Thursday, March 23, 2017

In defence of Neighbours - threatened with the axe

I started watching Neighbours in 1986 when Isaac rushed home from school everyday to see what had happened in the lunchtime episode he'd recorded. That was 1986. Isaac is now a high-flyer working for Google, and I am a writer.

The heroine of two of my novels - Plotting for Beginners and Plotting for Grown-ups - is addicted to Neighbours. She is also a writer, and this is just one of the things she says about the Aussie soap that is more popular in the UK than it is down under:

You have to realise, Kit, that a writer can learn from any fiction, good or bad. It shows you what mistakes to avoid in your own writing – caricatures, poor plotting, unconvincing dialogue. Watching Neighbours is educative. You don’t think I watch it for entertainment do you?

I really haven’t known him long enough to tell him the truth: that Neighbours is fab, that I love all the stupid plotlines – the amnesia, disputed paternity, blackmail, on-off love affairs, business wars, mistaken identities, manipulative ex-girlfriends, violent ex-boyfriends, people stuck down mine shafts, plane crashes that kill off half the street. And the characters – Paul Robinson, Karl Kennedy, Lucas, Jade – they’re like family. One day I’ll confess to him, but not just yet.

Our feelings for Neighbours overlap. She also finds it the perfect mind-numbing way to relax at the end of the day. She also watches the same episode twice when she's under stress.  She also likes it because it is a 25 minute escape from the real world. It is pure fiction - as Miss Prism says in The Importance of being Earnest - the good end happily and the bad unhappily. Yes, sometimes good people die, but you can be sure that when they do the culprit is eventually found and punished (assuming it's not just the sceenwriter who is to blame.)

Currently a key marriage between two favourite characters is under huge threat. It has been like this for a couple of months and the last two episodes were deeply upsetting. The thing that keeps me watching is the firm belief that eventually everything will be sorted and solved and their faces will match the smiling credits at the start of the show.

As I said a couple of years ago  (please forgive the recap, regular readers) -

It doesn’t matter how dastardly are the plots of the villains, you know they are always, always going to get their come-uppance, so you can enjoy the ride with a happy heart.

At that time in May 2015, an internationally renowned cancer specialist was telling the resident villain (Paul Robinson, my favourite character) that he had leukaemia, and was personally treating him with chemotherapy. And it was all a lie. Paul Robinson was not ill. It was just a plot so that the visiting villain could get what he wanted – a new cancer research centre. It was hilarious! It was totally ludicrous and wonderful and we knew full well that the doughty nurse Georgia (who had been framed by the visiting villain) would somehow uncover this scam and be reinstated at the hospital. And Paul would recover and carry on being the cosy resident villain.

Neighbours is an escape from the real world and I love it. And if Channel 5 axes it - as currently looks likely - and it disappears from British telly, it will be a sad day. It is an innocuous, calorie-free, alcohol-free and drugs-free temporary escape from this nasty, nasty world where we live right now.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Toasting my big sister

You know how you plan a day walking with someone and when you wake up it's raining, and the rain is set to continue till three o clock, and the someone says "I'm not going out in that! It's horrendous! We'll get soaked!" 

My big sister isn't like that. She's game. She's laid back. She's up for it.

So we donned our boots and our macs and we set off through the woods in search of Mill Gill Force. We walked along muddy tracks, along puddled stone paths through fields, up steep slippy hillsides, 

across squelchy bogs, over tree root after tree root, alongside green velvet walls - oh you should have seen that moss! 

 - till we got to the falls. They were worth the trek, though the camera lens was damp and the picture not so sharp:

And here is the video. It's the first video I have managed to put on the blog, and I haven't worked out how to turn it round, so I apologise (also it might not show up on mobile devices):


By that time, Kath was wet right through to her pants (underpants to you Yanks) and the track only promised a slide into full frontal mud, so we turned back. At which point I fell over. Thwack. The strangest thing was that I didn't swear, I didn't even yelp. Is my big sister's stoicism rubbing off on me? At last! It's only taken 60 years. And here's a tip - fresh moss is a very efficient cleanser - of hands and coats.

