Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Sprout

This is Cecilia. On Twitter, she's @thesprouut

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Not swanning around

You know that scene I was writing? Where the person turns up after twenty years and I had no idea what was going to happen? I've been engrossed in writing it. It's been huge fun. I was so deep into the world of the novel yesterday that when Dave wanted me to go outside to admire the hedge he'd been trimming and came and banged on my study window, he scared me stupid.

So I haven't been swanning around with no excuse not to blog. Yesterday, however, I did go out for the afternoon to Chatsworth House with Liz and we walked round the gardens to take in the views and the trees and the fountain, and also to look at the modern sculpture exhibition. They have one every September, but the last time I went was with the aging hippie 4 years ago. I don't understand a lot of modern sculpture, even when I read the interpretations. Some of the exhibits we saw yesterday looked like giant cast iron blobs, ugly, lumpish, incomprehensible. Here is one we saw that I didn't find objectionable even if I wouldn't want it in my garden:

Do you like it? Get it?

Here is what the label said:

JOEL SHAPIRO (b. 1941)
104 by 193 by 130cm
Executed in 2013. This work is unique.

Shapiro's work is intended to communicate something of the artist's emotional state, retaining both an abstract and scaled-down aesthetic, and achieves a suggestive, often athropomorphised figuration. Although suggestive of a reclining figure, Untitled evades such precisions; the work is predicated by an inherent instability, a sense of flux, shifting under the eye into ever-changing patterns and arrangements and constantly eliding the gap between configuration and disfiguration.

Do you get it now? I don't. I understand the words (apart from 'disfiguration') but not when you put them all together. To me, it reads like something from Pseud's Corner in Private Eye.  I am not averse to modern art in general. I like a lot of abstract modern paintings, whether or not I understand what the artist is saying. But when I saw the sculptures yesterday it made me feel like an uncultured philistine.

My favourite strands of the lovely afternoon were talking to Liz, being outdoors on a fine September afternoon in a Capability Brown-landscaped park, and sitting for half an hour before we came home with my back to the stables in the strong sunshine, basking. I need to soak up as much sun as possible to see me through the winter. There has been more rain than sunshine this summer. This has been the typical state of our table tennis table, i.e. with a glazing of rain:

This is the first September for eight years I have not been to stay with the US Hepworths, and I am missing the sunshine, as well as missing them.

Friday, September 15, 2017

What happens next?

I'm loving writing this unplanned novel. 

When I started it I knew the theme and the setting and not much else. I'm seven eighths of the way through now and I've got to know the characters along the way, as well as how the plot works out. Until three weeks ago I didn't know how it was going to end, but one day it came to me in a flash. And when this conclusion arrived it was all so obvious, because hints had been dropped in the text much earlier on.

Right now, a character from twenty years before the novel started has turned up on somebody's doorstep and I have no idea what is going to happen. I'm just waiting to hear what these two characters say to each other and then I'll know where to take it next. It's so exciting! 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Where is the hope?

I know that some of you come here for light relief and others (don't laugh, it's true because they've told me so) for a burst of sanity.

But it's hard to think of a blog post when your mind is consumed with subjects such as these:

The 800 plus people who were killed and the 24 million who were affected by widespread floods across south Asia. This did not make the headlines with as much brouhaha as the devastating hurricane in the Caribbean and Florida and the flooding before that in Houston. But it was just as much a disaster for the people concerned.

The people threatened by Hurricane Irma who did not have the means to evacuate when they were told to do so.

The people who did evacuate and are now returning to find out how much they have lost.

The ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people by Myanmar.

A new United Nations report which found that the living conditions for two million people in Gaza are deteriorating “further and faster” than the prediction made in 2012 that the enclave would become “unlivable” by 2020. "When you're down to two hours of power a day and you have 60 percent youth unemployment rates ... that unlivability threshold has been passed quite a long time ago," said Robert Piper the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities. 

The constitutional changes voted in by the UK parliament this week.

