Friday, January 29, 2010


I am not one of those noble people who soldier on when their bodies are falling apart. I am the type who lies in bed and lets people bring them cups of tea, and occasional snippets of conversation which the messenger considers interesting – such as that their current favourite musicians (Pomplamoose) have got 160,000 hits on their new video-song on Youtube.

And I am the type who lets someone light the fire for them so they can go downstairs and lie on the couch and watch an ancient BBC dramatisation of The Secret Garden which came free with a Saturday paper. I hope to see you next week, if I am spared. (How does one achieve an ironic tone on a blog? Maybe I should consult Bodmyn Corner.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Still feeling sorry for myself

It is 7.37 a.m. and I am sitting in bed eating Cadbury's Dairy Milk, drinking tea, and hoping I will feel better by tomorrow, when my son arrives on a visit from San Francisco. Also hoping he has remembered to pack a warm coat.

Perhaps next week I will have a clear head and be able to say something interesting. In the meantime, this is an interesting article. It's interesting to me because I was one of the majority of the British public against the illegal war in Iraq, and also one of the million people who marched against it with my children in London in February 2003.

And here's a memory of that....

Halfway through the march, my elder son left me to go and take photographs of the procession, with the words (to me) "Take care. Have fun." Then, pointing to the other two, he said "Make sure you stay with them."

A woman walking alongside me overheard and laughed."That," she said, "must be your son."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Most facile quote from a TV Series

Ally McBeal, to a friend who is going to have a baby:

”They say it changes your life.”

Well, durrh.

Bunged up

When you have a filthy cold and your nose is dripping snot on your keyboard, you don't feel much like blogging.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ground rules

Kath  lamb 3b - 7x5 Shad15

I used to read the blog of a woman in her sixties who lived on the North West coast of the USA. She wrote about her daily life, and her reflections on it. Her posts were short and simple. Some were thought provoking, and some amusing, and I enjoyed them. She and I seemed to have a lot in common, even though her religion and politics were different from mine. Then she began to devote the majority of her posts to her political views - with which I profoundly disagreed - and I stopped reading.

Last January, when the Israelis were bombing Gaza, I was so upset by it, that I spent the duration of the war - all of January - protesting about it on my blog. My readership multiplied exponentially, but I suspected that a lot of my regular readers deserted me. ( I have no way of knowing this.)

Sometimes, I think I should be writing on here every day about the things that I feel passionately about. But then it would be a different kind of blog. And humour and friendliness cheer people up, which I really do feel is a valid occupation. So for the present, I shall be restricting my political posts to occasional rants on the plight of the Palestinians, and rare snipes at our mendacious and duplicitous ex-Prime Minister.

And the photo at the top of this post? It is my big sister, Kath, feeding her pet lamb, Lucy, circa 1955, and I have put it on here because I like the photo, and I love Kath (and it’s my blog and I can do what I want. Am I in a weird mood, today? Probably.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Grey days

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The best thing to do on a dismal, damp, January day like yesterday is to inject some colour into it, and that’s what we did. First I played my sax, and then, as Dave needed stained glass supplies (it’s not just Corinne in Zuzu’s Petals who makes stained glass) I went along with him to the warehouse. And I thought you might like to see a few pics of it, so I took my camera. 

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Then after dinner, I did half an hour on the exercise bike, and when I finished I staggered into the sitting room and flopped on the sofa and said to Dave – “It’s far too hot in my study to be on the bike in there,” and he said – “Maybe you’d feel better if you took off your saxophone neck strap first.”

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Dave made the circular flower piece at the top  - it’s one of my favourites. (Observant readers will see a sax reed on the windowsill – those damn things get everywhere.)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Daring to plunge

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I recently had an email from a fellow (published) writer who is beginning a new book. She asked me “When you start a new book, do you just plunge in?”

I never just plunge in.

I have pages of notes on my characters, an overall plot, sub plots and a sketchy outline of the whole trajectory of the book, from a beginning which I have decided. I know what I want to achieve in the first three chapters, but not exactly how I am going to do it.

I turn it all over in my mind and hold off from the actually writing. I stand on the brink of Chapter 1, partly because it seems so scary (can I do it again?) and then eventually I think – to hell with it, I’ll write something – anything – and see if it’s any good. (i.e. how much of it I can keep.)

