Saturday, June 29, 2013

Too mean to lend a book

Yesterday I felt ashamed.

A good friend came for the day – to walk on the Monsal Trail and to take me out to lunch. When she comes to visit she always brings an armful of books as presents for me and for Dave.

We had a wonderful walk, despite the showers (I wish you could see the banks of ox-eye daisies on the Trail) and we talked for nigh on five hours. I told her, amongst other things, about one of my favourite books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and urged her to read it.

When we got back to Hepworth Towers, I fetched it from the shelf so she could write down the details, and she said “Are you sure you want to lend it me?” and without thinking, I said “No, I can’t let it out of the house. I was just showing it to you.” And then immediately I felt mean and selfish, and overcome with remorse and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, I said “Yes, do borrow it.”


Being a lovely person who understands the importance of books, she immediately said “Are you sure?”

I hesitated. I knew perfectly well she would look after it. And I knew perfectly well I would get it back soon. It is just that there are some books I cannot bear to leave the house. I think it stems from when we lost 95% of our possessions in a fire, including thousands of books.

I explained this to her later, on the phone, after she’d left (and I had let her take the book.)

And being a lovely person, she said “I expect that if I’d wanted almost any other book in the house, you wouldn’t have worried.”

This is true.

But then I thought about what other books I always want close at hand, just in case, and these are they:

Leaving Home by Garrison Keillor

Homestead by Rosina Lippi

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield

and lastly and oddly – because I don’t like any other Mary Wesley book – Part of the Furniture

When I was little, I thought real life was like The Waltons. That’s probably why all but one of these books are comfort reading.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Happiness writes white

Do you know what it’s like when you’ve been busy for a fortnight and you sit down to write your blog and nothing witty, pithy, interesting or clever pops into your head? That’s how i feel this morning. I have bloggers’ block.

Maybe I’ve been enjoying myself too much. As someone cleverer than me said – “happiness writes white.”

I’ve enjoyed -

the summer weather and spending as much time as possible outside, licking the garden into shape after its months of neglect

messing around with Tate and Gil

going to see BEFORE MIDNIGHT – the latest film in what is now being called the BEFORE series. It’s well described by the reviewing site, Rotten Tomatoes, thus:

Building on the first two instalments in Richard Linklater's well-crafted Before trilogy, Before Midnight offers intelligent, powerfully acted perspectives on love, marriage, and long-term commitment.

I went with a friend who found it “wearing.” I came out of the cinema in awe at the writing, the acting and the direction. It’s the most impressive film I’ve seen since forever. Plus, I love the concept of the films, Julie Delpy is mesmerising, and even Ethan Hawke is growing on me. And I am going again with a friend who I know will love it as much as I do.

No, it’s not a German film. I just liked this movie poster the best.

It’s just occurred to me that the main reason i like this film is because it is a realistic and intelligent (and underneath it all) optimistic examination of a long term relationship. It’s something I tried to do myself in BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

a newly opened door closes again

You know how I told you I found a clothes shop in a small town in Hampshire that had clothes that apparently had been designed with me in mind, and how my sister sat next to the mirror, egging me on to buy them?

Did I tell you that when I got home I found another branch of the same shop in Bakewell (my local town) that I had hitherto ignored as not being relevant to me and my taste?

Well, one of the linen blouses I bought in Hampshire hung on a clothes hanger in the bedroom for a week or so and every time I looked at it, I wondered why I didn’t want to wear it when the colour and fabric were perfect. Then one day I realised I didn’t like the collar and neckline. So I took it back to the shop in Bakewell (they have an exemplary returns policy) and got my money back and then asked if they had in stock the dark navy linen jacket my sister had failed to persuade me to buy. No, they said, but they would order it.

It came, I tried it on, it was too small. They ordered the next size up, I tried it on, dithered, tried on the smaller one, dithered, bought the larger one and that then hung in the bedroom for several days. Yesterday, I took it back. It was a different assistant and I found myself uttering a long stream of reasons why this jacket was not for me – the sleeves were too long, it didn’t fit quite right, the colour was too dark, it was more formal than the things I usually wear, I went shopping with my sister and her taste is not the same as mine….my excuses went on and on in an embarrassing stream until eventually the assistant said, “If it’s not right, it’s not right.”

She gave me back my money and I slunk out of the shop more mortified than I have been since I was 14.

I still ADORE the first linen blouse I bought – the boxy cut, the asymmetric neckline, the fact that if I wear it with indigo jeans I look smart (I live in jeans)…

cream shirt

But I feel as if I can’t go back to the shop again. Ever. Or if I do dare cross the portal, I shall have to buy something and not take it back, whatever their policy on returns. Oh dear. Now I remember why I like shopping by post.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Jane’s name

Did you spot that Jane’s name is not on the front of PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS?

