Monday, April 30, 2012


Sisters are one of God’s better inventions.

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You can get the train to Bingley together and see the Five Rise Locks for the second time this spring (but this time in sunshine)

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and then walk the 3 miles down the towpath to Saltaire and eat your lunch in the sun in your shirtsleeves, overlooking the River Aire and the park and the wooded hill beyond. You can hold a young mother’s baby while she eats her lunch, and think that while it is a very nice baby, it is not as nice as any of your own (of either generation).

You can wander round the Mill (and yes, I do realise that this is not the Mill you wander round, but the correct one had cars in front of it which spoiled the view)

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and check out the titles of novels in the spacious bookshop, looking for inspiration for your own. My favourites today were Care of Wooden Floors, Cheating at Canasta, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.

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You can curse together that the Hockney exhibition is closed on Mondays, but read about the history of Saltaire and its massive Mill, and watch the documentary about Titus Salt, and relish the narrator’s soft Yorkshire accent.

You can have a coffee in Salts Diner,

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forget to pay and only remember when you have walked down four flights of stone steps and down the road, and you’re leaning on the bridge over the canal, and have to go up the road again and the four flights of stone steps to make an honest woman of yourself.

You can sit together in companionable silence waiting in the sunshine for your train, while you munch on apples and idly watch the two pigeons in front of you picking at a squashed Ferrerro Rocher on the platform.

And as an end to a perfect sunny day in the midst of a fortnight of rain, you can hug and part, and lose yourself in The Secret Garden on the train home and almost miss your stop.

Friday, April 27, 2012

A rare sighting

You know how Jane and I have been working hard and having fun with our new novel? Well, most of our collaboration is done by email, so I have an MSWord file on my computer named:

Sue’s version of Jane’s version of Sue’s tweaked synopsis suggestions from Jane for PfB2

Yes – really.

We are rarely together. And probably the last time we had a photo taken together was at the launch of Plotting for Beginners. But here we are in my study in an editorial session this afternoon. Dave took the photo, under strict instruction as to angle and distance, poor chap. This was the only one we both approved of, poor chap. He’s very patient (poor chap.)

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

April is the lambiest month

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“April is a beautiful month in the Derbyshire Dales: the colour returns to the landscape. All through the long cold winters, the grass in the fields is a wretched faded khaki or a pale acidic green. Add a leaden sky, and that’s how dreary it is from December to March. But in April, the grass begins to grow, the fields light up with the vibrant green, and the lambs have grown strong and chubby, and chase up and down from dry stone wall to dry stone wall in crazy races, like balls bouncing off the cushions of a snooker table. They climb up on ancient tree stumps and manure heaps in the corners of fields and then charge down again, they butt each other and climb on each others’ backs, they spring up vertically on ridiculous, unbending legs.” 

– from But I told you last year that I loved you by Sue Hepworth


cropped lambs

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Sue Hepworth is a ratbag, again

I am working really hard and loving it – Jane and I are having immense fun with this new novel (so far untitled – yes! Still untitled!)

Anyway, I can think of nothing with which to entertain you, so I thought I’d re-run a mea culpa post of mine, which I wrote when i was waiting for news of Lux’s birth.

Sue Hepworth is a ratbag

I am a ratbag. It’s official. I chew people up on the phone. And I don’t mean people selling double glazing or trying to entice me back to BT, or someone from the subscription department of The Times, with a great, great offer.

I chew people up who I like. I chew them up when I’m stressed. I chew them up when I’m waiting impatiently for a particular call and the wrong person rings.

On Saturday morning my daughter got it. She was due to come over with her boys, and after speaking to me, she changed her mind. (Who could blame her? Even I didn’t like me much on Saturday.) Tate and Gil were looking forward to coming to see me, so she tried to bribe them to go paddling in Padley Gorge instead. They chose me.  She told them I was a ratbag. They still wanted to come. She told them she’d buy them an ice cream. But they wanted to see me more. I apologised profusely on the phone to Zoe, and begged her to come. She relented, bless her. She forgave me.

So…I may not have a publisher for my novel, but it is a delicately nuanced novel.

I may be a ratbag, but my grandsons like me more than ice cream.

No-one is perfect. And I am especially not perfect, but the people who matter still love me. So everything is OK.

And here is an official apology to everyone I have ever chewed up. I’m really sorry.

