got tough for small business owners and I sadly had to make half of my team redundant.  Companies were just not spending money on events, and we lost important clients overnight.  I eventually reduced the team completely and gave up my office in South London to the back bedroom of my small house.  I turned over a profit that year and paid back some debts.  I continued to work all the hours, but it was never the same.  Eventually, I began to question whether what I was achieving was enough return for me.  Eventually, I decided that it wasn’t and I sold the company to a bigger agency.   I made back all the money I’d invested over the years, but it was disappointing that it didn’t come to more than that.

By this time, we had left London and had found a house in Surrey.  I continued to work part-time, from home, on a consultancy contract for another events company, that I was enjoying, and simultaneously, I was playing more often with my writing.  Somehow, I banged out the first chapter of my novel, but I didn’t know where it went after that.  I put it aside and left it alone, in the knowledge that it would come.

In 2010, my father passed away suddenly.  During the process of his illness and death, I found myself in a set of circumstances that challenged me greatly.  Organising a funeral in a foreign country is challenging, but because I wasn’t expecting it, I felt as though I was in a dream and the things that happened around me were almost fictional.  I came out of that process with a story.

But it took another three years to be brave enough to put it on paper.  Finally, in 2013, a health issue took over, and a major operation loomed.  I was advised that I would not be able to work for a minimum of eight weeks – probably more like sixteen.  I had begun to hate work and resent some of my work projects (life was too short), and I felt almost shackled; only a sense of duty, not ‘earning’ a living stopped me from giving up.  But now I was being forced to stop for a while – so stop I did.  In my tracks.  Here it was – my chance.  So the day I was home from the hospital, I began Chapter 2.  And I never looked back.

The Bronte Sisters Are My Kind of Entrepreneurs

The Bronte Sisters Are My Kind of Entrepreneurs

As of today, I will be featuring guest posts on this blog, and the first is by Tony Robinson OBE, (a Micro Business Champion and professional speaker, author and broadcaster), who here has succinctly captured the original art of writing in today’s tricky business world.



Unity of purpose

Did you watch the recent and totally awesome ‘To Walk Invisible’ – BBC’s two-hours drama on the Bronte family? If you did then I’ll wager you were impressed with the three sisters’ unity and assertiveness just as much as their cumulative genius. For example, Charlotte’s riposte to her publisher’s disbelief that she could have written ‘Jane Eyre’; “What makes you doubt it, Mr. Smith? My accent? My gender? My size?”.

What delighted me the most was that readers and listeners that have bought my ‘Freedom from Bosses Forever’ or attended my conference talks on the same subject, will now understand why I suggest the Bronte sisters are role models. They are role models as great writers AND for all those that want to earn a living from their own business. Give me their kind of entrepreneurship any day of the week, especially over the ‘get rich by hearing my story’ and ‘see how much money I’ve hustled for my idea’ brigade.

Like many of us, the motivating force for their enterprise was independence rather than wealth. They had to earn a living. Their experiences as governesses and teachers had shown there was little security or happiness in those jobs, yet these were virtually the only jobs open to them. The three sisters wanted no more bosses and, as they were carers, they needed to work from home.

Doing what you know

Charlotte, Emily and Anne tried to open their own small private school and although their marketing material and pricing were good their location and credibility wasn’t. As their brother and father’s health deteriorated the urgency to make ends meet through their own enterprise increased. They agreed on a joint venture to become published authors – all for one and one for all.

Because of Emily and Anne’s early deaths, soon after their brother’s, Charlotte was the only one of the three sisters to fully taste monetary success and not for long, their father outlived them all. Yet these brilliant sisters lived long enough to see their aim, of being published authors, achieved.

What an achievement it was! Today they would have been called disruptors. Book publishers just didn’t accept manuscripts from Yorkshire women. They not only broke the mould for novels, they made a sizeable crack in the glass ceiling too.

How did they achieve their success and why are they enterprise role models?

Every authentic entrepreneur I’ve met, who start and successfully run their own business, has the Bronte sisters’ high level of self-awareness and hard work. They were bang up to date with the ‘technology’, limited though it was, of the publishing industry and what readers would buy. They were brilliant at creating and promoting their personal brand to gain entry to the market – Acton (Anne), Currer (Charlotte) and Ellis (Emily) Bell would be assumed to be three brothers, by prospective publishers, not three sisters.

They played to their strengths and passions which gave them the necessary persistence to keep going in the face of terrible, debilitating domestic circumstances and rejection of their art. Like Dickens, they were afraid of debt and the debtors’ prison, so happily did not borrow. They wanted to create something out of nothing that they could be proud of. That is true entrepreneurship.

Above all, they knew what they were doing, and what they could be remarkable doing, to capture a slice of the market for novels. They’d written hundreds of poems and little books throughout their short lifetimes. They read widely both to learn their craft and understand readers’ demand. They knew Emily’s writing was remarkable, genius even, so they needed to lead with her difference. They test traded and proved that poetry could enhance their credibility but would not earn them a living.

