Monday, April 06, 2020

The first reviews


I had another nightmare at 3 a.m. but look what I found just now on Amazon - the first two reviews of DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE. I am so chuffed I can't think of a suitable simile to express how chuffed I am. Woo-hoo!






DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE is available worldwide on Amazon as an ebook. the paperback will be out very soon.

you can buy the ebook here in the UK

and here in the USA






Saturday, April 04, 2020

This week I learned


This week I learned :

that ebullient newly-on-email almost-eight-year-olds, (ooh, hyphen overload!) no matter how bright and how literate, are not nearly as interested in emailing their grandmother as their grandmother is interested in emailing them;

that children being home-schooled can play as many as four April Fools day tricks in one day, including this:






that waking up at 3.30 a.m. to go to the loo means I either can't get back to sleep and thus have a miserable subsequent day, or I do go back to sleep and have nightmares. This has happened three times now, and I have no idea how to stop waking up at 3.30 a.m.;

that a nightmare where you think a giant bulldozer is knocking down your old house is probably due to your reading about the Israelis still bulldozing down Palestinians' houses even during the pandemic. What CAN one say about the Israeli government that does not involve cursing?

that this UK government is as duplicitous and incompetent as you thought it was going to be when it won the election;

that the Monsal Trail is still a soothing, calming and restorative place to cycle, no matter how dark the times;






that if you leave a note for your husband so he knows what an iceberg lettuce is (that unfortunately arrived in the veg box, and which he has said he will 'hoover up') you will come home from your bike ride and find this:




that the sun rises in spite of everything:





Everything is Going to be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

Derek Mahon


from New Collected Poems (2011) by kind permission of The Gallery Press






Thursday, April 02, 2020

Going wild

Hello. Are you all well and cheerful?

I hope so. I know times are tough and stressful for so much of the planet. There is so much hardship and so much to worry about. 

I came across this article today in the Guardian, about ways you can help by volunteering in the crisis. The only thing I can volunteer for, being 70 and considered to be vulnerable, is ringing up lonely people. I am pondering whether I have the suitable skills. I might sound chatty to you, but I can't do small talk, so I am not convinced I am cut out for talking on the phone to people I don't know. I am thinking about it.

But I can keep writing bulletins from Hepworth Towers, giving you a snapshot of how "normal" life can continue at home for wrinklies who are not allowed out. Actually, I don't want to go out any more, unless it's in the garden or on my bike. It sounds much too risky. After watching last night's news, I'm not convinced they'd be letting Dave or me have a ventilator.

At home, when I am not thinking about the world out there, I am having fun. When I started learning the sax ten years ago, people asked me if I wanted to eventually perform and I said 'No, this is just for me.'

Now I have started painting, I feel just the same. It's very liberating sitting down to paint and not worrying about anyone else appraising it. My painting just consists of sloshing vivid coloured acrylic paint around and giving the resulting abstracts semi-convincing titles like February Cabin Fever. Although in this specific case I did paint it in February and I was expressing how I felt.

Exhibit 1:


February Cabin Fever
mixed media

Don't you like the 'mixed media' tag? It was genuinely so - acrylics and oil pastels - but I added the tag to make it sound swanky. 

It's helpful that Dave is the most encouraging and supportive person I have ever met (which is one of the reasons he was such a popular teacher) and even when he doesn't understand or even like my creative efforts (for example, my choice of sax music) he cheers me on. 

I showed you that painting to encourage YOU to try things you have never done before and not to worry about making a fool of yourself. If I can do it, then so can you. It's fun! I have even taken to dressing up for the part, which is also fun:




Sue Hepworth wears her old dungarees and her mother's over-sized knitted waistcoat.

I think I might be channelling Frankie from Grace and Frankie, which I am currently rewatching from start to finish. It's so comforting.

This morning we had a beautiful dawn. 











I hope you have a good day and that something makes you smile.


p.s. My new book DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE is available worldwide on Amazon as an ebook. the paperback is coming out soon. 

Here is a link for the UK

and here's one for the USA

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Letter from a self-isolating home

How are you doing?

Are you OK?

I hope so.

Are you looking for ways to help other people going through hard times?

