Monday, May 31, 2010

Israelis flout international law yet again…

…and only Turkey bats an eyelid.

The United Nations says that the people of Gaza are getting less than a quarter of the aid they need – not because the aid isn’t available, but because the Israeli Government will not let it in. And when a flotilla of ships was sailing to take humanitarian aid to Gaza by sea, the Israeli army acted like pirates.

Read this BBC report and make up your own mind - The Israeli army stormed aid ships in international waters and more than 10 people on board were killed.

Update:

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said he was "shocked by reports of killings and injuries" and called for a "full investigation" into what happened.

The White House said the US "deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained" in the storming of the aid ship.

Audrey Bomse, a spokesperson for the Free Gaza Movement, which is behind the convoy, told the BBC Israel's actions were disproportionate.

"We were not going to pose any violent resistance. The only resistance that there might be would be passive resistance such as physically blocking the steering room, or blocking the engine room downstairs, so that they couldn't get taken over. But that was just symbolic resistance."

She said there was "absolutely no evidence of live fire".

Turkey, whose nationals comprised the majority of those on board, accused Israel of "targeting innocent civilians".

"We strongly denounce Israel's inhumane interception," it said, warning of "irreparable consequences" to the two countries' relations.

Greece has withdrawn from joint military exercises with Israel in protest at the raid on the flotilla.

Break a leg, why don’t you?

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That is the last time I let a 16 year old loose on my slackline. Michelle and Mac dropped in a couple of days ago, and while Michelle and I had a cuppa and a chat, Max worked his way from complete novice status to being able to walk half way along the line. I can’t do that, and I’ve had the line since October. What’s that about?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Three cheers for Mel

My sax lessons always cheer me up. I go there feeling weary and sad and come out happy.

Mel is so encouraging. If adult students had a parents’/spouses’ evening, then Dave could come and hear all the nice things she says about my playing.

But it’s not just her encouragement that I appreciate. She is always offering me new pieces that she thinks I will like. And if I don’t like them, that’s OK. If I hand a piece back (as I did with Flat Fives, which made me feel depressed into the ground whenever I played it ) and I say “I can’t be bothered to practise this, Mel, because I hate it,” she says “That’s OK. I don’t like sprouts.”

On Tuesday, she handed me some music saying “I think you’re ready for this. It’s a long term project.” It’s called Dreams of You, and wow! It’s delicious.  Check out this woman playing it on YouTube. It has a long piano intro so wait for the sax.

p.s. Don’t for a second think that I am anywhere near as skilful a player as Emily Henry. As Mel said – it’s a long-term project.

Friday, May 28, 2010

An attractive offer

So there I was ploughing my way through a long list of really urgent chores, nowhere near the end of it, when Gil, my 4 year old grandson, rang me up: “Will you come to my house and play at fire engines?”

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Oh, the temptation.

But I resisted.

Good job he didn’t suggest hide and seek: I might have succumbed.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The view from my pillow

Sometimes we think about moving from here, and decide it’s a bad idea. Apart from everything else, I couldn’t bear to leave our bedroom behind. It’s so fabulously light and sunny, and has views of nothing but trees and fields. The east window catches the early morning sun -May 2010 242

and the south window catches the sun as it moves round -

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I can’t imagine a nicer place to die. I was telling a friend how I could never leave my bedroom behind, that this is the place I want to die, and she said we could sell up and stick a covenant on the house so that when I am old and near the end, I can come back here to die.

What about you? Where would you like to die?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One thing at a time

I’ve been getting interested in Zen Buddhism. As I understand it, one of the things you have to do (and I’m a novice, so I might well have the wrong end of the stick) is to concentrate on whatever you are doing. To focus on just that one thing, and to live in that moment with the thing you are doing. Don’t think about your work while you are cleaning your teeth. When you clean your teeth, you think about cleaning your teeth. When you mix the pancake batter, you think about mixing the pancake batter.

And talking about pancakes, I was feeling celebratory yesterday morning – about life in general – the sunshine, the garden, the clouds, the sky (eat your heart out Fotherington-Thomas) – and I made myself pancakes for breakfast as part of that whole – hey, isn’t life great when the sun is shining and it’s May? – feeling.

But when you’re making pancakes for yourself, it’s hard to focus on just making the pancakes, because you have to eat them while they are hot and fresh. So – all you Zen Buddhists out there – how do you focus on masking pancakes when you are also eating them?