As you know, Jane and I argued about the plot of PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS, and then we argued about the cover. Now we’re arguing about the credit. (At times this book could have been re-named the Book of Arguments.) I want Jane's name on the front cover with mine, but guess what? She doesn't want it there.

Jane and me in one of our rare face-to-face editorial meetings -

April 2012 036

I adore working with Jane – it’s huge fun, and she doesn’t let me get away with rubbish. But for the last few years, she has been very busy with romance writing, and she feels she was more of an “assistant” than a co-writer on our project, so she’s insisting on taking less credit and keeping her name inside the cover, as in PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS, by Sue Hepworth, in association with Jane Linfoot. OK, Jane – whatever you want.

She will, however, be knocking back prosecco at the launch in September, where she'll happily discuss her new mantra, “Pink is a lifestyle, not a colour.”

Sometimes I worry about that girl. Pink is fine if it’s sharp, for geraniums and the occasional cardi, but Sally Howe and I agree there is far too much pink around these days. And I certainly sympathise with the campaign Pink Stinks.

You see! We can’t even agree on colours: we are both so opinionated these days. We do agree that PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS is fun and funny, and a fine follow-up to PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS, and we hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed writing it.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

You never stop worrying about them

I was thinking about Isaac’s being 40 on Monday, and lines from Evangeline Paterson’s poem A Wish for my Children were hovering in my head -

                    May you not
skin your knees.  May you
not catch your fingers
in car doors.  May
your hearts not break.

….and I thought – oh well, at least I don’t have to worry about minor injuries, these days. And then Isaac rang up from San Francisco (when he should have been asleep) to say he didn’t want me to see his tweets and to wonder what was happening and to worry, so he was ringing up to tell me he had broken his thumb. Here are the tweets – to be read from the bottom upwards cos that’s how it works.

isaac's thumb tweets

I hate his being so far away anyway, but when he has hurt himself I hate it even more. He may be 40, he may have an important job at Twitter, he may be a father of two, 

March 2013 Ise and kids

I still want to give him a hug when he’s hurt himself. Not that Wendy can’t do it just as sweetly, but I am his mother, and (as I said in a piece once) “Whatever their offspring's pain - whether it be a trapped finger or a mangled heart - a mother always wishes she could bear it for them.”

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Now it can be revealed

Date decided!


Layout 1

will be published as a paperback on Tuesday September 24th and you are all invited to the evening launch at Hassop Station  (I’ll give you the details later.)

Woo-hoo!  I am ridiculously excited!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Happy 40th Birthday, @isaach!

You’ll have to indulge me, today. It’s Isaac’s 40th birthday and he is 5,000 miles away, so I am cheering myself up with photographs. The collection is heavily skewed because we lost all our photographs of him as a baby in the warehouse fire.

isaac stile

isaac barge

Ise and J Circa 1986

isaac firclubs light

isaac circa 1994

isaac 1998

Isaac 2

isaac on the edge

ise 015

hepworth men

sept 2011 100

The other problem with finding photographs of Isaac is that he is usually behind the camera.

New York Oct 09 066

Happy Birthday, Ise, I hope you’re having a really good day.

Friday, June 14, 2013

What I’m doing

ReadingThe Secret Intensity of Everyday Life, by William Nicholson, and enjoying the writing very much, but I am so far (a third of the way in) not convinced it is a novel, and not just a series of chapter-long character studies. I am willing to be convinced, though, so I will keep reading.

Playing on my saxSummertime, and I’m getting sentimental over you.

Gardening – weeding, weeding, weeding. And lamenting over the late planting of my sweet peas this year. (It’s been so hectic since February both inside and outside my head.)

Watching on DVD with Dave – Christopher Guest’s mockumentaries, such as Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman and The Mighty Wind. If you haven’t seen them you’re missing a treat. (Start with Best in Show.)

Thinking about – the best date to launch the paperback edition of PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS.

Today’s resolution – When I take off my varifocals in bed in the morning, I will put them on the bedside table. When I leave them on the bed, I can’t find them. I am blind without them and they get lost on the patchwork bedspread.

Quote of the day – from On Golden Pond -

"Sometimes you have to look hard at a person and remember that he's doing the best he can. He’s just trying to find his way, just like you."

