Monday, December 31, 2012

Pollyanna

I’ve got my sinus problem back, and I’m sick to death of the dark grey wet Derbyshire winter, so I’m trying to be cheerful, and to think of all the things I’m thankful for. So here are the first blessings that come to mind…

my warm bed

my morning shower

the log burning stove

Dave’s oatcakes

Dave

Dave Aug 09

the lemon curd I made yesterday

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my grandchildren

my children

the fact that the two married ones have lovely partners

my techie guy Adrian for diagnosing a knackered fan on my laptop and fixing a new one, which means, I hope, that I don’t have to buy a replacement yet. (The decisions required are as bad as the money.)

the fact we don’t live on a flood plain

the chest of drawers my mother left me. It’s right beside me now as I write, and is a huge comfort, reminding me as it does of her.

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It even has a strip from an old pair of tights still tied round one of the handles. She used to cut up old tights and use them for tying up parcels and raspberry canes and anything else you can think of. If you cut them into loops, they are great for bundling up small packets. My mother was so well known in the family for her tights fetish, that at her funeral someone said we should have let her coffin down into the grave with ropes woven from old tights. Ma would have loved the joke.

my parents and sibs

cropped family 1958

You can see why ‘Pollyanna’ could be a term of derision – it’s so easy to get mushy when you count up your blessings.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

What Oscar Wilde did not say

When I was last in San Francisco I bought a birthday card for someone because I loved the caption on it:

“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

On the back of the card, the quote was ascribed to Oscar Wilde. Piffle!  As soon as i got home, I googled the quote to see if I could find out who really came up with it and all over the net people were saying that Oscar Wilde had said it. HE DID NOT SAY IT. It is not his voice. Accusing Oscar Wilde of saying Be yourself. Everyone else is taken  is the equivalent of saying that Sue Hepworth wrote “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (a text from Hebrews, King James version).

But everywhere you look – on T shirts, on posters, on the net – clever, pithy epigrams are ascribed to Oscar Wilde, willy-nilly. I love Oscar Wilde. And of course he was clever and funny and witty. But he is not the only person in the history of the world who could turn a clever phrase.

You really can’t rely on the net to give you an accurate answer. Not only are there wrong ascriptions, people misquote poetry all the time. They don’t bother to go back to the original poem, they find what they think is the correct version on the net and then they copy and paste. One of my favourite Ezra Pound poems is

And the days are not full enough

And the nights are not full enough

And life slips by like a field mouse

                      Not shaking the grass.

Ezra Pound

All over the net, people misquote it as:

And the days are not long enough

And the nights are not long enough

And life slips by like a field mouse

                      Not shaking the grass.

Ezra Pound

It matters if you change a word in someone else’s poem. Words and the precise choice of them are important. And I have posted on this before, because rather than go downstairs and find our copy of Pound in order to check the exact wording of the poem, I googled Sue Hepworth Ezra Pound and found a post entitled ‘Pet Peeve,’ where I was ranting along similar lines. So I copied and pasted.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Nora Ephron was right (as usual)

It’s mid-October, after your narrowboat holiday, and you’re gloating because you’ve lost half a stone through all the opening and closing of heavy lock gates and traipsing up and down the tow path, and your tight jeans finally fit you with moving room, and you are ecstatic.

And you sail through November feeling great. But as the days pass, and it rains and rains, you cycle less and less, and you also start thinking things like, “I am sick of Ryvita, wouldn’t just one real sandwich be nice?” And you’re still in that land where your jeans fit and your partner actually comments favourably on your size. You read something by Nora Ephron where she says - “At the age of 55 you will get a saggy roll just above your waist even if you are painfully thin,”and you want to ring her up and say “Hey, Nora! Not me!” but you can’t, because she recently died (sadly.)

And then December comes and you have just 4 mince pies in the whole of the month, and when you go to Sainsbury’s for the Christmas shop, you treat yourself to one of those clingy T shirts in a colour that suits you, and you like it so much you wear it with your jeans on Christmas Day with your silver necklace and silver earrings and you feel very glam.

