Wednesday, October 30, 2013


It’s five years ago today that my mother died. It seems like an awful long time that we’ve had to manage without her.

She gave us all love, affection and support, and she left me with confidence, courage and resilience. I can’t list all the things she taught me, although cooking and cleaning are not amongst them.

She brought us joy and we loved her well.

Helen Willis

Helen Willis 1917-2008

Helen Willis was a well-known resident of Wensleydale, whose life was not marked by outstanding professional achievements, but whose influence was profound. She was like countless people who live quiet, modest lives but whose loving nature and strength of character are appreciated by their family and many beyond.

She was a long-time member of Leyburn Quaker Meeting, serving the meeting in a number of different offices. In 2003, aged 85, she attended a peace demonstration against the Iraq war. For her 90th birthday, she held a garden party to raise money for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance.

She was a prize-winning bridge player and a talented craftswoman. Her intellectual curiosity was insatiable and wide-ranging, and included nuclear physics, mathematics, engineering, astronomy, education, code-breaking and architecture. In her early eighties she went on a 24 hour winter trip into the arctic circle to see the Northern Lights. In her late eighties, she learned to use email to correspond with her large, far-flung family.

Born near Bedale, Helen Barron was an identical twin and was educated at Ackworth Quaker School, where she combined mental acuity with extraordinary physical vigour, qualities that she maintained throughout her life. She captained both the hockey and cricket teams, and gained a 1st class Instructors Certificate of the Royal Lifesaving Society. She was also Head Girl.

She then graduated from the Rachel MacMillan Training College for Nursery Education. She played hockey for Kent while at college, and later played for Lancashire.

She was called up a month early to her first teaching post at Hunslet Nursery School in Leeds in August 1939, to help evacuate the school to Bramham Park, the home of Lord Bingley. For the first few weeks, the children and teachers lived, worked, played and slept in the ballroom. She was on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

She worked as a nursery teacher until her marriage in 1944 to Fred Willis, whom she first met at school. They set up home in a farming community of conscientious objectors at Holton Beckering in Lincolnshire. After 18 months, the couple moved to north Lincolnshire, on Fred’s appointment as a Farms Manager. There they brought up five children.

After a spell in Derby, the couple moved to Aysgarth in 1972, and played a full part in village life, with Helen particularly making sure to welcome newcomers and include them in local activities.

Mrs Willis laughed easily and bore difficulties with casual fortitude, refusing to be cowed by any adversity. She was self-effacing and talked little of her considerable achievements, but was ambitious for others, giving encouragement, support and praise in equal measure.

She was an indefatigable maker, producing craftwork of grace and vigour until shortly before her death. Her making was carefully matched to the tastes and interests of the delighted recipient, who recognised not only her skill, but the love which had gone into the making.

Mrs Willis died on 30th October, after a brief illness borne stoically, with her usual dismissive disdain for her ailments.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Final voting on the cast of Plotting for Grown-ups

For the last few days people on Twitter have been suggesting the cast for the film version of Plotting for Grown-ups. I’m listing them here so you can click on the comments at the bottom and have your say. Don’t be shy. You can remain anonymous.

Casting suggestions in order of popularity so far

Sally – Meryl Streep; Emma Thompson (an interesting and inspired suggestion, but she’d have to look older)

Kit – Pierce Brosnan


Hugh Jackman


Both contenders have very strong support. Some think Brosnan is too clean cut/smooth to be Kit. Some think that Hugh Jackman doesn’t have the yummy quotient of Brosnan. I am now havering between the two – it’s that waistcoat that does it.

Wendy –  Jennifer Saunders

jennifer saunders

Goldie Hawn

goldie hawn

Sarah Alexander (with hefty aging make-up),

sarah alexander

or lastly, self-nominated Sally Pepper of BBC Radio Derby (but only if Hugh Laurie plays Richard)

Sally Pepper

Richard – Hugh Laurie

hugh laurie as richard

or James Fleet

james fleet

Pippa – Patricia Hodge


Lindsay Duncan in up-tight mode,

lindsay duncan as pippa

or Ruby Wax (I am hoping this last suggestion was a joke.)

There are an awful lot of lurkers amongst you who read my blog and never comment. Your time has come. Vote now!

