Review my new column – out in Wiltshire on Thursday!

It’s with some pride that today I can shout about my new FAMILY column in the local weekly newspaper in Wiltshire. Rush out and buy it on Thursday! Or even better buy a subscription.

The Gazette & Herald, which covers Chippenham, Malmesbury, Devizes, Calne, Marlborough, Pewsey and all the villages in between, is sister paper to the Swindon Advertiser, the Wiltshire Times, Wiltshire Business and other publications.

New family column for Wiltshire weekly newspapers

My first Family pages for the Wiltshire Gazette & Herald on Thursday.

I’ll be writing about anything and everything which affects families and parents in these areas of Wiltshire, but I want to be interactive. I would welcome any suggestions for subject matter – both serious and more light-hearted. Interviews with people who live or work in the county  are a key factor.

If you are a parent in Wiltshire who has had to grapple with difficult issues eg. domestic abuse, eating disorders, bereavement, obesity, mental health issues, bullying, caring, chronic illness, disability, debt, homelessness – please share your stories. What can others learn from your experience?

If you’ve got a consumer problem that you’ve been struggling with, I’ll try to help. Or if you are a parent who has achieved something amazing, let me know.

Sometimes I’ll be having a rant on something that’s annoyed me, there’ll be consumer items, guest blogs, and lots of mentions of social media. The more interactive the better. If you comment via letter, Twitter or Facebook, I may use those in the following week.

This is an adventure and I’d like you to join me – fionastuff@gmail.com

Selling off Titanic treasures – some articles are a pleasure to write….

An article about an auction of Titanic memorabilia and the man behind the auction – is the subject of a piece I’ve had published in May’s local lifestyle magazine Wiltshire Life.


Two articles from Fiona in May's Wiltshire Life

I’m proud to be a contributor to this publication where care is always taken to ensure that my work is showcased with style. This article is based on an interview with Andrew Aldridge, of Henry Aldridge & Sons, of Devizes – an auction house which specialises in Titanic stuff.

This year, the auction house is holding a number of sales of Titanic memorabilia, and one took place on March 31, with another in July. Andrew, who’s 38, has become an authority on Titanic after years of travelling the world valuing items from descendants of those who died, and those who lived.

I didn’t really know what an appetite there is for Titanic-related items. When I attended the auction, it was packed and items ranged from posters (some very beautiful and decorative) to pamphlets, leaflets, anything you can imagine that related to Titanic in any possible way. Even objects related to James Cameron‘s film are relevant.

Being the nosey person I am, I made a bee-line for the star lots, a first class luncheon menu which someone put into their handbag as a memento just hours before disaster struck. When we looked at it, we were surprised about how small it was – making the ‘putting it into their handbag as a memento’ really credible. The dishes on it made me smile – if only to demonstrate my ignorance of  high cuisine. (I can never understand why there are so many words for ‘sauce’! )

Did you know about this auction house in Devizes?

So first course was consommé fermier, cockie leekie, fillets of brill, egg a l’argenteuil, chicken a la maryland, corned beef, vegetables, dumplings and many, many more. However, even though such an item interests me – would I pay £76,000 for it? Ummm – no.

It’s the letters which really struck me as interesting and, if I’d had the money, I’d have been tempted by some of posters as they are so decorative. Also you feel a pull at an auction, it’s almost like a game or a race, where you feel the need to participate. I didn’t though because feeling the need is not the same as being able to afford it!

I also found a little snobbery around the room – my family were the only ones present with children and there was a certain sniffiness about turning up to such an event  with little people. I ignored those looks and tuts (not from any of the staff I hasten to add). An auction is a wonderful place for children to see old things, and in this case, history for real. In some auction houses, things can be touched. Children quickly sense the connection between the past and the present. I’ve always found taking a child to an auction is fascinating as they see things so differently from a parent. Their likes and dislikes are wonderful and illuminating.

Don’t worry if you missed this article or the sale, there’s another in July. Andrew didn’t give much away to me but did say that there would be some rare posters and a ‘unique Titanic archive’ whatever that might mean. So watch this space – I think a Titanic II is in the making…….



Titanic – what does the story mean to you? Review my thoughts….


No not the film – I couldn’t bear to watch it again – no, for me, it’s the real story which is captivating me as the 100th anniversary of  the sinking looms.

Through this wonderful job that I do, I’ve recently spoken to a man who’s an authority on Titanic who works at his family’s auction house in Wiltshire. To my surprise, this auction house is now the world’s (yes the world’s) most respected place to sell artefacts and memorabilia related to that ill-fated vessel. And this weekend is one of the auctions of Titanic stuff. (Henry Aldridge & Sons, Devizes)

I’m mentioning this because the sale couldn’t be more timely for me – as Saturday is my birthday and it seems a fabulous thing  to do on one’s birthday. After all, I am going to be 41 again, and again, and again…..

Why am I going? Am I going to buy anything? Am I loaded? Hardly.

The top items could sell for between £50,000 and £90,000 – that’s a little too rich for me. I’m sure the auctioneer almost spluttered over his coffee when I asked what he had for around the £100 mark. Memorabilia around the James Cameron film, I was told. So, I’ll settle for observing.

How much would you pay for a set of keys?...

I would love to see just who is there with £50k in their back pocket. Though I suspect that person or persons will be on the telephone or online. However, I have been to auctions where people do stump up loads and love to talk about it. Like the man sat next to me a few years ago at another auction house who bought a Princess Diana letter for £20k. When I asked him why, he said to put into a safe deposit box and wait for it to make money! Would that I had a spare £20k for such a purpose! I often wonder if he’s sold it on yet.

It seems incredible though that a First Class luncheon menu for April 14 1912 for Titanic could fetch a price of at least £90,000 or a set of keys used by the lamplighters has a price tag of £50,000. In the case of the latter, that’s a tool used by a working class man to carry out a working class job. On a ship which really epitomised the class system of the time. Not that that was any guarantee of survival of course. The richest man in the world at the time went down with the ship, along with the hundreds of second and third class passengers.

What is it about Titanic that so captivates us even now? Is it because it was a seemingly jinxed ship? I was told only this week that it was one of the only ships ever to not have been blessed by a monarch – I don’t know if that’s true. I think it’s the fact that we could all put ourselves in the shoes of those on board, especially those who were going to start a new life in the USA on the biggest liner ever built at the time. It’s a tragic romance along the lines of Glenn Miller.

But like the many romanticised tragedies, we know in our hearts it would have been the most appalling, terrible, horrific event to live through, witness and experience – all, unlike the film, in the dark. How many survivors were permanently scarred by it? How many suffered what we’d now call post traumatic stress disorder?

I love history and I’m genuinely interested in the lives and stories of those on board – and for a small amount of time, I really will be able to touch something that came from, or was related to that fateful ship – and I’ll wonder where those expensive items will end up……



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