Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Details, snapshots, trivia

There are artists I follow on Instagram, whose work I admire, but who are fixated on certain subjects and I get bored with looking at their work. I was thinking about this when half an hour ago I took yet another photo of my breakfast tray on the patchwork quilt I've just mended and which is now on the bed for the spring.



I am constantly fascinated by the way the light falls on the folds of the fabric and the patterns created. And that's what led me to paint my pandemic quilt again - this time with colours from my imagination.




It's large. I  took it to be framed last week and spent twenty minutes dithering over what frame to have and whether to save money by not having a mount. I chose as best I could and left the shop but then stopped on the way home to ring them and say "No. Stop. I've changed my mind. Please don't frame it. I'll put something else in the exhibition."

In terms of painting, choosing a frame is my Achilles heel. It's not just about the cost, it's about the colour, the size and the mount. Arrghh.

Other details of my life right now...

I told you about the 5 year diary I got for Christmas which has a question to be answered each day, didn't I?

These are the last two entries:




 

These are just some of the tulips that my lovely daughter gave me for Mother's Day:




I took the following photos last week. It was a cold grey day. Our daffodils had still not come out because they'd been flattened by the deep snow the previous week. I had cycled down to the bottom of the Trail and was sitting on a bench, longing for spring and looking at the sky, trying to decide if there was enough blue sky to make a sailor a pair of trousers.

 A woman walked by and I told her what I was doing. Yes, I am that person now - an utterly shameless old woman who accosts strangers with odd remarks. She played along. She was old as well.

Not enough blue sky...



Five minutes later, enough blue sky!



Today the sun is out and so are the daffs and my washing is blowing in a gutsy (sic) March wind.

And yesterday a dear woman on the refugee hospitality committee eagerly took some of my jobs from me - jobs I had been worrying about how to do if I manage to fit in a Colorado trip in late April. 

Things feel better this week than last, and I'm thankful.

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Patience

'It's an odd feeling, farewell. There is such envy in it. Men go off to be tested, for courage. And if we're tested at all, it's for patience, for doing without, for how well we can endure loneliness.'       (from Out of Africa)

I am not a patient person. At present I'm being tested because I had to cancel my trip to see my Colorado family on account of illness, and now there is a delay because of health checks and insurance. 

Dave is still making wooden clocks - at present a cat clock for Cece. He made me one to hang on the bedroom wall with Courage inscribed in it.




I now think I need another one that says 'Patience.'

I'm not just impatient for travel, I'm impatient for sunshine, because although spring keeps peeping out from behind the greyness of winter, it's not here yet. 

I am also fighting apathy and/or tiredness, but that's enough about me. 

Let's move onto something inspiring...

Did you watch the Channel 4 series called The Piano? If not, I recommend it unreservedly: you can watch it on catch-up. The basic idea was to film members of the public playing those pianos in railway stations and find the four best ones to be in a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. The participants did not know it was a competition until after they'd played. They were playing for the joy of it.

One of the four chosen was a 13 year old girl called Lucy who is blind and autistic and has learning difficulties. She played sublimely and I can't stop watching videos of her playing various pieces of music - classical and jazz.

Here is her performance in the final concert. Watch and wonder and enjoy.

I am not just in awe of Lucy's talent, I am in awe of her teacher, and his patience. This video shows how he taught her. 

What a gift he has given to Lucy - enabling her to express herself and find joy in music - and what a gift he has given to the world through his gentle nurturing and teaching. 




 




Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Letters from home

"Are you OK this morning?" Dave just said.

"I’m fine, apart from the news." 

I think I’m finally better now. It’s taken two weeks. And the old patchwork quilt is better too. It took me a full week to mend, doing about three hours a day. Phew. And although The Repair Shop might have inspired me to fix it, I can’t say I did a Repair Shop quality job. I was so sick of it by the end I was what my mother would have called ‘cobbling it together.’ 

What else has been happening here?

Cece won an award for the banner she designed, and that is hanging up on the main shopping street in Boulder. Go Cece!




I did a crappy abstract painting called “Disappointment” one day, and painted over it the next. Now I’ve started a challenging painting based on this photo that Isaac took of me in November 2021. 



Get a load of those grasses!