It’s only when I get a third of the way through a book that I map out each chapter in terms of the scenes that will go in it. When I get to that stage I LOVE it, because I know what is going to happen and I am into the story and it carries me along. At the very beginning, it’s a struggle every time I sit down to write.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back from the brink

inge's bag

Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person? I did this week, and it’s made me wonder how many others I’ve sent in the past…what a chilling thought. Luckily, the mis-addressed one this week arrived in my daughter-in-law Wendy’s inbox, when it was intended for my daughter. 

Dear ZZ

I hope you had a lovely time away.

Can you think of something I could buy for Wendy for her birthday?

I want to get her something  esp nice, because her Christmas hat didn’t fit her.

Love Suexx

So Wendy emailed back, telling me what she would like for her birthday – a home made bag to carry her lunch box to work. Excellent. Why didn’t I think of asking Wendy in the first place?

I’ve been teetering on the brink of starting a new quilt for two weeks, looking at the fabrics on the table and sifting out the ones that weren’t right, about to launch into the choppy waters of a new patchwork, and now Wendy has rescued me. (I’ve told you before what a great daughter-in-law she is.) I can make a bag for her instead. Now I just need to design it. Did I say just? Just?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness

Yesterday, in my Scary Post, I asked regular readers who have not commented, to say hello, and some of you did. It was very exciting for me, very sweet to hear from you, after firing so many posts into the cybersphere and for day after day, hearing nothing. And if anyone out there wants to de-lurk today, that would be wonderful too.

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One reader (Sam10) asked me a question - Can I ask how you took the Gaza cause on as your own personal 'crusade'? and I wrote my answer this morning and realised that it was far too long to put in the comments section, so I hope that those who are not interested will bear with me if I answer it here instead.

I don’t have a personal connection with Palestine, but I care deeply about social justice. Last night in bed I was trying to decide how to answer your question and my heart started racing and wouldn’t stop. When I think about what the ordinary Palestinian people have to put up with on a daily basis – either in Gaza or in the other territories - I am engulfed in a weird cocktail of feelings – rage, sadness, incomprehension. I cannot believe that the world stands by and lets the Israeli Government collectively punish the Palestinian people in all the cruel ways that it does. Collective punishment of civilians is a war crime.

The Israeli Government is an occupying power in the Palestinian territories. They should not be there in the first place. They have stolen land from the Palestinians. Now they are there they do illegal things like build on their land – which is against international law. They bulldoze their houses and their olive groves. They steal their water supplies, so that Palestinian villages are short of water, while the neighbouring illegal settlements have plenty. The Israeli Government has built a wall, and people going about their daily business – going to school, work, hospital - have to queue, sometimes for hours - to go through checkpoints in the wall, and sometimes are not allowed to go through for spurious reasons.

One part of the Palestinian territories – Gaza – is under siege and has been so since before the war last January. The international community has promised aid for Gaza, but the Israeli Government will not allow in a lot of that aid, including building materials to reconstruct houses which they bombed last January. Thousands of people are homeless, the sewage system and water supplies are wrecked. The Israeli Government restricts the import of everything, and will not even allow certain medicines in. Last week, the Ministry of Health in Gaza said it has run out of 141 types of medicines and 116 types of medical supplies due to Israeli restrictions. e.g. There is a baby dying in Gaza because the Israelis will not allow in a special type of infant milk – the only formula to which the baby is not allergic. Why?

I could go on and on. The situation is so unjust. And yet we still trade with Israel. The Israeli Government breaks UN resolutions and we turn a blind eye. I do not condone any kind of violence and so do not condone the violence of Palestinian factions against the Israelis. When the Palestinians had an election that was judged fair by impartial international observers, they elected Hamas, and yet the Israeli Government and other governments refuse to negotiate with Hamas. Why?

For all these reasons, I try to do what I can. I go on demonstrations, I sign petitions, I boycott Israeli goods, I mention the cause on my blog, I collect money for a charity (that has no agenda of violence) which is helping ordinary Palestinians – Medical Aid for Palestinians.

‘It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.’ Confucius

Monday, January 18, 2010

Scary post

I’ve just been reading a blog where the blogger asked regular readers to make “de-lurking” comments. In other words, she/he asked regular readers who never comment, to write something – anything – about the blog in the comments section below the post. I often wonder who my regular readers are. I know I have regular readers, even though only a handful make comments. Only two of my family ever comment on the blog, though they do email me privately about what I write on here.

