Friday, 11 September 2015


Lots of new babies recently!  Here are some of the quilts I've made.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The story of FW Twort FRS travels to Poland

Back in 2008 I discovered in the Wellcome Trust archives that the famous expert microbiologist and discoverer of bacteriophages, Frederick W Twort was actually born and bred here in Surrey, and I could contact his only son and biographer, Dr Antony Twort.

It was a pleasure to invite Antony to tea. He already knew the way to Reigate because he had regularly driven himself to the Bourne Gallery round the corner in Lesbourne Road (now a trendy bike cafe) for occasional exhibitions.  Little did I know at the time that he had a famous watercolour artist as a distant relative - Flora Twort - whose own magnificent works are permanently on display in the gallery named after her in Petersfield. Antony very kindly brought me some goodies - a copy of his biography, which he inscribed for me, a copy of a crucial Penguin book from 1949 (Science News 14), which was from his father's own stash as one of the key authors, plus a splendid commemorative poster from the American Society of Microbiology that gives his father the credit he deserves in history.

Then in 2012 I also had the pleasure of inviting Antony to lunch - just before his 90th birthday, and I was able to give him an inscribed copy of my book - well, really, I had only written one of the chapters, but I included lots of material about the legendary FW Twort and the pioneering work he did.  It is now, in 2015, exactly 100 years since his discovery was first published in the Lancet, and I hope his son Antony has received my exciting news, that this centenary is going to be commemorated in proper style and dignity in Wroclaw, Poland, 850 miles away, with a one day conference - Clinical Phage Therapy 2015. Sadly, up until now, Twort has always been rather a Cinderella in the miniscule world of microbiology. We can transform all that on Saturday 26th September.

Here is the official website for Clinical Phage Therapy 2015: - detailing the conference programme and speakers, registration, abstracts, and details of the venue and contacts.  Registration is free!
As a special guest, I shall be delighted to attend and present a 5 minute talk with some of my rare Twort photos and happy news of events this year when I have been able to easily spread the word about phage therapy.

Now I shall risk giving the game away: and for some very quick special effects to bring it all bang up to date, I have some marching band music playing Colonel Bogey, plus a video clip of a drone flying over a fabulous fairytale castle just 50 miles from Wroclaw Glowny railway station, which Winston Churchill visited way back in 1906 when it was still called Breslau. So I think that might be rather fun and I do think Dr FW Twort would have approved. (Incidentally, Twort once put butter on the railway tracks and watched the steam train skidding back down the hill again by his local station - naughty!)

My photo: Marching band playing Colonel Bogey to 1000 Churchill Fellows, at Blenheim Palace, 2015
                                                            (click link for the music)

Friday, 3 April 2015

Reigate woman meets the Queen - picture

Reigate resident attends Queen’s reception at Buckingham Palace, to mark the 50th anniversary of The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust

Grace Filby, a Churchill Fellow of 2007 from Reigate, Surrey, attended a reception at Buckingham Palace, hosted by Her Majesty The Queen on 18th March.
Her Majesty The Queen, who is patron of The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, hosted the event to mark its 50th anniversary as Sir Winston’s living legacy.
Since 1965, over 5000 British citizens have been awarded Churchill Fellowships, from over 100,000 applicants, to travel overseas to study areas of topical and personal interest. The knowledge and innovative ideas they bring back are shared, for the benefit of their profession, their community, and, in lots of cases, the nation. For many people, a Churchill Fellowship proves transformational, and they go on to achieve great things - effecting positive change within society.
Grace went on her Fellowship in 2007 to the Former Soviet Union (Republic of Georgia) and Poland, as well as the USA and Canada to investigate the health value of bacteriophages.

As she explained in the commemorative booklet, phages are natural waterborne viruses that attack bacteria. Whilst their application is still obscure in the UK, Grace affirms that phage therapy has great potential in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
She says “the Anniversary Reception was an exciting and unforgettable event, with so many amazing people to meet and chat to about their Fellowships and what they have achieved since. As time rushed by, I suddenly realised I hadn’t yet been to meet our host, Her Majesty the Queen. Luckily I was whisked in to be presented to her and the Duke of Edinburgh, with the advantage of not even having to stand in line, so not a minute was wasted! Just one or two people knew that I had, all the while, brought a couple of tiny vials of phage medicine from the Former Soviet Union in my bag, for the sake of posterity. They are perfectly harmless. Considering it is exactly 100 years since phages were discovered by a Surrey microbiologist, I thought it was about time they got some official recognition in the UK.”

