Author and Journalist
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 with literary geography: the settings that inspired writers I love. As a result my life is a wonderful balance between domesticity and venturing out and about. I’ve written nine 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 biography, Malory: The Life and Times of King Arthur’s Chronicler. Writing this led to a deepening interest in the fifteenth century, and I'm enjoying researching for a new book set then. My book to complement the British Library's summer exhibition Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands, was published in May 2012. I have also written a completely new book about Arthur Ransome for Frances Lincoln: The World of Arthur Ransome. part biography, part companion to all twelve books of the Swallows & Amazons saga, it was published in October 2012. Pottering about on the Upper Thames above Oxford has led to collecting interesting books on the Thames,; perhaps one day an anthology will result.
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 Telegraph and the Times, and documentaries for radio. I also review books for various publications, and write a monthly feature on audiobooks for the Times Saturday Review.
I have had three audiobook anthologies published by Naxos, The Christmas Collection, Poetry for the Winter Season and The Pleasures of the Garden. Pleasures of the Garden is to be published as a book by the British Library in spring 2014.
Viking's home from home
See Notebook for my discoveries on the Isle of Lewis
The World of Arthur Ransome (published 4 October 2012)