Friday, August 31, 2012

Boycotting Israel

You’ve read about the suffering of the Palestinian people on my blog – the things they have to put up with in their daily lives – apartheid, ethnic cleansing, the bulldozing of their houses, the destruction of their olive trees, the stealing of their land and water and other resources by Israeli settlers, the restriction of their liberty, the racial discrimination. The United Nations has made many resolutions against the Israeli government which have been ignored. The Israeli government has broken international laws. And the international community lets them get away with murder.

If you care about the injustice and suffering of Palestinians, there is something  you can do. You can boycott Israeli goods.

This is not being anti-semitic. Criticising the behaviour of a government is not the same as criticising Jews for being Jewish. There are many people in Israel who do not agree with the policies of their government. There are peace organisations within Israel which try to hold their government to account for the way they treat Palestinians. e.g. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) which is a human rights and peace organization established to end Israel’s Occupation over the Palestinians, taking as its main focus, as its vehicle for resistance, Israel’s policy of demolishing Palestinian homes.

Please think about these issues.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Rachel Corrie

Regular readers of my blog will know that the Israelis break international law everyday in the bulldozing of people’s homes in Palestine. Rachel Corrie was a young American protesting against this crime in one specific incident in Gaza in 2003, by standing in front of a bulldozer, in plain sight, in a high visibility vest. She was mown down and killed. On Tuesday, an Israeli court ruled it was an accident she brought upon herself.
But read this extract from Tuesday’s Guardian about Israel’s chilling behaviour.
The death of Khalil al-Mughrabi two years before Corrie died was telling. The 11-year-old boy was playing football when he was shot dead in Rafah by an Israeli soldier. The respected Israeli human rights organisations, B'Tselem, wrote to the army demanding an investigation. Several months later, the judge advocate general's office wrote back saying that Khalil was killed by soldiers who had acted with "restraint and control" to disperse a riot in the area.
But the judge advocate general's office made the mistake of attaching a copy of its own confidential investigation, which came to a very different conclusion: that the riot had been much earlier in the day and the soldiers who shot the child should not have opened fire. In the report, the chief military prosecutor, Colonel Einat Ron, then spelled out alternative false scenarios that should be offered to B'Tselem. The official account was a lie and the army knew it.
The message to ordinary soldiers was clear: you have a free hand because the military will protect you to protect itself. It is that immunity from accountability that was the road to Corrie's death.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Waking up

When I wake up in the morning, Dave is long gone. I get up for my first mug of tea around six and he gets up hours before that. This morning I was lying there marvelling at the novelty of a bright sky after so many days of heavy cloud, and I missed my sibs. When we used to stay together at my mother’s house during the two years after she died, we’d make tea first thing in the morning and then get back into bed and sit and look at Wensleydale through the bedroom window, and chat. This was the view.

Kevock Nov 08 045

It felt very friendly.

I am so, so lucky to have a bunch of sibs I like. They’re like a net of love, stretching back into the past, stretching out into the future, and here in the present as company, sympathy and support. They know who I am, and they like me anyway.

Here are three of them with one of my sisters-in-law.

Jonty's kitchen

Monday, August 27, 2012


I like listening to Afternoon Theatre (or whatever it’s called these days) on BBC Radio 4, but I switched it off this afternoon because I felt so irritated. There was a child in it who was old enough to be told to go and wash her hair, but whose mother talked to her thus: “Because Mummy says so,” and “Here – borrow Mummy’s umbrella.”

I don’t understand why some parents talk about themselves in the third person to their children, but accepting that some of them do, it is ridiculous to suppose that a woman would talk to a daughter this way if the daughter was old enough to go off and wash her own hair.

This blog post is so trivial it would have been better as a tweet, but a tweet, sadly, would not have sufficient characters to fit it in.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Sorry not to be blogging, but I am busy with family and visitors, and when I’m not busy, I’m tired. I’ll be back. Have a good weekend.

May the long time sun shine upon you,

All love surround you

And the pure light within you

Guide you all the way on.