All I really want to say is that if I had been with a lot of other family members - no names, no pack drill - they would have moaned at the rain, at the wind, at the wet. They would have turned back. Some would not have set out. Kath set out and never complained, and the trip was exhilarating and fun. Thanks, Kath. 

Friday, March 17, 2017


Another day they dropped in on an old friend of Kay's mother who told them she had had an exhausting morning - she had rinsed out her shoe laces and brushed her teeth. They couldn't stop laughing at this, repeating it time and again and inventing variations. 'I'm so tired, I just washed my feet and ironed a hanky.' 'I'm just done in, I've blown my nose and changed my underpants.'

from the short story Times of Sickness and Health by Carol Shields

I woke up this morning after a good night's sleep and have felt like the woman above all day. I've not even been able to face my laptop until now - 4.35 p.m. 

Tomorrow I'll feel better. I have to: I'm driving to Wensleydale and meeting my big sister there for a weekend of walking. I'm SO looking forward to it.

photo by Rosemary Mann

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Wendy's progress

When I meet a friend these days, as soon as they've asked how I am, they want to know about Wendy.  And I'm guessing that you'd also like an update. 

Wendy is doing OK. She has to have six chemotherapy treatments three weeks apart, and she'll be having her fourth tomorrow. For the first week after she's had her treatment she feels terrible, and spends a lot of time in bed. After the last treatment, she went to sleep on a Friday and woke up on Sunday. During the second and third weeks after the chemo she feels pretty awful, needs to rest, but is fit enough to be up and about and to teach her yoga classes. 

Her matter-of-fact approach to the awfulness that is cancer and its treatment is an inspiration; and she's willing to answer questions from anyone honestly. She lost her hair, couldn't find a wig she liked and is happier to be bald than to wear a headscarf. This is her on her birthday last month:

In May she will have three solid weeks of radiotherapy and I am going to stay and act as family backstop. It's a long haul for all of them, but they are getting through, and Wendy says that it gives her strength to know that people all over the world are rooting for her. So, thank you my lovely, warm-hearted regular readers.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Making things up

I'm cock-a-hoop this week because my sax teacher says my improvisation has moved to a new level. This is not to say it's audience-worthy - just that I am getting the hang of making stuff up that sounds like music, not just random notes.

And in another realm, I had some success in making stuff up. I wanted three matching bowls to sit my tete-a-tetes in on the kitchen windowsill, and as I was driving into Sheffield on Thursday, I thought - Mmm...I'll pop into the Oxfam shop and see what I can find. Wouldn't it be great if they had two blue glass dishes that match the one I have in the cupboard? 

Guess what? They did!

As far as writing goes, I'm currently trying to conjure up a voice for my main male character. It's hard. This will be the first novel in which Dave does not appear disguised as a character. He was the inspiration for Gus, Richard, Sol and Rob, so writing dialogue for any of those characters was easy-peasy. If you live with someone for 46 years, and you have an ear for dialogue, their voice is going to be strong in your head.  Yesterday, I found this sweet little bookmark the publisher gave me when Plotting for Beginners was published:

I didn't actually make up the bit of dialogue on there. It's something Dave said - word for word. But when I wrote new dialogue for any of these guys, their voices were clear to me. I had no trouble.

Do you remember that way Pippa (in both of the Plotting books) talked? She used short sentences and repeated herself and she often had a short sentence right at the end of something she was saying, like "Yes. I do." e.g.

"They have such sensitive hearing. I’ve tried positioning it in different rooms, and it makes no matter. It upsets them. Yes, it does.”

“Are you sure?”

“Please take it. I’m sure. Yes I am.”

I got this idea from a character I once saw in an Ally McBeal episode. It was so distinctive that it stuck in my head.

My head is empty, and I am doing a lot of sitting quietly, staring out of the window, trying to hear the voice of a man I have not met.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Go on - defy the zeitgeist

Dave is out for the day and I am working on the new novel. I could spend time writing a personal blog post, but what's in my mind apart from the new novel is the dire direction of politics, at home and abroad. 

Every day the UK government does things I profoundly disagree with and yesterday they voted down the plan to rescue more child refugees. The current stated position of Mrs May is that if we bring more unaccompanied child refugees to live here, it will encourage people traffickers. This position not only flies in face of the evidence and the opinions of people working on the ground, it flies in the face of reason.