It had to be a novel writing joint enterprise and Emily would need to write a novel too. They swapped ideas on the novels they could write and what readers would like. They researched publishers and drew up a hit list. They expected rejection of their handwritten manuscripts – a tiresome, time-consuming business – and moved immediately to the next on the list. When eventually, of the three novels from the three Bells, two were accepted they took some pragmatic decisions without diluting their original aims.

Charlotte could have stopped the whole venture as her novel, ‘The Professor’ was the one rejected. Instead, she was encouraged by the criticism and set about writing a new novel – “Jane Eyre”. They were principled and, in the face of being ripped off, stood up for their rights immediately as demonstrated by Anne and Charlotte’s 17-hour overnight journey to confront their publisher in London.

So, here we have three great writers and three great entrepreneurs. Hard work; self-awareness; (my 4Ps) passion; persistence; promotion and partnership are all displayed in the brilliant Bronte sisters’ enterprise.






Did you ever wonder what Christmas is all about?  Not that we unaware of the birth of Jesus on 25th but, things like turkey, and what’s that got to do with Santa Claus etc.  Well, Christmas is actually much older than its name implies.  Before there was no room at the inn and the days of Angel Gabriel, there was a traditional midwinter celebration that dates back to times when we were dependent on the weather and influenced by changes in the climate to grow food.  And don’t forget Winter Solstice – 22nd December – when the sun it at its furthest point from the earth.  But the biggest influences on what we know today stems from the Romans and the ancient north Europeans.

Muntitled-design2any of our traditional Yuletide foods were also customary centuries ago.  The goose was already a popular winter food in the middle ages.  Turkey appeared in the mid-16th century when it was imported from America and once they become popular, we started breeding them in Norfolk and Suffolk in huge flocks.

untitled-design2Also popular at that time, were huge pies containing duck, blackbirds, pigeons, capons, snipe and woodcock.  The Abbot of Glastonbury decided to gain favour with King Henry VIII one winter and sent him a present of twelve manors in Somerset.  He hid the deeds in a pie and entrusted a steward called Jack Horner to safely transfer the pie to London.  ‘Little’ Jack Horner accidentally put his thumb in the pie, and, as legendary poetry describes – he pulled out a plum!

untitled-design2Cakes, nuts, marzipan, gingerbread and plum porridge were also savoured back then during winter and these ingredients, mixed with prunes, wine and spices were the forerunner to Christmas pudding.

untitled-design2Before they were associated with Christmas, mince pies date back to the Crusades, when England was first introduced to oriental spices, which were used to disguise the smell of some meats that were not quite as fresh as they could be.  When the Puritans banned Christmas celebrations, mince pies disappeared, but soon made a return a few years later when they contained orange and lemon peel and sugar.  Over the years, the meat content disappeared and eventually replaced with suet.

untitled-design2Mulled wine, or ‘wassail’, which comes from the Saxon greeting ‘be well’ or ‘waes hael’, was made from heated ale, roast apples, eggs, sugar and spices, and was carried from house to house in a wooden bowl.  It would then be warmed on the hearth and refilled when guests called.  In the 18th century, wassail was replaced with punch, containing spirits and wine, which is still popular today.

Fabulous Boxing Day Recipe

Fabulous Boxing Day Recipe


This is a great Boxing Day recipe for busy cooks at Christmas.  I’m making it myself for my family of ten on boxing day – it’s quick easy and delicious.  You can use up your turkey and reheat it at any time, or you can keep it hot in a low oven for a few hours.

Turkey Au Gratin with Almonds (serves 6)

1 kg (2lb) boneless turkey, cooked25g (1oz) butter
125g (4oz) whole or split blanched almonds
1 onion (peeled/chopped)

For the Sauce:
50-75g (2-3oz) butter, plus a little extra
2 heaped tablespoons plain flour
750ml (1.5 pints) milk
1/2 small glass of sherry
175g (6oz) cheese, grated
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
a little grated parmesan cheese
chopped parsley
salt, black pepper

  •  Heat the oven to GasMark3/170°C/325°F.  Cut the turkey into pieces and arrange them in a large, fairly shallow, ovenproof dish.  Melt the 25g (1oz) butter in a frying pan and toss the almonds in it for a minute or two until golden.  Fry the onions until soft and ready, add them to the almonds and sprinkle them over the cold turkey.
  • To make the sauce, melt the butter in a fairly large saucepan, take it off the heat and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon.  Gradually stir in the milk and bring to the boil, stirring all the time until it is a thick and smooth white sauce.  Let it simmer, still stirring, for 2-3 minutes.  Then add the sherry, grated cheese, garlic, salt and black pepper and stir until the cheese has melted.
  • Pour the sauce over the turkey and almonds/onions.  Dot with butter and sprinkle with parmesan. Cook in the centre of the oven for 30-45 minutes until golden-brown.  Before serving. sprinkle the chopped parsley around the edges of the dish.  Serve with salad and/or rice.


I hope you enjoy it.

The Kiss in Sandy Lane

The Kiss in Sandy Lane









I remember kissing you in Sandy Lane.