It would be great if you could leave a de-lurking comment – yes, you! You don’t have to tell me your real name.They don’t have to be clever or witty. You could just say “Hello from” wherever you live. Or you could ask me a question – which I will do my best to answer.  Something, anything from you would be so encouraging.

Why have I given this post the title “Scary post”? Because I might get no comments from anyone. How ignominious would that be?

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Should I tell you that I'm missing my mother?

Or should I not post anything at all?

Friday, January 15, 2010


If you live in the UK and you'd like to donate to the Haiti appeal, follow this link.

Sensory deprivation

I’ve been living like a hermit (with Dave) for what seems like three months (but when I count it up it’s only two and a half weeks – what?) and not been anywhere but the village shop, the village dairy, the Bakewell Co-op and Quaker Meeting (OK, not like a hermit, but I have felt like a hermit) so when I got on a train yesterday alongside people I didn’t know (except for - by chance - my whodunnit writer friend, similarly starved of excitement, but who always has interesting things to say, such as “Did you know that Amazon sells a bullet-proof memory stick?” ) and then I got off the train 15 minutes later in Sheffield and saw hundreds of people I didn’t know all walking about unimpeded on snow-free streets – well, it was sensationally stimulating. WOW!
And I am sitting here in bare feet typing this because it isn’t cold anymore, and outside the window it’s raining and thawing, which has cheered me up as much as going to the pictures yesterday to see Meryl Streep’s new film, It's Complicated, which was good fun, if flawed, not least because neither of the male leads was anything to write home about. I mean – Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin as romantic leads? Come on…why didn’t they have someone yummy like Gabriel Byrne…

or George Clooney ? (or even that chap who played the father in the remake of The Parent Trap?….)
Yes, you’re right. Yesterday’s excitement has gone to my head and affected the style of this post. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Best and worst

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The best thing about the snow is that it cuts down my options: there is no possibility of slacklining, walking, cycling or gardening, and the roads are too dangerous for trivial trips for gallivanting purposes. This makes it so much easier to stay in and write.
Yesterday, after working hard all morning, I was desperate for fresh air, so I walked down to the village to get some milk…
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I enjoyed the walk so much, that I went for second one, and had a chat with my mother (in my head) about my career. She was very encouraging.
The biggest fattest bummer about the snow is that I have a sledge, and we are surrounded by suitably hilly fields, and my grandsons live only 15 miles away, but the roads are too icy for them to come over and go sledging with me.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A substitute for sax

The roads were too icy to go to my sax lesson last night (oh boo!) so I stayed at home, and ordered two items from Amazon to cheer myself up - a Victoria Wood DVD to make me laugh and A Scattering, a collection of poems by Christopher Reid which has just won a Costa Award and is described by the Guardian as “a lucid, cogent panorama of grief and loss.”

Hmmm. An interesting combination. Comedy and bereavement. You know those recommendations that Amazon comes up with when you first log on? I wonder what they’ll suggest next time?  Six feet under?     Zuzu’s Petals?

zuzu hardback

Do follow that Victoria Wood link above – it makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Silent generation

someone to watch 1

It is a joy having my 25 year old son to stay, but it is a penance to wait until 11 o clock in the morning (when he gets up) to play my sax. When it’s just me and my main man here on our own, I can get up and play at 6 in the morning if I feel like it. And sometimes I do.

The question is – will the roads be sufficiently clear from snow at teatime for me to get to my sax lesson ? Fingers crossed.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

School milk redux

On the other hand, I am very, very, very, lucky to have a big warm bed and someone to share it with and NO ice on the inside of my window panes, and there are definite advantages to being grown up and free to decide I’m going to stay in bed an extra hour with Victoria Wood on my laptop to make me laugh, and deux pains au chocolat, which I bought the day before as a prophylactic against early morning angst.

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And anyway, I did always think that the school milk looked odd when it froze and popped out of the bottles in those little columns, so I didn’t fancy drinking it, and nor did I like sitting cross-legged on the floor in infant class at story-time behind that boy who got his hankie out and wrapped it round his index finger and then licked it and spent the whole of Little Red Riding Hood picking the scab on his knee.

Who was that boy?