Picture of the week – Dave very kindly setting up my sweet pea canes for me. It takes him half an hour. It would take me three times as long and they wouldn’t be sturdy. He does it on his own because if I helped, the task would be twice as hard. Draw your own conclusions.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The given

Before I start – thank you, thank you, thank you for buying the book. We did really well on Monday so for several hours we were in the top 100 ebooks in the Humour category, namely No. 83. Jane sent me an ecstatic email swearing that for a time we were in adjacent rankings to Bridget Jones’ Diary, but she hasn’t yet learned to do a screenshot so I don’t have the proof. (For anyone who didn’t read my blog post on Monday, the ebook of PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS is available online to buy here at a bargain price.)
Back to the barge, and to the title of this post.
When Dave and I are on a canal trip a deux, there are two givens. One is that I will fall over against the steel hull at least once, and come away with several large bruises, and the other is that on the very first morning we will have a spat. There are limitless possibilities for marital wrangling (as you will know). Last year the spat was about which one of us had locked us out of the barge on a chilly morning at 7.30 a.m. with me still in my pyjamas. I blamed Dave. He blamed me. He was stressed. I was relaxed (if shivering) as there has never been a practical mess we’ve been in that Dave hasn’t been able to get us out of. And my faith was justified: he got us out of that one, accompanied by much muttering.
Last week our first morning squabble began with my asking how to steer the boat in reverse. Dave – being an ex-teacher – likes to explain things from first principles. The problem with this is that first, I don’t have a practical mind like his, and second, I want speedy answers, not something along the lines of.. “OK, forget the reversing for a minute…think of the boat in this way…….blah….blah…” 
However kindly it's meant, I don’t want a half hour lecture. I want specifics. e.g. “Look, all I want to know is…if I am this far from the bank with the stern pointing to the middle of the canal, and I want to get there. Do I point the tiller this way or that way?”
The way to resolve these disputes is not to talk things through, but to back off and go and get some breakfast. There wouldn’t be any fighting if a girl was allowed to wake up slowly and quietly and to have her two mugs of Yorkshire tea and her muesli before she was expected to be compos mentis. And I speak as someone who has just spilled her mug of tea on the bedroom floor because she put it on a sloping pile of books on the bedside table…
It doesn’t matter: after that little tiff on our first morning, it’s always plain sailing.

Monday, June 10, 2013


It’s live! We did it! PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS is available as an ebook here.

and it’s

“Dangerously addictive” BBC Radio
“I loved every minute...funny, quirky…different, refreshing, and spot-on with its observations” The Guardian
“Wonderfully funny...enormously satisfying, well-written and perfectly-plotted” Trashionista
“Amusing and unpretentious” The Times
“Charming, intelligent and side-splittingly funny” Lynne Barrett-Lee
“Buoyant and charming...hilarious bursts of verve and wit” E Online

Plotting for Beginners E Book Cover.004

OK, dear sweet readers, here’s what I would LOVE you to do…..the received wisdom in the ebook community is that you have to get as many peeps as poss to buy the book on the same day and then the book will zoom up the Amazon ebook bestseller charts in a certain price range and become visible to readers who have never heard of Sue Hepworth or Jane Linfoot, so that these hitherto benighted readers think “Hmm, interesting…nice cover, good blurb, fantastic reviews…maybe I’ll see what this book is like. After all, it’s only £1.99. What have I got to lose?”

So because the book is all those things I said (this is no time for modesty) and because it IS ONLY £1.99, please will buy it even if you have already read it? After all, as the sequel that is not a sequel is coming out a month today, you might want to refresh your memories about the characters.

And it really isn’t relevant that you don’t read ebooks. You can still buy Plotting. You don’t need a Kindle. You can download for free the Kindle app thingy onto your machine (laptop or tablet or phone) and you still don’t have to read the book.

Come on? How many times do I ask anything of you ?

Plotting for Beginners

And if you really, really can’t face having an ebook and you haven’t yet read the book, you can buy the paperback here.

Thank you. I knew you would. xxx

Ooh, forgot to say…it’s available on Amazon as an ebook all over the world. e.g. here in the US.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Other people’s time zones

When Dave and I go away on a narrowboat with the usual suspects, we set sail around 9 a.m. after breakfast and as many showers as the hot water supply will allow.This means that Dave, who gets up at 5 a.m.(OMG) has been pacing the towpath for several hours, muttering the mantra “We need to get going. This is no way to beat the queues.”

The view from my bed on the boat:


And here’s a view outside, first thing in the morning:


When Dave and I go away on our own, we set off early. This last trip I indulged him and agreed to wake up at 6 and we’d set off half an hour later, after my two mugs of Yorkshire tea. This, dear readers, is a huge concession. I am useless first thing in the morning and I feel appalling.