I despair at the inhumanity of this government, displayed in so many areas - cuts to benefits for vulnerable people, the oppression of benefit claimants in general (watch I, Daniel Blake for the truth on this), the cruel deportations of people who have their homes and their families here, the support for and the sales of arms to brutal regimes - and now their lack of compassion for traumatised, vulnerable, homeless, family-less children.

Compassion in modern politics is rare. Let's do what we can to bring it back. Let's do what we can in our own lives to compensate. 

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Other people's lives

Twenty years ago, when I was still calling myself a research psychologist, I used to read about writers' lives in the papers. There was one regular column where writers described their typical day. I was fascinated. If I became a writer, perhaps I could have a life like theirs...

Now I do call myself a writer, and know what my own life is like - messy - I don't pay much attention to that kind of article, unless I like the writer's work. Today, for example, Elizabeth Strout is in the Guardian Review writing about her working day. I just read her piece about how she writes a novel, and was intrigued.

These days I am more fascinated by the lives of artists and illustrators. I'm trying to work out why that is. I need an illustrator for my children's books and am not sure how to find one. That's one thing, but is probably irrelevant. Another thing is that I love children's picture books and enjoy the illustrations as well as the stories - e.g. those by Shirley Hughes, Alex Scheffler, Quentin Blake, Janet Ahlberg, Judith Kerr, Oliver Jeffers, Leo Lionni and more. I like to see photographs of them at their drawing boards with all those lovely art materials at their sides. 

I am in awe of their work. I would love to have a life full of art and colour.

I have been very bad-tempered for the last two weeks, snarling and swearing under my breath, difficult to live with.  I don't think this is rare for writers whose work is not progressing as they would like.  Yesterday I had the house to myself for nine precious hours. This is rare these days. I had a long to-do list and crossed off all but one item on it, as well as making lemon curd. But the reason I'm happy today is that I got some writing done. Meaningful writing.

Maybe the Guardian Review should have a column called "Living with a writer." Poor Dave.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

on beginning to write a novel

I'm struggling. 

I always struggle when I start to write a novel. The first few chapters are killing.

Once I get to Chapter 6, I'm away: I'm in the world of the novel, I think about it all the time, wake up excited about the next scene I'm going to write, and find it easy to ignore the sun shining on the daffodils. I don't even see the daffodils.

This beginning-a-novel time is worse than all the others because it's even more difficult to write a novel when you have zero hope that anyone will want to publish it. But that's another story...and it is of course not something that an author should ever admit. It's so dire for one's public image, and these days public image is almost more important than talent. But you guys ought to know who I am by now, which is why I'm coming clean.

My favourite book about writing a novel is this one:

Note the weird semi-colon after the title. What's that about?

The book is hilarious but also true to life. My writer friend Chrissie Poulson and I love the dark truths within this book. I showed the following page plus its illustration to Dave and it left him cold, so you might feel the same way. (TUH stands for The Unstrung Harp, by the way.)

That list of questions at the end has just creased me up. Again.

Happy World Book Day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

This passing moment

This morning, the last day of February, we have snow on the limestone edge behind the house, and the sun has been playing hide and seek since I woke up. This was the sky at 6.55 a.m.

This was the sky at 7.14:

And this was it just half an hour later:

I woke up feeling blank. But after paying close attention to the changing sky I am bright and bouncy and ready for the day, and now I've blogged, I'm going to pick up my sax and attempt to improvise on God Bless the Child.

"Let’s love today, the what we have now, this day, not
          today or tomorrow or
yesterday, but this passing moment, that will
          not come again."

James Schuyler, from A Few days

Thursday, February 23, 2017

mostly for parents

When I was staying with Isaac and Wendy in Boulder over Christmas I got very attached to their Alexa, and as soon as I got home I tried to persuade Dave we should get one. No dice. 

Have you come across Alexa? It's a voice controlled computer that Lux, Cece and I used to tell us the weather, listen to the radio (e.g. Carols from Cambridge on BBCRadio4) tell us a joke, time the baking we had in the oven, play songs we asked for - e.g. "Alexa! Play I want a hippopotamus for Christmas!" "Alexa! Play Big Yellow taxi by Joni Mitchell." There are far more sophisticated uses than these, but the girls and I were happy with our very modest requests.

