Not content with foot stepping the life of Joe Stirling in Germany, Holland and the UK, during our recent holiday to California my husband and I made a point of visiting two spots that feature in my forthcoming biography Escaping Hitler. Whilst in Las Vegas we took a bus to the historical end of the city where it all began and to where Joe took a group of UK Lions to their first International Convention in 1971. The city has now placed a roof over Fremont Street and turned it into a retrospective tourist destination but the original icons such as the huge cowboy sign and the Golden Nugget Casino are still there. A week later we went to San Francisco, our hotel being on Market Street, the very street where the Lions Parade of 1984 marched in celebration of the first UK International President Bert Mason. We sought out the prestigious Sir Francis Drake Hotel in the heart of the city, where Joe booked a penthouse suite for his daughter Jane and secretary Anne, along with their husbands in order that they could use the facilities as an office during that enormous convention. We met with the doorman who still continues the hotel tradition of dressing like a London Beefeater! These stories are covered in detail in the book to be published by Pen and Sword Books in January 2016. Please visit my Facebook page and ‘Like’ the page if you would like to be kept informed of events surrounding the publication.
This afternoon I drove Joe Stirling and his niece Gail to visit a lovely lady in a village near Norwich called Little Plumstead. I came across Ann Ramsbottom when looking at the recent ‘Let’s Talk’ website following the article by Derek James about Joe. Ann had previously written to the editor of ‘Let’s Talk’ on the subject of the person you would most like to meet. Ann had written: ‘The person I would love to meet is Joe Stirling, former travel agent and Sheriff of Norwich. I was very moved by story on the radio and find him a very brave and fascinating gentleman’. I thought ‘I can make this happen’ and this afternoon I did. We had an appointment after lunch, rolled up and found a lovely genuine couple who have lived in their bungalow since 1967. Ann was clearly ‘star struck’ and Joe loved it! We had tea and home-made cake and Joe told Ann snippets from his story, while they shared with us their son’s success in a Cross-Sahara endurance run. Photos were taken, hands were shaken, thank you’s all round. Thank you to Ann and husband Reg for their hospitality.
I am indebted to journalist Derek Neale who has included some free publicity for my book Escaping Hitler, in the May edition of nostalgia magazine Let’s Talk Magazine published in Norwich. The story on Joe Stirling is amongst other articles in a special supplement to note the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Thanks Derek. I will admit I am feeling the pressure right now with one week to go to my deadline for submission. Ploughing on, not quite there yet……
Two weeks to go until my deadline to submit the manuscript to my publisher Pen and Sword Books. Working hard now on the final edits, captioning photographs, writing my ‘author’s introduction’, checking my format against the ‘House Style’ rules. Have had final formal interview with Joe Stirling this week, it was a difficult and quite emotional moment saying goodbye, knowing that I will not see him again until after I have submitted the 90,000 words. As of this moment the manuscript is at 106,000 words so just a few to lose over the next ten days or so. Wish me luck, there could be some burning of midnight oil ahead. Will keep you all updated….
Yesterday during a canvassing visit to Norwich for the Liberal Democrats, Baroness Shirley Williams, Liberal Democrat Peer, was reunited with Joe Stirling. They last met 61 years ago during her first ever By-election as a Labour candidate. Joe, then Labour Agent for Norwich, was sent to help out the young 23 year old in her efforts to become an M.P. Shirley Williams has kindly written a foreword for Escaping Hitler: A Jewish Boy’s Quest for Freedom and His Future, the biography of Joe Stirling, written by Phyllida Scrivens. This debut book will be published by Pen and Sword during January 2016.
This week I am travelling all around North America with Joe Stirling. As I write up the fascinating and detailed conversations with him as he shared memories of the twenty-one Lions Conventions he visited during the 1970s and 80s, not only as a colleague but also as travel arranger and guide, I feel I am in the great cities – San Francisco, Miami, Las Vegas, Mexico City. But I only have one photo to share, which will feature in the book, of Joe heading up the British contingent in the Grand Opening Parade in Montreal in the summer of 1979. As for my progress with Escaping Hitler: photos now back from the photoshop, all scanned onto a stick in high resolution, a good friend is preparing a family tree and a map is being designed at the publishers. I am up to over 76,000 words with six weeks to go. THIS WILL HAPPEN. It just needs some application and determination – no problem then!!
Every day I am finding myself learning about something completely different to that of the previous day. This week is it all about Joe Stirling’s organised trips to America for the Lions International Conventions in America during the 1970s. In 1973 following the Miami Convention he took a group to Walt Disney World in Orlando, established for only two years. The Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square to name just a few of the attractions. For those not fortunate enough to have visited Disneyland in California following the Las Vegas Convention in 1971, Joe’s first, would have found it mind-blowing, very different to back home in Norwich. The words keep coming, just 15,000 and five decades to go, six weeks to complete….. Escaping Hitler is coming together.