Friday, May 26, 2017

Guess where I am!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

after Manchester

I am so sad about the bombing in Manchester, and I send my condolences to all those affected by it.

A local poet, Helen Mort - winner of too many awards to list here - tweeted her poem Prayer yesterday in response to the Manchester bombing. 

The poem is from a collection of poems addressed to the mountaineer Alison Hargreaves and appears in Helen's book No Map Could Show Them (pub. Chatto and Windus 2016). She has kindly given her permission for me to share it with you. I should explain before you read it that Bamford and Hope are two villages in the Derbyshire Peak District.



Prayer

Give us good days.
Days unspectacular but adequate:
the weather neither calm nor wild,
your coat zipped nearly to the top,

a silver thermos cooling in your bag,
the sky at Bamford reddening, as if
embarrassed by its own strange reach
and day-old pipe-smoke clouds.

Above the Hope cement works,
crows wheel arcs of guarded flight
and when you touch the rock
your fingers hold.


© Helen Mort







Photo  © Chris Gilbert by kind permission.


Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday musings

I woke up from a dream in which I was being interviewed at the Jobcentre. I was sitting between the family member who declines to be named and a man whose CV was handwritten on four small post-its. Because of the cuts they were interviewing three of us at a time. The interview was friendly and relaxed, even convivial. This was not the real world.

I also woke up with a headache from tree pollen because I forgot to use the nasal spray last night. There are a lot of trees near our house.This is the view from a bedroom window this morning:



There've been some beautiful evening skies this month. Look at these, taken from the bathroom window:







We are so, so lucky to live here. We are so, so lucky full stop. I shall be using my postal vote today to keep the Conservatives out because I care about all the people in our society who aren't so lucky. I care about social justice, and I want to save the NHS. If you want to know the best way to vote tactically to do the same, you can put your postcode on this website and it will tell you the best way to do that in your constituency.

Over and out with the politics. I could have said so much more.

I fly to Boulder on Thursday. My case is already half packed, including the Penguins and Club biscuits requested by the girls.  It will be hard leaving Derbyshire looking so beautiful, but so good to see Isaac, Wendy, Lux and Cecilia, and wonderful to be there, able to help. It sucks being thousands of miles away from people you love, people whom you yearn to help and support.  

And Boulder is just as beautiful as Derbyshire:


photo by Isaac


Though they obviously have just as many dandelions, which thankfully, it will not be my responsibility to get rid of.





Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Spring

I wanted to tell you that I miss you. I miss writing my blog. But when I wake up in the morning, instead of thinking of a blog post, I am writing the next scene of the novel in my head. There is not room for both.

May this year is stunning. I don't know if it's always quite as stunning or if it's because I've been paying closer attention than I usually do. I mean I know I like May, I know it's my favourite month, but it seems even more extravagantly beautiful this year - as if there's something in the back of my head that's saying - make the most of this - it might be your last. 

Usually I am in Colorado for the start of the Derbyshire spring, and arrive home after the grass has started to go greener, and the very first tiny leaves are pushing through - the honeysuckle and the clematis. This year I was in Colorado at Christmas instead,  so I've seen the whole production of Spring from start to finish and now - at last, in the last two days - the ash trees have come out and it's the grand finale and I'm giving a standing ovation.










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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

don't read this if you're not interested in writing

I just read the poet Anthony Wilson's blog in which he talks about his current writing project: 
'...because it is not like anything I have written before, I am trying to come at it sideways, as though trying to surprise myself...

That's exactly what I'm doing with my new novel - coming at it sideways. But actually, on reflection, the reason I am doing it this way is because I so hate the preparation at the start of a novel - the plotting, the character development, the agony of writing the first three chapters. 

This novel is solely based on an idea that I've been quietly mulling over for a couple of years. It's a different kind of novel from my others. I'm afraid there is very little humour in it, and every time I think of trying to inject some, it doesn't seem right, so I forget the idea. In the past, I couldn't keep humour out of the novels. The humour was endemic. 

