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JUDITH BRUCE – A LITERARY IN MEMORIAM (‘Fings wot I rote, darling!’)

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Stuart Condie remembers Judith Bruce who sadly died on 23 May 2020

Judy first came to our Chalk Circle writing group in 2012 having just published Funny How Things Turn Out, a memoir of Judy’s life and her mother’s and the relationship between the two of them. Following the success of FHTTO she began writing a chronicle of her long career at the BBC – from secretary to producer, from 1957 to (I’m guessing) when she retired in the 1990s. This was the first of Judy’s writing that we were exposed to; a witty, lovie world where men behaved badly, and women looked pretty and did secretarial work.

Unfortunately her long time agent squashed this fledgling work on the grounds of legal difficulties and lack of a market; but Judy being Judy this was to be treated as merely a temporary setback on the long road to being published again so she once more dipped into her kaleidoscope of personal anecdotes and came up with the marvellous idea of tales from her time organising Battle Arts Festival (AKA Warfield). Hilarious and full of interest, the tales were inhabited by eccentric yet nuanced characters from all corners of life, such as the Dean and the Estate Agent, often to be found in compromising positions.

Mid way through writing the Warfield Chronicles, following a meeting in her flat in Eastbourne, Judy fell in love again – this time with flash fiction, which she’d never written before. Once Chalk Circle had decided to experiment with flash, Judy was off producing a 300-word snapshot almost weekly – usually either very funny, wacky or what might be called speculative – or in all of these categories, some of which were included in Chalk Circle’s first anthology, Strata.

The anthology’s illustrator, John Vernon Lord, read the stories and chose Judy’s The Little Prince as the inspiration for the cover featuring frogs, tadpoles, and a keyboard. She also contributed Dream and later bought the signed original artwork from John Vernon Lord which helped the financing of the project.

And then there was Judy’s blog, published monthly and featuring Subtitle Corner, The Ongoing Saga of Jude-et-Jim, Geriatric Lovebirds, and Tips for Over 70s.

The last line of blog no 63, her last, read as follows; MRI Scans are for people with strong bladders and weak imaginations. Avoid if you do not fit this profile. This tells you everything you need to know about Judy – funny, succinct, well observed but not at all sentimental.

Judy and her writing were always full of life and observant of characters’ foibles and idiosyncrasies but the most abiding memory I have is of her sense of humour; she loved to imitate regional accents and never missed the chance to take the mickey, but always in the nicest possible way! I will always remember her coming with her partner Jim to my 60th Birthday party dressed as Mr and Mrs Margaret Thatcher.

Judy’s flash fiction piece Road Safety will appear in Chalk Circle’s forthcoming shorts anthology Strata II due for publication in November 2020. The writing group is considering other ways of honouring her memory including a special prize in her name.

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