Since I wrote my last post I have had several interchanges with my MP, who may not agree with me about anything at all, but who does respond to my letters with missives that are well thought out, if chilling.

I came across a tweet from Mr Sunak on Sunday which appalled me

!

and I wrote to my MP to say - this can’t be right can it? It doesn’t mean that someone escaping from modern slavery in a cannabis farm or a brothel and going to the police will be deported, does it? Please tell me I have got the wrong end of the stick. I got a reply the next day confirming the worst. 

We must speak out about this cruel policy which breaches our commitment to the 1951 United Nations convention. The Bill passed its second reading in the Commons last night. How can people vote for it and not be ashamed?

It is now the case that unless you are a Ukrainian or a very lucky Afghan, you cannot come to the U.K. as a refugee. And if you are an Afghan arriving by small boat, no chance. You will be deported, along with Syrians, and all the other desperate people who are fleeing war and persecution, the majority of whom would have a successful claim to asylum if the new law did not mean all bets are cancelled, all succour denied.

There are no safe legal routes. 

As the tattered postcard on our fridge says:





Thursday, March 09, 2023

Please write to your MP

Dear Friends

Please write to your MP as soon as you can about the cruel, inhumane and unhelpful new law the UK government is proposing in order to deter desperate people fleeing war and persecution from coming to these unfriendly shores via small boat.

There are no safe routes these people can access which is why they come this way. It is not illegal to travel via unconventional routes to claim asylum. 

As soon as I have posted this I am writing to my MP to protest and to ask the government to deal with these desperate people compassionately and constructively.

If you don't know what to say, you might take some ideas from Dave's letter. He wrote this to our MP yesterday:

You will know from our correspondence that I am not a fan of your government, which seems to me to be the worst in my lifetime: the least competent and the most venal and corrupt. Indeed it is hard to understand why refugees and asylum seekers wish to flee to the UK where everything is broken.

Nevertheless, it feels important to tell you that the approach to refugees and asylum seekers is lacking in principle and repugnant in practice.

The mantra of ‘Stop the boats’ is a cheap pitch to the nastiest populist sentiments, and unhelpful.

The approach headed by the Home Secretary is, by her own admission, likely to infringe the UK’s legal obligations. Is it not extraordinary that she can put forward legislation which has even the smallest chance of being illegal, and in breach of our international obligations?

The problem, for me, is that the proposals are inhumane, and lacking in basic human decency. If the people arriving here in small boats were giraffes, bonobos, dogs or stray cats, there would be a public outcry and we would have a national campaign for their comfort and safety. As it is, we have an approach which has already been complicit in, and teleologically responsible for, the deaths of so many in the Channel. These people on small boats are people, people like us but less fortunate.

For too long the UK turned a blind eye to the plight of Jews fleeing oppression before the second world war. That looks like a national stain now, as the current approach to people seeking refuge in the UK will seem in the future.

The traffic of small boats could be reduced by making legal routes here more numerous and more accessible. And if the Home Office was more effective, the long delays in processing incomers’ applications could be usefully expedited.

Your government is successfully turning the UK into a hostile and xenophobic environment, and pursuing policies which are simply shameful.

If only the government could do something – anything – which appeared neither crass nor callous. It is an increasingly desperate hope.

Dave Hepworth


This is my letter, just written:

I am writing to object to your inhumane new law which plans to detain and deport genuine refugees who arrive here by small boat.

These people are forced to use small boats because there are insufficient safe routes to the UK.

There are other ways to stop small boats.

One way would be to set up a processing centre in Calais to assess whether people are likely to be eligible for asylum BEFORE they attempt the dangerous journey. And then provide a safe route for those likely to succeed.

The figures show that Afghans make up the largest group by nationality. These people were unable to leave their country because of the failures of the British government schemes. Other countries represented are Syria, Eritrea, and Sudan. Home Office figures show that 98% of applications for asylum from these three groups are granted.

Your new law refuses to recognise these facts.

Not only do we need more safe routes, the Home Office needs better organisation and funding so that asylum applications can be dealt with both fairly and efficiently so that refugee status can be granted swiftly where it is deserved, and these people can start to contribute to our economy while they are trying to settle here. Do we not have a labour shortage in this country?