The other difference with this one is that I feel completely free to put in it what I like and to make of it what I like as I have no expectation that in the current climate anyone will want to publish it but me. This is liberating. My only guiding principle is that I'm writing the kind of novel that I would like to read. The other thing to tell you is that the story is set in the Derbyshire Peak District, and has characters you have never met before.

I've written half of the first draft and am trying to get as much more done as I can before I fly to Colorado on the 25th to help out.  

This is Cecilia and Lux at Cecilia's school May Faire:




I can't wait to see them and their parents, and to give Wendy the biggest hug that is comfortable for her in her present condition.


Tuesday, May 09, 2017

oddments, fragments

You may not believe this but it can take an hour to write a blog post which is why I'm being mean with them at the moment: I don't have any writing time to spare.

So here are some oddments that have not been crafted into a post and do not contain my usual fact checks and hyperlinks:

I just read Julia Samuel's new book called Grief Works, which I think is helpful. She has general information and suggestions, and she also has sections on losing a partner, losing a parent, losing a sibling and losing a child. She does not, however, have a section on losing a friend, and this is a shame.

I was looking for a novel that Gil (almost 11) would like to read. He likes exciting fiction but he doesn't like fantasy (rule out Harry Potter)  he likes stories about families, and he doesn't like stories that are too dark. (His tastes are fairly similar to mine.) I asked around and got some good suggestions and as a result bought him a book called Once by Morris Gleitzman. It arrived on Saturday and I decided to read the first chapter just to check it out. A few hours later I'd finished it. I hadn't been able to stop reading. I can't wait to see what he thinks of it.

When I was a beginner writer I read a lot of writing books that talked about 'finding your voice as a writer' and I wondered what on earth it meant. As I went on, I understood. Also, I found my voice. I'm trying not to read any fiction at the mo (except children's books) but I did read a piece in the New York Times by Garrison Keillor, and then dipped into a book I am saving by Sebastian Barry and it hit me in the face as I moved from Keillor to Barry ( two of my favourite writers) how different their voices are. I'm thinking they should show excerpts to budding writers to explain the concept of voice.

Last week Dave and I went with his sister and husband for a fabulous walk that involved two steep climbs. The second was up High Tor from which there is a sheer drop of several hundred feet (you'll have to find the stats on the net) to the river valley below. We were looking down on the cable cars that Kit and Sally ride on at the end of Plotting for Grown-ups, and I asked my sister-in-law to take a picture of me with them in the background. If you look carefully you can see three tiny pale dots in the centre of this photo: 


Here is her photo-shopped version:


Lastly, I am trying to ration myself and blanking out complete days in my diary cos it's been a bit too frantic lately. Realising how I badly needed some peace and quiet yesterday, I was reminded of a sentence from an Amazon review of But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You and thought how the same could be said of me:

"Fran is an extrovert who is drawn to people, but she becomes both distracted and exhausted by their needs."

That is one very perceptive reviewer.  



Saturday, May 06, 2017

Protest and Persist

For those of you who want to make the world a better place and who get discouraged - especially in the light of the current worldwide zeitgeist - I recommend this article. It's a bit long winded, but the message is encouraging.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Think it possible you may be mistaken

I have been so engrossed in the month of May and in writing the new novel, that I've been able to suspend depression about current politics. Yesterday, however, I had a day off from the book, and the walk in the bluebell wood was spoiled by noisy loggers. So today I woke up and looked at the news and the news overwhelmed me. 

I have never in my life been so depressed about the current state of British politics and the likely outcome of the same. I abhor the combative stance of Theresa May in pursuing the disastrous Brexit.

What happened to sanity and co-operation?

Quakers have a book called Quaker Faith and Practice and in it there is a section called Advices and Queries - which comprises a list of points to be considered. 

Here is a query which is worth considering. If you don't believe in God (and I'm not sure that I do) it is still worth considering. If the word God really upsets you, then skip the first two sentences.

Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.