Saturday, January 09, 2010

School milk


Sometimes, when you wake up ridiculously early (4.50 a.m.) and you foolishly talk to your partner for half an hour (foolishly, because this makes you fully awake) and you're desperate for a cuppa, and before you get out of bed you have to put on two jumpers over your pyjamas because it’s so cold, and then when you get back into bed with your tea and your laptop, you find an email from your sister about a website of the village where you grew up, and you look at the photographs of yourself and your brothers and sisters at the lovely village school, and you read all about a classmate’s memories, and you remember the way the school milk popped out of the tops of the tiny bottles when it froze and how the teacher used to defrost it in front of the classroom coal fire, and how you took your best friend Christine Cook’s milk home for her when she was ill, and how Perfect Person (Miss Brown) taught you beautiful italic script and how Miss Coggan took you on nature walks and allowed you to go and pick brambles for the dinner ladies to use for pudding for school dinner, you are overwhelmed and burst into tears, and you wonder why life isn’t simple and sweet any more.

And you snuggle under the bedclothes again, and all you want is for your mother to be downstairs in the kitchen cooking bacon for your breakfast, and for the smell of it to be wafting upstairs, and for your brother to be groaning in the next bedroom about how cold it is, and that there’s frost on the inside of his window. Sometimes, when all of this happens, all you can do to cheer yourself up is to ditch your usual sensible porridge, and make yourself pancakes for breakfast.

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p.s. I am the one with the glasses in the top photo, and the others are three of my lovely sibs.

Friday, January 08, 2010

That damn patchwork

Last night I dreamed I had a baby, and I wasn’t pleased. Come on – I’ve done it three times, that’s enough for anybody. I realise now why I had that dream. This is it…

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All this staying inside because of the snow, all this enforced separation from my slackline, a woman can write only so much, a woman can play only so much sax before she is sick of the sound of Misty. And that’s how it happened that a little voice said - “Wouldn’t it be nice to make another patchwork…all those lovely fabrics, all those vibrant colours that aren’t WHITE.”

I’ve said here before that making a patchwork is like having a baby. You forget just how awful those sleepless nights and midnight feeds and tantrums at 2.a.m. were, how boring those wet afternoons with a toddler who isn’t well enough for playgroup and yet is well enough to want you to play at fire rescue (actually, what am I saying? – I love pretend play…OK I am getting distracted now). The point is that however delightful babies and children are, there is an awful lot of tedium in bringing them up, and that’s how it is with patchwork. The last time I completed one, I said – NEVER AGAIN. And I expect that that is exactly what I am going to say when I have finished the one I have just begun.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Welly etiquette

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I was brought up on a farm.

Dave was brought up in a shop.

On a farm, you leave your boots at the back door. No question.

In a shop you walk through the shop in your boots, and take them off in the kitchen.


(she said, as she took off her socks, wet from the melted snow on the kitchen floor.)

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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Perfect timing

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There are certain times of day when I miss my mother – a lot. I often used to ring her at teatime. I sometimes fix the gap, sort of, by ringing one of my sisters. 

We often say to each other “I wanted to ring Ma, so I’m ringing you.”  No-one is offended. We all feel her lack, and it’s not as if we don’t ring each other at other times, times when we are not thinking that the person who is forever out of earshot is the one we really want to ring.

Yesterday at half past six I yearned to ring her, and I sat down to write about that feeling, and then the phone rang.

It was my son in California, ringing his mother.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Kitchen conversation

Sue (observing Dave’s idiosyncratic way of making milky coffee): “I have to tell you that I’m going to give some of your interesting characteristics to a rather unpleasant character in my next book.”

Dave: “I know you find some of my habits odd.”

Sue: “Well, you were the hero in my first three novels. You can’t expect to be the hero every time.”

Dave: “Of course. It would be too exhausting.”

Friday, January 01, 2010

This morning’s blue moon

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Above – at 7.53.a.m. through the bathroom window.

Below – at 8.15.a.m. through the attic window.

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Every morning is a new beginning. I hope that all your new beginnings bear fruit. For myself - I’m hoping that this year will be better than the last. It began very well, in Bakewell – below.

We fed the ducks, geese and gulls, and then we went for a walk along the Monsal trail. The morning sun made the frosty grass glisten like glitter on a Christmas card. (“Nature is creeping up,” as James Whistler would say.)

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