I was in England for the new year, and I took the chance to visit Barbara Anslow, author of Tin Hats and Rice which was published five months ago.

Barbara lives in a tiny village on the borders of Essex and Suffolk, with stocks on the green and a doll’s-house shop next door to her timbered 17th-century house. Although she turned 100 last month, you would never know it: she still takes the bus into town twice a week, and in November she gave a talk to a packed hall at the Hong Kong Society in London.

Her book is a diary of her wartime experiences in Hong Kong, as she was held prisoner for nearly four years in Stanley Camp from 1941 to 1945. It has struck a chord and is already in its second printing. In fact every shipment I have sent to UK bookshops has sold out almost straight away, and I can’t send new copies over quickly enough.

I had brought another box of books with me, as Barbara is receiving orders from friends and family too. But while we had tea and biscuits, she brought out the original diaries, carefully preserved throughout her incarceration and ever since she was liberated from the camp in 1945. It was a wonderful surprise to see the originals.

Barbara has arranged three more talks in the coming months. News of those will appear on this blog. Anyone who attends will gain a lot from listening to her story.