And here is something to cheer you up.  7 year old Anu, in Birmingham, showing her friends her new prosthetic leg. Click here and get a tissue.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Perfect Day

You know those columns where a celebrity is asked what their perfect day would consist of? I always wonder what my perfect day might be and can never decideI realised yesterday that it's because there are all kinds of perfect days. Yesterday I had one.

A perfect day

get woken up by the blackbird (see last post)

have a messaging chat with Isaac and find out how Wendy is; also talk about the words biddable and loggy

have cuppa and take a few early morning photos in my pyjamas because the world is looking so beautiful

write a blog post

have another cuppa and work on the novel

have croissants and home made jam for breakfast

work all morning on the novel in peace because Dave is out on his bike

have lunch and chat to Dave who has now returned

do some gardening (and btw, those tulips in the header are my tulips! I am so proud!)

have half an hour's catch-up phone chat with Zoe (my daughter) 

play table tennis with Dave in the garden

go out for a bike ride

have tea 

watch an old DVD with Dave

play Scrabble

go to bed while the blackbird is still singing 


Another perfect day might be spent with these little beauties:




Wendy has finished her gruelling four months of chemotherapy, and in a couple of weeks will begin six and a half weeks of Monday to Friday radiation therapy. It is such a long haul. I expect perfect days are a distant memory for dear Wendy. I'm so thankful she's getting such expert treatment.






And soon I'm going to stay, and help. 


  




Friday, April 28, 2017

Lucky


Last week I recorded the blackbird that wakes me up every morning at 5 a.m. The moon was still up and there was a crack of dawn to the east.

I love my blackbird. I sent the recording to Isaac who played it to the girls while they were having their breakfast, and Cece said 'It's like a bird concert!'

The annoying bird who pipes up at the beginning of the recording and continues throughout, is a great tit. I'd hoped the blackbird's song was louder than it is, but if you listen carefully you will hear him. 

Isn't he wonderful?






The early morning light today was magical. Here are views from, respectively, the upstairs loo (at the front), the bathroom (at the back) and the bedroom (at the front).







We are so lucky.



Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Contributions


You know, after a week away from the blog, its hard to start up again. 

It's been such a busy time - first my fantastic 26 hour trip to London in which I packed in lots of talking, lunch overlooking the Thames, the ballet, more talking, the Howard Hodgkin exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery ...here's me on the river:




Then on Friday I cooked for the refugee hospitality day on Saturday and learned how to make earrings.

It was Bakewell churches second hospitality day and it was just as successful as last October’s, though different. The October day was sedate and peaceful. Last Saturday was lively, noisy, full of fun and exhausting. There were more visitors, a lot of younger children, and more boys. 

It was a dry sunny day, and Bakewell was looking its best. Bakewell is a small, old market town with a river running through it, and a riverside park. 




It's set in the Peak District National Park, and attracts a lot of visitors - day-trippers, walkers, climbers, and cyclists. So when we were thinking about how we could show support for refugees and asylum seekers, one of our ideas was to host day-trips for women and children who can't afford to get out of the city. We aim for a day not of giving and receiving, but a day of sharing.

We pay for a coach to bring them out from Sheffield, and we provide activities and a home cooked lunch and afternoon tea. 

Last Saturday there was a range of things to do – glass painting, seed planting, bubbles, a treasure hunt, table tennis, badminton, football, a walk by the river to see the foot-long rainbow trout and the swans, and a trip to the park. Building towers with 300 family-sized yoghurt cartons was also a big hit. (Regular readers will know who ate the yoghurt.)  

We also made jewellery from beads, some bought and many recycled: 




The jewellery making was so popular our bead stocks were decimated and now I'm begging everyone I know for their unwanted beads. The earrings below on the left were my practice piece and the pair on the right were made for me by one of our guests:





We all had a wonderful day - guests and hosts alike. A Ugandan woman with three children said at lunch it was her ‘best day ever.’ She also got up at the end of the afternoon to express her gratitude, but after one sentence she was overcome with emotion, and could not continue.

Now we're planning our day in July.

