Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Hippie Shake with Gilli Allan

As my latest book, Storm Clouds Gathering is set in 1965 I thought it would be great fun to take a peek at that amazing era. This week Author, Gilli Allan joins The Hippie Shake and shares some of the memories and pics that represent that wonderful era, the 1960’s.

 1965 - a life-changing year in a great decade

I don’t usually like to admit it because it makes me very old, but I’m a baby boomer, one of that ‘lucky’ generation who passed through their teenage years and became young adults in the 1960s.  Born in 1948, I can well remember the dreariness and austerity of the 1950s. It was a black and white world, where bombsites were commonplace, the milk was delivered by horse and cart and trains were still steam driven. TV was one channel only and our set had a 7 inch screen.  And I recall having to wear liberty bodices and leggings, with hundreds of fiddly buttons.  The new decade, which coincided with my move from primary to grammar school, was like the sun coming out. 

In fact the decade started badly for me.  In 1961, when I was not yet thirteen, I was involved in a serious accident. Crossing the road outside our house I was knocked down by a van.  I could easily have been killed, but, apart from remaining unconscious for several days, I escaped with only minor injuries. Afterwards my family joked that it was the knock on my head that switched on my hormones. From having a ‘take or leave it’ attitude to boys and pop music before my accident, I became suddenly aware.  I regularly developed crushes on neighbourhood lads and the drop-ceiling above my bed was adorned with cut out pictures of the pop stars I admired.  I went for looks first - their songs were almost incidental - and Jess Conrad and James Darren were favourites. That was until the Beatles. Loving the Beatles took over my life from 1963 onwards. I was obsessed. And George Harrison was my favourite. From being dotted with a few photos, my drop-ceiling became smothered by my idols.

Aged 16, I left school in 1965, after O levels.  In the 6 week break, before I started Art College, I worked in Dickins & Jones, in London’s Regent Street.  Apart from mini-skirts, which had only just hit the high-street and were worn no shorter than 4 inches above the knee, the prevailing fashion theme that summer was for white PVC macs, worn with those calf-length white boots with cut-outs (first shown by Courrege, in 1964, I believe). This look was universal.  Every young woman in London, it seemed, had a white PVC mac.  But I’ve always been a bit of a rebel.  I didn’t want to wear what everyone else was wearing and anyway couldn’t afford this fashion garment.  My older sister and I went to a chandlery (name forgotten) in Albermarle Street, which sold sailing equipment and sailing ephemera. We both bought the far cheaper oilskin mackintoshes.  Hers was red and mine was yellow, and I wore the accompanying sou’wester back to front because I thought it looked better! 

When I arrived at Croydon Art College in the September of 1965, lacy stockings (tights had yet to come in), corduroy, mini-skirts and Anello & Davide buttoned tap-dance shoes were what all the trendiest female students were wearing.  But what wasn’t quite so acceptable for an art student of the time, was to love the Beatles. The Rolling Stones, the Who, the Spencer Davis Group, the Kinks - Ray Davis had actually attended Croydon Art College - were all more recent, more raucous and more overtly rebellious, and therefore had far more credibility. I didn’t dislike these bands -  I just kept in the closet about my love for the Beatles and the fact I was a member of the fan club and still received their annual Christmas fan club record.

At the time it was common for people in the advertising industry to produce their own Christmas cards.  My dad was the art director in an advertising agency and he designed our family card, but it was an annual nightmare for him. The air would frequently turn blue as my stressed and over-worked father struggled to come up with an idea, to find the time to actually sit down and produce the design, and then to get it printed in time to catch the last post before Christmas.  At the end of my first term at Art College, and full of confidence in my own abilities, I volunteered to design the family card. My father accepted with much relief and I’ve done it ever since. 

But.... were the 1960s so great?  The decade in which you grow from childhood into independence must always seem special.  After all, it’s the time when your hormones begin to ferment and the future looks full of romance, potential and excitement.  I’ve long thought that favourite records are often so powerfully potent, not because of any intrinsic superiority in musicality (after all, they’re often cheesy and derided by others), but because you were exposed to a particular song at a time when you were more thin-skinned and receptive to the world around you. A song that touches you at such a time, when your emotions are in turmoil, will resonate more deeply within you and remain with you, maybe for life. And the same is true of your feelings about the decade in which you became an adult.
All that aside, I believe the 1960s were especially great! And 1965 was a crucial life-changing year for me. 

