Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Courage and hope

2013 has been a trying year.
Three people I love were diagnosed with, and/or treated for life-threatening conditions. Then there was Isaac breaking his thumb and Wendy coming off the motor scooter, and there were other upsetting things that I can’t tell you about.
And outside of my domestic sphere, the world became nastier, with the increasingly divisive politics of the coalition, who through their policies, serially beat up one group of vulnerable people after another, and threw more and more into the vulnerable category. Now, they are refusing to take in refugees from Syria.(Aarrghh- this is not supposed to be a political blog – I broke my own rules!) 
Then, there was the rest of the world. Charlie Booker puts it so well
Yes: 2013 was a horrorshow. The news became a Stephen King short-story collection accidentally being adapted into live events in real time. Even unpleasantly extreme news stories that would normally stand out as the most appalling thing you'd ever heard about were quickly replaced by something even worse…….
……This was the news, every day: bombings, massacres, murders, celebrity child abuse and high-profile deaths. One after the other. After a while you just thought: no. No. Anything but this. So your brain shut down and started whistling.
That is what happened to me.
A dear friend asked me the other day if I was feeling better. She understood that my depression was not about feeling sorry for myself; it was about losing courage and hope. 
I am feeling better, but I’m still wondering where to find that courage and hope.
Maybe my grandsons (who I'm not allowed to show you) and my granddaughters (who I am)  will help…

dec 1
Here’s a thought from Mary Ann Radmacher:
Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says ‘I will try again tomorrow.’
I wish all of you courage and hope for 2014.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Punishing schedule

I don’t know what you lot are doing in this limbo between Christmas and New Year but some of us are slogging our guts out watching films every night to get the hang of how screenplays work.

Last night it was Sleepless in Seattle,


of which my favourite line is:

Verbal ability is a highly overrated thing in a guy, and it's our pathetic need for it that gets us into so much trouble.

Although there are plenty of other good lines, such as

Sam Baldwin: What is "tiramisu"?

Jay: You'll find out.

Sam Baldwin: Well, what is it?

Jay: You'll see!

Sam Baldwin: Some woman is gonna want me to do it to her and I'm not gonna know what it is!

Anyway…the thing is….I have to pick key scenes as well as bits of dialogue from  BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU for the screenplay, and that’s what I’m working on today.

Saturday, December 28, 2013


When I was ten I formed a club called The Cherry Pickers. There were four of us in the club and the only thing I remember us doing at our meetings besides drinking orange squash and eating biscuits was knitting. We knitted squares for a blanket for refugees. It was World Refugee Year.

Thirty-five  years later, when the Bosnian War was playing out, I had just started to write creatively, and was trying my hand at poems. (I soon gave that up.) This is an excerpt from a poem called Knitted Blanket, that I wrote after seeing heart-wrenching footage of domestic possessions strewn across a border, and hundreds of women and children huddled on a hillside on the other side of that border:

Before this week we shared a pattern for our lives,

The texture, yarn and colours of a kind,

But war has wrenched the needles from your hands –

And stitches dropped, your world unravels and unwinds.

To see you there with every line cut off, and torn

From home and husband, warmth, support and friends,

Stranded hopeless on a brutal border,

I feel there’s paltry comfort in the threads I send.



The photo above shows 400 sweaters for Syrian refugee children knitted by a 92 year old woman from Swindon.

Here is my Christmas appeal:

If you have enjoyed reading my blog during 2013, I’d be so grateful if you would make a donation to any charity at all, but at present I am favouring charities which are working with Syrian refugees, such as

Friday, December 27, 2013

A question, and lots of wittering

I watched While you were sleeping last night in the great Hepworth season of film-watching, which is my homework (heh-heh…to help me in writing my screenplay.)
And the Sandra Bullock character said that she had always imagined what she would be like when she grew up and how she would live, etc.  And it reminded me of the Friends episode when Ross is marrying Emily, and Monica tells him that women have imagined getting married and what they would wear since they dressed up at the age of three.
So here’s the question (well, actually,two questions):
When you were very young, did you imagine what your life would be like when you grew up?
And if you’re female, did you imagine yourself in your wedding dress, walking down the aisle?
Because I didn’t imagine either, and especially not the second one.
So I wonder if these are silver screen cliches, or if they are based in reality, and that I am odd.
As an ex-social scientist, I realise that you, dear readers, are not a representative sample of anything, and as readers of my blog, you may be anti-romantic-cliche like me, and further than that, the people who try to respond in the recalcitrant comments section below are an even smaller sample of my readers, and the ones that persist and get through, or take the time to email me are an even smaller sample.
Still, if even one of you agrees with me, I will feel less peculiar. Though, if you have read my blog for long enough, you’ll know I don’t really mind if people think I’m peculiar.
Why do I say I am anti-romantic-cliche?
When did you ever hear of a hero behaving like this:
He wet his finger to wipe something off her chin. “You’ve got toothpaste on here, from last night.”
or a heroine described thus:
She was crying all over his arm, getting snot all over his chest. “Sorry about your sweatshirt,” she said, between sniffs.
28 Feb front cover
p.s. I know there are acute accents missing from the word cliche above but I can’t do accents in Blogger, so you’ll have to tough it out without them (and this includes you, Spiky Pete.)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Boxing Day

I’ve decided there is no point in taking action to dispatch my spare tyre until these are finished:


I’ll have to make them last.