If the asylum process were fit for purpose you wouldn’t be having to pay to house refugees in hotels; and Ms Braverman wouldn’t need to inflame populist racist and ill informed views with her rhetoric. The latter causes ugly and threatening behaviour towards refugees from people who are suffering themselves through food and fuel poverty.

I object to your cruel and shameful policies.

The UK was instrumental in setting up the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention. We should stick by our honourable history and lead the world in compassion and justice, not in cruelty and law-breaking.

Yours sincerely

Sue Hepworth

 



Monday, March 06, 2023

Convalescence

Antibiotics are obviously wonderful but I do wish they would come without the side effects. My combination of pills this last week has given me the usual nausea, but also aching muscles, sleeplessness and when I do get to sleep - nightmares. 

On Saturday night I had three. One was of that unpleasant man Clarkson heading a new craze for skateboarding on downhill pavements, facing backwards, and counting any knocked down pedestrians as inconsequential collateral.

Then I woke up and read the news. Real life contains sufficient nightmares -  Rishi Sunak, planning to detain and deport all those desperate people arriving by small boat; the settler violence against Palestinians in Huwara, which I notice that neither the "Labour Party" nor Keir Starmer has yet condemned.

On another tack...I realised on Friday night that every time a friend or family member had asked me how I was, I had moaned about how bad I felt  (as well as saying that Dave has been better than Florence Nightingale in the caring stakes.) So on Saturday morning, the first time I showered and came downstairs for the day, I decided I would try to improve my stoicism rating. Now I just say to everyone "I am getting stronger everyday, thank you." It's not so hard.  

In any case, I have no right to complain. I don't live in a war or earthquake zone, I have a good GP, a caring partner, a warm sitting room and enough to eat, when there are plenty of people even in this country with none of those.

Since Saturday morning I've been sitting by the fire in the daytime mending my second favourite patchwork quilt. It looked like this when it was new: a classic Shaker design. 



I think it's about 18 years old. Whatever, a lot of the white pieces round the edges are badly worn because I used an ancient family counterpane for them. I thought mending it would be a nice convalescent activity, sitting by the fire, and that it would probably take a couple of days to complete. But the more I unpick to replace, the more worn pieces I see, and it's turned into a big project. I can't deny that I've been inspired by The Repair Shop. But also by Dave, who has been making clocks with wooden faces out of discarded new worktop pieces for the three children. He sees them as ‘legacy items.’




Yes, that is his stained glass on the windowsill behind him.

Thinking of ‘legacy items’ made me realise that I am fond of this patchwork, because it’s pretty even though it's faded, and I couldn't bear to leave it in such a poor condition when I die that no-one in the family - or even a charity shop - would want it and it would be thrown away. 

I’ll be continuing with the work on it today. I’m hoping to be well enough for a walk by Friday. 😊 

How am I doing in the stoicism stakes?



Thursday, March 02, 2023

My news

The good news is that 45 of my sweet pea seeds have germinated and sprouted.

The lovely news is that I’ve sold this painting. It was in an exhibition in Sheffield.




The bad news is that I was taken ill on the day of my flight to Colorado and had to cancel the trip. I am still ill. And pretty fed up.  Although it makes me laugh that I’ve sold a painting!

Monday, February 27, 2023

Trying to remember

When I woke up this morning and went to find Dave in his study/indoor workshop, he was sitting at his computer reading about the poet Edwin Brock. He said he'd looked for our Penguin Modern Poets collection of Brock and two other poets and he couldn't find it.

"We must have lost it in the fire," he said. 

But I thought we still had it and padded downstairs to the poetry shelf. But he was right. It was missing. I had thought it was one of the half a dozen badly scorched books he'd miraculously recovered from the ashes, like his precious Ezra Pound 




that he used to carry around with him at uni along with his T.S.Eliot collection. 

"But it wasn't Brock I was really looking for," he said. "It was another depressive poet but I can't remember his name. I'm sure he was in the same anthology."

I myself have been struggling to find my copy of Olive Kitteridge. I think I must have lent it to a friend but can't remember who or when. I'm cross I don't remember because I want to read it again - now!

