Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year quotes - 3

"We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out."

 Roger Ebert

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year quotes - 2

The secret art of inviting happiness,
The miraculous medicine for all diseases.

At least for today:

Do not be angry,

Do not worry,

Be grateful,

Work with diligence,

Be kind to people.

Every morning and evening, join your hands in meditation and pray with your heart.
State in your mind and chant with your mouth.

For improvement of mind and body.
Usui Reiki Ryōhō

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year quotes - 1

I like the time between Christmas and New Year – it’s a time I like to think a lot, to consider the past year and think how I want to live in the next one.

Over the next few days, I’m going to post a few quotes I find helpful, as part of that meditation. Here is the first:

"Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control. We can love and care for others but we cannot possess our children, lovers, family, or friends. We can assist them, pray for them, and wish them well, yet in the end their happiness and suffering depend on their thoughts and actions, not on our wishes."
- Jack Kornfield

Friday, December 24, 2010

This year, Christmas is ON

I live with someone who hates Christmas, and last year, in deference to him, we did not celebrate it here. Christmas was OFF. This year it is ON. Yesterday, he asked me for the zillionth time - “Why do you celebrate it?”

A good question. I don’t think I do believe in God, and so I don’t think that Jesus was his son. But I like the Christmas story very much. For me it’s about HOPE. The birth of a baby is always a special event worth celebrating. Babies come trailing the mystery and the magic of another world – where did they come from? Where were they before? And they embody in their little persons innocence, freshness, a wonder and a hunger for the world. Babies are the ultimate new start, and in that there is HOPE.

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The traditional story with kings and shepherds and innkeepers and animals suggests this HOPE is for everyone, and the baby himself was given to a carpenter and his wife – ordinary working people. Hooray! Not rich celebrities! Double hooray!

pappa with lux in office

I am a person who needs HOPE to survive, to cope, to carry on. I need it more every year. So that is why I like the nativity story. And I like to celebrate Christmas because, like babies, HOPE needs nourishing and cherishing if it is to survive and to flourish. 

And then there is all (what some people call) the seasonal flim flam: the holly wreath on the front door, the tree and the lights, and the cards from old friends, the wrapping of presents for family, and the bothering to wash the kitchen floor and the special cooking for visitors, and the lovely feeling of having the house stuffed full of people I love. the question should really be – Why would I NOT want to celebrate Christmas?

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I hope you have the kind of Christmas you like – whether it is ON or OFF or non-existent.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Appeal

On Sunday we had a day long power cut and I made porridge and soup on top of the log burning stove in the sitting room. We used paraffin lamps and electric torches for light. It was inconvenient, but we managed fine, and we had no accidents.
But imagine my house had been bombed out and I was living in a makeshift shelter in the ruins of it. Imagine if I had power cuts every day, as they do in Gaza.

Palestinians in Gaza don’t have the services and appliances that we take for granted. They are forced to rely on primitive, "make-do" equipment for cooking, heating and washing, using gas cylinders, petrol and naked flames as fuel.
And because so many of them live in cramped and inadequate living conditions, there are frequent domestic fires. There is only one burns unit in the whole of Gaza, a strip of land where there are one and a half million people.
In the West Bank, the situation is just as dire. It would take me 45 minutes to get to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield. But for a burns victim living in Hebron in the West Bank, a 45-minute journey for medical attention can take up to five hours due to the number of Israeli military checkpoints that must be crossed before reaching the Rafideyah burns unit in Nablus in the north.
Once they've reached the unit, overcrowding and a lack of staff mean burns victims often face a further wait. It means their injuries have time to intensify and in some cases become life-threatening.
When a gas canister exploded at their house in a village just outside Hebron, the Farhan family became trapped in a fire that caused terrible injuries to Mr Farhan and four of his children. The emergency services took so long to arrive that neighbours rushed the family to hospital in their own vehicles. But in Hebron, the hospital was not equipped to deal with burns injuries, and Mr Farhan's youngest daughter, Haneen, died before she could be transferred. Her wounds were not life threatening, but she died because of a lack of a burns unit. She was three years old.
There was no time to grieve. With three other seriously ill children all suffering from burns, Mr and Mrs Farhan were desperate to find proper treatment - but it proved impossible. One of their daughter’s had burns over 70% of her body.
"They were not able to treat us in Hebron.They bound my daughter's burnt hand without separating the fingers. This meant that she lost two fingers. I believe that they cut them because it was easier than giving long-term treatment. They did not have the ability to offer long-term care. She is just nine years old and now she is ashamed to go to school."
The result of poor housing conditions is that fires like this are not rare. And a lack of awareness, equipment and trained medical staff only compound the burn injuries.
There is a desperate shortage of burns facilities in Gaza and the West Bank, and even the existing unit at Rafideyah hospital in the northern town of Nablus suffers from a lack of staff, training and equipment.
It's for these reasons that Medical Aid for Palestinians has committed to raise £1 million over the next three years, to provide help in three key areas.
They plan to:
(1) train medical staff nationally to understand and treat burns
(2) upgrade the existing burns unit in the northern Rafideyah hospital of the West Bank and Al-Shifa hospital in the Gaza Strip
(3) build new satellite burns units in Hebron for the people living in the south of the West Bank, and Khan Younis for the people living in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.
They need your help
If you agree that the people of Palestine must be allowed access to proper healthcare, and would like to make a donation, please follow this link.
Please show solidarity with the people of Palestine and help ease their suffering.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I had a bad, sad day yesterday and I decided that my mood might improve if I got more sleep. “I think I’ve been getting up too early,” I said. “I’m going to resolve not to get up before 6 o clock.”

