Sunday
Feb092014

Viewed from a Galjoot

In the Thick of It - Thanks History Today magazine for publishing my article on Wm Van der Velde and the Battle of Sole Bay

Sunday
Feb022014

MBE for KM Peyton

as published in the Scattered Authors Society Newsletter

There weren't many authors included in the New Year's Honours 2014. Anthony Horowitz got an OBE as an 'author and screenwriter', Sandi Toksvig got hers as 'comedienne, presenter and author'. Worthy recipients both of them but the citation that brought real pleasure came further down in the MBEs: Mrs Kathleen Wendy Herald Peyton. Children's Author. For services to Children's Literature. (London)

Kathy Peyton was born Kathleen Herald in 1929 and completed her first novel at the age of 9. Her first published novel was Sabre, the Horse from the Sea (1948) with illustrations by Lionel Edwards. I remember it with joy from my own childhood. She went to art school in Manchester where she met and married Mike Peyton, “the world's greatest yachting cartoonist”. The illustrations to Fly-By Night (1968) reveal Kathy as no mean artist herself and the 'M' in her writing name recognises the help Mike gave her with the plots of her novels.

There are over fifty K M Peyton novels – the majority of them about horses. When I heard someone describe her as writing “pony books” I was surprised. There are stories about schools, stories about sailing, a brief series set in Roman Britain. I could give them to all of my own children to read – boys and girls, horse-lovers, non-horselovers. It's more than subject matter, however. The “pony books” include an impressive variety of characters and credible situations. The main characters are allowed to grow, the generations interact and learn from one another, as do the humans and the animals. The protagonists face challenges that are more significant than winning or not winning the red rosette.

K.M. Peyton has won several of literature's rosettes – the Carnegie prize for The Edge of the Cloud (1969), the Guardian prize for the entire Flambards trilogy and she was runner up for the Carnegie several times in the 1960s. In 1978 the Flambards trilogy was adapted for television by Yorkshire TV and I remain eternally grateful to her and actress Christine McKenna for coming to open my tiny bookshop in Ingatestone, Essex. The queue for the signing stretched down the High Street. I most recently met Kathy Peyton just before Christmas this year at the opening of a nautical pop-up shop in Maldon, Essex. Mike has lost his sight and cannot draw but she was as involved and as cheerful as ever and is writing a new book. I felt inspired. (JJ)

Wednesday
Jan082014

The Legacy of Captain Nottage

 The new issue of Classic Boat magazine (Feb 2014) has my article on the Nottage Maritime Insitute - among many other good things, including an article by Peter Willis of the Nancy Blackett Trust with photos by Gill Moon of Twee Gebroeders. The photographs of the Nottage are by Emily Harris. 

Thursday
Jan022014

Ursula Buchan and the Oaken Heart

Sudden spate of sales for the Oaken Heart alerted us to a fascinating and appreciative article by Ursula Buchan. She discovered the book in the course of researching A Green and Pleasant Land: how England's Gardeners fought the Second World War - which sounds well worth having in its own right. Here's what she wrote about The Oaken Heart

Tuesday
Nov122013

Court-Martial for Ship's Granny?

Kemmel, gender-reassignedIN the last weekend of the summer holidays Frank and Alice decided to finish their annual Cornwall bucket-and-spade holiday with a weekend cruising from Falmouth on a chartered yacht. They invited Bertie and I to join them. I was wildly excited, had a lovely time and thought I'd write about it afterwards. The article was accepted, the weeks flew by and I didn't notice that I hadn't seen a proof. Imagine my chagrin with the glossy mag arrived, the feature beautifully edited and presented but the genders of the children WRONG!

Now I may well be one of the world's most hopeless grannies  but I do know what I've got. On the trip were two lovely grand-daughters, Gwen and Hettie and a grand-son, Kemmel. Okay, he's a yummy little moppet with big brown eyes and a tangle of curls and luckily he can't yet read ... but his parents can. How could I explain? A desperate email to the Yachting Monthly office and back came the amended version. They couldn't quite promise that all print copies would be ceremonially burned but here is what the article should have said -  Sailing with my Grandchildren