For a long time after the fire I couldn't lend my books to anyone. Then I began, but only to good friends and only books I could bear to let out of the house. There are six books that never leave. Olive Kitteridge is in my second tier of books i.e. books I expect to read several times but am not so attached to I never lend them out.

It's all silly of course. I could buy other copies of ones that go missing. But it's not rational - it's emotional.

As far as memory goes (and it definitely does go) I've read three pieces by neuroscientists lately saying that alcohol is a neurotoxin and the last piece said you should give up drinking by the time you're 70. 

For some odd reason I went off wine after Covid in December and so I've been making the most iof this and trying to consciously keep it at bay ever since. I have had perhaps one glass of wine a week since Christmas (instead one a night as before) and I've only occasionally missed it. I've not given up. I'm just going to be more abstemious in future, because I need all the brain cells I can manage to keep.

The best poem about forgetfulness is one by Billy Collins. Even people who don't like poetry like this poem. I don't have permission to share it on the blog.

But you can read it here.

And you can listen to the poet reading it here.

I've just finished a painting and tidied my studio because tomorrow I'm off to Colorado. Yay!

I can't wait to see my two Boulder girls.

Here's C with the banner she designed




And here's L off to her first school dance




I'll see you when I see you.









Monday, February 20, 2023

Reboot

The spring is definitely here, and as of yesterday the sweet peas are on the windowsill




but the bad news keeps on coming, and because of the light mornings my battery powered DIY neon sign 





doesn't show up any more. I'm going to order a proper one online, but in the meantime I'm taking another tack.

I get all of my news from reading the Guardian online in the morning, apart from stuff about science and astrophysics, which comes from Dave - enthusiastically and sometimes overwhelmingly delivered. This morning I'm starting a week without news. 

It's 8.16 and I've done Wordle, Quordle and Wordiply, rearranged some paintings on the walls, spread a throw over my studio sofa because Dave keeps sitting on it in his grubby boilersuit when he comes in from the shed to tell me something he heard on the radio, and now I'm writing to you. See how much can be done when you ditch the news?

I've also put back on the bedside table this book:







Which today offered me this gem:

"Changing one thing can change everything. Let more light into your life by letting more light into this day. Then repeat, repeat, repeat. Keep moving."

I have finally managed to reach a place of equanimity with this painting, by changing the quilt and the background:



Acrylic on canvas board 
35 x 45 cm


It isn't perfect in my eyes, but only one of my paintings thus far is precisely how I envisioned it. 

I was pleased with this one last week, 


Acrylic on canvas board
66 x 40 cm


but now I think it needs more work. That's OK. The joy of acrylics is you can go on and on.

So now I'm going to do some cleaning, then make lemon curd, then paint. 

Here's wishing you a happy week.



 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Everyday life

I spent yesterday afternoon with my new baby granddaughter and the lovely Jaine. Ms X is 3 months old this week, and spending time with her is like a little holiday. 

I played with her, danced with her, talked to her, sang to her, fed her, burped her and took her for a walk in the pram in the bright spring sunshine. When I am with her my worries float away, the world and its horrors recede. All I am aware of is her. Her name for me is 'Gran' whereas the other four grandchildren know me as 'Sue.' I feel like a Gran now: when Tate was born, 18 plus years ago, I didn't. I discussed this different name thing with Lux and Cece and they said it was fine.

Now I know what fun it is to be a Gran, and how much easier it is than being a mother. And I also know how quickly time passes and how every moment of their development should be savoured. Babies are everyday miracles: I see that now. 

I am not allowed to share her picture on here so here's me as a toddler.




Meanwhile, back at Hepworth Towers, Dave's energy circuits have been on overdrive. He's always got twice as much get up and go as me, but lately it's as if someone has wound him up tight. He never stops...whether it's whittling about the noisy freezer at 6 a.m. and wanting me to drag myself out of bed to come and listen to it while I'm still drinking my first Yorkshire tea (WHAT?) or vacuuming behind the radiators at 8 in the evening. What's going on? 

I've just cut his hair so maybe that will calm him down a bit. (Remember Samson?)






As for me, I've been wrestling with this painting of my breakfast tray.



