My interests divide between a fascination with the historical background to our everyday lives – the way we run our homes and bring up our children, and the food we eat – and a love of literary geography: exploring the settings that inspired writers classic and modern. I’m also a little obsessed with fifteenth century England and its literature. I’ve written eleven books on these subjects. The best known are Dream Babies: Childcare Advice from John Locke to Gina Ford and Arthur Ransome and Captain Flint’s Trunk (which resulted in my becoming Executor of the Arthur Ransome Literary Estate). I have also written a fifteenth century biography, Malory: The Life and Times of King Arthur’s Chronicler. Writing this led to a fascination with Alice Chaucer, Geoffrey Chaucer’s granddaughter, and I’ve been trying my hand at fiction as so little is known about her. The first book, Alyce Chaucer 1: The Serpent of Division was published in December 2022. I spelt her name Alyce as that’s the way she wrote it. Double click on its cover for more details. It was followed in October 2023 by the second: Alyce Chaucer 2: The Book of the Duchess. Both are selling well, entirely by word of mouth, as I’m a duffer at blowing their trumpet via social media – if you’ve come to my site to buy them and enjoy them, please recommend them. I’m now at work on the final book, Alyce Chaucer III: Murder Will Out, which will appear in October 2024. I’ve given talks locally in Dorchester Abbey and Oxford, and spoke at the Marlborough and Henley Literary Festivals in September and October 2023. The audiobook of The Serpent of Division, read by Clare Wille, was released by W F Howes on Audible.co.uk on 21 December 2023. It makes great listening.
My latest book to be published by Bodleian Publishing is Novel Houses: Twenty Famous Fictional Dwellings, which was published in October 2019. It is a study of novels in which the place in which they are set is of pivotal importance. It begins with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and ends with Hogwarts School, visiting Wuthering Heights, Bleak House, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Howards End, Manderley, Brideshead, and Bilbo’s Bag End along the way. It received high praise from The Guardian and The Times and has sold very well indeed
Novel Houses is my second book with Bodleian Publishing. The first was Writing The Thames, a survey of my favourite river’s literary connections. Published by the Bodleian Library in March 2016, it seems to have gone down well, with fine reviews in the Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph. I am now at work on a third book for Bodleian Publishing, a sequel to Novel Houses provisionally called Novel Crime Scenes: Twenty Deadly Landscapes.
My second book about Arthur Ransome is The World of Arthur Ransome. part biography, part companion to all twelve books of the Swallows & Amazons saga, It was published by Frances Lincoln in October 2012.
I’ve written three literary anthologies for the British Library. Pleasures of Nature was published in February 2016. Pleasures of the Garden in April 2014, and Pleasures of the Table in March 2015.
I have also had several audiobook anthologies published by Naxos, The Christmas Collection, Poetry for the Winter Season and The Pleasures of the Garden.
My books brought me a parallel career: that of being a journalist, and broadcaster, using their subject matter as a springboard to writing diary and opinion columns in such newspapers as the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and The Times, and documentaries for radio. I also review books for various publications, and write on audiobooks for The Times Saturday Review.
In 2016 I had a garden party to celebrate achieving three score years and ten, and age which has given me a wonderful sense of freedom and a determination to be myself. My other excitement is the keeping of bees, advised by Dick Mayon-White, whose knowledge and calmness in handling these extraordinary little insects is an inspiration. He too loves the Thames, and his book Exploring the Thames Wilderness is a comprehensive and beautifully illustrated guide to the nature reserves along the river.
Three of my four daughters and eight of my ten grandchildren have settled less than ten minutes away from my house. Daisy and her family live in Cornwall, perfect for joining them for holidays beside the sea. Life is a wonderful balance between domesticity and venturing out and about. I’m lucky enough to have a large jungly garden where we can celebrate family occasions.