The whole Brexit disaster and the hopeless, puerile and combative way the negotiations are being handled by Tory politicians.


I won't go on. You know it all well enough. I am sure many of you feel the same. At my Quaker meeting recently many of us wrote (in our bimonthly newsletter) our responses  to the question: 
How do you maintain hope for the future? 

Quakers are a bunch of idealists whose guiding principles are peace, simplicity, equality, justice, integrity, and care for the environment. Maintaining hope in the current world political climate is a struggle.

I like this piece on Hopelessness  by Andrew Boyd that I have mentioned on the blog before.

Bakewell churches have this year held three hospitality days for refugees, asylum seekers, and survivors of human trafficking. We pay for transport out from Sheffield for our guests, we provide activities for adults and children, and we cook them a delicious lunch. These days have been wonderful days of warmth, friendship and hope. 

Everyone can do something to make the world a better place, and doing something positive, however small, is better than giving in to hopelessness.

I will leave you with this quote from Jan Eliasson, former deputy UN secretary general:

"Where is the hope?  You are the hope."

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Warning: Novelist at Work

This little interchange happened years ago...

"So what is it like, living with a writer?" someone asked Dave.

"Very difficult," he said. "I looked in the cupboard last week for something to eat and found nothing but spaghetti hoops."

"But you like spaghetti hoops," I said. "That's why I bought them."

"I don't like spaghetti hoops. I've never liked spaghetti hoops." 

"Oh no…sorry," I said. "It's Gus who likes spaghetti hoops."

Gus is a character in Plotting for Beginners, and I'd obviously been living the fictive dream in the Co-op.

My most recent male character - in the new (quiet) novel is called Joe. And Joe has a penchant for Werther's Originals and after some firsthand research, and unfortunately for my teeth, so now do I. 

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Books that make you cry

Can you think of any books that made you cry?

I asked my writer friend this yesterday and she said Life and Fate and she described the scene to me that made her cry. It would have made me cry too. I asked for any others and she said there were some, but she couldn't quite - 'Oh! I cried at the end of The Railway Children!'

'That doesn't count!' I said. 'Everyone cries at the end of The Railway Children. And I'm not talking about films.'

'No,' she said, 'I cried at the end of the book as well.'

Fair enough.

Books that have made me cry are:


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

The Age of Innocence

which also happen to be three of my favourite books.

Another book that makes me cry is my own But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You. I was reading part of that the other day to check how I had dealt with a particular emotion, and I came to the bit about the fire, and that made me cry. I am not sure that counts, though, because it was about something that happened to me, so you'd kind of expect it.

Anyway, the point is, I like a small contained cry when I'm reading. 

What books have made you cry?

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Don't read this post if swearing offends you

Do you swear when you are

  1. alone?
  2. with close (adult) family?
  3. with your children or grandchildren?
  4. with close friends?
  5. with acquaintances ?

I am a grandmother, and a liberal Quaker and I would tick 1, 2 and 4.

When I was a religious born-again evangelical Christian teenager - in my former life - I thought swearing was a sin. Now I think the issues are about good taste, and whether your swearing offends other people.

The TV programme The Thick of It has been recommended to me more than once by people whose opinion I value, but when I tried watching it, there was so much distasteful swearing on it that it spoiled my enjoyment and I switched it off. It was partly about the quantity of swearing but it was also about the words they used - ones I would never say.

I am currently watching a comedy drama series in which the word fuck appears fairly often. It is not used gratuitously and it doesn't offend me. Does it offend you?

The word seems particularly effective in the impatient injunctions: 'Shut the fuck up' and 'Sit the fuck down.' I don't just find it effective, I actually like it.

In my current quiet work-in-progress, someone who doesn't swear much is in a situation where she is shocked and very angry and she says 
‘Yes I fucking saw and I fucking heard. Who is she?’ and it seems entirely appropriate, and the thing is...I can't think of another way in which this character would express herself so effectively in this particular situation. 

I'd love to hear your views on all of this.