And I am getting back to writing the new novel.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

'a right strawy epistle'

I'm having two days off from writing. I'm going to London to see the ballet and the Howard Hodgkin exhibition (woo-hoo!) so before I go I have time to tell you what's been happening at Hepworth Towers.

What's been happening? 

Life. Life has been happening. At the beginning of last week I had a to-do list with 17 items on it, many of which were the worst kind - about money (the other worst kind, of course, being houseworky.) I've ticked them all off except two. 

And writing.  I've been writing at least 1,000 words a day. I've now written 27,361 words of the first draft, and I'm feeling pretty pleased.

I did take a day off last Friday to spend with a friend who is German. We went to see two films and we coloured eggs for Easter. It's a German tradition that she and her husband do every Easter, and I loved it.




This is the one I chose to bring home:



The trouble is that I can't bear to break it open and eat it.

It's a possibility that my friend, who has made her home in Derbyshire for the last 12 years and who wanted to live here till she died, will have to go back to Germany because of Brexit. Meanwhile, a member of my family who lives on the continent is applying for Irish citizenship so he can carry on living where he has for more than 30 years. One of the items on my list was to find my Irish grandmother's birth and marriage certificates. Brexit! Aaarrghhh.

I'm finding this post hard to write. My writing fiction head is so different from my blog-writing head. And that reminds me of a quote which is not pertinent to that last idea but which I do think is true:


“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”

I'm sorry for this right strawy epistle. I'm out of the habit, friends. 

Lastly, I came across another quote thanks to Jenetta, and I liked it so much I'm planning to make a colourful collage of it, when I've finished the novel.

"I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions."

Dave doesn't like the quote. He says the road to hell is paved with good intentions. 

Comments, please.








Thursday, April 13, 2017

A choice of reading

I was awake and ready to write a jolly post this morning about what is on MY bedside table, in response to a comment from Sally on a recent post, but I glanced at the news first and something upset me so much I am going to do the bedside table and then the other thing, and you can choose which you care about.

My bedside table will shock you if you're a minimalist.
This is what I currently have on the top shelf alone:


Books:
The Siege by Helen Dunmore, Part of the Furniture by Mary Wesley, and Homestead by Rosina Lippi - all of which are there because I wanted to look at the way the authors wrote specific scenes. Where'd you go Bernadette by Maria Semple, which I am supposed to be reading (for a second time), Word Painting - a guide to writing more descriptively by Rebecca McClanahan, which I am dipping into, Leaving Home by Garrison Keillor - because it lives there. Garrison is always there for good cheer, and for comfort reading in the bleak hours of sleepless nights.

Other items:
My journal, two copies of Country Living, the latest edition of the journal of the Society of Authors, a Guardian supplement about the 1930s and whether current times are comparable, a ripped-out magazine feature on the best new mascara and false eyelashes, Mary's funeral programme, an old birthday card from Mary's younger daughter, a thank you card from Isaac and Wendy, three emery boards, three pens, a pad of post-its, aconite pills, a bedside light, and a Google guest identification tag from when Isaac took me to Boulder Google last September. This is not it: this is the souvenir




Part 2:

I walked along the lane and back last evening at dusk because I needed fresh air. The pheasant that makes that awful croaking noise in our garden every morning, and is doing it as I write, was roosting in one of our beech trees. His black silhouette against the sky made him look like a skinny peacock. It was cold. I had thrown on a fleece and a long wool scarf and I had to wrap the scarf around my head against the wind.

What I first read when I woke up this morning was a Guardian piece about the refugee families in Dunkirk, whose meagre belongings were destroyed in the Dunkirk fire that also destroyed their shelters, and who last night slept on the roadside because they said the emergency facilities provided for them were unsuitable for children. 

I thought about the refugees - all the refugees - sleeping out on cold spring nights. I thought about the refugees who were sleeping out last night. How can it be that just the other side of the Channel there are hundreds of destitute, embattled and traumatised people who are homeless, whom our government refuses to give shelter to? Surely it is the normal human response to offer help to people in desperate need.

