Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A simile to die for

I went to see my GP yesterday to have a mole on my back frozen off, just to be on the safe side.

I can't see this mole, so I asked Dave to have a look at it this morning and tell me what was happening.

"It looks like a very tiny and slightly overcooked Bakewell pudding," he said.

You wouldn't get a simile like that in First Aid in English. (click here.)

Monday, September 29, 2008

The very biggest spotty dog you ever did see

A shared cultural history is such a special aspect of a close relationship - for me. I love being able to mention obscure things from my past to friends and for them to know exactly what I'm talking about.


Oh...Champion the Wonder Horse, The VOICE from Gary Halliday, Double or Drop from Crackerjack, the very biggest spotty dog you ever did see in the Woodentops.

And didn't you always feel sorry for Tonto when the Lone Ranger said "You go into town, Tonto, and pick up supplies, and I'll make camp here"?

"You go to Sainsbury's, Tonto, and I'll sit by the fire and have a cup of tea and watch Neighbours."

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Too much loveliness

It was an achingly lovely, sunny, mellow, September day here yesterday, so why did I feel so melancholy? The garden is looking bedraggled and overrun with too much convolvulus (that I never manage to keep up with) but there are still sweeps of colour and pockets of beauty everywhere.

Butterflies on the Sedum... My Verbena Bonariensis... My Cosmos... And the very last - and minscule - bunch of sweet peas... Maybe a clue to my mood lay in that last title - the L word.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Can spend, won't spend

It's so rare to find myself in an empty house, and when I do I feel as if I'm queen of the world. I can write and think with a clear head. The luxury!

The trouble is that my head is so clear this morning that I can't think how to entertain you. That's why I'm falling back on a piece I had in The Times several years ago. I hope you enjoy it...

Can spend, won’t spend

I am considering offering up my husband as a guinea pig for trainee salespeople.

He wants a new bicycle, he needs a new bicycle, he can afford a new bicycle. He just cannot bring himself to buy one. The current one has already been rebuilt and resprayed once, but after 120,000 miles the formerly elegant frame is suffering from metal fatigue. If he doesn’t buy a replacement soon, the bottom bracket will snap on a ride and he and the bike will suffer the ignominy of a lift home in the car.

The problem is that whilst he is passionate about cycling, he hates spending money on himself. It’s a puzzle how he managed to buy the bike in the first place. He bought it on the day our second son was born, eighteen years ago. I don’t know whether this was by way of a celebration, or a don’t think I’m going to give up cycling and spend more time at home gesture, or a panicky I’d better buy it now while there’s still some money in the bank purchase.

Whichever it was, he needs a new bike now, yet he remains immobile. Thriftiness is a welcome virtue in a family man, but my man is so parsimonious that he would be the only guest ever on Alvin Hall’s Your Money or Your Life programme to be told to go out and spend more money.

Years ago, the first time he asked if I wanted to go shopping I naively imagined that this would mean entering shops and handing over money for purchases. What it actually meant was walking disconsolately up and down the high street, looking in shop windows. We never stepped over a threshold because, either the desired item wasn’t in the window so they obviously didn’t have it, or, if it was in a display visible from the street it was always too expensive. “They don’t know what to charge” should be embossed on his wallet.

Consequently, for the last thirty years I have done all the shopping. This has definite advantages. It’s easy to smuggle an unjustifiable purchase into the house, hide it in the back of the wardrobe, and get it out to wear a month later. Then when he says “Is that new ?” I can honestly say “No, I’ve had it for ages,” which happily forestalls any questions about price.

I have to buy all his clothes as well as anything he actually wants – from guitar strings to books to spare parts for his bike. It only takes two months to rev himself up to shell out £5.99 for a set of new guitar strings, and it’s easy to take written instructions on brand and type. But only he could choose and buy the bike, and it takes more like five years to change into a high enough gear to hand over the money for that.

We have passed the first stage: three months of complaints about the fact that each and every component needs replacing, and three months on how it’s not worth doing because the frame is rusting and the transmission is as slack as his eighteen year old sweatband. We are now into the 2 years of weekend forays to local bike shops. He has weathered the shock at the increase in prices since 1984, but has so far not spotted his platonic ideal of a bike.

When he does, we will enter the period where I try to persuade him to do the deed, and he says no, he wouldn’t get the value out of the purchase because he only has a few years left to live. He is 51 and in good health; his only ailment is pessimism.