Some people have trouble with the comments thingy on Blogger – it can eat comments for breakfast, dinner and tea – and I have no trace of them, so if your comment doesn’t show up, send your votes to me at infoatdelicatelynuanceddotcom (take out the at and the dot) and I will post your comment for you.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Who should play Wendy and Richard?

Another thing about being in the slow lane is that you can spend your time having amusing conversations on Twitter about who should be in the film version of the novel you’re recovering from publishing.

Oh, I wish more of you dear readers were on Twitter. It would be so much more fun if you were. Well I shan’t waste time on wishing for that…

I’m just pleased that at least two of you agree that Pierce Brosnan would be an excellent (and yummy) Kit. Yesterday a Twitter friend suggested Hugh Grant – a suggestion which took me by surprise. HG can be funny and charming but he doesn’t have what it takes to be Kit. Oh no. 

For Sally, my first choice is Meryl Streep.

meryl two

For Wendy, we have the following ideas – Goldie Hawn, Jennifer Saunders (not my idea), and Sarah Alexander made to look 20 years older.

Richard is a bit of a problem. I am thinking Rob Bryden, but other suggestions are James Fleet (from the Vicar of Dibley) and Christopher Waltz (my original idea for Kit – now binned.)

Any ideas? Suggestions?

And Pippa? I am stumped.

Friday, October 25, 2013

News from the slow lane

I LOVE waking up without a list in my head.

I love not caring if Dave interrupts what I’m doing to tell me something interesting he has just heard on the radio. I love being able to sit in an easy chair with a cup of tea and look out of the window at the sky and the autumn leaves and not think I should be doing something more productive.

I am still in that post publication-frenzy hiatus which (as my friend Chrissie said) is like the time when all your exams are finished and you feel free to stay up late or stay in bed late, or not get up at all.

I am getting up.  I am doing stuff like taking down the sweet pea canes, mending holes that have worn in three favourite jumpers,


having my hair cut as much like this as possible


in this picture from Isaac’s wedding from six years ago, when I had fewer wrinkles.

And I have joined a small, newly-formed jazz band, much to my delight and that of my sax teacher Mel. She seems to think that a single practice session has already improved my timing.

And when it rains I clear the drain down the lane. Every year it gets clogged up with leaves and other wayside debris and a torrent of water runs down the hill. There is something very satisfying about clearing drains. It reminds me of damming streams when I was little. It’s about changing the course of water. It’s messing about. I am becoming Compo in Last of the Summer Wine.

Yesterday, my grandson Tate was the latest person to ask me if I have started writing another book. I haven’t. But after seeing the film Love is All you Need, I have been thinking that the person who plays Kit in the film of Plotting for Grown-ups should not be Christopher Waltz, but Pierce Brosnan.


What do you think?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Autumn in Wensleydale

After a week of being home from San Francisco I’m finally over the jetlag, but I’m still trying to adjust to dark rainy autumn mornings. So to acclimatise to the season in a positive way, I looked through my photographs of autumn in Wensleydale – the place where I’d like to be buried. (Eventually.)

oct 05 019

oct 05 018

Above Askrigg:

oct 05 016

oct 05 010


oct 08 008

View of Bolton Castle:

Oct 10 074

Lady Hill:

nov06 006

nov06 014

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Feeling much better

The day started gloomily, but since then I have patched my gardening dungarees, so they’re ready for action:


and been for a walk on the Trail with Dave:

sue and dave on the monsal trail

Now I feel better.

Fed up

I am sitting in bed listening to the rain and feeling fed up. The Co-op Bank – of which I have been a member for 35 years - is caput. Where can I house my money now, and be sure it won’t be spent on arms?

But there is a creature who knows nothing of the Co-op Bank or the use of drones, the NSA or the violent Israeli racism against African migrants. And this is what he has to say. (Make sure you skip the Ad!)

oct 05 042


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Here’s the thing

You may read a lot of books. You may read them really fast, you may get through them like I consume films on a transatlantic flight.

But the author of the latest book you read took months (or more likely) years to write said book. They sweated over the plot. They rewrote the first chapter seven times. What’s more, the characters are their friends. The characters are so real to them that they see them walking down the lane, or maybe the writer even buys groceries for them.

Sometimes authors pine for their characters after the writing is finished and the book is published. Sometimes authors keep imagining their characters in real-life situations.

kit tweetr 1

So, all that being true, next time you meet an author who knows that you recently bought their new book, please, please, say something about the book to them. It may not be at the forefront of your mind, but it sure as hell is what they are thinking about, when they see you walking towards them on the street.