And the family member who declines to be named arrives and sits in the kitchen to chat to you while you’re cooking, and he says, “Those jeans are very tight” and you think to yourself Yes, well, they were clean on today and they haven’t stretched yet, and you carry on shoving more and more food items into the cooker, unperturbed about said jeans, but bamboozled as to how you are going to find room in the cooker for every damn thing…

At lunchtime, the OFF Christmas Elf decides (uncharacteristically) to take some unposed photos of the assembled hordes enjoying their Christmas lunch, and he takes several from behind you.

Then in the evening, when the family have departed and you collapse on the sofa and look at said photos, you realise with horror that Nora was right, and you go back to her original quote and find her next paragraph - “This saggy roll just above your waist will be especially visible from the back and will force you to reevaluate half the clothes in your closet, especially the white shirts,” and you want to ring her up and say, “It’s not a roll, it’s a wodge!” and you know that the game is up, and it’s back on the treadmill of NO BREAD, NO CAKES, NO PUDDINGS, forever and ever, Amen.

And if you think I am going to show you one of the aforementioned photos, you’re nuts.

 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The OFF Christmas Elf

Look what he made for me – the nicest Christmas card ever -

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Christmas!

Dear faithful readers, if you have enjoyed reading my blog this year, I’d be honoured if you would make a donation to Save the Children. This is their home page, from which you can follow a link to donate to their worldwide work, and this is a link if you want to donate specifically to their Gaza appeal.

I hope that whatever you’re doing this coming week, there will be things to enjoy and be thankful for. I am thankful that this ON Christmas has so far been lovely, and Dave (the one who likes OFF Christmases) has behaved impeccably.

I hate OFF Christmases, but I try to behave with restraint, and sometimes some good comes out of them. Last year (when Christmas was OFF) I had a bad cold and sat in my study (where the tree and all the decorations were corralled) and read PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS to cheer myself up. And it worked. So I emailed Jane and asked her if she was ready to write the sequel – PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS – and she said “Yes!” which meant I had a really fun year.

I have been revising the text for the last three weeks following our editorial meeting at the beginning of the month, and have just now emailed Jane the finished article so she can read it over Christmas (her idea!) So there is a nice kind of symmetry about the whole endeavour, book-ended as it is by OFF and ON Christmases.

And if you still have no idea what ON and OFF Christmases are, you need to get up to speed and read Plotting for Beginners, or even this.

sue chef

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Winner, and the Answers

The winner of the Christmas Quiz is Barbara C. Well done, Barbara! She didn’t get all the answers right but she did get more points than anyone else.

Here are the answers:

1. What are the names of my four grandchildren?

Tate, Gil, Lux and Cece (Cecilia).

cropped t and g

lux and cece - morning

2. What is the identity of the Little Red Hen? And what do you know about him/her?

The Little Red Hen is my fun-loving daughter-in-law, Wendy Hepworth, who lives in San Francisco.

Wendy Nov 2011

3. What is the name of the person responsible for the landscaping work on our garden, done in the last 18 months?

Dave Hepworth.

4. Who is AH? What does AH stand for, and what do you know about him/her?

AH is the Aging Hippie, whom I first met on a peace demo in San Francisco. She features as a similar fictional character in BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU. Her name is Karen and she lives in Redwood City. She goes to a book club on Sundays where they have to take food mentioned in the book under discussion.

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5. What is my familial relationship to “the family member who declines to be named”?

This is a hard one as I have never told you, so you had to guess. I did once say “the fraternal family member who declines to be named” of one of my brothers, but this was to distinguish him from  the plain “family member who declines to be named” who is my younger son.

6. Where was my mother born?

Near Bedale, North Yorkshire.