(p.s. the swallows will be back next week)

Saturday, September 02, 2017

A post in two parts

Do you read quiet novels? 

I think the last two books I read that could be described as quiet were Willa Cather's Shadows on the Rock, and Kent Haruf's Our Souls at Night. I am very happy to read a quiet book if it is short and beautifully written. ( I don't always like them...I hated the much-lauded  My Name is Lucy Barton.) But I can't think of a commercially successful quiet book by a previously unknown writer. Can you?

I recently saw the film Paterson which I adored. It's about a bus driver who is an aspiring poet. It's such a lovely film that when it came to the end, I could have sat and watched it all over again, straight away. And it is so quiet that I sat puzzling how it came to be made. How on earth did it get financial backing? I read up about it and discovered that the writer and director is Jim Jarmusch, a famous and successful director. That's how it came to be made. An ordinary screenwriter would never get the backing for such a quiet film.

I don't know where I am going with this, except that this week I found myself writing to someone that I no longer expect anything to happen with my writing, but I keep writing because I am horribly bad tempered if I don't. And I am well aware that for PR purposes I shouldn't be saying this on a blog, but there you are. I've said it.

And I am still enjoying working on my quiet novel, working and reworking it to make it the best I can. And when it's done, which I hope will be the spring, you will get to see it.

The second part of this post is a return to the Antony Gormley figures on Crosby Beach, called Another Place. My hesitancy about these figures stems from my basic dislike for non-ephemeral art installations in the natural world. But after reading my post on Tuesday about Liverpool, Rosemary Mann sent me some photographs of the iron men which she said I could share with you. I found the pictures very affecting, and it's made me want to go back to see the figures at sunset when the beach is quiet and when the sand is wet.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

one of those nights

Did you ever have one of those nights where you go to bed tired and at a reasonable hour and you wake up at 1.30 a.m. after disturbing dreams and go to the loo and then you can't get back to sleep because your brain won't stop flitting about so you listen to an episode of Book of the Week on iPlayer and then another and another because it's so good and then you go to the loo again and try to go back to sleep and can't, and you spend the rest of the night in alternating bouts of dreadful dreams and trips to the loo and when you finally open your eyes to see the pale morning light of 6.25 creeping round the blinds and feel like death and need more sleep you decide to wake up because you can't stand any more appalling dreams. I just had one of those nights. It was hateful.

I have wondered about having a blog post on pet hates but have felt uncomfortable about it because this is my profile on Twitter:

But now I've started with last night, I will just tell you a couple of other things. I hate seeing people wasting champagne by making it fizz and squirting it. I hate it at any time, but I particularly hate seeing those lottery ads where they do it. I love champagne. If they don't want to drink it they should send it round here.

I hate those flowers called red hot pokers. 

I hate going in a cafe and seeing an amazing cake and persuading myself I can afford the calories and having a slice and finding it is dry and that the icing isn't butter icing and that my home made cakes are so much nicer.

I hate the grammatical construction that I think came over from the USA and which is now so embedded in UK usage that even the best journalists use it - the use of "like" instead of "as if."

e.g. "He was jumping up and down on the thing like he wanted to break it."
instead of
"He was jumping up and down on the thing as if he wanted to break it."

But the one I hate most is the use of "literally" as an intensifier, so that when I said to someone recently that I literally fell over, the person did not grasp that what I said had actually happened. 

I have other pet hates. They are written on a tiny pink post-it which is somewhere on my desk for just such a blog post as this, but I can't find it so I am going to stop with the hate. I'm sure that after a third mug of sugared tea I'll feel better.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Start of the new term

Hello! It's time to get back to the blog, and to work. 

I just had the loveliest long weekend staying near Liverpool with some new friends - the parents of the fiancée of the family member who declines to be named. I'm wondering if when Jaine and mystery man get married next summer I'll be showing you half of each of the wedding pictures so he doesn't appear - just Jaine and the bridesmaids (two of which you'll recognise, incidentally.)