A little about Gilli…

Growing up in Orpington, Kent, my hobbies were drawing and writing ‘books’.  School and I didn’t get on and, as soon as I was able to, I left and went on to Art College.  I originally worked as an illustrator, in advertising.  I only began writing again, with the serious intention of being published, when I was married and at home with my young son.
I write contemporary romantic fiction with an edge, or ‘Reality Romance’.  My first two novels - Just Before Dawn and Desires & Dreams - were ‘mainstream’ published, but these days I publish independently. I have two novels  - TORN and LIFE CLASS - currently available as e-books and in paperback.  FLY OR FALL is coming soon.  
I now live in a village, at the head of a beautiful valley in the Cotswold Hills, in Gloucestershire.  Still a keen artist I draw and paint, design Christmas cards and regularly attend a weekly art class. I’ve been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers and was one of the initiators of the successful community shop in my village.
I wouldn’t be able to live the life I do without the support - emotional and financial - of my husband.  Our clever son, Tom, who was a toddler when I started in this game, has put his Phd on hold and is currently working as Project Curator, for the British Museum’s, 2014 ‘Vikings’ exhibition.

Gilli’s latest publication

Other Titles…


Fly or Fall – due out later this year

Gilli’s Links
twitter: @gilliallan

TORN: She may escape her old life but will she ever escape herself?

LIFE CLASS: A story about art, life, love and learning lessons.

If you would like to join in the fun of The Hippie Shake please leave a message in the comment box so that I can contact you.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Meeting the Lovely & Famous Kim Nash

Chatting and sharing on social media these days is very much part of everyday life for many people. I often relate to this wonderful technology to years ago when at school and had a pen friend. You'd send snippets of information about yourself with pictures, but never really thinking you would ever meet them. Facebook and Twitter is a little like that, but not always as I found out yesterday.

Yesterday, I had the honour and pleasure of meeting the lovely and famous book reviewer, Kim Nash. Kim is here on Lanzarote on holiday, but it is a special holiday for her as she is a VIP at one of the popular holiday complex's here on the island. Kim took time out to meet me and we chatted as if we had been friends forever.

I think it is wonderful that the people you chat away to from your keyboard turn out to be as lovely as the person you imagined they would be. Now it's back to reality today with my feet firmly back on the ground and it was great to meet a lovely lady and a famous one too!

Cheers Kim and thanks for taking time out of your sunny holiday to meet up. It was fabby!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The Hippie Shake with Julia Ibbotson

As my latest book, Storm Clouds Gathering is set in 1965 I thought it would be great fun to take a peek at that amazing era. This week Author, Julia Ibbotson, joins The Hippie Shake and shares some of the memories and pics that represent 1965 for her and are also the inspiration for her latest book, Drumbeats and the relevance they have to this new novel.

(1965 Ghana airport) September 1965, and my first time on an aeroplane! 18 years old, finished my A levels, left school, and flown to Accra, Ghana, West Africa, for my gap year before heading off to university. Doing voluntary work teaching and nursing in the bush. Look at that lovely 1960s VW Beetle!

(1965 Ghana) in the tiny village of Kakomdo, teaching and nursing. Catch that 1960s gingham shift dress with the white lace jabot! What WAS I thinking? Don't remember being THAT prim - probably for the camera!

(1965 Ghana apartment overlooking the African bush) I look pensive - probably thinking of my love back in the UK, missing him, the man I married 3 years later and divorced 21 years later! My first real "in love" passion, well, apart from Andy. ....! The backdrop to my new book set in mid-1960s Ghana.