Lux and Cece use Alexa with fluency, as you can see from this tweet of Isaac's:

Monday, February 20, 2017

It's time to make a pact

You could say that February has been a minor bete noire in my writing - both in the blog and in the books.

For example....

'February that year was muddier and greyer and more miserable than usual'
But I Told you Last Year That I Loved You

'February's always grey and cold. You look out of the window feeling desperate for fresh air, and then you look up at the leaden sky and change your mind.'
Zuzu's Petals

'The price is February. The grey days, the looming mists, the dripping rain, the faded grass, the inescapable mud and the long dark nights: I hate them all.'
Plotting for Beginners

'Talking in bed circa 3 a.m…
Me (surfacing from sleep, quasi-drugged): “Kit, Kit, Wendy wants me to go on a Senior Citizen day trip to Iceland with her, all inclusive for £10, with a good lunch. Do you think I should go?”
Kit (as if I am not talking gibberish): “What date is it?”
Me:  “9th of Feb.”               
Kit:  “Definitely go.”
Me:  “Why definitely?”
Kit:  “It’s a vile month, so you should do something to take your mind off it.”

This man is perfect for me: 
a/ he takes my dreams seriously
b/ he appreciates the horror that is February.'
Plotting for Grown-ups

And then last year on the blog it changed (February 8th 2016):

'This year, despite the execrable weather, I feel differently. I keep thinking back to this time last year, when Mary was dying. This year the thought constantly running through my head like one of those banner headlines under a newscaster is: "No February could ever be as bad as last year's February." And the next thing I think is: "I am still here, still alive. Mary isn't. I am lucky. I get to see another spring, I get to talk to my kids and laugh with my grandkids, and hear that 3 year old Cecilia said on the day of the Superbowl "I would like to be a Broncos player when I grow up but I more want to do fossils," I get to talk and laugh with Mary's kids, I get to sit in the sun and play my sax and share things with my friends and cycle up the Monsal Trail, and laugh at the hilarious things Dave says, and so on and so on.'

I have felt differently this year too, except last week, missing Mary, I sank back into the old ways and I tweeted:
"February is a very trying month."
Several people agreed, but Roopa Banerjee tweeted: 
"I like the hidden hope in February. The gradually lengthening day, the daffodils, the slight lifting of gloom."

And I decided that the lengthening days are what I am going to concentrate on in future. Because it is pretty wonderful when it gets past 5 o' clock and it's still light enough to see the snowdrops.

The other thing is what I say in the para above from my blog last year..."I am still here, still alive."

...which ties in with what I said last week -
"60 and 70 year olds don't care what they look like when they're dancing: they want to enjoy themselves. Next week they might be seriously ill, they might be dead." 

...which ties in with a quote from the Quakers' Advices and Queries no 30. which used to puzzle me until last year -
"Accepting the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully."

The years of active life I have left are numbered, and I am feeling that, rather than just knowing it intellectually. And to dismiss every February as a month to be tolerated, is dismissing a twelfth of what I have left. 

So today I am making a pact with February, as Ezra Pound did with Walt Whitman:

I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman - 
I have detested you long enough.
I come to you as a grown child
Who has had a pig-headed father;
I am old enough now to make friends.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Come home, Fred and Ginger

Perhaps I should begin by saying that I didn't go into town to see La La Land. I went to see Manchester by the Sea. However, something unavoidable got in the way and by the time I got to the cinema, the only film that fitted in with my train home was La La Land. And as it was a dull February day I decided to see what all the fuss was about. 

Now I've seen it I still don't know what all the fuss is about. If this is the writer-director's homage to old time Hollywood musicals, he either hasn't seen enough of them, or he just doesn't have what it takes to create an homage. I could have lent him my collection, if he'd asked.

Firstly, the film was too long. After the first half hour I was wondering if I should check the timetable for an earlier train. Then it got going. But...

