Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Blow it!

Sadly, the saxophone lesson didn’t go well last night. I have been practising and playing my tunes at home, but when I got to the lesson I couldn’t do it. Was it nerves? What? It certainly wasn’t the saxophone’s fault, cos Mel checked it out.

I came home with instructions to tongue only the first note in the phrase and slur the next, and we’d put the tonguing back in later.

I also came home with cigarette papers which I have to blow against the wall for as long as possible. Dave – of course – could do it for longer than I could.

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“You’re much better at it!” I said. “Why aren’t you playing the saxophone?”

“I’ve been forbidden to touch it.”

Quite right too. He’d be able to pick it up and play it without any trouble. Struggling with my embouchure is discouraging enough without someone who isn’t even having lessons getting on better than me.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Art therapy

I enjoyed art class last night. The teacher talked about colour, and got us to make some colour wheels with twelve segments, using the three primary colours. It may be basic stuff but I’d never done one before.

I was supposed to learn about tone, saturation and intensity, but all I learned was that my ultramarine pastel comes out blotchy. I really don’t care that I didn’t grasp the fundamental learning points. It was very therapeutic sitting quietly in a corner colouring, with my brand new box of (water-soluble) Neocolor pastels.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Headless corpses

These autumn mornings when we step outside the door, we have to be careful where we tread. There is always a bloody scattering of headless furry corpses strewn across the path.Today, there was one mouse on the front step, and four at the back. To me it’s carnage. To the cat, it’s her contribution to the commonwealth.

And on another tack…tell me dear readers, what do you want to read?

Do you want nothing but sunny-side-up, chirruppy snapshots from my life?

Or do you want to hear what’s really going on? 

Let me know.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Our duty to shine

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately – as part of that angst I mentioned a couple of posts ago - and I’ve been talking to friends about the way they  live their lives, and this is a quote I’ve come across, that I’ve found very helpful…


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Cliche plotting

One day in July we were standing on Chesterfield station, waiting for a Virgin train to whisk our family away, when a woman with long blonde hair walked up to Dave, and said “Mr Hepworth?”

It turned out to be Mel, a girl from his class, 20-something years ago. At the age of 10, she’d been a talented musician, and now here she was - a talented musician, and a fully-fledged talented music teacher.

And now she is my music teacher. (It’s like a cliched bit of plotting in a novel.) She’s teaching me to play the saxophone. I had my first lesson last night and loved it. I don’t have any burning ambition as I do with my writing. All I want, is to be able to play Misty. (Click on Misty to hear it.)

And this is the first step – me playing ChowMein Cha-Cha after half an hour’s lesson. I said Mel was talented, didn’t I?

sue on sax

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


So what do you do, when you’re going through a time of personal angst, and you don’t want to go into the substance of that angst on your blog?

You tell your readers about some of the ways you’re trying to get out of that angst. Last night I went to the first night of my evening class: painting and drawing. And tonight, I am going to my very first saxophone lesson.

So there I was, last night, driving over the hills to the Hope Valley in the early evening, listening to Just a Minute on the radio, feeling hopeful after a miserable day, and there over Longstone Edge were two rainbows. Ah! A sign! The art class will be good – it will all work out. This is the start of better times.

The teacher was quiet, unpretentious and sympathetic, and asked us what we wanted from the class. I liked her. I was hopeful. It was all going to be OK. She said that when she’d had time to peruse our notes on what we were hoping to do, she would tell us a plan for the term. But this week it would be drawing a still life.

Look! One of her arrangements for a still life contained a saxophone! Another sign!

I began to draw. But I couldn’t do it. The lighting was not bright enough, and the saxophone had so many knobs and twiddly bits that I couldn’t do it. This was a mistake. Art class was a mistake. No, don’t panic, I turned over the page and started again, this time drawing the mannequin clothed in a dress made from newsprint. I held up my pencil to measure the proportions – as we’d been told to do – and I started to draw. Oh, it was awful! I couldn’t do it! What was I doing in art class? I wanted to run from the building and drive home and never go back. It was like the time we had to write a ballad for homework and I couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t do it, and my father wrote one for me.

But this time I persevered. I calmed down. And soon it was time to go home. The last hour had disappeared into nowhere so I must have been enjoying myself, and I had a half completed drawing with correct proportions and it didn’t look too awful. Next week we are using colour – which is the real reason I was there – my passion for colour - and so today, on the way to the saxophone lesson, I shall buy some pastels – or will it be paints? And I need a large format drawing pad…I’m excited!