You could donate to your local foodbank or the national foodbank charity The Trussell Trust.

You could ring up someone who is living on their own to have a friendly chat.

You could sew some scrubs for NHS staff, like my friend Het is going to do. Volunteers who can sew are buying fabric and downloading the pattern and instructions from the Facebook page, sewing sets of scrubs and donating them to their nearest NHS hospital. Read about it here. You can find it on Facebook but I am not on it so can't give you a link. It might be called 'For the Love of Scrubs.'

It is the initiative of a Lincolnshire nurse, Ashleigh Linsdell, and thousands of people stuck at home under lockdown have volunteered to join in and sew scrubs. There is a Just Giving page where you can donate money to buy kits for people who can't afford to buy their own.


All is well at Hepworth Towers, despite our living in the county with currently the most heavy-handed police force in the UK -  who last week used drones to shame people who had driven to the Peak District for their once-a-day exercise.

The Derbyshire police have now been chastised by the powers that be, so that's OK.

I've been staying strictly at home since March 13th (18 days) apart from two brief trips out in the car both of which were related to food. 

I've been out for bike rides of course. It is always spookily quiet on the Trail so I no longer have to time my rides to avoid the crowds. I went out midday yesterday and saw 10 people when normally at that time I'd have seen 100.  There have been a lot more cheery hellos between strangers in the last two weeks, though occasional hikers don't smile, don't say hello, back away, or turn their backs, even though I am clearly observing the two metre rule. 

The sun wasn't out yesterday, but I took this picture of wood anemones for you:




Someone in Monsaldale has mown this into the grass. The letters beneath the heart read NHS. This is the best pic I could manage from the Trail:





The paperback formatting for DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE is done and it's ready to publish. We're just awaiting the cover, the production of which is too technical an operation for us to attempt. Actually, we didn't even do the ebook cover: Isaac did. I'll keep you posted as I suspect most of you are waiting for the paperback. The ebook is here.

The most exciting thing to happen, happened this morning. I got my very first email from Cece (almost 8) in Colorado. She is a very articulate girl and I know it's going to be a long and entertaining correspondence - at least until the lockdown is over and she is back at school. Tomorrow I hope to hear from Lux.

I have so much to be thankful for.






Tuesday, March 31, 2020

And here’s the back cover blurb


Me: “We’re really old.”
Him: “Fortunately, nature has it’s own way of sorting that problem out.”

Me: “I’m really fed up.”
Him: “At least you’re not at risk of cannibalism. If you were a depressed Neanderthal, you’d be an easy straggler for the neighbours to pick off.”


Days Are Where We Live is a selection from ten years worth of Sue Hepworth's honest, funny, sad, thoughtful and quirky blog. It covers everything from life, death, joy and grief, to bad-temper, spring fever, rejection, and Christmas in the shed. You will also find hilarious interchanges with her Aspie husband — the brains behind the ON/OFF Christmas — and her amusing domestic and family pieces first published in The Times.


Comments from regular readers:

Sue Hepworth's blog is an invitation to pull your chair up to the table and settle in to talk and laugh and set the world to rights.     Di McDougall

Your blog is a delight, so fresh, honest, real.     Ana

Your blog is uniquely uplifting - through thick and thin. A companion to my days.  Thea

It’s small moments of delight that I cling to for the year ahead. Reading your blog is one of them. Jenetta

Your blog never disappoints.     Chris Smith

My 'go to' place for comfort and inspiration: a warm, funny, moving and intelligent account of everyday life.     Jan Hill





Saturday, March 28, 2020

Days are where we live - out today!

Who cares about lockdown? My new book is out!

Here it is!

My new book!

Available!

(Yes, yes, I know I shouldn't be using all these exclamation marks, 
but who the hell cares when my book is out?)




You can buy it as an ebook here

Coming out as soon as poss as a paperback. 

Days are where we live - dramatis personae aka people mentioned




Here are the people appearing in my new book, which is 
now available on Amazon as an ebook > DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE.

(Paperback coming very soon.)