Singing and dancing are surely central to a Hollywood musical, but neither of the leads have more than mediocre voices, and as for the couple's dancing!!!!!!! (and I am a woman who despises exclamation marks.) I could have done that dancing. Any tap class beginner could have done that dancing. The choreography was uninspiring and hopelessly basic. It was dull. It was milk sop stuff. Yes, you could infer I was disappointed.

The acting was terrific, and I liked two of the musical numbers - City of Stars and Audition. For me, Audition was the best part of the whole confection. Hmm...I also liked the what if sequence at the end of the film. That was good. And the whole film was certainly more entertaining than standing in a field in driving sleet waiting for murmurating starlings that don't arrive.

But what's going on with the ending? This was surely a rom-com. The couple said they would always love each other (quite convincingly too.) Then five years later she is happily married to someone else and has a child. Is this the only bit of reality to invade the story? That people who are single-minded enough to achieve their dreams in showbiz can't stay faithful and committed to someone who they say they will always love? 

Enough. I need to get back to rereading Billy Mernit's Writing the Romantic Comedy. He talks such good sense.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How you feel is how you feel

Some people, kind people, don't understand that the way to be a friend is to sit alongside a sad person, and to accept their accept their feelings as valid. 

Some people, kind people, think the way to be a friend to someone who is sad is to try to persuade them to see the bright side - "Cheer up - it's not the end of the world!" "Cheer up - think of all the things you have to be grateful for!"

If you do that, the sad person feels misunderstood and even more alone than they did already.

Let's learn to accept how other people feel, no matter how uncomfortable it is for us, because it's the best way there is to comfort them.

Yesterday it was Mary's anniversary - two years since she died. I felt happy. I was still in the dancing zone. It was a bright sunny day after a week of yukh. I considered this - that I was feeling happy - and thought - Well, I am not going to feel sad or feel guilty about being smiley on Mary's anniversary. I miss Mary everyday. Everyday. There is a big Mary-shaped gap in my life that no-one else will ever fill, and if I don't feel sad on this particular day, I know Mary wouldn't mind, so why should I?

Mary with her two lovely daughters

Grief is a thing which varies from day to day and there's no making sense of it, no pattern to depend on so you can protect yourself. It hits you hard and unexpectedly sometimes and then it recedes. 

I've been considering poems about grief and bereavement this early morning, and this is the one that captures how I felt yesterday. Today could well be different. 

The Dead Woman
If suddenly you do not exist,
if suddenly you no longer live,
I shall live on.
I do not dare,
I do not dare to write it,
if you die.
I shall live on.
For where a man has no voice,
there, my voice.
Where blacks are beaten,
I cannot be dead.
When my brothers go to prison
I shall go with them.
When victory,
not my victory,
but the great victory comes,
even though I am mute I must speak;
I shall see it come even
though I am blind.
No, forgive me.
If you no longer live,
if you, beloved, my love,
if you have died,
all the leaves will fall in my breast,
it will rain on my soul night and day,
the snow will burn my heart,
I shall walk with frost and fire and death and snow,
my feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but
I shall stay alive,
because above all things
you wanted me indomitable,
and, my love, because you know that I am not only a man
but all mankind.
Pablo Neruda

Sunday, February 12, 2017

I love to dance!

I went to a party last night. It was for a friend who was turning 70. His 'kids' had planned the surprise party with exquisite care, and he loved it.

I loved it too. After a month of anxious concern about politics here and abroad, I got to dance. The last time I danced was two years ago at my nephew's wedding, which is too long ago when I love to dance. Actually, no. The last time I danced was in my pyjamas with Lux and Cece in their kitchen. I LOVE TO DANCE!

Last night a small rock band played oldies like Blue Suede Shoes, La Bamba and That'll be the day, and the hall was filled with 60 and 70 year olds, all having a fantastic time.

60 and 70 year olds don't care what they look like when they're dancing: they want to enjoy themselves. Next week they might be seriously ill, they might be dead. And what's also nice is that offspring of 60 and 70 year olds tend to be past their teenage years, and are no longer embarrassed by their parents' dancing.

For the first time in weeks I woke up happy. It was the best medicine. I now feel energised for all those letters I've got to write to Theresa May.