245 Fellows from every decade since 1965 represented the Trust at the reception, as well as representatives from The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in Australia, and the Winston Churchill Foundation of the United States.
To mark its semi centennial, The Trust has just awarded a record number of 150 Travelling Fellowships – investing at least £1.3m in British citizens. This year’s Fellows will travel to 58 countries between them, across six continents, where they will carry out a wide range of projects. The average length of a Fellowship is 6 weeks.
Many events are being held throughout the year to celebrate Sir Winston’s life and legacy.
“We were delighted and honoured that the Queen hosted a reception to mark our anniversary year. Sir Winston’s legacy lives on through our Fellows – individuals who, like him, have vision, leadership, a passion with a purpose, and a commitment to help their fellow citizens” says Jamie Balfour, Director General of The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
For an official photograph of Grace speaking with the Queen go to:

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Monty's birthday bash in Redhill

17th November was a special date in the calendar for my Churchill's Secret Reigate talk at St.Paul's, Redhill - the event also attracted several volunteer stewards from Chartwell.

This time I started off with topical news - firstly a letter from Reigate and Banstead Borough Council thanking me for my street name suggestions, and to confirm that the new residential road off Linkfield Lane will be named to commemorate Churchill's connection with this area, to be ready by June 2012. (I was told on the phone that it will be called Churchill Close. Monty doesn't get a streetname because Montgomery is too long a name - well at least he has a legend for evermore with Monty's Secret Hideout, up on the hill.)

The second bit of news was that it was actually General Montomery's birthday that very day - he was born on 17th November, 124 years ago. Even more amazing was that it was actually on his birthday, in 1941 aged 48, that he was promoted to be head of South Eastern Command and he went immediately, that same day, to Reigate to set up his HQ. Coincidence or design? History in the making.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Reigate Cave Mystery - Lost stone

Have you seen this stone? Missing since 1st June 2011, last seen in Barons Caves, Reigate. There is a long tradition of guides explaining for visitors that it was used in medieval times as a way of summoning service from the castle servants upstairs.

Sunday, 17 April 2011


Strolling through our Priory Park on Friday, I noticed that the neat lollipop-style bay trees were not looking too healthy any more. Of seven trees, several now have dead, brown leaves and at least one is denuded of its lower bark.

Stopping to chat to my park keeper friend who was carefully tending the herbaceous borders in Monks Walk, I just mentioned this and to my horror, he told me what has been happening.

Repeatedly on Wednesday and Saturday evenings, persons unknown have been yanking those trees out of the soil, lugging them over to the fountain pool at the centre of the Sunken Garden, and leaving them there in the water to drown!

What mindless evening pranks - those idiots responsible for this are thoroughly disrespectful to the trees, to all of us who visit the park and especially with this particular part of consecrated ground beside the old Priory. The whole set of baytrees was replaced last year, but it looks as if this new batch are destined for the tip too. And the cost to ratepayers? £100 each plus VAT. Go figure how much that costs.

Then we have 2 young lads who decided to light a fire in the woods, necessitating a callout by the Fire Brigade, because of the risk of burning peat. It turns out that these thoughtless visitors had travelled all the way from Orpington and London.

And to cap it all, there are so many people coming from all over, with picnic stuff and choosing to go to the more secluded areas like the stable hill - and what do they do with their rubbish? Precisely nothing. This is exactly what I had written about to the local newspaper a few years ago.

I hope they all get caught, named and shamed - and fined. Anyone else with a camera?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

In the comfort of Reigate Priory - problem solved

Update March 2015 - the problem of Reigate Priory's leaking roof is solved and all is well.

Original post in 2011: While the spring sun shines and the cherry trees blossom beautifully, it is easy to forget the bitterly cold weather of three months ago, but not the damage that it did to roofs, gutters and roads across the country.
Sadly our town's magnificent historic Grade 1 listed building, home to Reigate Priory Junior School and Reigate Priory Museum, took a terrible blow from the snow. The museum is currently closed and the treasured artefacts have had to be temporarily rehoused to keep them safe. That means the museum collection would be inaccessible to the public for the foreseeable future. I do hope Surrey County Council will be able to get the Priory roof put right soon, and treat it as a priority to restore the museum collection to its rightful home in the centre of Reigate. After all, the items were donated by local residents for the good of the local community, and part of our heritage.
Exactly a century ago in 1911, our beloved Reigate Priory was a private country mansion which was often rented out for rich and famous tenants, and a popular choice for weekend house parties. On 28, 29 and 30th October of that year, it was the location for a vital three-day meeting of top Government and Admiralty figures. Here, Admiral Lord Fisher could advise and educate the new First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill about the wisdom of having a battleship fleet fueled by oil, rather than coal. As well as oil fueling greater speed for the ships, it was going to be a darned sight cheaper than solid fuel, and would save on personnel! What a practical decision was made here. Now, with a hundred years of hindsight it was not especially original as an idea, but still, such discussions required a suitable, comfortable environment where these decision makers could be sheltered from outside events and focus on the job at hand.
Reigate Priory's 19th century addition of the library area has long been a source of water leaks. Presumably because Winston Churchill described the meeting as being "in the comfort of Reigate Priory" in his book, The World Crisis, he was not inconvenienced by such unfortunate events here a century ago.