Monday, April 29, 2013

The trouble with blogging

Sally Howe, heroine of PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS and of the soon to be published PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS, has a blog. She finds it a burden: she doesn’t know what to write on it, and yet she feels she needs to keep going because all authors need a presence on the net.

Unlike Sally, I like my blog. I like showing you my photos, like these from last week -






but sometimes I can’t write my blog because I can’t share what’s in my heart. There are some things that aren’t up for sharing.

After my mother died you, dear readers, could see the course of my grief. It ran beneath the surface of my days, but every now and then it would emerge on the blog (like here and here.) I felt justified in writing about her death and my bereavement here, because my mother wasn’t around to upset or offend, and because her troubles were over.

Right now there are three people I am close to, people I love, who have potentially life threatening health problems. It is they who have the problems. I am someone on the sidelines, someone anxious and concerned for them, eager to support them, and at the same time anxious for me because I don’t want to lose them. But I can’t write about any of that on here.

Meanwhile, there is an ebook of PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS to be prepared for publication, and a paperback and ebook of PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS which need to be sent to press. The paperback will be delayed because of lack of time and emotional energy to attend to everything entailed in its launch, but the ebook will be out before too long.

Life is hectic (next week the Californian family are coming to stay – yay!) ……and life is also full of stresses, so if you don’t hear from me for days at a time, I know you’ll understand.I’ll be back.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

I have no idea what this post is about

Yesterday, a dear friend and I were talking about how we felt the minute we woke up in the morning – our habitual frame of mind – was it positive or negative? cheerful or gloomy? and I said that I usually wake up cheerful. Lately, this hasn’t been the case. You might have noticed that I’ve been veering wildly between gloomy and sunny-side-up. Just one of the reasons has been my continuing sinus troubles, which make me feel as though my head is full of jelly, so thinking clearly is a challenge. It also saps my energy.

I had a good day yesterday – my head was slightly clearer, and I knocked several admin tasks off my to-do list. I didn’t play my sax, but I did get a short bike ride in along the Monsal Trail.

But then last night I couldn’t sleep because of the 65 mph gales, and because I was thinking about the death of a woman in our village. She died on Tuesday in a car crash. It is a huge shock to everyone. She was much respected, and a key figure in our community. We can’t believe it has happened. The circumstances of her life make her death appear like one last definitive kick in the teeth from fate.

But what’s in my head is the tenuousness of life, and the way that we have to pretend it isn’t tenuous, that our life is sure, that the lives of those we love are sure, certain, safe. If we didn’t have this notion fixed in our heads, how could we go on? We’d be paralysed by anxiety.

As for me, I think I am coming up for air. I am bobbing up and down, but I hope that soon I will be my usual optimistic, positive, Pollyanna self, floating evenly and calmly, balanced in the blue.

This might help:

Apr 10 2nd Llangollen barge holiday 177

Apr 10 2nd Llangollen barge holiday 085

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Why I shall be watching Brassed Off tonight

If you haven't seen Brassed Off, here's a clip.

My view

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

This isn’t that minute

"You know son, life is a pain. You work hard, try to provide for your family, and then for one minute, everything's good...and in that one minute, you have peace."   from the film - While you were sleeping.

“Reality continues to ruin my life.” Calvin and Hobbes

“Real life pretty much sucks – which is why, I suppose, I spend my days concocting alternatives.” Sally Howe in Plotting for Grown-ups (to be published this year.)

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. C.S.Lewis

Whatever else - the lambs are lovely.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Things to be happy about

1/ there are lambs in the field along the lane
2/ the daffodils are finally out (in our garden)
3/ the tulips my sister-in-law gave me 11 days ago are still looking lovely

4/ a person I love whose op has been cancelled twice in the last month has been promised it will go ahead tomorrow (no, it’s not Dave)
5/ the sun is shining
6/ it has been much, much warmer than it has for months
7/ Dave and I are going on a narrowboat holiday next week
8/ two of my grandchildren came to stay on Saturday night and really cheered me up
9/ I have a host of caring friends and a loving family

Friday, April 12, 2013

The trick



Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A list of unconnected thoughts

Who said “Home is where you go when you’ve nowhere else to go”? And who said "Home is where you go when you have nothing else to do”?  (It wasn’t me. I think you know how I feel about home.) According to the press, it was the same person: she is widely quoted as saying both. 

What a shame it is that my favourite political blogger  (see this)  gave up blogging, just one day before Margaret Thatcher died. I could really do with reading a well-argued rant to balance out the wall to wall hagiography in the media. Even Jon Snow has been a let-down. Thank goodness for the Guardian with its unvarnished appraisal of her work and legacy. Interesting that the Sheffield Star, in the industrial heartlands she demolished, used the headline “We shall never forgive her.”

How lucky you are that I don’t blog about anything political apart from the plight of the oppressed Palestinians.

You know what? Those thoughts above are connected. The following aren’t.

It is very, very cold here.

The price of domestic heating oil is higher than it has ever been.

We have nearly run out.

Damn! Those last three thoughts are inter-connected as well. But that’s how cold gets to you.