I am deeply ashamed of this government. I have given up writing to my MP. He is chairman of the Conservative party and only ever tows the party line of Theresa May. I now write to the boss and copy him in. Perhaps if enough of us write to her she will listen. Public pressure is the way to go with people who appear to have no inner moral compass. Or you might like to write about the UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia used in bombing civilians in Yemen, or about the cuts to benefits of the disabled or...or.... Take your pick, but write. Please.




Monday, April 10, 2017

suggestions, please?


I'm feeling bleary after a bad night, and going to Bakewell market later than my usual 8 a.m. because Boots doesn't open till 9 and Dave needs some Sudafed, so.... I thought I'd do a quick post and ask you a question.

Can you recommend a contemporary novel by a good writer that is a love story? I hesitate to say 'literary fiction' but I don't want something that is cheesy or commercial: I want beautiful, spare writing. Yes, I'm demanding. You already know this. But can you make some suggestions? Please?

A propos of nothing, the sky changed very rapidly this morning for the first hour that I was awake - here it is through my window at 6.20, 6.25 and 6.40 
(It rises further round now so I can no longer lean out of the south facing window and squirm round sideways to take it. I have to take it through my east window and through glass.)









Saturday, April 08, 2017

Research for the novel - via Twitter


I was writing a scene in the new novel this week in which a woman goes into the bedroom of a man she doesn't know, to change her clothes. I wrote a description of the contents of the room, but when her eyes fell on the bedside table my mind went blank. 

Usually before I begin to write a novel, I plot the whole thing out from start to finish, and I also develop my characters. This time I haven't done that. I'm writing the novel more organically, and I'm developing the characters as I go along. This man (with the bedroom) is still a work in progress, which is why I had no idea what was on his bedside table. (U.S. equiv. = nightstand)

On Wednesday night I turned to Twitter, and asked men over 40 to tell me what was on their bedside tables. I got two replies. The next morning at 6 a.m. I tweeted again and got a couple more. I have 500+ followers, but Isaac has 25,000, so I tweeted him and he retweeted my question. The tweeted replies were coming in so fast I couldn't keep up with reading them and tweeting my thank yous (I hope I didn't miss anyone out.)

The tweets were fascinating. Beautiful little character studies. Being a person whose various careers have centred around my interest in people, the responses were a delight, but Isaac (a techie product manager) also enjoyed them. More to the point, they gave me some terrific ideas for my character. 

I thought you might like to see a few of the tweets. One tweet I've not shown is from a guy who said he had a digital thermometer, so I asked him why and he uses it to record the temperature of the room, because he lives in an old house and wondered how cold it got in the night. My character is definitely having this! After the tweets below - just a sample - I've listed what else I chose for Joe's bedside table.




This is hopeless! I haven't included the man with the rosary beads and a cardboard model of a robot. Or the man who has a glass of water with a CD on top so he knows the cat hasn't been drinking from the water. I investigated some of them and found out, for example, that Chris Thorpe (above) who has the old book about Swedish politics, also had a toy tinplate model of one of the boats that goes around the Stockholm archipelago.  

It's not just about the list of items per se, it's also where they lead my imagination. It was so productive.

On Joe's bedside table is a torch, a loo roll, a chapstick (which would never have occurred to me - ever), a digital thermometer, two empty lozenge wrappers, an almost finished packet of Ritz crackers, a glass of water with a CD resting on top and Patrick Kavanagh’s Selected Poems. This may well change as I get to know my character better.

If you responded on Twitter and you're reading this - thank you again. You made my day, and helped to make my character.



Tuesday, April 04, 2017

where my head is


I'm not blogging so often these days and I want to explain.

I'm writing a new novel and my brain is full of that. It's not just about having less time for writing the blog, it's about where my head is between posts. When I'm not engaged in a new writing project, my brain freewheels and notices things and ponders things, and these things come out in the blog. But when I am writing fiction, and especially in the beginning phase of it (as now) my head is full of my new characters, of where the story is going, and where I want it to go. I'm planning the structure and wondering if it will work. 