If you hated the book, say “I read your book. I liked” – and then pick one thing you did like about it, even if it was only the cover. And then if they start to ask you more, have a carefully prepared sentence such as “Hmm, well, you did such and such well, but I really preferred ….[your last one]”

Of course, you may have loved the book, and if that is the case, please put the author out of their misery now!

Friday, October 18, 2013


Yes, I remember the horrors of mixed feeding, potty training, sleepless nights, and getting up at 5.45 a.m. to keep company with a bouncy, dewy-eyed toddler who has had quite enough sleep for one night, thank you very much.

What I didn't remember until I was chez the West Coast Hepworths in SF was the sheer  relentlessness of caring for two toddlers from morn till night.  (Though Lux, at 3, says she’s not a toddler, but a “big kid.”)

This is me taking her to gym class:

gym class

Cece is 16 months. Here she is plotting mischief:

cece oct

Here she is, enjoying some yoghurt:

cece with yoghurt

My mission this trip was not to go gallivanting with the Aging Hippie, though I did spend a couple of days with her, talking politics, families, travel, books and life:

aging hippies

No, my mission was to spend time with the family and help out when I could. This included reading The Highway Rat three times a day – an easy and enjoyable task, adoring Julia Donaldson books as I do.

This was one Sunday morning:

sunday morning

I did have one wild night out, with Isaac and Wendy. It began with a pedicure…


…and ended with me tottering home at the end of a hilarious evening. I’m telling you now that two tall margaritas is too much for this grandmother. So much so that although I was sharing a room with Lux, I didn’t hear her crying in the middle of the night. I am growing old disgracefully – but only when I am in San Francisco. I think my daughter-in-law may have something to do with it…

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Goodbye, hello

I left San Francisco on Monday and arrived home on Tuesday – a seventeen and a half hour trip from door to door. My shortest time ever.

The Aging Hippie dropped me off at the airport, because it was Lux’s and Cece’s nap time, so Wendy couldn’t take me.


As airports go, San Francisco International Airport is very congenial. The drop–off is easy, the building is attractive, and when you walk in the revolving doors you find spacious halls with high ceilings, often sparsely populated, and with kindly people there to guide and help you.

Having checked in on Monday I nevertheless felt desperate.That two hours wait for the plane is the hardest part of the journey: my heart is still with the family in their sunny San Francisco home. I am bereft.

Once on the plane I am on my way to feeling better, and when I get to Heathrow and am waiting for the flight to Manchester, my heart is back in Derbyshire. I’m looking forward to seeing Dave again, and my garden, and the view from my bedroom window of trees and fields and sky. And oh - the quiet.

Once I am home, I am happy. Even when it rains. And it has. And it will.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I am home. Watch this space.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Away and awake

I have a quiet moment when the family is asleep to think. When the family is awake, there are no quiet moments. I am not complaining.

I caught up with some films on the flight over here - the newish Alan Partridge (very funny) and a B stream RomCom called Admission, which was watchable enough when you're rammed into an airline seat for 12 hours.

If a film doesn't grip me now, I start to analyse it, thanks to the book I'm reading about how to write a screenplay - Cut to the Chase.

People have been asking me what I'm going to write now that PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS is out, and I've been fobbing them off by telling them I'm going to write a screenplay.

But having nearly finished reading Cut to the Chase, I've (almost) concluded that screenplays are not my bag. I like spare writing, but the stripped down nature of a screenplay doesn't appear to allow for the kind of whimsical, discursive dialogue I like to write. 

None of this matters right now. I'm away, it's hot and sunny, and for most of my waking hours there's a one year old and a three year old to contend with. Nuff said.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Lost in transition

Yesterday I saw my grandsons from Sheffield.



Tomorrow I will see my granddaughters in San Francisco.

cece cheeky

lux after shower

There is nothing else to say. The transition is consuming me.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013


Today, after the news of Wendy’s accident on the Vespa, I am worrying about my children (and others I love), not because there is anything special to worry about, but I’m just in one of those maternal-worrying frames of mind

And the first part of Evangeline Paterson’s poem comes to mind….

A Wish For My Children

On this doorstep I stand

year after year

and watch you going

and think: May you not

skin your knees. May you

not catch your fingers

in car doors. May

your hearts not break.