There's only one way to beat the sadness of life - with laughter and rejoicing.   
Rohinton Mistry

Friday, February 10, 2017

Return to basics

February is bleak and dreary out here in the sticks. We have fog, frost, rain, snow, khaki fields and mud. I'm glad I'm not a sheep.

I have to mentally bludgeon myself to go out on my bike.  

February entertainment consists of going to the local starling murmuration site at dusk, standing in the cold for half an hour with other people and seeing nothing, nada, zilch. 

And going again the next night and being driven home by a wave of sleet.

Meanwhile in Calais, lone refugee teenagers are sleeping rough hoping that we can make enough fuss to persuade Theresa May to change her mind and give them sanctuary. I just found three petitions online. Here's one

At least I can sit and write. Or attempt to write. The current project hasn't been going too well so I've been doing writing practice, namely some of the exercises in my favourite writing book - Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg.

Also I've been reading and working from her book on writing memoir - Old Friend From Far Away, in which she says:

Writing is the act of reaching across the abyss of isolation to share and reflect. It's not a diet to become skinny, but a relaxation into the fat of our lives. Often without realising it, we are on a quest, a search for meaning. What does our time on this earth add up to?

I like that.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017


I went to a Quaker conference about forced migration at the weekend and I am still processing it. The accommodation was good, the people were friendly, and yet I was hugely relieved to get home afterwards and I've been trying to work out why.

Everyone there was concerned about the plight of asylum seekers and refugees, and about the UK government's attitude. When Theresa May was Home Secretary she set out to create a "hostile environment" for them. (her words.) She succeeded. You would be shocked if you knew what happens. One asylum seeker told us her gruelling story and at the end when she was thanked, she said "I hope you enjoyed it." Everyone sighed and said "No, we didn't, but we are very pleased you came to tell us."

I heard about the work being done by Quakers all over the country to help people seeking sanctuary in this country - legal advice, general support, providing money, food, clothing, language teaching, hospitality, accommodation and friendship. 

The feeling was that just as the two world wars were a challenge to Quakers - should they respond by fighting, conscientious objection, serving in the Friends Ambulance Unit, or doing relief work? - how we each help forced migrants is today's biggest challenge. 

What am I going to do to help?

I was thinking about all of this when I messaged the Aging Hippie in California this morning. We agreed how we started each morning depressed after reading the news, and that we'd like to give up reading it, but she said "No, we need to know and to respond if we can. It's a depressing struggle but we have to continue. They are waiting for us to burn out." She's right.

Onward and upward, friends!

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

To read or not to read. That is the question.

A friend of mine, who has more or less the same taste in fiction as me, reminded me last week that a book I'd recommended to her had upset her so much she'd stopped reading it. It was Helen Dunmore's The Siege. It's about a family fighting for survival during the siege of Leningrad. She couldn't bear the suffering. And I puzzled over why I could. I think it's partly because it's a historical novel (set 70+ years ago - which distances it from me somewhat), partly because they did survive (well, most of them), and partly because I love Helen Dunmore's writing. I don't always like her books and I stopped reading The Greatcoat which I thought was weird and tedious. But her writing is beautiful, and her latest book Exposure is gripping as well. It is brilliant.

This friend is the one I've told you about before: she always reads the last page of a novel before she begins, so that she knows how it ends and doesn't rush through great writing to find out what happens. So I told her the ending of Exposure and told her she must read it.

Another author whose writing I think is beautiful is Sebastian Barry. My favourite novel of his is A Long, Long Way, which is set in the First World War. There are parts of this that are so upsetting to read, despite its being historical, that I had to take a break of two weeks in the middle of reading it. Barry and Dunmore are both poets, and it shows in their prose. Dunmore is very sensual and neither of them are wordy. 

Why am I blogging about this today? Because Barry has just won the Costa prize with his latest novel Days Without End. I read the reviews when it was published and thought it might be too near the knuckle for me, and decided not to pursue it.

Here is an excerpt from today's Guardian about Barry winning the Costa: 

In a decision that the chair of the judges, author Kate Williams, said took 90 minutes, Days Without End was picked unanimously by the panel as the winner. “It is brutal, it is terrifying, it moves you to tears, it horrifies – and at the same time, it has these fantastic moments of light and beauty, and of friendship,” Williams said. “It takes you from the highs to the lows of human experience. It is an absolutely magnificent, incredible book.”