First and foremost Dave, the brains behind the ON/OFF Christmas






My 'kids'  and  daughter-in-law Jaine
left to right, Isaac, me, Jaine, the family member who declines to be named, and Zoë





Cecilia, Wendy and Lux



My siblings - Pete, Jen, (me) Kath and Jonty



My mother, Helen Willis




My father, Fred Willis



Mary and me




Karen/The Aging Hippie





Chrissie (R)  and me (L)






Het





Liz and her favourite tree







My sax teacher, Mel





Dave and his beloved yoghurt








Who cares about lockdown?


Who cares about lockdown? My new book is out!

Here it is!

My new book!

Available!

(Yes, yes, I know I shouldn't be using all these exclamation marks, 
but who the hell cares when my book is out?)




You can buy it as an ebook here

Coming out as soon as poss as a paperback. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Self isolation day 14 - bits and bobs

Do you know what day it is? I lose track. I have two fixed spots in the week now -  sax lesson by Facetime on Thursday morning, and virtual Quaker meeting on Sundays. Otherwise the names of the days get lost.

Over in Boulder, Cece is having her music lesson (ukelele) by Facetime too.





She and Lux - actually all the family - have been making fabulous chalky stained glass windows on their sidewalk.






At Hepworth Towers it's going to be a quiet day, and the sky is echoing that mood: it's 8.25 and the sun has only just broken through the clouds. Yesterday was busy busy busy, finalising the text for the new book and sending the final back cover blurb to Isaac, who's designing and producing the cover. Zoë has again supplied the script for the title. I love her writing. 





My happy bubble burst this week when someone I know got a bad dry cough. He is not at risk and otherwise has no other symptoms but suddenly it all got real. Then I realised fully it will be three months before I see my local 'kids' and grandkids. I had a terrible night that night and ended up message-chatting with the Aging Hippie in California at half past two in the morning.

All fine now. I have to say though that it's a bit much that my two soaps, The Archers and Neighbours - where I turn to escape - are both pretty dark at the moment. The characters in The Archers are completely unaware of Covid-19, but a modern slavery storyline has emerged, and although I know a lot about it, as our visitors on the refugee days are all survivors of modern slavery, I don't want to listen to a dramatisation of it for leisure purposes. It is too upsetting.

I'll leave you with this, which I saw on Twitter this morning:




I hope you have some sunshine today - real or virtual.




Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Phew! Day 11

Phew! I am still allowed to go out on my bike! Thank goodness. Dave and I waited anxiously for the PM's announcement last night and when we heard that going out for exercise was allowed, we relaxed. I would have got out the champagne if we'd had any and Dave would have had a celebratory yoghurt, if he hadn't been eking out his last few cartons. 

The biggest life change for Dave in these extraordinary times is his inability to source enough low fat natural yoghurt so he can eat 6 family sized cartons a day. That has been his usual intake for the last ten years. He has not whined at the loss, and that's impressive. I take my cycling helmet off to him. 

I've always said he is the person I'd be happiest to be stranded on a desert island with, and after 50 years of marriage, I am not changing my mind. 

We're both keeping busy. Dave is painting the doors and window frames outside.  I hope we bought enough paint. 

Yesterday I finished my latest painting (you know I'm a beginner, right?) which I am going to show you because I like it, whatever anyone thinks about it. It has such a rich texture. It's called Nebula.




And I finished knitting a dress (my design) for a poor naked doll that someone donated for the toy box on our Bakewell churches refugee hospitality days. I guess it will be next year before we can start those again. I'm sad about that.



Dave and I were just having a chat about conserving diesel for essential trips, because who knows what's going to happen next. Dave had been planning to give up driving this summer, because he thinks old people on the roads are a liability. This morning, though, he changed his mind: 'I don't think I'll give up while the virus is around. Who knows? If you're dead and beginning to decompose I might need to move you.' 

Aspies - you've got to love them.




Monday, March 23, 2020

Self isolation day 10

Millions of people are anxious and upset and I understand why and sympathise. But friends have told me - including some of you, dear readers - that it's OK for me to be cheerful on here. Long time readers know full well I've been miserable in the past far too often. And I tell myself I should not feel guilty for staying away from everyone but Dave and feeling OK about it: I am staying well, and being responsible and not clogging up emergency beds in the NHS.