In the meantime, I’m going to get on with writing my screenplay. Excellent.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Christmas!

Don’t tell Dave, but I am really enjoying our OFF Christmas. (After all, I did have the family meal on Sunday with crackers and Pictionary and champagne.)

Since then it’s been quiet. I like quiet.

We had a walk up the Monsal Trail and round the village in the sunshine yesterday;

dec 07 045

I listened to the Carols from King’s College, Cambridge in the quiet of my study, and the sun played on the wall by my desk;

sun on christmas eve

then an old friend called unexpectedly;

Isaac rang from the States, and sent me this photo of what happened immediately after he rang off

west coast hepworths on christmas eve

my daughter and daughter-in-law gave me beautifully chosen gifts;

and Dave surprised me with a stocking of little presents, wrapped up like this -

stocking presents

I don’t know what’s for dinner and I don’t much care.

I’m having a very Happy Christmas, and I so hope you are too.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Lazy day of wind and rain

I got up late yesterday, so was late at Bakewell market and then even later because I bumped into an old friend who bundled me into the nearest cafe for a catch-up. Then when I did get to my favourite greengrocery stall at 10.30, they were selling their stuff off cheap, so I snagged some bargains.

Dave and I had an old peoples’ afternoon and evening. We lit the fire, and I knitted, and Dave did the Christmas crossword and then entertained me by reading out unwittingly comic small ads from the Peak Advertiser. I flicked through the SALE catalogue from Celtic and idly considered buying the Darley Pocket Dress in 100% Geelong lambswool, now half price…

darley pocket dress

…not because I have the figure to wear a knitted dress, but because the thing is obviously warm and a real bargain and I always think that a knitted dress would be just the thing to wear over my pyjamas on cold mornings when I’m writing.

So there we were at teatime, each lying on a sofa in a quiet house, on an OFF Christmas, curtains drawn, fire blazing, with no shopping to do and no guests expected for four whole days, and he said with utter sincerity:

“As we’re approaching the corona of Christmas, how do we avoid burn-up?”

Monday, December 23, 2013

Some of us have a reputation for not being able to control what we say when we have had a drink

It comes to a pretty pass when you are single-handedly in the process of assembling a festive family meal comprising:

roast free range chicken, sausage, bacon, nut roast, veggie sausages, parsnips, sprouts, peas, potatoes, stuffing, force meat balls, gravy, mushroom gray (V) and caramelised onion gravy (V),

(which – incidentally  – was all ready at the predicted time of 5.30 p.m.)

and two of your children tell you that because an unexpected guest is now coming, you may not have anything to drink during the festivities lest you embarrass said visitor, said children, yourself or the cat, and this includes the champagne that is already cooling in the fridge door, and your one ally in this situation (your daughter-in-law who is at that moment on the phone) is 5,000 miles away, so cannot shout them down.

I acquiesced, and then because I acquitted myself with grace amongst the assembled hordes, the children relented.

You know what they say? A good time was had by all.

But I was the one who had the best time….

sue chef

…there is nothing so sweet has having your family assembled around the same table, happily pulling crackers, and having a grandson say after EVERY cracker joke “Why is that funny?”

And my only sadness was that the West Coast Hepworths

kids on the scooter

and their parents, were not there too. But you can’t have everything.

And now, it really is an OFF Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sexy complications and stress relief

To cheer you up while you take a break from the Christmas frenzy… further Christmas doings of our heroine, but this time – seven years later in PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS -

Friday December 23rd

Cooking therapy

I still felt shaky this morning, but not as bad as yesterday. I sat at my desk and tried to work out how to write my novel’s ‘Sexy Complication,’ (a development in the story that raises the stakes, makes Jenny’s goal clear to the reader, and sets Jenny and Liam at cross-purposes) but it was hopeless: my mind was too full of Kit.

So I gave up and spent the morning making vegetarian goodies for Sam for Christmas – a cashew and mushroom roast, a broccoli and stilton flan, a pile of vegetable samosas – and then I got a text from him:

Going to Luke’s squat to escape the bloated consumerist capitalistic crap. See you New Year. Have a good one. xxx

…and I felt like throwing it all at the wall. Bloody vegetarians!