On some canals I can stay in bed while we travel. Not so last week. The trouble with the lower reaches of the Leeds Liverpool canal is the plethora of swing bridges. Whereas an experienced lone boater can manage most locks solo if they have to (although it’s a faff), and swing bridges are not impossible, the latter really need two people: one to open the bridge, and the other to steer the boat through the gap. This is because the bridge always swings away from the towpath and you need to be on the other side to open and close it.


The photo above shows my favourite kind of swing bridge - a defunct one that is permanently open.

One afternoon we moored up early above a set of six locks and sat in the sunshine reading. We decided we’d go down the locks the following morning. Bad mistake. A long stream of boats came down the locks and with every one that passed us, Dave’s twitchiness increased: “Have we misjudged the journey? Should we be going down them now? What do they know that we don’t? Shall we change our plan and go tonight?” For someone who doesn’t give a damn about the norm, or the motley crowd, or the grunts of the inferior, he was surprisingly fretful. I insisted we should go down in the morning when it was quiet, at half past six.

The following morning at 5.20, an intermittent banging on the side of the boat woke me up. Ah, I thought. Dave must be filling the top lock, so when it’s time to go, the lock is ready. I turn over and snooze. At 5.30 I open my eyes and see through the gap in the curtains that the trees are moving past the window, though the boat is silent. What? I stumble into the kitchen and look out to see that the boat is already in the lock. Dave has towed it down the canal for 100 yards.

He clambers on board and says “Are you surprised? Can I turn the engine on now? Do you want to be on the boat while I do the paddles and the gates?”


By 5.55 a.m. I am on the lock side, the bottom paddles are open, and Dave is on the boat in the emptying lock. I am barely awake, but the air is chill. That helps. Everything is quiet apart from the sheep, the birds, the throbbing engine and the clunk of the catches on the gate paddles (now silent.) Oh, and the gushing water.

By 8 a.m. we have gone down six locks, emptied the rubbish, had a chat with another boater, and taken photographs -

me, waiting for a lock to empty -


- Dave – behind the lock gates -


Here’s the view from the breakfast table as I munch my muesli:


Saturday, June 08, 2013

I love my lane

OK. I’m back. I would have been here half an hour ago, but I saw that BBC Radio Derby’s Aleena Naylor tweeted this about me last night…


…and I thought – “Ooh, I wonder if I am an intelligent writer…and what was that bit I wrote about our lane in May in BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU? Could I filch it to put on my blog?” and I picked up a copy and started reading. Yes, I know it’s not May, but you and I know full well that everything is late this year, and it’s behaving like May with the May blossom and the cow parsley now fully out along our lane, sending me into ecstasies when we arrived home from Yorkshire last night.

It was behaving like May in Yorkshire too, and beautiful, but there is something so lush and extravagant and so so amazing about this little spot in May, that makes coming home such a sensation-exploding experience. (Words have failed me Maybe I am not such an intelligent writer.)

So anyway, before I show you some photographs of the canal, here is the view over our back wall last night.


Sadly, the angle of the sun was not right last night for taking photographs of the cow parsley on the lane, except for this plant, just inside our front gate.

cow parsley

see below?

cow parsley on our lane

and I have just been along the lane in my pyjamas but the sun is doing the hokey-cokey this morning, so here is one from another year…

may07 030

Although this one from this morning isn’t bad…


Saturday, June 01, 2013

The odd men who visit my house

While I was out doing last minute shopping for our trip to Gargrave (and beyond), Dave was in the front garden, basking, and there he was prey to a man who comes house to house (in his car) selling tasteless calendars and the wrong sized baking tins, synthetic tea-towels and gadgets you really, really don’t want. I thought we’d seen the back of this guy: he hasn’t called for a year or two. I thought I’d managed to categorise myself as “an unrewarding customer.” Dave always berated me for being so mean. I have nothing against pedlars (actually, I think the concept is romantic) if they are selling useful stuff I want, but this guy never was. Eventually Dave and I came to an agreement that whoever answered the door to the guy could decide whether or not to raid the family budget and there would be no recriminations afterwards, either way.

When I got home with the coffee and bananas, Dave flourished this:


Dave is the one who notices cobwebs, and he’s been wanting a new “feather duster” for some time.

“It’s tat!” I said.

“It’s 100%  lambswool!” he said.

I smelled it. It was. “I thought I’d seen the guy off,” I said.

“He said I was so nice, you’d be wanting to hang on to me.”


“Oh, and he said – Give my regards to your wife.”