Yesterday - Sunday - self-isolation day 10, was a good day. It was sunny, the daffodils in the garden looked fabulous, and I had a solo Quaker meeting at home in my study. 




Bakewell Quaker Meeting is currently closed - on government advice - and many of us in the Meeting are having 'Meetings' at home alone. We sit in silence from 10.30 - 11.30, as we would in normal times, except that in normal times there is spoken ministry, and then we get together via Zoom for an after Meeting chat. It was very cheering yesterday to see Friends' faces and hear their voices: I did get a sense of community. We're going to do it every week. 

I went out for a bike ride and managed to get all the way up my nearest hill without stopping - this is the hill that Jane (in Even When They Know Youcycles up alongside a bunch of young men on bikes. This is the hill where the Highland cattle live:



Yesterday, there was a cheerful group of young women on bikes, who sounded like young mums on a Mother's Day outing. They complimented me on my stamina because I'd passed them on the flat and they'd taken ages to catch me up and pass me on the hill. Before I could stop myself, I responded 'Baby boomers rock! But I'm staying at home when I'm not on my bike.' Oh dear...I embarrass myself.

When I got home the Waitrose home delivery guy was leaving bags of food on our doorstep. I had tried other supermarkets last Monday and Waitrose was the only one I managed to book a slot with. There's been no luck with anyone since. I've been trying to book our next home delivery with Sainsbury's at every hour of day and night and not been able to. Today they're supposed to be giving priority to vulnerable and older people, but so far on the website there's no sign of any change.

We're fine for now. We have fresh fruit!!!!!!  Come Christmas, kids will again be over the moon to get that tangerine at the bottom of their stockings. I'm beginning to understand what rationing felt like during the war. Currently, I would kill for a leek.

The day ended perfectly with Dave coming up with the title of my new book, which I hope will be out in a couple of weeks. We'd finished the Scrabble game and I wouldn't let him slope off upstairs until we'd had a brainstorming session on titles. 

I'd been considering Quirky and Quiet and my sister had said - 'Yes, but I think you need another Q word as well.' So I asked Dave and he came up with Quintessential.

I said - 'Yes, nice word, but I think it's too long. it has too many syllables. Can you think of another word beginning with Q?'

'Quack.'

This, dear friends, is a perfect example of someone with Aspergers not taking a question in context. He was not joking. He did realise and laugh as soon as i protested, but still, these are one of the tiny glitches in normal responses that people who live with Aspies get used to.

But then there is the genius of Aspies....after ten minutes, he found me my title:    DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE.  

I hope you can enjoy the sunshine today. 
Over and out.




Friday, March 20, 2020

Striking the right note

It's really hard to nail the appropriate tone on here right now. Yesterday I thought being cheerful was the way to go, but as the day wore on I wondered if my cheerfulness sounded complacent and uncaring about the mass of people under huge stress, worrying about their jobs, their future, how they would pay the rent and feed their children, how they would work at home when their children were not at school, and not forgetting the valiant people working in the NHS.

Dave and I have it easy. We have our house and our pensions and we have enough food for now. As long as we can sort out a regular online shop we'll be fine. Dave is being mega-strict about self isolation, which began when I arrived home from America with a sore throat, and then continued with the instruction to 70-pluses to stay at home. I still have the sore throat. I've had it for almost two weeks now and nothing else has developed and I feel quite well. Thankfully we can still go out on our bikes. If that becomes verboten the daily call from Zoe will not be just to say hello, but will be to check we're still happy to be sitting in the same room together and not having running battles throughout the house, pelting each other with Scrabble tiles. 

Yesterday morning I decided to clear out some books I know I'll never read, and then I realised that even if the charity bookshop in Bakewell is still open, I wouldn't be able to take them there, so I gave up.

A friend emailed later to say she'd been to town - where it was so quiet that social distancing was easy - and bought some books and a jigsaw in Waterstones, and it sounded such an exotic trip! That's how self isolating and distancing and hermit-like we are at Hepworth Towers.