And this was Lux almost two years later (this last weekend) practising her newly acquired skill of walking downstairs.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Anne Tyler

I’ve told you how much I like her books: here is an interview with her.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The old me

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Yay! I woke up at the normal time today and feel like I used to do before I went away. So it did take a day for every time zone to feel better.

I’ve been catching up with all my friends, such as Mary, who told me how worried she gets about forgetting the most basic of facts – e.g. the names of friends’ partners, and I told her not to worry, that it happens to everyone, that I once forgot the name of my brother-in-law. So she said “Oh well, if you do it, that’s OK, because I think of you as being on-the-ball.”

Later I saw Ruth and Annie, and we were all saying how we can’t remember the plots of books we have read, and sometimes ones we’ve read in the last month. I left Ruth’s house and walked down the dark rainy street under my umbrella, and found the car and had a struggle to get in, with my umbrella and basket and big bag of books. When I put the key in the ignition it wouldn’t turn. I switched on the light to see why not, and saw that the car seats were grey, and not black, like mine. I was in the wrong Polo!

This is me, signing off, the woman who is on-the-ball.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Arranging words

Do you remember that Eric Morecambe quote: “I’m playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order”?

When I was sitting at Gate A4 at Heathrow Terminal 5 last week, I saw a Pret a Manger notice which said

“Next month we are opening a big, new kitchen and a new, little shop,”

and it stuck in my head.

Why?  Because the phrasing of the sentence sounded exactly right, but I couldn’t work out why it was correct to have big as the first adjective in the first adjectival phrase, and little as the second adjective in the second adjectival phrase. Both adjectives are to do with size, so why did they not occupy the same position in their respective phrases?

Are there some grammatical rules that have passed me by? Or is it a hidden mystery and all to do with how things sound, and therefore something that cannot be taught? Someone somewhere knows the answer to this.

 And on a loosely connected point, while I was in San Francisco I was watching (and loving) the award-winning 1980s children’s TV series Press Gang.

At the end of one very moving episode, there is a bit of dialogue that I have remembered since I heard it the first time, more than than twenty years ago. Spike is very upset and Lynda asks him what’s wrong, and he says, “Nothing, maybe. Everything, probably.” Why have I remembered it? Because of the way the words are arranged. A lesser screenwriter than Steven Moffat would have written “Maybe nothing. Probably everything,” and an even lesser writer would not have chosen just four words to express the sentiment. Yes, Press Gang is “only” a children’s TV series, and not a great work of literature, but of it’s kind, it is pure class.

p.s. Press Gang was Steven Moffat’s first TV work. His latest writing includes Doctor Who, Jekyll and the co-writing of The Adventures of Tintin with Steven Spielberg.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Jet Lag day 5

I haven’t mentioned this before, because I know how lucky I am to be able to fly to San Francisco to spend time with my family, and i didn’t want to be a Moaning Minnie, but…

I’ve had really bad jet-lag, worse than last time. I shan’t rehearse the symptoms, because listening to other peoples’ health problems is tedious, but this morning when I was stumbling around the kitchen, Dave asked me to describe how I felt. So here goes – it’s like waking up and feeling as if your brain is submerged in jelly and it takes the whole morning to get clear of it.

The other night when i was awake from 1 a.m. till 5 a.m. I looked it up in the net and found that:

  1. It is worse when travelling west to east (that’s me)
  2. It takes a day to recover from every time zone you cross (that’s 8 in my case)
  3. And it gets worse the older you get (oh, goodie!)

So please forgive my not posting much. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. And if any of you have any remedies or prophylactics, please let me know.

Friday, April 13, 2012


I know I always say this, but it doesn’t matter where I’ve been or how much I’ve enjoyed my time away, I always love to come home to Hepworth Towers, with its views of the Derbyshire countryside and the quiet of our lane. I didn’t feel like that when we lived in Sheffield, even though I liked where we lived.

I don’t buy souvenirs, nor do I spend much time in shops while I’m away, but this time I was walking along the jetties behind the Ferry Building on the Embarcadero – one of my favourite places in San Francisco –


and I was drawn into Book Passage to look at book titles. I wanted to see which one attracted me: I was looking for inspiration for the new novel I’m writing with Jane (Linfoot.) And there was Anne Tyler’s latest book, just released, in hardback. OK. You need to know: I never buy hardbacks. I always wait for the paperback to come out.