Monday, August 20, 2012

Little things I like

driving down our lane and arriving home – whether it’s from Bakewell, London or San Francisco
days when it’s warm enough to cook in bare feet
evenings when it’s warm enough to sit outside
watching Neighbours with Ella, with a glass of wine in one hand and a bag of crisps in the other
playing hockey in the garden with little children
sitting in Quaker meeting in bare feet, on a warm Sunday morning with the windows wide open
chatting to my children on the phone
reading Allan Ahlberg books to children who are enjoying them as much as me
sitting here in perfect peace, because everyone else is asleep or out
picking sweet peas in the back garden
seeing a new photo of one of my grandchildren, such as this one of Lux, at the zoo:
zoo aug 2012

“For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How to support your favourite authors

An interesting blog post by Philippa Ballantine talks about five ways to support your favourite authors so that they can keep writing.

Here are the suggestions in no particular order

  1. Amazon. Click the Like button under the title of the books you love. The Amazon folk use this in their magic algorithm, and it helps the book show up higher on a list.
  2. Amazon. Scroll down and click on the tags that the book has. Or make new ones yourself. This will also help people find your friendly author.
  3. Amazon/Barnes and Noble/Smashwords/Kobo/Goodreads/any other social network. Leave a review. It doesn’t have to be long. Apparently the least it can be is twenty words—but that is not too much. In the end the reviews all add up.
  4. Blog or Facebook. If you have a blog and can write a paragraph or two, then spread the word. Also imbed images or video files so that it can be pinned on Pinterest.
  5. Tell a friend. Honestly, Fifty Shades of Grey didn’t become popular because of marketing, it became popular because all the mums in the world talked about it at the playground. Unlikely anyone will be able to replicate that success, but still word-of-mouth does really help.

What do you think? What are your best ways for helping out your favourite authors?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My co-writer

This is why I love writing books with Jane…

I was struggling with writing a part of the book yesterday because it was so boring. I emailed her an update on general progress and mentioned this, and she said:

can't believe you are forgetting so many of bodmyn's basics -

RULE NO 1: if it's boring you to write it, it sure as hell will bore the pants of any poor reader who has to read it

suggestions for this a)make them as brief as poss - or skip them altogether

1. Jane gives good advice.

2. She thinks our characters are real. Aficianados of PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS will remember that Bodmyn Corner was Sally’s creative writing guru. Jane and I talk about all our characters as if they are real people. Sometimes this gets tricky. She told me in the spring that one of the characters in the new book buys his steak pies from a butcher in Hackney (a place near Bakewell), so some months later, when I had a visitor staying who I thought might like a steak pie, I emailed Jane to ask her where the butcher’s shop at Hackney was, and got this reply -  “What butcher’s shop at Hackney? There isn’t one.”

In the mean time, Cecilia is definitely real –

aug 2012 cece

and I am going to see her in three weeks time. Yay!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

This is my blog and I can write what I like

Sometimes I lose confidence with my blog, and then I don’t write a post (like yesterday). When this happens, it’s usually to do with self-consciousness (e.g. will my sister think I’m boring? will my brother think I’m revealing too much?)

When I feel like this, I should remember

  • that it’s my blog, and no-one else’s and I can write what I like
  • that my favourite blog is The Scent of Water, and I like it because the writer writes what she thinks and feels, and she writes about trivia as well as big LIFE questions, because, like me, she is a “lifelong devotee to the beauty of the quotidian.”
  • that in the words of Kurt Vonnegut (correct me if it was not him) said we should write as if we are writing to one specific person, and not to the whole world. And yes, I know he wasn’t talking about blogging, and that when you’re blogging, you are in fact writing to the whole world (!) but I think it’s a sound principle nevertheless. For example, when I’m writing PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS, I’m writing to Jane (Linfoot). But when I’m blogging, I’m writing to a dear blog reader who likes to hear what I have to say, whatever it’s about.

Here is a picture of something that made my day yesterday – a present from my daughter, Zoe. Zoe designed the card for the front of BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU. With this mug, she was trying out a method of decorating china. She said that when it went in the oven, the writing was bright red, just like the writing on my book cover, and the line inside the rim was the same colour as my book cover, so she was disappointed with how it turned out.

I’m not! I love it to bits!

(and the brown marks on the china are drips of tea from this morning – not mistakes.)

Aug 2012 007

Aug 2012 008

Isn’t she creative?