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And how do you focus on eating the last one when you are sitting outside and the garden is so fragrant and green and the May blossom is just coming out?

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Monday, May 24, 2010

My list

There are so many things to do when you get home from holiday…

write; send off my tax return; write; plant sweet peas; damn – prepare ground for planting sweet peas; make presents for my first American grandchild, expected in July; write; practice saxophone; slackline.

Remember my slackline? I am just – only just – finding time to get back onto it after a long, long, winter of abstinence, followed by too many holidays followed by frantic gardening.

I go to San Francisco in September, and by that time I want to be able to walk the length of the line without falling off. I plan to saunter down to Dolores Park where all the young bucks prance along their slacklines. I want to surprise them - show them that grey-haired English writers can slackline, too.

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Awolling again

OK, I didn’t just go to look at the bluebells, I went to the beach as well….in Northumberland. I have never had this many holidays in one year before – let alone in the space of two months - and I felt a bit sheepish about telling you when I posted last time. My excuse is that Dave has just retired – again – so it is easy to take off.

I could pretend it was a research trip, as Northumberland is almost another character in my new novel – BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU. But as I have finished writing the book, that would be a lie.

You are very lucky, though, as this time all my photographs were crap, so you won’t be forced to view them here.

Aha! I can rely on ones from former years – like this -

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and this -

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Whoops – that’s when I had my Sally Howe plait. (Frame thissen, Hepworth.)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bluebells

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I’m going to look at the bluebells.

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I may be some time.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Just one cause; one just cause

Sometimes I enjoy writing my blog.  Sometimes I am stuck for something to say so I give you a quote I have found that I like a lot. Sometimes something happens and I think – ooh, that’s very bloggable! Sometimes my life is a struggle and I don’t feel like sharing that struggle with the world at large. or even with you, dear reader. Sometimes my blog seems fatuous.

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I am sitting here in my pyjamas in my beautiful turquoise study with my Wensleydale pictures on the wall in front of me, and through my windows – yes, I am lucky enough to have two – I can see my May garden. I can hear Dave playing a Ralph McTell instrumental on his guitar in the kitchen; I am warm, I am comfortable and in a minute I shall be taking a shower. Then I shall eat porridge with golden syrup, and go out shopping to stock up on food.

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When my blog seems fatuous, this is what I am thinking about… there are people all over the world living in makeshift shelters, with not enough food and not enough water. It is overwhelming to even think about how to help them all, how to fund every charity and support every cause that is worthy, and I have given up.

I actively support one cause, and unless you are new to my blog, you’ll know which one it is: the Palestinians under occupation. In Gaza they are under siege. Last year they were bombed in their houses, now they are surviving on even less than they were before, because the Israeli government restricts the importation of everything from household goods, to plastic toys(!) to building materials.

In the West Bank, the Palestinians’ land is still being stolen by Israeli settlers building illegal occupations. The Palestinians are cut off from their water supplies, from their olive groves, from their means of livelihood, whatever it is. They are treated as second class people: a Middle-East form of apartheid.

In Gaza, a third of the people live under the extreme poverty line.

Why is it that the plight of the people in Gaza moves me more than any other? Because it is so unjust. An entire people is being collectively punished for the actions of violent extremists in their midst. The suffering of the ordinary people in Gaza is caused by another country that acts in contravention of international law. And this country is not ostracised by the world community like that of President Mugabe. No – we trade with Israel, the west sells them weapons, the Americans support them in all kinds of ways.

The people of Gaza elected Hamas as their government (the election declared democratic by international observers). Hamas is willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1949 Armistice lines, but Israel will not negotiate.

That’s it. Rant over. i wanted to tell you, and I have.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mystery solved

Recent research has solved a mystery for me.

The mystery?

Why was it that although I rarely spoke to my mother about personal stuff, talking to her on the phone made me feel calmer, and more in control, encouraged, and – of course – loved.

According to the BBC report of the research - “US researchers put more than 60 girls in a stressful situation and monitored their hormonal responses when they were either phoned or hugged afterwards. Their mother's voice produced virtually the same amount of the stress-quelling hormone oxytocin as physical comfort.”

I miss that oxytocin.