 

I'm happy with the tray and everything on it, though the sweet peas need more attention. But I am very dissatisfied with the quilt beyond the tray and I'm not sure about the background. It needs more work. It doesn't help that the quilt is my least favourite one - the sunset quilt - 




Oand there is not much joy in painting it. And when a painting gets to this stage and I still don't think it's right, it becomes a chore and a bore. Because of this, I've started another one (of my pandemic quilt that I would marry if I could) and I work on it in-between times to cheer myself up.

This whole riff about painting the quilt is ridiculous - it’s as if I don’t think I have any choice about what to paint under and behind the tray. 🙄

It was 8 years ago yesterday that Mary died, and before I went to visit Ms X I left some flowers on Mary's bench. 




Fortunately this time there was no-one around who wanted to talk to me.

Here's a poem I like that I have shared with you before. I love the last verse.


COLD SOLACE

When my mother died,
one of her honey cakes remained in the freezer.
I couldn’t bear to see it vanish,
so it waited, pardoned,
in its ice cave behind the metal trays
for two more years.

On my forty-first birthday
I chipped it out,
a rectangular resurrection,
hefted the dead weight in my palm.

Before it thawed,
I sawed, with serrated knife,
the thinnest of slices —
Jewish Eucharist.

The amber squares
with their translucent panes of walnuts
tasted — even toasted — of freezer,
of frost,
a raisined delicacy delivered up
from a deli in the underworld.

I yearned to recall life, not death —
the still body in her pink nightgown on the bed,
how I lay in the shallow cradle of the scattered sheets
after they took it away,
inhaling her scent one last time.

I close my eyes, savor a wafer of
sacred cake on my tongue and
try to taste my mother, to discern
the message she baked in these loaves
when she was too ill to eat them:

I love you.
It will end.
Leave something of sweetness
and substance
in the mouth of the world.

Anna Belle Kaufman


(I have been unable to contact the poet for permission to share it.)



Saturday, February 11, 2023

Hold fast

I was going to write a funny post today but I have woken up and read the news and there is so much horror, even without the aftermath of the earthquake, that I am in no mood for humour.

Far right protesters in Liverpool have been terrorising asylum seekers in a hotel.

A Tory 'think tank' has proposed sidestepping the Human Rights Act and the Modern Slavery Act so that men, women and children who arrive in small boats seeking refuge can be stripped of their legal rights and deported. 

With the Home Secretary calling refugees an 'invasion' and the Prime Minister proclaiming that one of his top five priorities is to stop small boats, it's no wonder that hate is in the air. And when you add to it the desperate living conditions of millions of people who cannot afford to heat their houses and cannot afford three meals a day, while it seems to them that refugees are freely given both, I can understand how the violence can happen, even while I deplore it.

We need a government that looks after people and we need a more equal society.

And then there is the war.

I liked this letter in Saturday’s Guardian.




I recently heard a poem that I commend to you, and I urge you to listen to it, as I don't have permission to share it on here. The poet, Fiona Benson, reads her poem Eurofighter Typhoon on Youtube here.  


How can we heal this broken world?






Thursday, February 09, 2023

On display

What do you blog about when the country is falling to pieces, there has been a disastrous earthquake, and Europe is on the brink of war and you can't do anything about any of it? 

You write about the preview evening of the exhibition in Sheffield which contains one of your paintings, and you whittle about clothes... 

What does an artist wear to a preview? I decided on something colourful and stylish, but when I took the only suitable garment from the wardrobe it was slightly creased. I put it on anyway and then foolishly asked Dave's opinion. 

'Do you notice these creases?' I asked him, knowing from the look on his face that he loathed said garment.

'Yes. It looks terrible.'

It is one of my few synthetic bits of clothing, and I should have listened to my inner fashion voice which was telling me the creases were minimal and would drop out from the heat of my body while I was wearing it. 

But instead I listened to Dave who (we have established over many blogging years) knows nothing about clothes. I took the thing off and ironed it. Then I drove to my daughter’s house because she'd kindly agreed to drive me into town and come with me. 

When I got out of the car the tunic was creased much more than before, and these creases were sharp. The hot iron followed by sitting in the car in a heavy winter coat had done for it.

None of it mattered. The gallery was cold and everyone had their coats on and even if this had not been the case, it was such a tiny space and so packed that you couldn't even stand back to look at the paintings, let alone see viewers' clothes, and there was no chance whatsoever of my daughter taking a photo of me standing next to my painting.