Friday, August 10, 2012

That one particular book

You know when you’re reading a book you’re really enjoying, and you’re getting near the end and you can’t bear the thought of leaving the characters behind, and you start to ration the remaining pages and read just a few at a time? That’s where I am with writing PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS. Jane and I are into the home straight and I’m starting to get a bit panicky and last night was flailing around for scenarios for a further sequel when this one’s done. We have an editorial meeting today so I’m sure Jane will calm me down. She’s the sensible one in this writing duo.

Yesterday was so sunny and still and after I’d finished writing, cycling, practising my sax and gardening I felt like sitting in the steamer chair and reading something quiet and familiar and funny. I felt like reading The Diary of a Provincial Lady, but couldn’t find it anywhere, and then remembered I’d lent it to a friend who was convalescing. Do you ever get into the mood where there is just one particular book that you want to read?

I searched the bookshelves for something else and chose Larry’s Party by Carole Shields and a Natalie Goldberg creative writing book, Old Friend from Far Away. I dipped into the Shields and thought – oh yes, this will do. Then I opened Natalie G and started reading and immediately I wanted to write. That’s how she gets me. She is the one who got me started so many years ago. Her Writing Down the Bones was an inspiration, a guide and an encouragement.

This is where I wanted to put a picture of the cat asleep in my steamer chair but I have wasted ten minutes looking for it and can’t find it and want my breakfast, so instead here’s my favourite photo of the old bridge at Bakewell (my nearest town.) It’s around 700 years old.

bridge at bakewell

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


Jen and I stayed in a posh hotel for one night at a cut price rate. (Jen is so good at finding bargains.) It was a Georgian country house hotel set in parkland, like a house in a Jane Austen story. Do you know one of the things I love about staying in a posh hotel? Never mind the huge flagged hall with ancestral paintings, the sitting room with the trompe l’oeil paintings on the walls, the library with the comfy sofas and the library steps up to fusty volumes that no-one wants to read, the dining room with the white table linen, the attentive staff… it’s the white towelling bathrobe in the bedroom. This is how happy it makes me…

July 2012 148

I am so easy to please, if you are in the know.

Jen asked me (perhaps when I asked her to take this photo) if I think of everything as fodder for writing. Sometimes I do. Some things are too weird or too funny not to be written about. And then there are things that are so momentous or moving that I need to write about them to fully assimilate them.

Natalie Goldberg says writers live twice – once when they live something, and the second time when they write about it.

And here’s that quote again from Nora Ephron that I had on here recently:

“Vera said: “Why do you feel you have to turn everything into a story?”
So I told her why.
Because if I tell the story, I control the version.
Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me.
Because if I tell the story, it doesn’t hurt as much.
Because if I tell the story, I can get on with it.”

And this is from the writer, Anais Nin:

"Stories are the only enchantment possible, for when we begin to see our suffering as a story, we are saved."

Monday, August 06, 2012

Saga louts

As I’ve said before, the trouble with blogging when you’re a writer is you’re in danger of wasting copy on your blog which you should be saving for your books. But I’ve just made an executive decision not to care. I mean – I could be dead before the next book comes out, and if I haven’t blogged about whatever it is, then the copy is wasted anyway.

And now, with that big lead up, you’ll be thinking “What the hell was she going on about? What she said wasn’t even a little bit funny.”

I went on the train to see Jen. I’d booked a seat in a quiet coach, as I find other people’s loud conversations annoying: I have to listen because I’m a nosy writer, and this makes it impossible to concentrate on my writing or my reading.

I was sitting next to a woman of about my age and we started to chat (quietly) about how uncomfortable the seats were and how odd this was, when it appeared to be a brand new train. (If you work for Cross Country Trains and you approved the design and you’re reading this – What were you thinking?) And then she opened her ebook reader and I wanted to ask her about it and if she liked it, etc, etc. and we got onto books and I confessed that I was a writer, and our conversation became more and more animated, and there was a lot of laughing going on and the next think that happened was the conductor coming down the corridor and saying “I don’t like to sound like a librarian, but this is supposed to be a quiet coach.” So then we laughed even more – but quietly. “Fancy being told off on a train at our age,” said my new friend. “Yes,” I said, “and we’re not even drunk.” More giggles.

I am really sorry I never asked my friend her name – so if you’re reading this, fellow giggler, please let me know what it is. And thanks for making the journey such fun, and taking my mind off those appalling seats. 