On Saturday Jaine's parents kindly took me to see Liverpool, a place I haven't visited since my first term at Uni (1968). Imagine being old enough to say you haven't been somewhere for 49 years. And how weird, anyway...we live just 2 hours drive away from Liverpool. If I'd known what an interesting, funky and impressive place it is, I wouldn't have left it that long. I could definitely get attached to the place. 

Here is the Liver building with the Liver birds on top, one looking out to sea and one looking inland to see if the pubs are open. The clock face is larger than the clock face of Big Ben.

I liked spotting the Liver Birds from places all over the city.

It was hot and sunny so we didn't spend time in the museums. We walked around and looked at the grand buildings, and other places I'd gleaned from a list in a super guide book, which omitted the most obvious attractions, because you'd be going there anyway  e.g. the two cathedrals. 

This is the Anglican one..

The pink neon writing is by Tracey Emin. It says 'I felt you and I know you loved me.'  The panoramic views from the top of the tower were stupendous. We could see Snowdonia, the Peak District and where the Lake District should be, though it was shrouded in clouds.

But I liked the modernist Catholic cathedral best. It was beautiful and peaceful and on a human scale. This view of the roof is the best of a poor bunch of photos:

On Sunday we went to Another Place, where there are 100 life sized iron men spread out on a 2 mile stretch along Crosby Beach. They were made by Antony Gormley. 

I am still thinking about this installation. I can't decide if I like it or not. And I am also puzzled as to why Gormley always uses himself as a model. Is it because he is narcissistic, or because having a cast made of your body is such an unpleasant thing to do that he doesn't want to ask someone else to go through it? 

Then we went to Formby beach and walked through the pinewoods where there are a lot of red squirrels.

This beautiful photo of sand and sky was taken by Jaine's mother.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

It's a fine thing

It's a fine thing to have a sister. It's even finer to have one who cares about you and puts sweet peas in your bedroom and cooks you roast lamb and fish pie and who has a summerhouse where you can sit and write, and a kitchen where the afternoon sun shines through the stable door 

and onto the wall

as you talk about everything and nothing, and then slope through to the sitting room to watch Neighbours. I am enjoying this convalescence lark.

Saturday, August 19, 2017


I'm sorry I've been absent. When I've not been busy, I've been ill. I'm currently resting and recovering for the third time this month. I'll be blogging again when I can.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


It's good to be well again. Antibiotics are wonderful, even if reading the list of possible side effects sends you witless, and you have to forego your one glass of wine a day at teatime* because alcohol is not allowed. 

I had a great idea for a blog post on Tuesday morning but Dave was out for the day and I put it on one side to write the novel instead. Guess what? I wrote for 5 hours and produced 3000 words. It was amazing. Dave came home and laughed and said maybe I'd open my laptop the next day and find everything I'd written was drug-induced gibberish. Also he said it was like the scene in The Mighty Wind when Mitch gets his Mojo back and starts writing at 200 words per minute.

Fortunately the words weren't gibberish. They were a pretty good shitty first draft (that's a technical term used by writers.) You know I said I am writing this book in a different way from all the others? Usually I plan the whole thing out and this time I am flying by the seat of my pants.

Well, I've got to the stage now where I have to decide how it ends - happy or sad. It's a momentous decision. I have never before made an ending sad. Comments welcome. Hey, maybe I'd stand a better chance of having a best seller if it was sad - you know how darkness rules these days...

* Teatime -
When I was in the States I had an interesting conversation about tea and teatime. A native I was talking to was puzzled by the double use of the word - tea meaning the drink and tea meaning the meal. Then we got onto the fact that there is afternoon tea and high tea, and then I explained that people in the midlands and north don't have dinner in the evening, they have tea, and that a relation in the south calls her evening meal supper. By the end of the conversation, the American was more bamboozled than enlightened, and I hadn't even explained that in our house at midday the terms lunch and dinner are interchangable.