I got my sax back at the weekend. It’s been to the shop to be serviced. Dave - who kindly took it all the way to Nottingham when I was in California, and collected it, too, (what a peach), asked if it sounded better, if it was performing better. The fact is that when I play my sax again after three weeks absence, it always sounds FABULOUS! So I have no way of telling objectively about the improvement. But is does sound FABULOUS!

Jane and I got the book to the wire (typeset, cover designed, estimate from the printer, publication date set) and have admitted to each other that it needs a little bit more work to make it perfect. She said it first, and I denied it. Then I worried about it while I was away, because I know that on editorial matters (rather than on punctuation) she is right ninety nine times out of a hundred. When I got back from SF I read the book through for one last check and saw she was right. So it’s back to the keyboard. We know what we have to do. It isn’t much, but it’s vital. When the book is out and you have read it I’ll tell you what the problem was.

The last item isn’t connected either. It’s me (suffering with my sinuses – hence the pained expression) in front of a giant sequoia in the Sierra foothills. Did you know that giant sequoias are the biggest living things on earth? I don’t care if they are or they aren’t, but I know when I see them and touch them, I am filled with awe.

sue with sequoias

p.s. I just realised that I didn’t mind using Thatcher’s name on my blog, whereas I have always refused to use the name of her creation – ex-prime minister and war criminal, TB - on my blog. Even if I loathed everything she stood for and did, MT was a sincere conviction politician. TB was not.

Monday, April 08, 2013

On the nature of blogs

We have several substantial problems at Hepworth Towers and there’s not a one I can tell you about.

Some people have said that when they read my blog they feel as though they are intruding, as if they are voyeurs. But you don’t need to feel like that. I share what I want to share. Often I share my own problems. But naturally, there are some I wouldn’t share, and nor do I want to share problems of other family members.

There is a woman in New Zealand who writes a daily blog about her everyday family life. I am gripped by it. (You might well not be.) She doesn’t say much, and a lot of it is minutiae. The blog posts are very short. She used to have a sentence at the side of the blog saying she was devoted to the beauty of the quotidian. I am too. But it is her style which makes a gem out of matters which in others hands would be nothing but the dullest dross. Also, she always has an eye on the sublime, the numinous, the meaning of life, the way to live. She often has interesting quotes on there.

At the moment I am reading her blog everyday. Sometimes I only read it occasionally -  in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep. Whatever she is feeling – depressed, sad, defeated, happy, joyous, amused - it is a delight to tune in. I realised recently why this is. She opens her heart, and in doing so, touches other people. I have never met her, I don’t know her. But the common thread of our humanity and the human condition – particularly the condition of women who are at home, and whose lives centre around their families,   and the desire to make her life count -   that is what links me to her.

Follow this link to see her blog – The Scent of Water.

This is me ten days ago, in happier times, soaking up the sun in Gold Rush country.

sue in jamestown

Because the daffs still aren’t out

My new blog header represents what’s happening in the garden at Hepworth Towers. We still have heaps of snow here and the daffodils are still not out. And it’s April!


Saturday, April 06, 2013


Last night was the first time I managed to sleep through the night, as opposed to being awake from 1 till 4. And what’s more, I had a lovely dream about Jon Snow, who was really sweet to me. The only downside - he was wearing a dress.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Sinusitis and the to-do list

So here I am in bed at 9.15 am. having been awake between 1 and 4 unable to sleep because

  1. I couldn’t breathe
  2. I have jetlag

Dave said as he went out the door to buy another three packets of Kleenex with balsam (because although I asked for one, he always buys more than is on the list) “The nice thing is you don’t have to get up. You can stay in bed till next week, if you like. You don’t have to do anything.”

The three waking hours were not unpleasant apart from the symptoms. Dave was in the other room, so I could sit up and

  1. play Letterpress with isaac and Wendy in San Francisco
  2. catch up on some Neighhbours episodes I missed while I was away
  3. email a guy advertising in the Society of Authors magazine to ask for a quote on converting a book into an ebook
  4. email Isaac with the revised wording for the blurb for the back cover of PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS, because although Jane and i spent a week getting it absolutely right before my trip, once we saw it on the cover mock-up we realised it was twice as long as most other blurbs (OMG what were we thinking?)

It isn’t true that I don’t have to do anything.

The publication date for PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS is June 3rd and I need to discuss stuff with the printer, proof read it one last time, organise the marketing campaign and the launch and loads of other stuff. I also need to get the text of the first book PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS ready to be converted into an ebook, as Jane and I now have the rights to that and we’re going to release it very soon. You’ve been through all this with me before, two years ago – this long to-do list of publishing jobs.

So no, I don’t have to get up, but there is a mountain of stuff to do besides wiping my nose and taking the Amoxicillin.

The sun is streaming through the window, and outside, it is melting the waist high piles of snow in the drive. My only sadness is that I am going to have to pull down the blind if I want to see the laptop screen.


That’s not a lot to complain about, is it? We’ve just had the water turned off for the day, because Severn Trent Water are digging up the lane. Meanwhile, outside Jerusalem, Israel has cut off the water supply to ten Palestinian villages. Permanently.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013


I am back in Derbyshire. There are huge piles of snow everywhere. It's the middle of the night. I have jet lag. I have Cece's cold. My nose is dripping on the keyboard. 

It's so great to see Dave.
It's so good to be home.