It was fun, though. 

Cece (10) is an artist too.



Students at three Boulder schools were asked to create the design for a banner that answered the questions: What do you do to lift your spirits? To keep you connected and happy? What brings you joy?

The best 40 designs would be printed as large scale banners and hung up on Boulder's main shopping street. Cece's was one of those chosen, and I am so, so proud of her.




She loves cats and Japanese food.

And here is the banner hanging on Pearl Street. 




I'll be there in 3 weeks and I can't wait to go and see it with her. 

We'll be wearing warm coats.

Monday, February 06, 2023

A quiet week

It has been a quiet week at Hepworth Towers, apart from the chainsawing and chopping of wood. Dave has been ‘processing’ the tree he chopped down. He’s been stacking it too. Boy he works hard. We now have enough for next winter. Let's just hope they don't ban wood burning stoves before then.







I, meanwhile, have been working on a still life which I am not yet happy to show you. It’s been a tough one to get right and while struggling with a particular section of it I got so fed up I put it in one side, thinking  I’ll paint something fun, something just for me. Why on earth did that thought run through my head? I’m free to paint whatever I like. 

So I began on another painting of my gorgeous pandemic quilt. I’m fascinated by the shapes and shades it makes when it’s rumpled. And of course I’m wild about the colours.





I'll finish the still life in a couple of days.

I've begun 'work' on the forms for lasting power of attorney. The most complicated bit seems to be getting the signatures signed from the right people in the right order, and working out who can be witnesses. Strangely, this latter requirement varies from signature to signature.

One highlight of the week was my new granddaughter smiling at me for the first time. She went on her first demo with her mother, the lovely Jaine. There’s so much to protest about and you can’t start too young. 

With widespread newspaper coverage of Happy Valley this month, and speculation about the final episode, I’ve felt left out. Sally Wainwright is a stonking writer and yet I have not watched HV because I know the drama has been brutal and I can’t do brutal. Then yesterday on FaceTime Isaac mentioned they’d all been watching something on Netflix called Wednesday, so I asked Lux (12) about it but she said “It’s not suitable for you, Sue. It’s too gory.” 

I’ve just looked it up and Wiki says it’s a coming-of-age supernatural comedy horror. Well, if it’s reached the stage when the girls’ TV tastes don’t overlap with mine, I’ll have to wait until I can watch Paw Patrol and Bluey with the new little granddaughter who cannot be named. 

This week I'm going to a preview of an exhibition in Sheffield in which one of my paintings figures. Guess what? It's one of my patchwork quilt.





Monday, January 30, 2023

Being us

Zoë gave me this for Christmas



It's an unusual kind of 5 year journal.

Each page is divided into 5 sections. Each section is devoted to one day in one year. You write the year on the top left of the section and answer the question in the section allotted. The next day you answer the question on the next page. The following year you go through it day by day answering the questions again. 





Some of the questions are heavy duty and some are lightweight:






I think it will be interesting to see how my answers change to the same question through the years. if indeed they do.

Someone I don't know well asked me recently if my husband was going to a gathering I’d recently signed up to and I said “No. He’s not a social animal.”
“Well he should be,” came the swift reply.
"No, he shouldn’t," I said, "he should just be himself."
The person - a good hearted sort - then apologised.

For Dave, lately, being himself has been about gathering firewood. Last week he went the whole hog and gathered a tree. 

There was a dead ash tree, still standing, in the field along the lane and he asked the farmer if he could buy the tree and chop it down for the firewood. They agreed a price and Dave put on his boiler suit and grabbed his kit and off he went. Sadly I was not there when he made the definitive cut, but here he is soon after. We had no idea the tree was hollow, but we felt we’d got a good deal anyway.





The tree was in the middle of a large field which meant barrowing all the wood to the road where Dave loaded it onto the trailer and then went back for more.




This is the bulk of the wood in front of our house:




And here is some of the kindling:




It's been a lot of hard work, and now he has to clear the useless dregs of rotten wood.





And then, of course, chop up the wood and find somewhere to stack it.

Dave thrives on projects and works very hard and that's just part of who he is.