A little about Julia…

Julia Ibbotson is the award-winning author of The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen, first published to acclaim in the USA and now re-launched with a brand-new cover by her new English publisher in the UK. Julia has been writing creatively all her life (unpublished!) but her day jobs to pay the mortgage have been as a school teacher and latterly a university academic, gaining her PhD at the age of 57. She delights in being a wife and mother to four, with four little grandchildren. She loves reading, gardening, growing food, cooking for family and friends and country life. Having published many academic texts and papers, she came late to actually publishing her creative writing, at the age of 60 plus, when she was persuaded to write the story of the renovation of her Victorian rectory in The Old Rectory. She has combined memoir, history, research, story and recipes in this first published book, which has won a number of international book festivals in the biography category, gained 5 star reviews on Amazon, and has been widely featured (along with her house) in the media. She has begun to delve into the world of blogging, facebook and now has her own website at  at which she also posts blogs regularly, about writing, life and her passions. Her new project is a trilogy of novels following the life story of a new character, Jess, through from fleeing to West Africa as a volunteer teacher/nurse in the 1960s to the millennium. The first of the series, Drumbeats, is due to be published later this year. You can find out more on her website and on her author page on Amazon. Her global internet book tours start soon!

Julia’s latest publication.

Other Titles
Due out later this year - Drumbeats 

Julia’s Links

YouTube book trailer:

Author facebook:


Author website, including blog:

Purchase at Amazon:

Barnes & Noble

If you would like to join in the fun of The Hippie Shake please leave a message in the comment box so that I can contact you.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Lovely Reviews

This weekend saw more lovely five star reviews for Storm Clouds Gathering and Sometimes It Happens... No matter whether it is the first review or the twentieth, I still have that wonderful warm feeling and still feel very honoured that people like my books.

Full of emotion and sensitivity - The first novel of Pauline Barclay's that I have read but I will certainly read others by the same author. The background of a mid 1960s mill town is well depicted and I recognised a number of 60s references, bringing back that era to my mind. The issues of loss, betrayal and bereavement were sensitively handled. I just wonder whether Pauline managed to write this novel without tears, as there were sections where I felt that I might not be able to read any more, the emotions of painful loss were so clearly depicted.

Lovely warm feeling - Read by me and my sister, takes the sting out of a wet English summer day with some welcome sunshine.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

The Hippie Shake with Joanna Lambert

As my latest book, Storm Clouds Gathering is set in 1965 I thought it would be great fun to take a peek at that amazing era. With this in mind, The Hippie Shake will appear regularly on my Blog. 

This week's guest is author, Joanna Lambert who shares three memories of that amazing era!

Schreiber bedroom furniture - this is what was considered mainstream fashion for bedrooms in 1965

Clint Eastwood in A Few Dollars More - the follow up to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly the spaghetti western (so called because it was filmed in Italy) which launched him as an international star.

The group Unit 4 + 2, who had a big hit with Concrete and Clay in 1965.  Some of its members went on to either form other bands or become record producers.

A few words about Joanna

Jo Lambert grew up in rural Wiltshire. She originally trained as a secretary. In the 1980s she successfully completed a Higher National Certificate in Business and Finance. She has had a full time career since the age of 18, starting in secretarial roles and moving into management. She currently works part-time as an Administration Manager at her local hospital which allows her to make time for her great love - writing. She is the author of four books - The Behind Blue Eyes Trilogy and a sequel, Between Today and Yesterday. Jo is currently working on her fifth novel The Other Side of Morning which is due for publication in 2013. She lives in a village on the eastern edge of BathSomerset with her husband, cat Mollie and a white MG Midget which she calls ‘her husband’s other woman.’

Joanna's latest published book

Other titles by Joanna

When Tomorrow Comes
Love Lies and Promises
The Ghost of You and Me

twitter: @jolambertwriter

If you would like to join in the fun of The Hippie Shake please leave a message in the comment box so that I can contact you.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

An Up and Down Week and It's Only Tuesday!

It as been a very up and down week as I've battled with the customs on the island who have decided to charge large fees for books or small parcels being delivered. Amazon were to deliver to me two books today, UPS rang to tell me there was a charge of over 27 euros for me to pay on customs. I refused and the books are to be sent back to Amazon. I now must battle with Amazon on how to sort this as we are in the EU, so there is no need for custom charges.

