Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I showed Dave my photographs of the beach hut trip, and when he saw this one…

June 2010 154

…he said “Ooh, look at those hinges on the door - parliament hinges!How alluring!  It would be worth the trip just to see those hinges!”

Does he remind anyone of Richard in Plotting for Beginners?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The last word on sisters

And they also buy you cashmere cardigans in your favourite colour because “It was reduced to £19 in M&S, and I couldn’t just leave it there, could I?”

Monday, June 28, 2010

In praise of sisters

June 2010 211

Don’t you wish you had a sister who whisked you off to stay in a beach hut for the night?

June 2010 160

The view from the front…

June 2010 158

The view from the back…June 2010 170

The sweet little kitchen…

June 2010 164

And enough room upstairs for four – so two of us had plenty of space…

June 2010 171

Sisters are great. You can have a laugh with them, talk for hours with them, or sit in silence, drinking wine and watching the sun go down…

June 2010 247

They’ll tell you when you’re being daft, give you a hug when you’re sad, and when you want to to buy a voluminous floral smock trimmed with satin ribbon in Jigsaw - which looks lovely on the petite and pretty dark-haired twenty-something assistant – they’ll suggest that if you buy it, you might regret it when you get home. And then when you’ve resisted and left the shop without said smock – which was obscenely expensive anyway, and three times as much as you normally spend on a blouse - they will tell you it made you look like Grayson Perry.

June 2010 277

June 2010 306

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Yay! Today I am going to stay with my lovely sister Jen. I haven’t seen her for months, and I miss her. While everyone else is watching THE MATCH, I will be doing something fun - lounging in Jen’s kitchen, talking to her. It will be a huge comfort.

me at jen's 1

And we’re planning a trip to the seaside before the weekend. Yay again!

Sue at Ringstead

Jen hates having her picture taken and hates her picture on display, but she did allow me to use this once on the blog before, so here you are…

Wensleydale Aug 2009 075

Monday, June 21, 2010

It’s all so personal

OK, chaps, I probably was a bit mean to Greenberg and Ben Stiller in yesterday’s post.  On the other hand, I really thought the film was…..

You know what? I obviously just didn’t get the film. Maybe people who live in the same world as the guy in the film – maybe they get it.   (I am sooooh relieved I don’t live in that world.)

Opinions about films, plays, music, books – they are all so personal, so subjective. For example, look at these two comments from professionals in the publishing world about the manuscript of a well-published friend of mine – the same manuscript:

Whilst I applaud your use of ordinary characters in a commonplace milieu, I'm afraid none of them really grabbed me and I did not feel sufficiently interested in them to want to read on. It's very difficult to strike that balance and I don't feel this is working. I did not find myself getting involved in the story or caring what happened to these people.

l love it. I think you're a wonderful writer and the novel is lovely - clever, funny, subtle, wry, sad and uplifting all at once. I ADORE ****  [the main character]

You can’t please all of the people all of the time. And as for me and Ben Stiller – it’s probably bad chemistry.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Always read what it says on the tin

When my friend asked me to go and see Greenberg, a film about a man having a mid-life crisis, I said yes. I’ve been having a late-mid-life crisis for 18 months, so I thought it might give me some hints on how to do it better. The film had a great review in her paper and the director had a good reputation.
But then I found out that the star was Ben Stiller, whom I first came across - and loathed - as one of Rachel’s boyfriends in Friends. Since then I have seen trailers of his comedies and been repelled, and stayed well clear. But, I thought, this is a serious film, so maybe Ben Stiller will be OK in something that doesn’t purport to be a comedy. I had a squizz at the film’s ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, and was a bit put off by the lowish 60% favourable reviews. But then, I thought, it is a low budget movie, and it does sound like a quiet one, subtle…you know…so lots of people might not get it.
The film was the most tedious I have ever seen. There was only one sympathetic character – a minor one – a friend of the main character (though my friend insisted that the only sympathetic character was the dog); the dialogue was deadly dull; and nothing happened. I can cope very well when nothing happens if I care about the characters, or the dialogue is good. (After all, not much happens in my books, so who am I to complain?) I could have accepted that the main character was self obsessed, selfish, totally lacking in empathy, repellent, and behaved like an adolescent – though that may be insulting adolescents – but oh, the script did not tell us anything or take us anywhere. Where was the much-trumpeted depth? Oh God, the film was awful. I thought of putting a photo on here of the female lead, Greta Gerwig, because I couldn’t find one of the dog.
When I got home, I looked at the cinema brochure to see what the film synopsis said, and was amazed to see it was labelled as a comedy. Now, if I had read that first, I would never have gone, as Ben Stiller is just not funny. Besides which, I have never forgiven him for shouting at the chick and the duck.*
*in Friends.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Twelve steps to heaven