So there I was this morning, dying for a pee from 5.25 onwards, and not wanting to get out of bed because it was cold. I stayed under the covers and opened my book (Try Anything Twice by Jan Struther.) Three pages later Dave (who had been up since 4) came in and said he was going to drive up Longstone Edge and watch the lunar eclipse. “It’s the first one on the winter solstice since 1638!” he said, with the same unbridled excitement and enthusiasm as if he was Sol in But I told you last year that I loved you.

How could I not go with him?  Pah to resolutions about staying in bed.

I took the camera, but forgot the zoom that Isaac gave me (I was barely awake.) We watched the earth’s shadow move over the moon and it filled me with awe. I took 47 photographs, and none of the big ones worked. Now I have another resolution - to learn how to use this camera properly. This picture is NOT one that I took this morning.

Dave was standing looking through the bins when a friendly farmer drove up and asked what he was up to. “Are you from Longstone?” he said. “Yes,” said Dave. “Are you the vicar?” said the farmer.

When he had driven off, we laughed. “Why would he think I was the vicar?” said Dave.

“Because only a vicar would be daft enough to be standing in the freezing cold before dawn, staring at the moon?” I said.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

No complaints, part 2

Further update at 5.30 p.m.

We have power! Yay! I have rather enjoyed the soft light of the paraffin lamps, and the roaring warmth of the stove, and playing pioneer women by making soup on top of it; but the family member who declines to be named is hugely relieved because now he will be able to watch the Apprentice Final tonight.

No complaints

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Dave and I woke up at five. He got up. I snuggled under the duvet. Five minutes later he was standing over me saying “We have a power cut. It went off at ten past ten last night. You might as well stay in bed.” He went off to light the fire and get the paraffin lamps. I got up and heated the water for my tea in a pan on the top of the stove. (The paraffin lamp is there merely to show you the lip of the pan.) Now I am back in bed telling you, feeling smug that I have a laptop. Dave has always insisted that his desktop is superior.

I feel very lucky to have a cautious, resourceful husband

1/ who decided to purchase paraffin lamps for the 2K meltdown. (We still have the emergency baked beans in the shed from same.)

2/ who fitted a log burning stove in our sitting room

3/ who doesn’t complain in such situations but says “Well, this is interesting. If I stand the torch on the glass topped table pointing downwards, I can lie of the floor and read.”

I am slightly miffed, though, that I can’t post this right now, because - of course - our router is down. That will teach me not to be smug.

Update: we have one socket from a lead from next door, and the men are digging up the road to fix the fault. Let’s hope they get it done before dark.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The winner

Thank you everyone who cheered me up by having a go at my Christmas Competition. The interpretation of the card that I liked the best – and therefore THE WINNER - was the first of the two that Diane suggested -
The woman is you, sweeping clean the detritus of the past year so you can soar. The man is Dave, cheering you on.
I liked it because it “spoke to my condition.” It’s very plausible, too, because Ruth is such an encouraging person – especially with my writing.
The one that made me laugh was this one – even though it could not be a message from Ruth -
Anonymous said...
She is struggling to park with VERY primitive steering and he is yelling useless instructions which she cannot hear because of the wind......
And lastly, a very late entry from Thea would fall into the highly commended category if I had one:
It's a flight of imagination, for a girl who can handle the heights.
What more could a slack-lining writer wish for on her birthday?
So Diane – step up and collect your prize. Please can you email me and tell me which of my three books you would like.
ENVOI - I saw Ruth on Wednesday and showed her the card to remind her and asked her what she had been telling me in the card. “Nothing,” she said. “I just loved the card – the colours, the design, and the fantasy.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Last chance

xmas card

This is your last chance to enter my Christmas Competition. The deadline is midnight, Friday December 17th in California which is 8 a.m. Saturday 18th in England.