I know I can do nothing about this new rule, but it does mean we can no longer buy anything to be delivered to the island or have presents sent to us for birthday or Christmas!

Trying not to dwell on all of this I logged into Twitter to see what everyone else was doing and to my surprise I saw the following....

Books With Wine And Chocolate. Review of Storm Clouds Gathering by @paulinembarclay #books

Reading this wonderful review, not only had me covered in goose pimples, but reminded me that there are people in our world that see good in things we do.

A HUGE thank you to Anne Mackle and her wonderful blog site.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Siting Round my Pool, Helen Hollick and Peggy Stanton

I have not only one fabulous guest sitting round my pool today, but two! The sassy, celeb interviewer, Peggy Stanton and the famous author, Helen Hollick

 I’m just going to sit back and enjoy a glass or three of bubbly, whilst Peggy finds out all about Helen’s lottery win and her wonderful new life.

Take it away ladies….

Hello Peggy – lovely to be here with you beside the pool. Let me make myself comfy on the lounger…. Ah, that’s nice! Peggy ask away.....

Helen I'm glad you have joined us today, sitting round this pool is lovely, but it's a while since I've been here and meeting you here too has made my day. From my notes I see you've left the smoke and galloped off to Devon. Whatever for?

Well, the opportunity to move came out of the blue – so we took it! There we were, my husband, Ron and I watching and enjoying the opening ceremony to the London Olympics on the Friday evening – little knowing that the next day would change our lives forever. On Saturday Ron collected the winning numbers for the lottery and the special Opening Ceremony Olympic Lottery Raffle. I was working (writing Ripples In the Sand) “We’ve won the lottery raffle!” he called from the living room. I ignored him – he’s often winning £10, so I thought, “Big Deal”.
He called again “We’re one of the one hundred winners. We’ve won the lottery raffle!” and added the amount.
I sighed, and went to sort him out, assuming he had made an error.
Well, it seemed he hadn’t! I tell you, by the time I started dialling the Camelot Telephone Number to put in our claim my hands were shaking!

After a long conversation with a very nice lady – lots of identity checks etc – she wished us congratulations and was about to say goodbye, when I asked (voice shaking as well now) “But what exactly have we won?”

I assumed as it was a raffle, the prize would be split between the one hundred winners. But no – the prize was a very nice one indeed. Enough for us to buy the home of our dreams with land and stables and have a little bit left over to enjoy and live on!

Good grief! You won the lottery!  I can't help saying this, but sometimes it happens, sadly not to me, but congratulations, I’ve never met a lottery winner before. Do tell me all about your new house, it sounds fabulous.

We were lucky – Fortune smiled on us, but I assure you we appreciate every penny of that luck, and realise how fortunate we are. We do not take any of our new life for granted. In fact I often have a few tears as I walk down the lane and see our lovely house through the hedgerow. This old house echoes from the laughter that filled it in the past – we intend to keep the laughter going!

At first we thought of moving to Derbyshire, but that idea was soon squashed, then I suggested Devon and we all agreed (all being my adult daughter, Kathy, as well – she has the horses.) We found a few possible places, but the one we initially liked didn’t work out, others were not suitable, so feeling a bit despondent I applied to the BBC TV house-hunt show “Escape To The Country”. We were accepted and Kathy and I were whisked off to Devon to film finding a house. (Kathy came because she needed to look at suitable stabling and Ron had to look after the animals back ‘home’ in London)
The first cottage the presenter (Jonnie Irwen) and the BBC Crew showed us was THE one. I instantly fell in love with what I call on-line “Windfall Farm”. It is a stone-built house, dating from the late 1700’s. The walls are a metre thick in places. It has old beams and sloping wooden floors – and is just lovely!
We have four purpose-built stables, and sheds and outbuildings, an orchard, some woodland, a stream – and in all, 13 acres.

My my a very long way from London and all sounds a dream. No doubt having all of this has changed your life and believe you me, it would most certainly change mine.