7. List my hobbies. (Drinking Yorkshire tea does not count.)

In no particular order, and these are just things mentioned on my blog – patchwork, playing the sax, knitting, walking, cycling, reading, gardening, slacklining, playing Scrabble, messing around with my grandchildren, cinema, and watching comedy. The winner, Barbara, also said watching Neighbours, for which she got a point, though I’m not sure that it’s a significantly dignified occupation to be called a hobby…

8. Who is “Jane”?

Jane Linfoot, co-author of PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS and PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS, and totally brilliant editor who never lets me get away with anything. (Sometimes I hate her for this.)

9. Which of my heroines really, really likes Jon Snow?

Frances Suskind, in BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU.

10. Which professor said the following of BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU ? 

“it…presents Asperger's as a normal, if idiosyncratic, part of everyday life that elicits frustration, comedy and tenderness all at the same time. Hepworth's achievement in making the condition both distinctive and unspectacular, and weaving this into a narrative of romantic and family life, displays a genuinely subtle understanding of how autism - this most contemporary of conditions – works.”

Professor Stuart Murray, Professor of Contemporary Literatures and Film at Leeds University.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Phew!

That header’s better. That bright Christmas card header I’ve had on here for the last week was becoming a bit much, a bit loud, a bit OTT, even for an ON Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The winter solstice

The nights are long and dark and depressing, but as my friend Mr Yates says, “It won’t always be dark at six.”

I hope you’re going to enter my Christmas Quiz. Here it is again, if you missed it the other day:

Grand Sue Hepworth Blog Christmas Quiz  2012 (with modest prize)

You can find the answers to all but one of the ten questions somewhere on my blog. You get a point for every correct fact offered. For some questions there are multiple points available. The person with the most points wins (dur.) Closing date: 4 p.m. GMT on The Winter Solstice (December 21st) Everyone may enter except family members, and people mentioned in the questions.

The prize is any one of my books posted to any address in the world. Whoop-di-doo – you’re going to have to enter now, aren’t you?

1. What are the names of my four grandchildren?

2. What is the identity of the Little Red Hen? And what do you know about him/her?

3. What is the name of the person responsible for the landscaping work on our garden, done in the last 18 months?

4. Who is AH? What does AH stand for, and what do you know about him/her?

5. What is my familial relationship to “the family member who declines to be named”?

6. Where was my mother born?

7. List my hobbies. (Drinking Yorkshire tea does not count.)

8. Who is “Jane”?

9. Which of my heroines really, really likes Jon Snow?

10. Which professor said the following of BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU ? 

“it…presents Asperger's as a normal, if idiosyncratic, part of everyday life that elicits frustration, comedy and tenderness all at the same time. Hepworth's achievement in making the condition both distinctive and unspectacular, and weaving this into a narrative of romantic and family life, displays a genuinely subtle understanding of how autism - this most contemporary of conditions – works.”

In the past, I asked you to put answers in the Comments section, but it won’t work this year, as you’d be giving away points to everyone else, so you’d better send them to me direct. Decode the following for my Christmas Quiz address: suedothepworthatgmaildotcom (Please send me only one message and include your choice of book and the address to send it to, in case you win.)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beavering away

I should be writing my Christmas cards, but instead I am rewriting Chapter 1 of PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS. Yes, Chapter 1 – AGAIN. I hate the first chapters of books – they are a beast to write. The tweaks to the rest of the book are more or less done (I won’t say “perfect” because Jane hasn’t okayed it yet.)

Sadly, the rewrite has necessitated cutting one of my favourite bits:

“…I started to cry silent tears, and was furious with myself for doing it. I delved frantically in my coat pocket for a hanky and couldn’t find one, and used my hands to wipe away my tears, and then looked up to see him offering me a red silk handkerchief. I grabbed it and used it and thought – Hah! I’ll get snot on his swanky hanky. That’ll teach him.”

I hope you’re going to find time in your busy days to enter my Christmas Quiz competition. Just scroll down the blog and you’ll find it.

Good Luck!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Evidence

Here is some evidence of the ON Christmas at Hepworth Towers – yay!