I have other stuff to say about all kinds of things, but it's time to go to my sax lesson.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Afternoon drama

I'm not well at the moment and I'm doing a lot of lying in bed listening to the radio, and this afternoon I heard for the second time a radio play that was so moving it made me cry. It was on BBC Radio 4 and you can listen to it on BBC iPlayer if you're interested - wherever you are in the world (I believe.) It's called Frank and the Bear.

And on another tack, because I am bereft of things to say.... here's a photo of our crocosmia lucifer in the evening sunshine last week.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Birthday girl

I've checked, and it's over six weeks since I put anything on the blog about Lux and Cece, so I feel entitled.

This was Lux the first time I visited and saw her in the flesh. She was eight weeks old and the family lived in San Francisco then.

Last weekend she was 7. She wanted a purple and green skateboard for her birthday:

And here is a recent picture of Cece and Lux out on the town in Boulder. Can't you just imagine them in 10 years time?

I miss them.

That's all, folks, because it's raining and I have an empty house for the day and I'm going to write. 


Monday, July 31, 2017

Who am I writing for?

I was once interviewed by a popular and talented local radio guy who had just had his memoir published. He asked me if Dave read my books, and specifically, had he read BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU ?

I told him that Dave never reads my books. For one thing, he never reads any kind of fiction, and for another, he wants me to be free to write whatever I want without censorship, and if I knew he was going to read it, it might hamper me and spoil the book. 

The interviewer wasn't happy with this answer: he tried to whip up a problem, implying that Dave didn't care for me or my writing. I insisted on the truth - that Dave has always been my biggest cheerleader, both in terms of moral support, and also practically. He encouraged me to give up my job to concentrate on writing (and he typeset the two books I self published - though I didn't mention this because some people look down on self-published books.)

Then I found out what the interviewer's beef was: his brother had refused to both read his memoir and to come to his book launch. He was clearly aggrieved at this and I believe he thought it showed that his brother didn't care about him.

I've been thinking about this, because last time I spoke to my big sister and she asked about my writing I said she wouldn't like the new book, and neither would my other sister. My elder brother might. I'm not sure about my younger one. My beloved sibs' views on my published books range from huge enjoyment to the view from one that my fictional alter ego, Sally Howe (she of Plotting for Beginners and Plotting for Grown-ups), is a 'silly bitch.' But all my sibs are as morally and practically supportive as any writer could wish, just like Dave. The one who despised Sally H kindly proofread the ms of But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You for me. I'm a very lucky dodo.

So who am I writing for?

Kurt Vonnegut advised young writers to: 

Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

I have one reader in mind, and when the book's done I'll tell her who she is. Though I might not be sharing the news with you. But having written it with her in mind, I hope that all of you will enjoy it - of course!

Saturday, July 29, 2017


Yesterday morning Dave went out for the day at 6 a.m. leaving me drinking my first mug of Yorkshire tea. My sister was ringing to tell me something specific at 11 a.m. and I had to go out soon after 12 to a memorial service, but for five delicious hours I had an empty house in which I knew I could write undisturbed. After what seems like weeks of busyness, it was luxury, it was heaven. I was suffused with such a deep feeling of liberty and relief I can't express it in words. 

I submerged myself in my story and in the thoughts and conversation of my characters and I wrote some good stuff. Sometimes you just write, knowing it's what writers call 'a shitty first draft' that will be rewritten later, and sometimes you get to the heart of something the first time you try. Yesterday was one of those days. 

I was still in this ethereal fictional world when I stopped writing and got out the butter, cocoa and icing sugar to ice a cake for the afternoon's wake, when my sister rang. I took on board the key information she wanted to tell me but then she expanded into travel arrangements and speculation and negotiations needed and I was bamboozled. I couldn't focus. My rational brain was AWOL. 

My writer friend Chrissie picked me (and my cake) up in the car to go to the service and I told her about what had happened, and she understood completely. The same thing happens to her. 

Dave is planning to go out again for the day next Thursday and I have written in my diary in large orange capitals 


Monday, July 24, 2017

Letter from home

I'm sorry it's been a week since I posted but I've been busy.