I’m starting to get desperate about this bike business, though. I’ve just remembered that he bought his guitar when our daughter was born. I hope he doesn’t have some strange yet-to-be-labelled syndrome which means he can only buy things when in a new surge of fatherhood. I love him dearly, but if he won’t buy a bike till we have a new baby, he can take up running instead.

© Sue Hepworth 2008

Appears here with kind permission of The Times

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spending time with the children

So Ruth Kelly has resigned her post as Transport Secretary to spend more time with her four young children.

Has she only just noticed she has four young children?

No, No, No. I don't have anything aganst women who work at things other than looking after their children - I've been one myself - but the report about RK reminded me about a newspaper piece I once read about the then editor of The Evening Standard who was reported as being in the office by 8.30 a.m. and rarely home before 9 p.m. She had earned a superwoman image through “her ability to juggle that demanding office life with a full family life.”

And when I read that article, I wondered how anyone could lead a "full family life" when they didn’t get home until 9.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Me: "Do you remember when a loaf of bread was 10 pence, old pence?"

Him: "Yes, and when we got the Land Rover, petrol was 27p a gallon."

Me: "No!"

Him: "Yes. 27p."

Me: "We're really old."

Him: "Happily, nature has its own way of sorting that problem out."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A rival

Chione obviously has plans she's not told me about.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Topics of conversation

Me: "I was just about to tell you something last night and you fell asleep."

Him: "What was it?"

Me: "I can't remember!"

Him: "Well, it can't have been anything very important."

Me: "It was something really interesting. It was something about words or something about a person - those are the two most interesting topics, aren't they?"

Friday, September 19, 2008


Hooray! Someone - who obviously wishes to remain anonymous - has emailed me a reply to my question. Good job, as I wasn't going to post anything else until I got one. Thank you, that lovely person...

"The answer is probably a result of the Hays Code of Censorship in 1934, following which there were strict regulations about showing sex on screen. The woman always had to keep one foot on the floor if she was shown on a bed, so presumably this was the closest they could show someone being swept off their feet???"

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Come on you guys, you come on this site, you read my posts, and I ask you one question and not one of you has anything to offer. It's very discouraging. it makes me want to give up.

You did understand the question, didn't you? If not, please ask for elucidation.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The clinch

Can anyone tell me why at the end of romantic comedies of the fifties, when the hero and heroine end the film with a clinch, the heroine bends one of her knees and raises her leg behind her?

This is not a rhetorical question.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Zuzu's Petals is funny, too

I've just been interviewed by a talented young journalist called Diane Shipley, for a feature in The Big Issue (in the North) and she asked me - amongst a gazillion other questions - if my fiction was going to take a different direction now.

She pointed out that Zuzu's Petals - whilst being funny - has a serious theme, and it's dealt with realistically. Was my next book going to be serious? What kind of books did I want to write in the future?

Good question. I burbled about a bit and then said "Comic fiction with emotional depth."

But is that true?

I want to write about life, and life is all kinds of things - serious, funny, gruelling, heartbreaking, fun, boring, wonderful, ridiculous, exciting, and frequently stranger than fiction. Does fiction have to be categorised?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

For humour try Plotting

"Tell me," said a Friend this morning at Quaker Meeting, "Do you have shares in IBRULEVE?"

"So" I said, "you've been reading my blog..." (see below)

"I never realised you had a sense of humour," he said. "Maybe I'll read your book."

"If you want humour, Ian, and nothing else, you'd better read Plotting."

"What's all this?" said another Friend.

"Ian said he didn't know I had a sense of humour."

"He's obviously not been listening to your ministry in Meeting."

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Yesterday I worked hard and had a GOOD writing day. The house was empty of husband (which always helps me to concentrate) and I could begin to get inside my new narrator's head.

So in the afternoon I went with a clear conscience to my nearest cafe (at Chatsworth Farm Shop, above) with another writer - and we talked about writing and stories and moaned about things that writers moan about (lack of confidence, lack of reviews) and I told Chrissie about the stories I'd been making up for my grandsons about transporter drivers called Frank, and cats that need rescuing from the roof by firemen (i.e. 2 year olds dressed up in a fireman's hat) and she told me about the stories she tells to her daughter about King Arthur. See the difference? She's one classy lady.

Chrissie is a crime writer. She'd had an idea for a new short story: "Don't you think a hospital is a brilliant place for a murder?" she said, and I wondered if the woman on the next table heard, and thought we were planning the perfect crime.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Instant Fiction

My 4 year old grandson has started a new way of playing. He finds something in the toybox - a transporter lorry for example - and then says "Make a story about a car transporter," so he can act it out.