Eyes closed, shadows long,

Summer breeze, birdsong,

Heartbeats, sweet tongues.

Innocence and touches tame.

Kissing you in Sandy Lane.


I remember you kissing me in Sandy Lane

Soft arms, embracing sweetly

School books, teenage graffiti

First love, guiltless completely

Only us to entertain

Kissing me in Sandy Lane


I remember that kiss in Sandy Lane

Strangely new, summer hue

Smiling widely, lovely you

Tender feelings, that’s all I knew

I’ll never forget, always retain

That blissful kiss in Sandy Lane.

Remember, Remember, the 25th November.

Remember, Remember, the 25th November.


To me, the sound of November has a special ring to it because it’s my birthday month.  When I was a child, I would count down from the first day of the month.  On the fifth, when the fireworks were launching beautifully, and we were allowed to wave glittery, shining sparklers in the garden after dark, making figures of eight and other shapes, I would know we were half way.  Oh go on then, I still do!

This year, though, November has been the most incredible birthday month ever.  Not only have I reached the milestone of fifty years old, with, even if I do say so myself, grace and humour, but I am launching my debut novel. Now there will be two birthdays in November.

Aside from all the over 50 jokes, (‘at 50 you’re still hot but only in flushes’; ‘remember now you’re over the hill, you will begin to pick up speed’; ‘only when you’re over 50 you realise that your parents were right about nearly everything’) starting to say things like ‘in my day’ and walking with your hands behind your back, turning half a century has actually been rather fun.  I hired a big, old manor-house in Somerset and invited my friends and family for a weekend, complete with dogs and kids.  It was a huge amount of memorable, celebratory fun and it will be another fifty years minimum before I’ll forget it.

Publishing my novel has also been a fun journey, but with a huge, bucket full of seriousness and hard work thrown in.  For the last three years, Gilding the Lily has been my sort-of nemesis.  But last week I received the first paperback proof and my stomach flipped into my heart as I touched the cover, turned the pages like… well, like a real book.  And it is… it’s a real book.  It’s real.  Publishing day is tomorrow – the 25th November 2016 and I can’t really describe what I’m feeling.  I think it’s a mixture of excitement and terror.

I was always writing – journals, poetry, short stories – but never did much with them.  I have always been part of a book club, creative writing group or similar.   It was in my early twenties when a magazine  published my first article.  I was even paid £75, which back then was ‘quite a lot of money’. Being a ‘proper writer’ suddenly became and idea, but I already had a job as a PA that I couldn’t possibly give up – how would I pay the bills, keep my flat?  So that’s how it went on, until my mid-forties when finally I realised that life is just too-damn-short.

In that time, my characters have evolved and became real people, in my head.  I am good friends with them now.  All of them – they are like actors and are serious about their job. They ask me how I would like them to do this scene or play that role, and they put such passion into their work.  Then they perform, and they do so with such convincing and tangible dignity, that I admire them hugely.

So now publication day is here, they are celebrating with me – in my head.  It’s their birthday month too and they can finally come into their own.  They deserve it, they’ve worked hard for it, and only I can make this possible for them, so they are relying on me for everything.   And everything is what I want to give them.  Thank you guys for coming into my head – you are my great friends and I will do my best for you.  But in return, can you please help me to become a ‘proper writer’? Can you sell my books?  Can you help me make a living from this rapport that we have?  I know the answer they will give: ‘well that remains to be seen’.

16 Facts About London You Probably Didn’t Know

16 Facts About London You Probably Didn’t Know


London is an iconic and contemporary city with a history stretching back to the Romans.  It is called home to

8.6 million people.  But here are some interesting things that maybe not all of them know.


  1. The Metropolitan line opened in 1863 and is the oldest underground line in the world.


  1. The last person to be executed at the Tower of London was a German intelligence agent named Josef Jakobs. He was shot by firing squad in 1941.


  1. Out of 287 tube stations, only 29 are south of the River Thames.


  1. In 1952, pollution was so bad that Sadlers Wells Theatre were forced to abandon a performance when smog entered the auditorium.


  1. Although it’s not been used since 1932, The British Museum has its own underground station.  It is situated between Holborn and Tottenham Court Road.


  1. Only six people died in the Great Fire of London in 1966.


  1. Despite its rainy reputation, London has less rain on average than New York City.


  1. All distances to London are measurable to Charing Cross.  The actual centre can be pinpointed to a plaque in nearby St Martin’s Church.


  1. It’s illegal to die in parliament.


  1. 60% of the underground is actually over ground.


  1. Sir Christopher Wren’s first design for St Paul’s Cathedral featured a 60ft high stone pineapple on top of the dome.


  1. The walkways of Tower Bridge were accessible to the public until 1910, when they were shut because they became popular with prostitutes.


  1. Big Ben is the name of the bell, not the tower.


  1. Until 1916 you could buy pure cocaine at Harrods.


  1. The area of Covent Garden used to be a market garden to a convent. The name is actually misspelled.


  1. In 1929, author J M Barrie, having no children, gifted all the rights to Peter Pan in his will to Great Ormond Street Hospital.