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ta-ran-ta-ra! Grand Sue Hepworth Blog Christmas Quiz 2012

This is how much I care about you guys (I was going to say Guys and Gals, because my brother Pete seems to think that Guys only refers to men, but maybe the Jimmy Savile revelations mean we can never use the Guys and Gals expression again….) anyway…

…this is how much I care about you. I have been lying in bed working out the Christmas quiz in my head since 4 a.m. when i came back to bed after a trip to the loo.

In past years, I have asked you the function of a mystery object, 2008, and 2009, to interpret a birthday card in 2010, and to interpret a mystery photo in 2011. This year it’s a quiz.

Grand Sue Hepworth Blog Christmas Quiz  2012 (with modest prize)

You can find the answers to all but one of the ten questions somewhere on my blog. You get a point for every correct fact offered. For some questions there are multiple points available. The person with the most points wins (dur.) Closing date: 4 p.m. GMT on The Winter Solstice (December 21st) Family members may not enter, nor may people mentioned in the questions.

The prize is any one of my books posted to any address in the world. Whoop-di-doo – you’re going to have to have a go now, aren’t you?

1. What are the names of my four grandchildren?

2. What is the identity of the Little Red Hen? And what do you know about him/her?

3. What is the name of the person responsible for the landscaping work on our garden, done in the last 18 months?

4. Who is AH? What does AH stand for, and what do you know about him/her?

5. What is my familial relationship to “the family member who declines to be named”?

6. Where was my mother born?

7. List my hobbies. (Drinking Yorkshire tea does not count.)

8. Who is “Jane”?

9. Which of my heroines really, really likes Jon Snow?

10. Which professor said the following of BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU ?  “it…presents Asperger's as a normal, if idiosyncratic, part of everyday life that elicits frustration, comedy and tenderness all at the same time. Hepworth's achievement in making the condition both distinctive and unspectacular, and weaving this into a narrative of romantic and family life, displays a genuinely subtle understanding of how autism - this most contemporary of conditions – works.”

In the past, I asked you to put answers in the Comments section, but it won’t work this year, as you’d be giving away points to everyone else, so you’d better send them to me direct. Decode the following for my Christmas Quiz address: suedothepworthatgmaildotcom (Please send me only one message and include your choice of book and the address to send it to, in case you win.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A ragbag of questions needing answers

No preamble – time is short – it’s less than two weeks to Christmas and this year at Hepworth Towers, Christmas is ON, so:

  1. If I organise a Blog Christmas Quiz (with a prize) will any of you take part?
  2. Is anyone else sick to the back teeth of of the UK media’s obsession with food and cooking? Or is it just me?
  3. Have any of you swapped a PC for an Apple? I need a new laptop and have been advised to get an Apple, but they are SO EXPENSIVE and it would mean learning to work in a new environment and if I don’t actually yearn for an Apple, is it worth it?

Look, I know that very few of you like coming out of the woodwork and commenting on my blog, but it would be helpful if this time you could be brave.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Post script to Customer Service

It isn’t that I object to talking to people I don’t know – I’ve had many a happy chat with people in shops and on public transport. I just don’t like a stranger – like the guy in Chatsworth Farm Shop, or the dental assistant (when I went for my last check-up) – saying to me out of left field and with no pre-amble, “What are you doing this afternoon/tonight?” It throws me, and it feels intrusive.

That’s enough of all that. I had a lovely non-grumpy weekend which included baby-sitting Gil for the evening. (If he was reading this I’d have to call it “big-boy sitting.”) Bliss is sitting by a warm fire listening to cheesy Christmas music, knitting my fair-isle hoodie, with Gil in his fireman’s dressing gown drawing beautiful pictures of trains.

Dec 2012 002

And in the morning, going with him and his parents for a bacon sarnie and a cuppa at a quirky, sun-drenched 60’s caff with a jukebox and formica topped tables.

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Friday, December 07, 2012

Customer service

Yep, I’m a grumpy old woman.