Joke in the London Review of Books:

Q: What do you call Santa's little helpers?

A: Subordinate clauses.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


I am sitting here in bed at 9.06 a.m. The house is empty. The house is silent. My SAD light has been on since I woke up and sat up in bed. Now, finally, it is light outside, and I can see the bare trees disturbed by the wind, the telephone line from our house stretching to the pole on the road is bouncing up and down, and a sudden gust of wind rushes round the house. But now it is silent again. I have not been in the oasis of an empty house for over a month. I love my family, but to be here – just me – for eight whole hours – and know I am free with my thoughts, my plans, my sax, my writing, it is bliss. An ocean of quiet in the air, and a lake of inner calm inside my head.

Update. I have just told my daughter on the phone about the bliss of my empty house and she - a woman with two small boys – knew the treat of it, the significance of it. She said: “What are you going to do with your empty day?” and I immediately hit a block. One of the joys of the empty house and the empty day is not having to tell anyone what you are doing or what you are planning. I explained this to her and she understood. Now I am going to live it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Time to move on

I am fed up, there is no denying it. For the past eighteen months I have been sending my latest book to literary agents, and getting the same reply – they like my writing, my characters, my dialogue, whatever, but my novel is not a winner in this current, impossibly difficult, publishing climate. Five years ago they could have sold my book to a publisher, but they could not today. In the words of one “the market is so very tough and publishers are taking as few risks as possible and are buying so little in the way of new voices, new writing. It is very demoralising.”
Many midlist authors have been “let go” by their publishers, so I don’t take it personally. I know I can write, even though I am not and never would be a best selling author. I write quiet books that people enjoy. The agent I heard from on Monday said this about my book -
I've read it and I love it. I think you're a wonderful writer and the novel is lovely - clever, funny, subtle, wry, sad and uplifting all at once.
…you write so thoughtfully and insightfully, and with such tenderness and humour…
And then there came the BUT.
I have decided that this is my final rejection. It has been such a demoralising process, that I have decided to give up with mainstream publishers and do it myself. At least – I am going to do it with with Dave’s help. We will publish But I told you last year that I loved you in the spring, and then you can read it and decide for yourself whether you like it better than all the celebrity crap that is clogging the bookshops in this run up to Christmas. 
In the meantime you can enter my Christmas Competition and cheer me up (no pressure there.) There are two days to go till the closing date.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Update – aarrghh. There are gremlins in Blogger, getting in the way of people posting entries in my Christmas Competition. Another friend rang today to say they have left a comment and it has not appeared. If this has happened to you – please email me your entry and I will post it for you. Decode the following for my email address.. suedothepworthatgmaildotcom

Also, I am very very sorry.

Well, what do you want to know? Do you want to know that I have been rushing around as much as I can before the next lot of snow descends this week?

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Or that on Sunday I came back from Quaker meeting to find we had a bat in the house? The member of the family who declines to be named picked up an injured bat on the flags by the back door and brought it inside to nurse it. He made it a nest in a box, gave it a drink with a water-laden paintbrush, fed it with flies that were floundering in the attic, plus a teaspoon of cat food, and after three hours, the bat had revived, and was chewing its way through the cardboard box. So he put the box outside and the bat flew out and climbed up the wall under a low window - a wholly unsuitable place for it to hang. An hour’s worry and indecision followed (not on the part of the bat) and then when next he looked, the bat had gone, to resume its hibernation in a safer place (we hope.)

Or do you want to know that I ordered a model helicopter kit from Amazon for my grandson, Tate, for Christmas, and when it arrived, Dave pointed out that it was encrusted with missiles (that I had not noticed) and was therefore not welcome in this pacifist family. Had I not realised what the name Apache signified when I ordered it?  Fortunately, I have also ordered the Solar System. What more could anyone ask? – “Darling, I didn’t get you the moon, I got you the planets.”

Or do you want to know that the agent who has had the third draft of my novel for the last 3 months has finally responded and said NO? (of which, more tomorrow.)

It would be a kind gesture to cheer me up by entering my Christmas Competition.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Yesterday we woke to a landscape that looked like a lino-cut, and a house so warm we didn’t need slippers. Yay!

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And I got to do exciting things like leave the house in a car that I was driving myself, and go to Sainsbury’s in Matlock for food, and get stuck in traffic jams of people saying to each other “I haven’t seen you in ages! Hasn’t it been awful?” The world and his wife and his granny was there, and everyone was cheerful, despite the long queues at the checkouts. Everyone was so delighted to be OUT.