I had a nightmare last night in which my sister (who lives 50 miles away) had driven over and walked in the back door and given me a hug, and I was so pleased to see her I forgot about this self isolation business. Then I remembered and said 'Quick! You've got to go! Dave will be back from his bike ride soon!' So she left and I felt mean and sad, and turned around to find one of Mary's daughters in the hall and my other sister and her husband (who live 200 miles away) on the front door step - all people I'd love to see (Yes, Dave, I mean in normal circs - not now, of course!

I tried to go back to sleep but couldn't because my brain decided it would try to think of a catchy title for my new book. I emailed two to myself in the dark without my glasses on. I checked the emails when I woke up. 

One says: 

Hepworth Towers and all who sail in her

The other says:

In which I try not to lose my blob. 

Yes, well.


The high spot yesterday was my FaceTime sax lesson. That worked really well. And Mel got a chance to tell Dave how well I'm doing - like Parents Evening. Who knows? I might become one of those people posting music on YouTube from my sitting room.

For now I'll be knitting in the evenings. I'm using all my odd bits of wool up to make jumpers for tiny refugees. These are my first two, and I'm pleased with them.



How are you all getting along?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Happy place

Good morning! I hope you're all well. I'm trying to keep my blog posts upbeat as my contribution to our current predicament.  It's easy today because I read some great news as soon as I woke up. Gary Neville, a retired footballer who now owns hotels, is making every bed available to the NHS. His staff will continue working on full pay and they'll be serving NHS staff who need somewhere to stay away from their families and infection. What a great guy.

And Dave and I are lucky. Hepworth Towers is a fine place to be, and we have what we need after Chrissie, who is not on lock down, kindly left us at the drawbridge those two well known essentials, shampoo and cat litter. Thanks, Chrissie. 

We have so many things to keep us busy, but it's funny how instead of getting loads achieved, time just slips away. Dave comes in to chat when I'm trying to write the blog, and instead of my thinking - Go away Dave, go away Dave, I just smile and close the laptop and think - What's the rush? I've got all day, in fact I've got four months.

Yesterday I had tons of emails and messages, phone chats with several people, and video chats with my friend in London and the girls in Colorado. Cece was bursting with excitement because they're at 'Hepworth School'! The manner in which she delivered this information and her beaming face was worth ten exclamation marks. And guess what? Their timetable has two exercise sessions a day! More exclamation marks. Good job, Wendy.

They'd been reading The Day the Crayons Came Home, and done some work on it and wanted to interview me as part of the project. Which colour do I rarely use and why? And if the colour was a person, what characteristics would it have? This morning I have to draw a picture of said crayon and email it over. It's brown, by the way.

They took Isaac and Wendy breakfast in bed yesterday, they're enjoying video playdates with their friends, and Lux made this custom #love jacket:



Another happy thing is I'm having a sax lesson by Facetime today. Whoop, whoop.

Last but not least, after receiving enthusiastic feedback I'm working hard on getting my new book out so you have something to read to cheer you up. It needs formatting, and oh my God a decent title. Yesterday a friend suggested 'Life and death and everything in between' and I thought Yes! That's it!  But then I checked on Amazon and other writers have got there first. More inspiration needed.

But before starting work I'm going out on my bike on the Trail - where everyone is keeping their distance while shouting friendly greetings in a way they've never done before. Here's a Trail photo I took on Tuesday:




I hope something makes you smile today. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Suggestions

Hi everybody! There are plenty of other people moaning about the difficulties of food shopping and the sadness of not seeing friends so I'm not going to do that. At least not today - who knows what I'll feel like in two weeks time.

This morning I just wanted to make two suggestions - one, that you think about all the people who are having an even harder time than you are. For example, have you considered that with people focusing on scooping up essentials for their own store cupboard, there'll be fewer donations made to foodbank bins in supermarkets? If you're someone who usually donates to them, please will you consider sending your local foodbank money? If you don't know the contact details of your local one, you can donate to the national foodbank charity - the Trussell Trust, here.

The second suggestion is about books to read. I expect most British readers have heard about the history of the village of Eyam, known as the plague village. It's five miles from where I live. It's known as the plague village because when the bubonic plague was raging in London in 1665, a parcel of infected cloth arrived in Eyam for the local tailor. Within a week his assistant was dead and other people were getting the plague. It swept through the village, and in the end, hundreds of villagers died.