I had a full on day yesterday (starting at 5.45 a.m) which included work on the book, a visit to the homeopath, a welcome cuppa with the family member who declines to be named, and long hours of Christmas shopping, in which I went in Waterstones looking for Julia Donaldson books. Neither of the young assistants in there knew who Julia Donaldson was, or what she writes (she is the Children’s Laureate! the prolific genius who wrote The Gruffalo and Stickman, and Tiddler and so many more!) and then when we had finally tracked them down, I asked for the Deadly Sixty Annual and it took a customer to find it for me. If they are going to have extra assistants in there for Christmas, why don’t they have ones who know their onions?

Then I went in John Lewis, oh shop of shops, not just my favourite shop, but Sally Howe’s too. (Sally Howe is the heroine of PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS.) There, it was a different story: two young Christmas women on separate floors were helpful and efficient, listened to my needs and solved my problems.

The last stop before home was Chatsworth Farm Shop (another of Sally Howe’s favourite shops, but no longer mine)

Where Sally buys her free range meat

to buy something for tea, where at the checkout, the young man – who I have never met before - said “Hello, how are you?” and I bridled. Why is it the current custom for people in one stroke interactions to ask you how you are? Aaargghh! One does not expect this in Chatsworth Farm Shop: he must have missed his induction day.

I mumbled “OK,” without looking at him (not wanting to encourage his dastardly behaviour) and then he said “Do you have any plans for the evening?” and I wanted to say “Yes, but they are none of your business. It is 4.15, I have had a hectic, tiring day, and all I want is my sausages and my rare breed pork chop. I do not want to answer personal questions or engage in meaningless banter with someone I have never met before. If I wanted that I would go to a new hairdresser.” He needed to be told that God invented the weather so it could be a topic for small talk,

But I didn’t say owt. I am writing this blog post instead. This is Grumpy Old Woman signing off.

p.s. I have just ordered some books online from The Book Depository, and there was a link to click, if I wanted to “watch people shop.” Are they crazy? Don’t they know that shopping is bad enough without watching other people do it as well?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Thursday and frantic

It is 7.35 a.m. and I have already

  • had a lengthy conversation by email with the aging hippie in California (we couldn’t get instant messaging to work today) about the current draft of Plotting for Grown-ups. AH has made me think.
  • bought a LEGO fishing boat from Argos for Gil – delivery free – oh, I love internet shopping from the comfort of my own cosy bed.

Now I must jump out and get ready for more arduous shopping in Sheffield. Wish me luck. I would far rather be here, tweaking Sally’s responses in Plotting for Grown-ups.

Meanwhile, there is a voice from the bathroom calling out: “Don’t you worry about all the fiscal incontinence around at Christmas?”

Bah! Humbug!

I don’t call £12.59 (delivery free) fiscal incontinence.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Bits and bobs on a Monday

  1. The heavy frosts have finally done for my nasturtiums and they now look like sad limp seaweed.
  2. The rewrite of PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS is taking up so much of my head space I am chronically distracted, and can’t even settle down and still my thoughts in Quaker meeting.
  3. I have some wonderful (private) family news and I so want to tell my mother about it, and she isn’t here to tell.
  4. I want to work on the book ALL the time and not start  on my Christmas preparations, even though this Christmas is an ON Christmas. Whooppee!

Saturday, December 01, 2012

With gladness and with sadness

Two days ago the United Nations voted overwhelmingly (138 in favour, 9 against, 41 abstentions) that Palestine should be admitted as a non-member observer state.

Yesterday, Israel approved thousands of new illegal settlements on Palestinian land.

Draw your own conclusions. No comment, no bias, no slant is required from any party. The news speaks for itself.

p.s. and I know I said I wouldn’t mention this subject again but how can I not? Will you join me in boycotting Israel any which way you can?

p.p.s. If you would like to understand the whole situation better, here is a short animation made by Jewish Voice for Peace which explains it very clearly.