And then in the afternoon I had to go to the post office with Christmas mail and had to stand in a queue for half an hour, and it didn’t demolish my good mood. Me! The most impatient woman in Derbyshire! That is what a week of incarceration does to me. I’d go crazy in prison.

Have you entered my Christmas Competition, yet? If not, why don’t you have a go? The closing date is Friday 17th December.

Oh, and another thought – did you know that Plotting for Beginners is available to read on a Kindle?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

This and that

First, I’m sorry to anyone who has entered my Christmas competition and whose entry has not appeared. A friend told me that this has happened to him. I don’t know what the gremlins are, but please will you try again if it’s happened to you?
Secondly, please remember that the task is to interpret the message in the card.
I have just got back from a night away in Sheffield, and I now feel human again. (I got a lift in a neighbour’s 4x4 to the bus stop.) I’m pretty unbearable when I have to stay in the house on account of the snow.
I went to see my grandson’s Christmas celebration at his school while I was away,

and I cried. Why do adults cry at these events? Is it because the children are so innocent and so happy, and yet you know there’s a big bad world out there just waiting to get them?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

2010 Christmas Competition

Every year I have a Christmas competition, and this one is being posted early – to cheer me up.
Here are my two favourite cards from my birthday this year-
I think I understand what my friend Mary was telling me with card number 1.
I don’t understand the second card*, that Ruth sent. What does it mean?
In order to win the competition you have to give me the best interpretation of the picture – either the most entertaining, or the most psychologically plausible. Closing date Friday December 17th. Please write your entry in the comments section below. Your entry won’t appear immediately, as I check all comments before they are posted.
The prize is a signed copy of either of my novels – Plotting for Beginners – or Zuzu’s Petals. If you have them already, I could send you my new book– But I told you last year that I loved you – when it is published next year.
Update – aarrghh. There are gremlins in Blogger, getting in the way of people posting entries in my Christmas Competition. Another friend rang today to say they have left a comment and it has not appeared. If this has happened to you – please email me your entry and I will post it for you.
*The  card is called “Off you go” and was designed by Anna Pugh.

Friday, December 03, 2010


No more snow overnight, but now we have freezing fog, and the temperature is –9. Yesterday’s snow covered roads will now be solid ice.

I have resolved to be cheerful. I may also listen to this every once in a while.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

This ubiquitous white stuff (now with thrilling update)

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Well, here I am sitting in bed typing again, but this time I have the huge white blinding SAD light sitting on the blanket chest facing me. Dave says the light beaming out from the room is like that scene in Ally McBeal where she meets the unicorn. I hope this thing works and stops me from getting seriously fed up like I did last winter when the snow and ice and fog went on and on and on.

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Meanwhile, 16 miles away, my daughter in Sheffield (the third largest city in England) says that after 24 hours of snow, the roads have not been cleared at all, and her local shops have run out of bread and milk and eggs, because delivery trucks cannot get into town. We Brits have really got to get our act together if this is going to be our new winter climate.

Meanwhile, Dave – who two days ago was saying he wanted snow as high as the dry stone walls (as we had 30 years ago) – is now saying the snow is a bit claustrophobic. We went for a lovely walk yesterday morning, but when we emerged in the afternoon, the snow plough had been and turned the road into a treacherous sheet of ice, so we gave up and came home.

Meanwhile, my big sister is dancing up and down with glee at what she calls the “beautiful snow,” because she rarely sees the stuff in her part of the world (a mere 50 miles ESE of us). Though it has to be said that Kath is always a cheerful bunny.

Why do I hate the stuff?

Simples. Because it gets in the way of my life. On Tuesday the snow made me miss my saxophone lesson, on Wednesday I missed a meeting in Bakewell, and today I will miss my trip to the cinema to see The Kids Are All Right – a film I am desperate to see. It is probably my last chance before it disappears from the schedules.

But – what was that C.S.Lewis quote I put on here the other day? It speaks to my condition all the time at the moment.

The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's own, or real life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life - the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one's real life is a phantom of one's own imagination. This at least is what I see at moments of insight: but it's hard to remember it all the time.  C.S.Lewis

And even though there are no newspapers and no post, we do have milk in the village -

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UPDATE at 10.29

OK, now it’s getting exciting. The drifts on our lane are waist-deep in places. We are officially snowed in. It’s getting interesting. We have flour, we have yeast, but the best before date on the unopened emergency yeast packet is September 2007. Will it work? or will I be wasting flour?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The perfect excuse…

…to stay in bed and write.

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But I got up anyway and we went for a walk…

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But our local cafe was closed…

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Forgive me for posting so many photographs on here – it is the quickest way to show them to Isaac and Wendy in San Francisco.