I spent all of Friday cooking, picking flowers, and fetching toys down from the attic for Saturday's refugee hospitality day, organised by Bakewell churches. That happened on Saturday and was wonderful. Rain was threatened for the whole day but the sun defied the forecast, so the kids who came wanted to go to the park both morning and afternoon instead of doing all the activities we had prepared for them. Of course this was fine! The idea was for them to have a good time, and they did, feeding the fish in the river, going on the playground and playing footie with volunteers, three of whom were over 70. 

Meanwhile their mums and our other guests had some peace and quiet in the Friends Meeting House, decorating canvas bags and also making jewellery from our collection of beautiful recycled beads. This picture does not do them justice. Close up they looked positively edible. 

One of the volunteers, a trained masseuse, gave hand massages, and in the middle of the day we shared a lovely lunch up at the Anglican church. I'm sorry I can't show you pictures but personal privacy is vital.

I've also been busy picking gooseberries and blackcurrants and making jam. 

And I've been reading this:

which is the most entrancing and gripping novel I've read in ages. 

And then yesterday my friend Heike, recently back from a peace camp in Germany where they tied bread to tornado fighters carrying nuclear weapons - Bread not Bombs - recommended this:

It's a fantastic book full of history, creativity, inspiring ideas and above all, that precious commodity, hope. 

Lastly, I wanted to tell you what happened to Ben Jackson, whom I told you about here. He was the autistic boy whose mother invited 25 children to his birthday party and no-one turned up. Here's a report from the BBC.

Tomorrow a friend is coming to stay, and after that I shall get back to writing the novel. I have a new philosophy since Mary died which includes making the most of sunny days. Summer is such a busy time outside the study, and there will be plenty of cold dark days coming up when sitting at my desk will be the best option. No-one will suffer if another Sue Hepworth novel remains unpublished for six months, and I don't want to regret not spending time with people I love, or missing the chance to be under the sky, appreciating this beautiful place I live in.

Liz and I have not yet managed this year to have a summer evening walk down the Trail to sit on the terrace at Hassop Station and share a meal, and talk. These things matter. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Missing Mary

It's the most beautiful sunny morning here in Derbyshire. I'm sitting in bed looking at the sun on the lime trees and missing Mary, my best friend, my Anam Cara, who died two and a half years ago. The feeling swept in last night and is still here this morning.

'The sun rises in spite of everything.'
Derek Mahon

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The evidence

I am trying to clear up a bit, as an important visitor is coming to stay in 10 days, and I came across the notebook I used to keep in the kitchen table drawer to grab and make notes in when I was talking to Dave and he said things that made me laugh. I thought you might like to see where some of my characters' dialogue comes from.


And here is the inspiration for Richard in Plotting for Beginners - making jam in his wellies and his leather apron. I just said to him 'Can I tweet this?" and he said 'I don't give a stuff. It makes people aware of health and safety.'

Thursday, July 13, 2017

No one turned up for his birthday party

Long time readers of the blog will know that several members of my family have high functioning autism (also called Asperger syndrome.)

It's hard being autistic. As I said in a much earlier post, if you are a child with high functioning autism, you may be very bright and have no problem with schoolwork, but be ultra-sensitive to noise, touch and smells, and be incapable of instinctively understanding the social world and how to behave in it. 

This sounds like a trivial problem, but it’s not. Amongst other things it can lead to bullying, friendlessness, loneliness, isolation, anxiety and depression. It makes living an ordinary life without stress and distress – which most kids do without thinking – a skill that has to be mastered, just like swimming. Sometimes such young people have got the hang of it by the time they are 30.

Yesterday I came across a story on Twitter about a boy with high-functioning autism whose mother invited 25 children to his birthday party and he was expecting them to come and no-one turned up. Imagine how you would feel if this happened to you. I imagined my own young autistic relation going through it. For various reasons which are hard to explain simply in a brief blog post, birthdays are difficult and fraught times for aspies, even without a party.

This year the boy's mother, Lisa, wants to make his birthday special and asked people if they could find it in their hearts to send him a card.