After a suggestion from the local vicar, the people of Eyam agreed to quarantine the village to stop the plague spreading to neighbouring villages. Their self sacrifice worked. You can find out more on the net, of course, and next year when this nightmare is over you could visit the village itself, and the amazing and tiny plague museum. It may sound gruesome but it's fascinating. Until then, I heartily recommend the fictionalised account of the plague in Eyam called Year of Wonders, by the Pullitzer prize winning author, Geraldine Brooke.

Lastly, a burst of cheerfulness - Pulmonaria, flowering yesterday beside a track to the Monsal Trail - where, thankfully, I am still allowed to cycle, despite self isolation.



Sunday, March 15, 2020

Incarceration


Well, this is a rum do. There was I on the night of my 70th birthday last year thinking - 'This is OK, this is, being 70,' and now they want to lock me up for four months.

Dave and I both have loads of things to occupy us so we won't be bored. I am going to stock up on art materials, and reeds for my sax, and I'll try to grow some veg this year - something I haven't tried for 20 years. I might be glad of some fresh produce when it's scarce in the shops. I've thought of beans, spring onions and lettuce. What else is worth the effort and will be ready to harvest within four months? Any suggestions? Should we buy a small greenhouse and try tomatoes?

I have loads of knitting wool in stock, and I also have fabric scraps to make into a patchwork cot quilt for Mary's first grandchild. And Dave is going to get out our outdoor table tennis table early this year. 

He is never short of things to do. He isn't the most sociable of creatures, as you know. But he said this morning that he knew I was going to find it hard not seeing anyone but him, and did I want to go and stay with someone else for the duration? Was he thinking of his mental state or mine? 

It looks as though i got out of America  in the nick of time. Not only pandemic-wise, but also weather-wise. After a week of sunshine they had snow on Friday. Here is Lux with a message:

 

Friday, March 13, 2020

Spoiled

I arrived home after my 18 hour journey feeling uncharacteristically perky, when usually I'm wrecked. Do you want to know why?  Isaac drove me to the airport and came to the check-in desk with me and paid to upgrade me to business class for my overnight flight back to Blighty. Oh wow! I was so excited and grateful that I even told the security woman checking my passport that my son had upgraded my seat. And then going into the BA lounge in Denver I blabbed to the receptionist there. Not cool, Sue. 

It's because I have only travelled economy class before. 

I had one of those super-duper roomy seats at the front of the plane - you know, the ones set in pairs, back-facing and front-facing, with fluffy white pillows and soft grey duvets, the ones where the passengers are offered champagne as soon as they sit down. 

On all of my previous flights I've walked past those seats and looked at them longingly. Well...it was heavenly: so spacious and comfortable I could actually sleep, which I have rarely managed before. The food was delicious, served on china, with metal cutlery and even a tray cloth; and the service was so attentive I felt like a celebrity, and also an impostor (hence the blabbing.)

I am not practical, and had to ask how the seat worked, so they would know it wasn't my usual class of travel. I think if it happens again, I'll need to change my travel outfit to something smarter, and upgrade my hand luggage, which consisted yesterday of a black canvas rucksack I bought from the cobbler in Bakewell for a fiver.  See what I mean? Eek.

I arrived in Heathrow feeling human, not wasted as per usual, and eager to visit the BA lounge to see what it had to offer, while I waited three hours for my flight to Manchester. Oh boy. Even if I don't travel posh next time, I'll be tempted to pay to go in the lounge. Normally I wander around terminal 5 desperately seeking somewhere quiet and empty to retreat to, because I find the noise of air travel so wearing. The lounge was peaceful, calm, light and spacious, with extensive open views, tasty breakfasts, and it was an easy place to avoid close contact with fellow travellers who might be carrying Covid-19. It's amazing how many hard surfaces you have to touch to move through an airport, (and you can't be getting out your wipes every time.)

Thank you, Isaac. It was my best journey home, and it mitigated the sadness at leaving a week early, although let's face it, leaving at any time is painful.

Here are the people I left behind - my lovely American Hepworths:









Ill in bed


At the school bus stop