I am trying to decide if I want to read it.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What you can do

Don't feel powerless!

Follow this link to find ways you can help to make things better.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Beyond satire

I've been thinking about what I wrote in the last post and I've changed my mind. I am not going to limit what I read about Trump. I need to be able to protest, fully-informed.  Trump's policies are offensive, cruel, scary and depressing, and they are beyond satire. There is nothing funny that can be said about them. Perhaps it was the satire that was making me feel queasy.

Look at this link to see the full list of today's protests in the UK against Trump's anti-Muslim ban.

And if you live in the UK, look at this link if you want to sign the petition to the UK Government to stop Trump from coming to the UK on an official state visit. Downing Street announced this morning that the petition would not make any difference, but I think the more people we can get to sign it, the stronger the message will be to Theresa May that we want the UK to distance itself from Trump, not cosy up to him.

Friday, January 27, 2017

That man

Every morning on waking I look at the iPad for messages or photos from my family, then emails from anyone else, and then I look at the news headlines. They depress me, all bad, one after the other, boom, boom, boom, boom. Then I go on Twitter to see what Isaac has been tweeting about, and this broadens out to look at tweets from other people I follow. 

I've found it uplifting to read about the Womens' Marches all over the globe, and entertaining to see the many placards. I'm making a collection of my favourites. Some of them are too rude to post on here, but here's one I can show you:

There is a lot of politics in my Twitter feed, and lately this has meant a lot of Trump. Some of it is news reports, some of it comment, a lot of it satire. Yesterday morning I realised something had to change. I was spending an hour first thing reading about Trump. Even though half of it was satire which made me laugh, I ended up at 7 a.m. queasy and depressed. Yes, the satire might be funny but the reality is not. Yesterday that sick feeling lasted most of the day, so I decided things had to change. I have time-limited Twitter and Trump in the mornings and I'm going to start my days differently.

Today I read a chapter of the current novel and after posting this I am going to work on my own. 

Meanwhile, the snowdrops in the garden are pushing through the dead leaves, 

and the snowdrops in the lea of the wall down the lane are already blooming. 

We need to protest and to stand up for what is right. Meanwhile...

"The sun rises in spite of everything."

Derek Mahon

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Just three words

I was driving behind a white van in Bakewell last week. The initials F.M.E. were printed in bold on the back of the van along with the slogan: Passionate. Focused. Responsive. And at the bottom, by the number plate, small graphics showed three items, a plasterer's trowel being the only one I could make out. As an advert for a company it was lacking - I had to Google the initials to find out what they did: multi-disciplinary refurbishment projects - but I loved the slogan. I'd love it if someone described me as passionate, focused and responsive. It made me think of the Blind Date column in the Saturday Guardian where each person on the blind date has to describe the other one in three words.

How would you like people to describe you in three words? 

It also reminds me of that question we used to ask each other when we were little: If you had to choose between them, would you be beautiful, clever, or good?

p.s. I've just found out from the very responsive F.M.E. that they don't advertise on their vans because they only work in the commercial sector. It's a shame, that, as their speedy and private response to me was impressive, and I'd certainly get a quote from them if I didn't have my very own man-about-the-house.

Monday, January 23, 2017


We had a five minute interview about the Bridges Not Walls banner on Radio Derby on Friday January 20th on the Ian Skye programme. If you want to hear it, click on this link and advance to 1 hour 45 minutes into the programme. Our slot was at 8.15 a.m. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017


BAKEWELL FOOTBRIDGE, fixing the banner

Tower Bridge, London

Westminster Bridge, London

Vauxhall Bridge, London


West Cornwall





Demonstrators at the #BRIDGESNOTWALLS event in Bakewell yesterday

We did it! And the sun shone for us after a week of dank mist. There were 47 people with us over the two hour stretch, which is pretty wonderful for Bakewell in January. It was lovely to meet so many new people who came along to join us.

You can watch a video of the event here.

The Washington Post covered the UK wide banner drop here.