If you want to do this, his birthday is Friday July 14th when he will be 11.
His name is Ben Jackson, and his address is 
35 Dunn Close, Southsea, Portsmouth PO4 9TX
and the full story is here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Ancient authors at night

10 p.m.   turn out light and go to sleep.

1 a.m.   wake up for a pee, get back into bed and brain remembers tasks for the following day that should have been done yesterday. Switch on light and send self an email with subject line only - 'pay house insurance, get flea stuff for cat, ring Tracy and pay the bill, collect beads, buy bubble machine for children on next refugee hospitality day.'

1.30.     unable to sleep.

2 a.m.   still unable to sleep and remember another item so forward email already sent with 'order repeat prescription' added.

3.30 a.m.  wake up for another pee. Brain refuses to settle and suddenly a scene that I've been wondering how to write pops into my head. Not only are the two characters there and I know exactly what they are doing, their precise conversation is issuing forth as well. Wake up and write as much as possible in dim light with no glasses, just enough detail so I'll be able to pick it up in the morning.

4 a.m.     still unable to sleep and not sure I'll wake up before Dave sets off for Sainsbury's so send him and email with items to buy I forgot to tell him last night.

4.30 a.m.   still unable to sleep but it's light now. To wake up or not to wake up? Decide not and shut eyes and doze till 6.45 a.m.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Wendy had a double mastectomy last December, began four months of chemotherapy in January, and yesterday completed six and a half weeks of daily radiation therapy. It has been a long, hard row to hoe and she has done it with stoicism and cheerfulness. She is awe-inspiring. Yesterday lunchtime after her last treatment she celebrated with Isaac. 

photo by Isaac

Monday, July 10, 2017


What to say?

That I can't get over how much I am enjoying this summer at home, whether it's watering my geraniums in my pyjamas, bike riding up the Monsal Trail, plotting my new book in the steamer chair while drinking in my front garden and the fields beyond, or playing al fresco table tennis with Dave in the late afternoon. 

Or should I tell you how heartwarming it was when someone I have never met and don't know tweeted this about BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU:

And then there was the lovely unknown reader defending PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS on Amazon against a sorry person who, because she didn't like all the local references in the book said that my next book should be a tourist information book. Between you and me, that review has long bugged me, but obviously it's infra dig for an author to join the fray and say - 'Look, if a novelist can mention the London Eye, Highgate cemetery, or Camden tube station in a novel why can't I mention Hassop Station, the Heights of Abraham or the Maazi restaurant in Matlock? A novel has to be set somewhere!'

Fortunately other readers agree with me. Here is another recent cheering tweet from someone I don't know:

So there you have it. It's a warm Monday morning and it's raining and I'm pleased, because it cuts down my options. I have a lot of jobs to do inside and this morning's task is to get on with the work-in-progress. Have a good week!

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Current status

I have just one plum on my plum tree because of sharp frosts when the blossom was out; my raspberry bushes refuse to flourish; my sweet peas are pathetic - I don't know what they were doing while I was away in Colorado for three weeks, but they weren't growing; and my strawberry patch is infested with grass again. 

Yesterday my legs ached on the briefest of bread and butter bike rides, and at 2 p.m. I shlumped, like Mr Bix's borfin. There was no alternative but to lie on my bed and watch an epsiode of Neighbours on the iPad. My sax calls to me, begging me to find the energy to play it and the slackline is thinking of leaving home on the grounds of neglect.

And yet, and yet, I am loving the summer. Ploughing up the Trail with my weary legs I was euphoric. It's fabulous here! At this point in the year I see the benefits of all the rain we have to put up with month in month out. Everywhere is so wonderfully lush, and the verges of the lanes and the Monsal Trail are spilling over with an ever changing variety of wild flowers. Last week I counted 17 varieties on just one ride. This week among the buttercups and clover there are orchids. 

The other reason to be cheerful is that thanks to Dave's inspired dismembering of the dead washing machine, we now have our very own firepit.