I thought I would take a moment or two to reflect on the past year and when I did so I was quite startled by what I found!
I began 2008 by hearing that my application to join the Society of Women Writers and Journalists (SWWJ) had been successful and I was now a full member of this prestigious group. Leafing through the 'Centenary of The Society of Women Writers & Journalists 1894-1994' written and compiled by Joan Livermore and Jean Bowden, is fascinating and provides many points of interest. Started in 1894 by newspaper proprietor, Joseph Snell Wood as the Society of Women Journalists, over the years the Society has listed as members Lady Sarah Wilson at Mafeking who was the first woman war reporter, the first woman MP, Lady Violet Astor, and Phyllis Deakin, the first woman staff reporter to be appointed to The Times and who was also the first woman journalist in Paris after it was re-taken in WWII. Joyce Grenfell was the Society's President from 1957 until her death in 1979. Being granted membership of a group which attracts such heavy weights in the writing world was wonderful and I am now thoroughly enjoying my membership.
In January too I was surprised, and very pleased, to be presented with an award for my 'Outstanding Contribution' to the Anguilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry for my work, as Editor, writer and photographer, on their bi-monthly publication, ACOCI Connection.
In April I travelled from Anguilla, my home until September, to be awarded an Honours Degree by the Open University. My family and I went to the Barbican in London for the award ceremony and we had a wonderful meal later, with a little popping of champagne corks along the way.
I continued my fortnightly column, 'Thoughts of an Expat,' for The Anguillian newspaper until the last moment and it was with real sadness that I submitted my last piece in late August, just before I returned to Britain. This column has left a real gap in my life. I am actively looking for another opportunity to write regularly for a publication in the UK. Building a rapport, both with my editor and my readers is something I really enjoy. I miss it.
Over the year I reported on regattas and ships visits, art exhibitions and flower shows. I met some wonderful people, who were good enough to find a little time for me and to answer my questions with patience. So, cake making DJs, pie making stock brokers, up and coming pop stars, the masters of ships both military and civil, quilters and sailors, those doing their bit for their community, from the first locally engaged Deputy Governor of Anguilla, to the owners of a 1925 Alden Schooner, using it to raise money for local kids to sail for their country abroad, these and many others helped to make my job both interesting and enjoyable. They provided articles for The Anguillian, and magazines in Anguilla, the wider Caribbean, the USA and the UK.
Her Majesty's prison on Anguilla had asked me to become the first editor of their publication, The Insider and this, after many and varied trials and tribulations, was published in August. It represented much hard work by many people and I was proud to have been associated with it.
I interviewed the Master of the Queen Mary 2 on my way back to the UK in September and what a pleasant man he was! This article is out now in Hampshire Life magazine.
I learnt that I had been Highly Commended for two articles I sent in for the Sir Harry Britain Scholarship Award, run by the SWWJ, in September. This was happy news indeed! To be well received by your peers is a real boost. One of these articles is on my website for those interested in reading it - www.pennylegg.com
Since I have been back in England I have been busy trying to establish myself again in my native land. I had been away for almost 7 years and that is a long time.
The Observer published my tale of woe in their 'My Crap Holiday' spot in November. I know I must have set readers chuckling as they read of the huge number of things that went wrong on our one and only package holiday to Spain a few years ago! - www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2008/nov/09/crap-holiday-letter-torremolinos
I have been working on my first edition of 'The Woman Writer,' the SWWJs magazine, which is one of the oldest publications in Britain. I took over as Editor in November and my first edition will shortly be hitting the stands. This has been a steep learning curve but I have had much assistance to guide me in the right direction from the out-going Editor, the Society's Chairman, Jean Morris.
The big news in December was that I was offered a book contract by The History Press. The book, a local history on folklore, will be published in June 2010. I am very happy indeed and look forward to working on it in 2009. I am also working, with a friend, on a proposal for another book, on a completely different subject, but more about this in a later posting.
So, 2008 was a busy year as you can see.
It was lovely to spend Christmas with family for the first time in years and to be here for my son's birthday. He and his partner have recently presented us with a granddaughter. Her name is Bluebell and she is a giant British Blue rabbit. She is completely house trained and lollops about their house boat as if she owns it. She joined the rest of the family and enjoyed the celebrations as much as we did.
I hope that 2009 brings you much success, peace and happiness. Happy New Year!