Friday, September 18, 2009


With reference to the last post – Karma – here is a rather more constructive use of the pebbles from the path (though the nasturtiums aren’t faring any better.)

click on the pic to enlarge.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


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Someone who lives in this house has an irritating habit of sitting on the bench by the front door and throwing pebbles at the caterpillars that are eating the nasturtiums. There we are, sitting quietly reading in the sunshine and there is this constant flick, flick, flick, and pebbles dropping on the flower bed. It’s not as if he cares about the nasturtiums, so why does he do it? Is it a nervous flick? No. Apparently, it's fun. and no, he insists, he isn’t hurting the caterpillars, merely hindering them. There’s been nothing I could do to persuade him to stop. Flick, flick, flick.

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This morning he awoke with a very painful elbow – so sore it required painkillers. We couldn’t think what had caused it. Then after our walk we sat down on the bench and he picked up a handful of pebbles. He threw the first one and said “Ow!” and realised he had a new kind of sports injury: pebble elbow.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A questionable offer

So there I was sitting in bed last Thursday, drinking my first mug of tea of the day, when Dave rang up from work to ask me to go and find a dead deer, and photograph it. (This is not the kind of early-morning request that a woman is hoping for.)

On his drive to work he had hit a deer and damaged the car, and someone at work said the insurance company wouldn’t believe that he had hit a deer. Hence the strange and unhappy request.

So there I was at eight o’ clock in the morning, wandering up and down the verge of a dangerous, 50 mph road through shady woodland, looking for evidence. There was none. Not a whisker. Not a scrap of bumper. Not even a carrion crow circling overhead.

When I got home I rang Stanton Estates who own the deer and the land round there, to ask them to look out for an injured deer, and the woman said “Oh, I hit a deer once and it went off with the grill of my car, and the deer and the grill were never seen again."

Fortunately, the insurance company believed Dave – just as they should – and they are sending a courtesy car this week. And there is no photo with this posting, because the crumpled door, bonnet, bumper and wing of a Volkswagon Polo is no prettier than a dead deer. Oh, deer.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sad September sunshine

If April is the cruellest month, then September must be the saddest. There’s something about the angle and the clarity of the light that is beautiful but ineffably nostalgic.

i usually go to see my Californian family in October when the sunshine has just the same qualities as it does here, now.

The coastal hills…

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The cable cars…

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The wine country near Healdsburg…

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Yosemite National Park…

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It’s just like the sunshine we’ve been having this week in Derbyshire…

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Colour addiction

Making a patchwork quilt is like having children.

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I forget the tedium and the drudgery, and pretend to myself that it’s nothing but fun and satisfaction.

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But I always give in to the yearning to make another quilt. And then, when the last thread is fastened off, I say,  “Remind me NEVER to make another quilt.”

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But then autumn comes and the days for sitting outside get fewer and fewer and I think “Ooh, it would be nice to do a sewing project,” and I get out my fabric collection, and the joy of working with colour and fabric takes me over.

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Thankfully, the weather is still lovely enough to dismiss this kind of foolishness. Long may it last.

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Sunday, September 06, 2009

A new year

For me there are two new years – one in January and one at the start of the autumn term. The beginning of September makes me think of new pencil cases and bringing home stacks of text books to cover for homework. Dave says he had new brown paper to cover his books. In our family we used wallpaper oddments.

Sept 09 I’ve just made a shoe bag for my grandson to take to nursery school: he starts this week. The yellow fabric is cut from an old curtain, the orange stripey bits are from a jumble sale dress in my patchwork box, and I scavenged the black cord from a carrier bag that arrived on my doorstep carrying bereavement flowers last year. My mother would surely approve.

She once made me a rucksack out of an ancient gaberdine mac. It had zips reclaimed from long dead trousers, and a cord from a pair of tattered pyjamas.

Ma’s 1001 ways with a pair of old tights is so well documented in the family annals, that whenever we see a pair adrift in a hedgerow, Dave will say “This must be one of Ma’s old haunts.” Someone even suggested we should use old tights to knit a rope, to lower her coffin into the ground. She'd have loved the suggestion, and laughed along with the rest of us.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Spring Scandal

Sept 09 001 Yes is the answer to all those people who want to know if I use my life in my books. And it’s not just the big things. Two years ago this happened…

He came in the room and announced that the fridge-freezer (which had been on the blink for months) had finally died.

“It’s not a tragedy,” he said. “It was a funny old fridge and it singularly failed to charm. Not like the faithful dishwasher.”

…and it appears in my latest book.

So we bought a new fridge. And now it’s a month out of guarantee, the minute spring in the handle has broken and a replacement costs £23 plus V.A.T.

So now we have another fridge that is failing to charm. Actually, it’s Miele that is failing to charm. £23 for a spring as small as an earwig? As somebody said – (was it Tom Lehrer?) - “You don’t have to satirise these people, you just have to quote them.”

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Wasting nags

Dave: “You’re going to have to nag me until I send off my letter.”

Me: “I have my own list of things I want to nag you about. I’m not going to waste a nag on something you want doing.”