Completely! We’ve slowed down for one thing – no London rushing about. It is so quiet here – just  sheep, owls and cows, with the occasional distant chug of a tractor. What an improvement on sirens, traffic, rumbling lorries and a neighbour who constantly shouted swear-words. Our bedroom window looks out across the back garden to fields and rolling hills (beyond which is Exmoor). Life is leisurely down here – the air is clear and pure. Devon truly is Heaven! We do have to be more organised, though, if we are out in the car we buy milk and bread. And using the Redfyre range (a type of Aga) took a bit of getting used to.
I have to admit, I still can’t believe we are living here, I keep thinking that the holiday will soon be over and we will have to go home to London soon.

I’m already walking down that country lane with you. Bliss! Now best I stop daydreaming and get back to my notes and finding out more about this dream life of yours. You are a writer, a famous one I see, so you must have a special place in this gorgeous home where you can relax and write.

Yes. The house was extended back in the 1980’s (I think) with a purpose-built study downstairs and an extra bedroom upstairs. So I have my own little haven where I write – well where I am supposed to write. I spend more time looking out the window….

With those views it is hardly surprising. Keeping with writing, moving to the whip whops has it helped you write more?

 No! *laugh* There are too many distractions. The Garden, the Community Lunch in the village, walking in the fields in the woods – staring at our land over the gate… Writing? One day maybe…. When I get bored with the view!

Should you find that you can tear you self away from your paradise, can I expect to meet that rascal of a pirate, Jesamiah again?

Yes, I will be writing another adventure for him – probably several in fact. But next in line is an adventure story as a spin-off from my Arthurian Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy, about one of King Arthur’s ex-cavalrymen who gets involved with a stolen horse and a murder..

Nothing like a bit of thievery and a death or two to keep readers glued to the pages! Stepping away from murder and galloping horses, my friend and our host tells me you have created a new blog / web site that will have snippets of information, but only for those who sign up. What is this all about?

My webmaster had the idea. He thought that we should have an area on the website for fans and friends who would like a few extra bits that were not available for general view.  So he came up with the H2U area (Helen To You) It’s not exactly secret but to reach it you have to sign up via:
 there are a few fun things to do, some unpublished work, extra information about my books etc.
I also have my H2U Newsletter - which, if you want to keep up with any news you will have to subscribe to subscribers (the link to subscribe is in the top left corner of the blog)

Helen, I can feel your energy and your enthusiasm for life and having your chatting to me, it is clear that you deserve it all. Please let me know when you buy another lottery ticket and I’ll be right behind you. You never know!

I so love living here in Devon, the change from London life is wonderful – I adore walking up the garden to pat the horses, taking the dog for a walk up the lane, enjoying all the wild flowers as they appear along the hedges and banks in the lane. The garden is a joy – each morning I look out my bedroom window to see what new flower has appeared and grab my gardening book to find out what it is!
If you would like to read more about my move to Devon, do come and join me
 Leaning On The Gate

Thank you Helen for allowing me to take you away from your little piece of Heaven and join me sitting round Pauline’s pool. It pretty heavenish here too!

Thank you Peggy – it’s been wonderful talking to you, and thank you to Pauline for inviting me to sit beside her pool. Um? Any chance of some more of that bubbly?

More of Helen’s links:

Main website:
Twitter: @HelenHollick

Friday, 7 June 2013

The Hippie Shake!

As my latest book, Storm Clouds Gathering is set in 1965 I thought it would be great fun to take a peek at that amazing era. With this in mind, I am launching The Hippie Shake, a brand new feature that will appear regularly on my Blog. 

At The Hippie Shake you will meet some fabby peeps who will be looking back at those swinging times as they show what was being enjoyed back then.

My first guest appears here on Wednesday 12th June highlighting what furniture, film and pop music was fashionable in 1965, so please pop back!

And if you would like to appear on The Hippie Shake please leave a message in the comment box so that I can contact you.

Monday, 3 June 2013

What Are Readers Reading?

I'm over at Famous Five Plus talking about what readers are reading on their e-books from my chats with tourists sitting round pools and soaking up the hot sun rays!

Come on over and see if you agree with my findings.