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But I was down on the waterfront in San Francisco (a place I love) and the book had just come out, and Anne Tyler is one of my favourite authors, and this edition was so beautifully designed and produced, and it had been signed by Anne Tyler, and I amazed myself and bought it. I don’t understand why having her signature makes such a difference. She is an author I revere, but she’s just a person, like me, so why was her signature the clincher? Mmm….interesting….

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

when is a vest not a vest?

I know it's time to go home, because:
  • It's been warm and sunny the whole time I've been here and today it's raining. It always rains the day I fly home.
  • Yesterday I used the words " your folks" in an email. I never say "your folks" at home.
  • Yesterday I rushed into the Precita Park Cafe at 4.15 on my way back to my SF home and asked for an Americano to go. The extravagance! I would never ever buy a coffee to take home to drink from a cafe that was five minutes away from home. I'd wait till I got home and then make a coffee myself.
  • I am not American yet, however. Also yesterday, I was in a shop ogling one of those long sleeved sheer cotton T shirts with a fraying scoop neck (like rock chicks wear) and I asked the shop assistant if they had a vest in the same fabric and she showed me a sweatshirt and a cardigan, and I left the shop baffled. Then Wendy explained that I should have asked for a tank top, as a 'vest' is a jacket over here.
  • Lastly, I need to be able to write blog posts in my usual package (Windows Live Writer) and not on this stupid Blogger template which does not understand the concept of a paragraph, nor sensible bullet points.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

West Coast trivia

I've been away. I've been away from away. I went to Redwood City to stay with the Aging Hippie, and I've come back to the city to have a rest. She has so much energy, that woman - she ran me ragged!

I had a great time, and saw something of life in what she calls the "suburbs." To me it looked like the American Dream - wide leafy streets, immaculate front gardens, non-stop sunshine. I did lots of things I've head about and never done, things that make up everyday life for a lot of people, things that Anne Tyler mentions in her books, and the Aging Hippie drops into her emails, and I'm not exactly sure what they mean.

1/ I went to a thrift store and bought a beautiful cashmere jumper for only $5. The thrift store was a huge charity shop the size of a small supermarket.
2/ I went to a garage sale and ogled a 1930s handmade quilt, but didn't buy it because it was $65. (It was an upmarket sale - actually, an 'estate sale' and the prices were upmarket too.) There was a sofa I liked but I couldn't persuade the Aging Hippie to buy it.
3/ I went to a line dancing class, which I loved. Once you know the steps of a particular dance, it's a bit like a meditation.
4/ I went out for maragaritas. (Oops, no change there. I do that in San Francisco. But it was a relief to get them in as they were the first I've had this trip, and my crime writer friend back home, Chrissie Poulson, wanted me to have one for her.)
5/ I heard a screen door slam. You know that line in Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow taxi - Late last night, I heard the screen door slam?
6/ I had an American scone, which was very cakey and very buttery and very rich, and not at all like an English scone, which probably explains why the Aging Hippie wasn't much taken with our scones when she came to visit last year.
I did other things too, such as go on two long walks, and visit a photography exhibition at the Stanford University Art Gallery. All of this was packed into two days, so you can see what I mean about the AH being energetic. There was some down time for slugs like me, involving sitting, talking and sunshine. It was a wonderful 48 hours - thank you, AH.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Hip, or what?

How hip am I? I'm sitting with Isaac's super slim laptop and a cafe latte in a cafe on the edge of the Mission district. Yesterday morning I stayed home and wrote. Today I thought I'd try it in the big hip world. It's good. I have a huge bench table to myself, and there's music playing and a view of Precita Park. But how do I go over and get a refill without worrying about the laptop?I'm thinking it's probably not cool to take it with you to the counter. Hmmm...this is when my newly acquired San Franciscan hipness fails. I'll have to check what the form is when I see Isaac tonight.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

What the Americans can teach us

I've just come back home from brunch in a cafe. I love brunch. And I love it in the USA. You can order a bottomless mimosa, and a main of almond french toast (which comes with vanilla bean cream cheese, fresh citrus compote, and vermont syrup) along with a side order of bacon, and no-one bats an eyelid. You can order anything you want with anything else you want at any time of day or night and the waiting staff will say "Of course" or "You're welcome." They won't say "We don't serve sandwiches in the evening," or "We stop serving lunch at 3" or some other piffling British non-service crap. Let's hear it for the Yanks!