I managed twelve steps on the slackline yesterday. Twelve steps!!!!!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Five Quakers injured in slackline fiasco…

The slackline is back in my life. I had a breakthrough yesterday. When Mackenzie was here he said that walking backwards on it was easier that walking forwards. So I had a go and realised that the reason is because you bend your knees. When I tried to walk forwards on the line with my knees bent, I did much better. And it’s hot today and set fair, so I shall be out there practising (knees bent) as soon as the sun falls on the line.

The other thing that happened is that my friend Ella sent me a link to a master class in tight rope walking with Philippe Petit. It’s in August in Brooklyn and she suggested I went to stay with her and go to the class. Wow.

And the third slackline strand is that Viv, a friend from Quaker Meeting, came to have a go on it and suggested that the Spiritual Exploration group should have a meeting here, using walking the slackline as a metaphor for life.

When I mentioned it to Dave, he said that if you were using walking the line as a metaphor for life, there should be broken glass on the lawn, someone jumping out of the hedge with a flamethrower, and someone at the end of the line, hacking at it with a blunt Swiss army knife. (Also, he has not a scintilla of admiration for Philippe Petit.)

Everyone has their problems.

(Comments - there is a bug in the Blogger program and there are more comments below each post than is shown by the figure.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


"Almost nothing important that ever happens to you happens because you engineer it. Destiny has no beeper; destiny always leans trenchcoated out of an alley with some sort of Pssst that you usually can't even hear because you're in such a rush to or from something important you've tried to engineer." David Foster Wallace

Is this true?

There are loads of comments below this post, but for some reason Blogger doesn't want to admit it...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Health and Safety

Statistics show that the majority of accidents occur in the home. On Sunday morning I was washing up. I had bare feet, and was wearing my silk dressing gown with the wide sleeves. My sleeve caught a china mug and whisked it onto the floor, where it smashed. I turned round to pick up the bits and got a fragment of china in the sole of my foot.
I can’t get it out, Dave can’t get it out, the GP practice nurse can’t get it out. She has slapped on some magnesium sulphate and a plaster in the hopes of drawing it out. If the chip is still in there tomorrow, I have to go to A&E.
There has to be a health and safety learning point here…I know - Don’t wash up.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dream question

My mother died eighteen months ago and in all that time I have dreamed about her three times – just three times. I miss her and I would like to dream about her. Why do you suppose I don’t?

Helen Willis

Friday, June 11, 2010

Writers are trying to make a living, and various non-sequiturs

I often come across poems I like on other blogs, and I think – oooh, I’d like to share that with my readers, too. But I don’t.
I don’t think it’s my place to publish other writers’ poems, when they are trying to make a living by selling them. If I put a poem on here, then you won’t need to buy it, will you?   (I have put poems on here, but only the poems of dead poets.)
There was a poem recently on a blog I follow everyday and yet I can’t even link you to the blog, for that would make me an accessory after the fact. I know this because I checked with my son – a most ethical person….such an ethical person that he has just told me off for killing snails that I find eating my poor clematis by the front door. (I shall never be able to call myself a Zen Buddhist, while I continue to kill snails.)
June 2010 080
And on quite another tack…

It’s G's birthday this week. Zoe, (his mother) has made him a fire engine cake. He is besotted with fire engines, and I have bought him one to make in Lego. I also tried to find a birthday card with a fire engine on. There were racing cars, VW camper vans, trains and tractors, but was there a card with a fire engine on? Was there buffalo. Dave is drawing one now, as I speak. He’s a gem.
Newsflash – the poor little boy has been throwing up all night, so the bouncy castle is cancelled, and all that slaving over a hot fire-engine cake was for nothing. Poor Zoe.

June 2010 103

Wednesday, June 09, 2010


a pile of plottings

Meeting strangers who have read my books and enjoyed them is so very heartening. Last night I gave a talk and the audience were smashing. They were attentive and receptive, they laughed at all my jokes, and at the end, they peppered me with interesting and intelligent questions. It was ace. If any of them are reading this post – thank you for coming to hear me and for making my evening so enjoyable.


Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Two notices

First, one I saw at Bakewell market yesterday…

June 2010 075

And secondly…

If you want to hear me talk about my books, come to Clay Cross library tonight at 7.30 p.m. for my gig at the Derbyshire Literary Festival.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A quarter to six in the morning

march08 060

I am sitting in bed. The pearl grey sky behind the may blossom and copper beech is heavy with rain. The clock in the hall has just chimed the half hour (it’s slow), the cat has just climbed in the spare room window ( yes – upstairs! - where Dave sits with his computer) and come in to see me. She didn’t have wet feet so she didn’t leave muddy footprints on my newly washed patchwork quilt, which is what she did last week, and which is why the quilt is newly washed. There is a pheasant in the garden, making that awful scratchy croaking sound, and in the distance, a pigeon is cooing.

A moment ago the air was still and muggy. Now a faint breeze is coming in through the window and the leaves on the lime trees across the road are swishing.

My son in California rang last night – as he always does on a Sunday. I miss him. His (and the little red hen’s) first baby is due in July and I long to see them both now, and then immediately the baby is born. But my ticket is booked for September. I shall have to wait.

wendy and ise

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Perfect happiness

June 2010 052

I’ve just been baking a coffee cake while listening to a saxophone playing Gershwin songs. It’s warm enough to have bare feet on the wooden kitchen floor, to have the front door open, to sit outside and lick the bowl, to smell the peonies on my window sill as I sit and write this post.

And this is the view down the lane where we live…

June 2010 010

Aren’t I lucky?

(Post script on Gaza – I don’t think we will ever know the truth about what happened on that boat, but we DO know there’s a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and that the blockade is blocking the necessary aid from getting in.)

Friday, June 04, 2010

This is not a complaint

It is too hot to garden.

It is too hot to cycle.

It is too hot to play my sax.

I am happy.

June 2010 034

But I would like my chair.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

My last post on Gaza for a while

The Israelis will not allow plastic toys through the Gaza blockade.

extreme poverty in Chati refugee camp 

injured child in Gaza

I could blog everyday on Gaza and the suffering of the Palestinian people, but I don’t think that’s why most of you visit. So before I return to everyday trivia, here are two things that readers in Britain can do, if they care about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza:

1/ Write or email your MP and ask them to sign the

Early Day Motion 127 – Israel and the Gaza flotilla

“That this House is appalled by the loss of life associated with Israel's attack on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza; notes that UK and other nationals have been held by Israel despite the attack having taken place in international waters; endorses the call of the United Nations Secretary General for a prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards; recognises that Israel's blockade, which has destroyed the economy of Gaza and deepened poverty, still inflicts widespread suffering and, by imposing collective punishment on the people of Gaza, is itself contrary to international law; and calls on the international community to require Israel to end its blockade and to redouble international efforts to secure a lasting settlement with a secure and independent state of Palestine alongside a secure and independent Israel.”

Please include your address in the email and then your MP will know you are one of his/her constituents. Your MP’s email address is in the following form:

2/ Attend the national demonstration in London, this Saturday, 5th June, to show your outrage at the brutal and illegal actions of the Israeli Government. The march is organised by the Palestinian Soldiarity Committee, CND, Stop the War, British Muslim Initiative and Viva Palestina. The march will start from Downing Street at 1.30 pm and head to the Israeli Embassy in Kensington where there will be a rally.

(Photographs by Cristina Ruiz Cortina)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

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

If you care about the suffering of the ordinary people of Gaza, and the Palestinians in the occupied territories who are treated as second class human beings, here are some suggestions as to what you can do:

1/ Write to your elected representative and urge them to demand that Israel obey international law, stop building illegal settlements on Palestinian land,and lift the siege of Gaza.

2/ Tell other people the truth about the situation to counteract the lies from the Israeli government. Here are three truths to get you started:

(i) Israel is illegally occupying Palestinian territory.

(ii) Israel is breaking international law by collectively punishing the people of Gaza - by restricting their freedom of movement, and their access to humanitarian aid, power and medical supplies.

(iii) Hamas was democratically elected by the majority of the Palestinian people in an election judged fair and free by impartial international observers. And they have signalled a willingness to negotiate with israel on returning to the pre-1967 borders.

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 Israeli West Bank.

4/ Give money to charities helping the people in Gaza. Medical Aid for Palestinians and Oxfam and Save the Children Fund are three charities which I know have an agenda of non-violence. There will be others.

5/ Demonstrate.

6/ Don't despair. The campaign to abolish slavery must have seemed like an impossible task when it first began, and so must the drive to abolish apartheid in South Africa.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Free Gaza; free the Palestinian people from apartheid

That is all I have to say today. If you want to read more, you could read this.