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That’s me at the front with the book.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Constrained

Well,the evidence shows that yesterday’s brownies were well-received…

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…but imaginary play is not always unbridled fun. If you are invited to steal the treasure from the dungeon of a castle, and there is a shark in the moat, a portcullis, a fire-breathing dragon at the top of the slope, and the walls are defended by deathly light sabres, cannons and a row of “intelligent parrots” ready to peck you to death, you kind of get a bit disheartened. My playmates couldn’t relate to my discouragement, though when I protested, Gil (who is more empathetic than Tate) did eventually hand over the shark as a sop.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sometimes…

…I don’t feel like blogging. I don’t even want to open my laptop. I just want to get up and make chocolate brownies…

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…and then go out into the fresh bright greenness that is May, and cycle in the sunshine down the Monsal Trail to Quaker meeting in Bakewell.

And then come home and feed my lovely family the chocolate brownies.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

“There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”

My daughter-in-law (aka the Little Red Hen) …

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…once said something that really cheered me up. I was bemoaning the fact that I’m a wuss, and desperately wishing I could be more stoical, and she said “But then you wouldn’t be Sue.”

"We don't have to hate ourselves for our own vulnerability. We don't have to hate ourselves for what life has done to us. We don't have to hate ourselves because hurt or loss or longing has gotten to us. Our desires will always be with us in some form, keeping us firmly attached to a world that will hurt us. We must come to love ourselves, love our life, in its vulnerability, in its impermanence, not in spite of all its flaws, but because of them. Because the vulnerability, the changes, the flaws make us who we are."
- Barry Magid

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Don't forget the children of Gaza

This picture was drawn by a child living in Gaza. It shows you what his life feels like.

I try to keep this blog a 99% politics-free zone (but not because I don’t care about politics.) Every now and then, though, I do raise the issue of the suffering of the Palestinian people. And actually, I don't regard it as politics, but as humanitarian concern.

In March, UN chief Ban Ki-moon criticised Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, saying the policy is causing unacceptable suffering of human beings and harsh living conditions. The people of Gaza were brutally attacked in the war last year, when the Israelis bombed the population. Collective punishment of a civilian population is a war crime. Those who survived, struggle to live under siege, and in the absence of humanitarian law and practices. Why do we do nothing about this?

Did you know that international aid destined to help rebuild Gaza after the war has not been allowed into Gaza by the Israelis? Read this report by impartial aid agencies.

The Israeli government blocks essential goods and services and even crucial medicines. Everyone in Gaza is suffering, but Gaza’s children are most affected. They have to suffer the harsh conditions of living in a virtual open-air prison, and they grow up carrying the psychological scars of seeing their homes and families bombed.

The children of Gaza is a programme about the suffering in Gaza from the childrens’ perspective. It was shown on Channel 4 in their Dispatches series.

What can you do?

1/ Support Medical Aid for Palestinians – a UK-based charity with a strictly non-violent agenda which works for the complete health and well-being of the Palestinian people.

2/ Lobby your elected representatives to put pressure on Israel to obey international law.

3/ Boycott Israeli goods. Fruit and vegetables from Israel often bear the name Carmel. Beware goods labelled from the West Bank as they are often from the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

This is what we are aiming for...

(top and bottom photographs by Cristina Ruiz Cortina)

Monday, May 03, 2010

Note to self

If you are trying really hard to make a nice meal for guests, which includes cous-cous and broad bean salad, and you manage to get the couscous lovely and fluffy and perfectly cooked, don’t – DON’T – add the broad beans while they are still hot! If you do, the salad becomes a claggy mess, and there is no way to rescue it.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Ooh, ooh, ooh, I forgot to tell you…

…that I am appearing in the Derbyshire Literary Festival. I shall be speaking at Clay Cross library on June 8th at 7.30 p.m. so if you live within spitting distance, why don’t you come along and say hello? I would love to meet you, and you might be interested in my talk – Let your life feed your fiction.

Yes, yes, I daresay I should be hyping it up rather more than that, and encouraging you to travel from WHEREVER you live, to come along, but I am constantly trying to rein in my expectations, and on this occasion I managed it.

(Isn’t the internet brilliant? I am sitting in bed writing this, and I forgot what my talk was called and I didn’t want to get out of bed to go to the bathroom where I know I left the brochure, so I looked up the festival brochure on the net. Magic.)