I am in another place much of the time so that I wander round the garden and Dave says things like "Are you OK? What are you worrying about?" or "Is everything all right? You look distracted."

And I say -"I'm just thinking about my writing."

My emails are different, too. They are skimpier and straight to the point and don't contain observations and speculations and all the flim-flam they often do. All the energy is going into the book.

The other thing to say is that there is only so much quiet, undisturbed writing time in my world and at present I am pouring all of it into the book.

As far as the garden goes - my tulips have never flowered this early before. It's the beginning of April, for goodness sake! They're a whole month early. How crazy is that? 

Saturday, April 01, 2017

A ragbag of cheerfulness


I am weirdly cheerful this morning for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, I have discovered the cause of the nasty headaches I've been getting in the last two weeks. I always get sinus troubles at this time of year, and I was saying to Dave when I woke up with yet another headache that it must be a hay fever reaction, and he said 'Don't be ridiculous, there's no pollen at this time of year.' So I looked it up on the Met office site and guess what? There is such a thing as tree pollen and it's worst between mid March and May. Case closed. Not only did I beat Dave in an argument (such a rare occurrence) but I know the cause of the symptoms, and I know they will pass, and I have a new way of attacking the problem - anti-histamines. 




Secondly, you know those annoying items you have on your to-do list that never get done because they are boring and complex and you think they are going to take forever, so they never get tackled and crossed off the list? Changing electricity suppliers has been on my list for two months, and yesterday, in less than an hour, I sorted it out. I possibly feel happier about not having it on the list than I do about the money we're going to save, but I probably shouldn't admit that. 

The third thing is serious.  We've stopped talking about politics in this house. We used to do it a lot. Things are so dire out there, it's currently beyond discussion. But the one bit of positive news that I did tell Dave about was that Sam Walton, a Quaker peace activist, this week attempted a citizen's arrest on Saudi General Al-Asserie, for war crimes. Al-Asserie has been the public face of the Saudi brutal bombardment of the Yemen. In November 2016 he told ITV that Saudi forces had not been using cluster bombs in Yemen, only for Saudi forces to later admit that they had. These cluster bombs had been manufactured in Britain.


Sam Walton


On Tuesday, Al-Asserie met with MPs to brief them ahead of a debate on the humanitarian situation in Yemen (which is pretty odd in itself.) The General was on his way to speak to the European Council on Foreign Relations when Sam attempted his arrest. The general's body-guards protected him (while the General gave Sam the middle finger)  so the arrest was not successful. You may think this achieved nothing. I disagree: anything that keeps continuing war atrocities in the public eye is a good thing. If they are hidden, nothing will ever change.  


Did you know the following?
That since the bombing of Yemen began in March 2015, the UK has licensed £3.3 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime, including:

  • £2.2 billion worth of ML10 licences (Aircraft, helicopters, drones)
  • £1.1 billion worth of ML4 licences (Grenades, bombs, missiles, countermeasures)
  • £430,000 worth of ML6 licences (Armoured vehicles, tanks)
The legality of UK arms sales is currently the subject of a Judicial Review, following an application by Campaign Against Arms Trade. The claim calls on the government to suspend all extant licences and stop issuing further arms export licences to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen while it holds a full review into whether the exports are compatible with UK and EU legislation. The verdict is pending.

I live in hope.



Friday, March 31, 2017

#amwriting


This describes exactly how I feel, and what I'm wrestling with:



And for regular readers, here's my favourite recent photo of Lux:







Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring Break


I'm busy working on my new book this week and not in a blogging frame of mind, but I thought I'd just tell you that Wendy is having a break from her life of treatment this week - on holiday with the rest of the family in Palm Springs. And they are having a super time.







Monday, March 27, 2017

My friend Mary


I've been thinking a lot about Mary just lately, and have struggled to explain to people what was so special about her and why I miss her so much. But this morning on Twitter I came across this quote from a Seamus Heaney poem, At the Wellhead, which seems to sum things up:



Friday, March 24, 2017





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):




video


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.