Friday, October 31, 2008

My mother

My mother has died.

Most near, most dear, most loved... She is a procession no-one can follow after But be like a little dog following a brass band.

(from George Barker's Sonnet to my Mother)

Our life is love and peace and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.

Isaac Penington, 1667

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


There were so many things I wanted to tell you about when I was in San Francisco, but the trouble is....Chapter 4 of my new book is set in California, and I didn't want to post things here that I might want to use in the book. Hence my concentration on tea and the weather - isn't that what we (Brits) talk about when we don't want to spill the beans about more interesting things?

That's my margarita above, and if you click on the picture you'll be able to see the fog beginning to sweep in from the left and mist up the view of the high rise buildings downtown.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Time to come home

Yesterday, we were in the Mission district on a roof terrace sipping cocktails at 4 in the afternoon. It was hot, it was sunny, but there was - for the first time - a breeze. And in the distance I could no longer see the Golden Gate Bridge, but a massive swathe of fog, like a giant's dust bunny on the horizon. 
And this morning when I woke up, the sun and the blue sky had gone, and I thought - "Well, maybe that makes it easier to fly back tonight." Then I spoke on the phone to someone at home in England, where the clocks have changed, and it's dark and rainy and cold. My plane leaves at seven. Bugger.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Golden Gate Bridge

Well, I've done it in a car, on foot, and now on a bike. Next time it will be roller boots.
Click on the arrow. That's me. I cycled for 23 miles and it was fabbetty fab.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Too taxing

OK, so you walk up 25th Street to Noe Valley and are attracted to a clothes shop that says SALE in the window and you go in and browse.

That's a lovely shirt on the 40% off rail. You look at the price and consider. But then Wendy reminds you that there's 8% tax on top of the price. So you work out 8% and add that. Then you work out what 40% off means (or should it be the other way around?) and then you have to remember what the dollar/pound exchange rate is. It was 2:1 last visit, but when I bought my dollars for this trip it was 1.69:1.

Who wants to do extensive mental arithmetic at 5.53 p.m. on a baking hot afternoon?  

We repair to the bar next door for cocktails. Sitting outside at a pavement table sipping a margarita through a straw is what sensible people do on holiday on a sweltering afternoon in San Francisco.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why come home?

Who would want to live anywhere but San Francisco? The sun shines, the sky is blue, the temperatures at the end of October are in the seventies, and the city buzzes with interest and beauty and funkiness. 
Fog? What fog? I've decided that the notion of fog is dreamed up and put out by the natives to stop too many people coming here and making it overcrowded.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Don't get the idea I'm obsessed with tea...

Sunshine, relaxation, laziness. Perfect happiness.
I've discovered somewhere I haven't been before - the Samovar Tea Room, in a beautiful rooftop garden in the heart of the city. It's the perfect place to recover from an 18 hour journey. And the waiters wear T shirts that say "Practice peace. Drink tea." My kind of place.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Welcome to America!

Oh, how I love San Francisco. The sun shines here.
I have three questions
1/ why do people on the plane keep their blinds drawn down for the whole of the journey - even when the sun is shining and there are clear views of the landscape below ?
2/ why do people not even raise their blinds when they are coming in to land at San Francisco airport - how can they bear to miss the views of the Bay? the Golden Gate Bridge? The wonderful everything that is here?
3/ the sweet American wing of the family have a box of genuine Twinings Earl Grey tea bags in their kitchen for my delectation, and this is wonderful. But will the six Yorkshire tea bags that I brought with me (for the first bracing mug of the day) last me until I fly home?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Country Mouse

Someone at the Sheffield Star interviewed me for a piece about country vs city living and if you're interested, you can read her piece here. I'd like to add a correction, though. I didn't say that I found inspiration in the surroundings (not for my writing.)This is a cliche people always lay on me and it isn't true. It's people I find inspiring.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Going away

Woo-hoo! I'm off to California to do a spot of tree hugging, and I have the latest Garrison Keillor book to read on the plane. The first line is "Evelyn was an insomniac so when they say she died in her sleep, you have to question that."

See you in two weeks. Or maybe I'll post from there...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Who do I like?

I went to talk to a book group the other night about Zuzu's Petals, and someone asked me who were my favourite authors. The first ones to spring to mind were - Garrison Keillor, Carol Shields and Anne Tyler. But there are loads of others. I've just read Rose Tremain's The Road Home and really enjoyed it, and before that I gollopped up When We Were Bad, by Charlotte Mendelson - now there's a book I wish I'd written.

Monday, October 13, 2008


I've been getting on well with writing the next novel, and enjoying it hugely, but I've temporarily stalled. One of my characters has started behaving oddly, and her husband doesn't know why. The trouble is that I don't know either.

Saturday, October 11, 2008


I can't remember which writer it was who said he'd spent all morning putting in a comma and all afternoon taking it out again, but I certainly know what he meant. Anywaaaay.... I just found a game on the internet which plays to my strengths.

I got a whacking score - 2.69. The reason I'm so boastful is because I beat Dave. (He wins at everything in this house.) See if you can beat me. Click here to have a go. It only takes five minutes.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The man in the bank

A friend of mine went to the bank to get out a large sum of money, and the bank clerk - who was filling in a form about the transaction - had the audacity to ask him what he was going to spend the money on.

My friend, outraged by the intrusion, said "Sex, drugs and rock and roll."

The man behind him in the queue - an acquaintance - said, "No change there, then."

The bank clerk's face remained expressionless. He bent over the paper and began to write. "I'll put down leisure activities."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Overheard conversation

"How old is David Miliband? He looks about 16."

"I have nothing to say about David Miliband except pass the sick bag. Have you noticed there is only 2 letters difference between voting and vomiting?"

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Weekend away

I just got back from a weekend in Wensleydale - the setting of half of Zuzu's Petals. The river was running a full pot because of the heavy rain, and I wanted to capture the beautiful colour of the water when the river is full.

The Upper Falls at Aysgarth...(click to enlarge any of the pictures)

On the way home I had to call in at Meadowhell Shopping Centre (sorry - Freudian slip - Meadowhall) to take something back to M&S, so I popped into Waterstone's to ask them how many copies of Zuzu's Petals they'd sold since it was published in paperback in July.

The guy behind the desk humoured me and told me, and then said "We have one in stock at the moment."

But I already knew this, because I'd checked, and I'd also turned the book face outwards on the shelf. (Local authors are a nightmare.)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Noun-specific adjectives

Maybe it's not just that some adjectives are gender specific. Maybe some are noun-specific...

You talk about staunch Protestants, and devout Catholics, but have you ever heard it said the other way round?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Places near home

The Monsal Trail... The middle of the village... The kissing gate that leads to the path to the church... The path to the church (where I always expect to meet Mr Darcy)... Great Longstone church... Great Longstone dairy... The view over the garden wall...

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Dashing and fetching

Are there any adjectives that are gender specific?

For example - you can say a man is dashing, and you can say a woman looks fetching; but could you say that a man looks fetching, and a woman dashing?


I went to tea in Sheffield last night and my friend had got me two copies of the BIG ISSUE (in the North) so now I have it in my sticky mitts and can read what I said in the interview. The article is great. Thanks to Diane Shipley for being such a top-notch journo - nice writing, nice construction and what she says is true. One day she'll have her own column. Maybe she could then give a leg-up to Sally Howe.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


Oooohh, it's so frustrating. There is a long interview with me in The BIG ISSUE in the NORTH this week and I haven't yet got a copy because the Big Issue seller in Bakewell has gone AWOL and I'm desperate to know what I said in the interview!