I had a lovely time with Jen. We drove out past Stone Henge to Wells and then stayed the night in a country house hotel. You may have seen this photo of us before, but Jen will only allow a few photographs of her into the public arena. This one has been approved (though I have to say, I wish she’d approved one where I was looking better, and rather less windblown, and not so chubby, and...)

Wensleydale Aug 2009 075

Friday, August 03, 2012

Happiness is...

...sitting next to Jen in her open top car under sunny skies, as she drives us through various lush southern counties, while listening to Willie Nelson on the stereo. "You were always on my mind, You were always..."

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Tea and Siblings

My sister Jen rang last night to ask exactly what time my train is arriving, and to suggest I take some Yorkshire tea, as I hate her tea. (i.e what she calls “tea.” I think it’s Tetley’s or PG Tips – don’t go there.) I love my family. I love it that we can be honest with each other.

I know I have a thing about tea and I make no apology for it. I often mention it on my blog, for example  here, and here. The latter post I wrote in Belgium on a French keyboard, when I was staying with my brother. He doesn’t understand tea, either.

Enough about tea. Here is a piece I had in the Times some time ago. I’ve put it on my blog before, but I’m not apologising.(I’m in a very non-apologetic mood this morning – bullish, I am – it’s probably because I’m excited about going to stay with Jen.) Anyway, I’m posting the piece again, because I love my sibs and they should get full credit for being fab.    

Sue Hepworth (front left) with her family - 1958

The Comfort of Siblings

I am a late developer, and so it is no great wonder that it has taken me fifty years, and my father's death, to appreciate fully the worth of my brothers and sisters.

I don't deny that siblings can be some of the most annoying of God's creations, especially when young. Sisters are apt to borrow your opal ring, wear it to clean the hen-house, and then come and tell you they’ve lost it. Brothers are apt to lean from their bedroom window and give a running commentary while you kiss your boyfriend goodnight, or write in the cream on your wedding reception trifle "Wot, no shotgun?"

Siblings may also out-perform you at school, or in my case, something worse: be seen as having more common sense, so that when in the middle of my degree course I told my mother I was pregnant, she said "Oh Sue, I always said it would be you."

I know that in some families the death of a parent brings out the worst in those left behind, with scrabbling over legacies, and recriminations about how little this one or that one has contributed. Or there are arguments over the gravestone or where to scatter the ashes.

In my family it has been the opposite. During my father's last illness we combined efforts to support my mother in her caring role. Then when my father was in hospital we shared the visiting.

When I left my father at the hospital, I would drive disconsolately back up the dale to my mother's house. Wanting to share my distress at my father’s deteriorating condition before I saw my mother, I'd ring my younger brother (a gardener) and he would tell me which village and in which garden he was working. I'd meet him at the gate for a hug and a chat, so I was sufficiently restored not to burden my mother with my tears.

In my father's last week we took turns to sit by his bed - sometimes alone, sometimes in twos or threes. And between his death and his burial we stayed at my parents' house. All through the days we spent together with my mother we lurched between tears and laughter in a way that was both comforting and liberating. We all knew that each was upset, and we didn't have to be proper, or to make any kind of pretence. The closeness, the intimacy, the warmth and the comfort from being all there together, with no hangers on in the shape of spouses or children, felt special. We had not been assembled like that, with no-one else, since we were children. In the worst of times I found the best of times.

When other family members appeared on the scene for the burial at the end of the week this cocoon of ease-amid-grief evaporated.

Siblings, more than others, can understand why one is grieving for someone who in his latter years was grumpy and often less than loveable, because they too remember him as a fine and handsome hero.

Having so many siblings, I have one for every season of grief. There's one to be practical and effective, one to be sensitive, one to listen, one who, while missing the missing father, remains cheerful and good humoured and insists on looking to the future.

I can share family in-jokes and memories of my father with all of them. I can see my father's eyes in my brother's and my father's character traits in the others. And the fact that not all these characteristics are attractive helps me to be realistic about the father I have lost.

Last month I went on holiday with my elder brother and sister, something we haven't done before. It was as easy as being with close friends, but better.

At dinner we toasted my father. And during the meal my brother winked at me for no reason other than affection - just as my father used to do. After dinner he offered me some chocolate, giving me instructions on how to open the packet and tear the wrapper - just as my father would tell me how to cut the stilton.

published here with kind permission of The Times.

copyright Sue Hepworth/Times Newspapers