This is easy for me, and great fun, one of the reasons being that there is chance for a lot of dialogue e.g. "I'm sorry," says the the garage owner's wife, "My husband is in the loo with the crossword. You'll have to wait till he comes out."

There is also no wrestling with how to tell the story - first person or third person, and if the latter, having to decide on the pestilential point of view. Being an omniscient narrator is very restful.

The trouble comes when you send the transporter driver to Bridlington (in the bay window) and then the next time to London (in the hall) and the driver argues and says "No, London is in the bay window, too."

I am back to writing my new novel this morning, and there will be no barracking from any of the characters. They will do as they are told.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The London-centric Media

Hey, I was just Googling myself - oh, come on, it's not just me who does it, how do you think writers cheer themselves up? - and I found this article I wrote for The Times in 2005 about how the media think that London is the centre of the universe. Click here if you want to read it.

The photo shows another detail from The Midland Hotel, with the Lake District behind. If you read the Times article, you'll see the link with the photo. (Well, you might do at a pinch, as the link is admittedly rather slim, but it did give me a chance to show you more of the Midland.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ibuleve for every drop of rain that falls...

OK, you lot, Dave has just applied IBRULEVE (click here) to my bad back and it feels lovely now.

Overheard comments from the masseur, from the depths of my pillow ...

"You have an extremely mobile subcutaneous layer"


"Oooh, it's just like applying BRIWAX but without the resulting sheen."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


I have backache, and when I have backache I get really depressed - way out of proportion to the pain or inconvenience.

I wish I was a stoic.

Last time I said to my daughter-in-law that I wished I was a stoic (like Dave) she said "If you were a stoic, you wouldn't be Sue," which I thought was a very sweet and wise way to look at it.

Here is a much better photo of the stairs at the Midland Hotel than the one I posted yesterday. Jen (one of my clever sisters) took it.

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Midland Hotel in Morecambe

This isn't a travel blog, so I won't bore you with where I have been for the last few days, except to say that in five days we managed just 2 hours of sunshine. The rest was rain.

In the spring, I was very excited to hear of the refurbishment and relaunch of the once fabulous 1930s art deco hotel in Morecambe - the Midland Hotel - which had been falling into disrepair for thirty years. We went for afternoon tea on Friday and had a guided tour. If you go, ask for Brian. He knows everything about the place and loves to show you round. And make sure you see the sculptures and relief work by Eric Gill.

Here is a film introduced by the heroic Jon Snow, if you are interested.

And here is an item on the same subject from the Culture Show.

This is me in a snazzy new metal chair that is impossible to get out of unaided... The view of the Lake District across Morecambe Bay...

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Back in a few days

I saw this on holiday on a closed shop door.

Back soon.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pond life

The pond is Dave's preserve. He dug it, he filled it, and he maintains it. Every Septemeber he clears it out. But this summer the pond has been sick for several months. It has been leaking. Only now has Dave found the leak and fixed it. The leak was caused by two holes which (according to him) are the precise size and distance apart as two prongs of a garden fork.

I am the chief suspect, but I deny going near the pond with the fork.

My theory is that a local heron has swooped on a frog in the pond and missed, and then pecked again.

Here is the wheelbarrow containing the detritus from the pond. Dave was using the fork. As I said, he is the only one who goes near the pond with a fork. I rest my case.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The woman who knew everything

I was showing a friend my newspaper cuttings from this summer - when I have been doing PR for the publication of Zuzu's Petals - including a crazy appearance in a glossy magazine where I was talking about quilting. (An author will do anything as long as the editor lets her mention her new book - yeah! - Zuzu's Petals!)

My friend said "Quilting? What next? You have a cat - they'll be asking your opinion on catfood!"

Two hours later I got a phone call from a researcher at BBC Radio Sheffield. I'd been a recent guest on the programme, talking about ZP, and now they were having a phone-in. They'd seen on their file that I used to be a psychologist, and wanted me on air in twenty minutes. Would I do it?

"What's the phone-in about?" I asked.

"Prayer," he said.

I spent the next twenty minutes dashing down notes on the psychological aspects of prayer.

Then the phone rang. "Now we have Sue Hepworth on the line. Sue is a writer - and a Quaker."

Forget the psychology - he wanted to know about my prayers as a Quaker. I think I managed to sound coherent.

This week prayer, next week catfood.

(The photo above is of our cat, Chione.)