Richard is coming here for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, so he and I can roast the spuds in goose fat and not olive oil, have real beef suet in the forcemeat balls, enjoy our Co-op Free-Range chicken and sausages and bacon in all their carnivorous glory, while picking at the carcase and licking our fingers, without veggie family members looking down on us from the moral high-ground.

In four days I’ll see Kit.

today’s tweet from @sallystoneymoor

Save turkeys! Eat a vegetarian!

dec 07 067

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The next instalment

I thought you might like the next instalment of Sally Howe’s Christmas in Plotting for Beginners – following on from yesterday’s post….(so much of her life overlaps with mine)….

Tuesday 23rd December

Richard popped in, apparently just to give me a giant air freshener.

“What’s this for?” I asked.

“I thought it would be nice to put it in your loo—on Christmas Day. I wanted everything to be pleasant for Pippa.

“But why such a giant one?” I asked.

“With all the heavy duty farting that goes on in there I thought you needed something with teeth.”

from: kate wensley

to: sally howe

subject: last post

hi daise

bought tinned meatballs in gravy for dry run of christmas lunch for champman and pesto

tinned meatballs less appetising than pet food

all four cats refused to eat left-overs

on pesto’s instructions had to ask phil down the road where they buy their meatballs as pesto had eaten good ones at their house

they get meatballs from ikea

personally suggested that could maybe have meatballs some other time, perhaps after christmas in conjunction with outing to ikea sale

pesto said—fuck that

personally suggested we should make our own

idea vetoed by champman’s disgusted-of-matlock face

therefore family trek to ikea—

aragosta got up from sickbed to accompany

pesto and champman each had meatballs in ikea restaurant at 4pm (then felt sick but blamed that on tinned lunch)

got polka dot cups and saucers in passing so journey not entirely wasted

now have giant pack of ikea meatballs in freezer compartment

champman may be going off idea as someone has told him meatballs made from kangaroos

- it may have been me

best swedish traditions, love g

dec 07 066

Friday, December 20, 2013

Preparations: fact and fiction

Zoe and family are coming on Sunday for a BIG MEAL so I got up early to zip down to Bakewell for last minute food shopping, and Dave said he’d drive me cos was so icy. I feel just like Sally Howe in Plotting for Beginners

December 22nd

…Richard appeared at the front door, to give me a lift down to Bakewell for last minute shopping.

My list was leeks, spuds, apples, clementines, celery, tea, and yet more mincemeat.

His was candles, paraffin, ibuprofen, kaolin and morphine, bandages, sutures and sick bags. He likes to be prepared.


from: kate wensley

to: sally howe

subject: xmas lunch

hi daise

champman and pesto just decided they want ikea meatballs for christmas lunch

giovanna’s shopping page not sure

a/ if ikea sell meat balls outside restaurant

b/ whether andy would stand another trip to ikea if they do

personal suggestion of solving problem by going to ikea for christmas lunch met with mother-has-finally-lost-it looks

best suggestions, love giovanna


dec 07 080

All of the above is autobiographical.

Happy Days!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What happens now

We’ve hit on a happy compromise for the OFF Christmas: Christmas is confined to my study, so I have a small tree (see pic on yesterday’s post) but no decorations, lights or cards elsewhere. This year Dave said that if it would cheer me up I could do whatever I liked, but that didn’t seem fair (and anyway, the depression is nothing to do with Christmas, ON or OFF.)

But I have allowed myself a few cards on the dresser, and this decoration on the dining room table:


The ceramic stars were handmade by Zoe, who came over on Tuesday to take me out to lunch (as loving daughters do.) It was a beautiful clear sunny day, so we walked up the Trail and over the fields to the pub not much bigger than our sitting room. It’s been a ladies-who-lunch week. On Monday I had a wonderful Christmas dinner at Hassop Station with a friend, and yesterday I met my big sister half way between her house and mine – an hour’s drive.

We saw a fab exhibition of Quentin Blake drawings, such as this one -




It was so good to see Kath. Sometimes, there is no substitute for a hug from a sibling.


Dec06 005

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The story of the Christmas shed

Our ON-OFF Christmas (aka Christmas in the Shed) – which is now part of the biennial domestic landscape at Hepworth Towers -  has an interesting history, as well as being immortalised in the novel PLOTTING FOR BEGINNERS.

1. It began as a jokey idea of Dave’s.

2. I wrote a piece about it for the Times, thinking everyone would know it was a joke.

3. The following year I sent a clipping of the piece to a glossy women’s magazine.

4.They rang me up, and this is what happened next – and I quote from the fictional version in Plotting for Beginners. But the bulk of this is TRUE.

“The features editor of Hearth and Home  [fictional title] rang. She said that everyone in the office had been rolling around laughing at Gus’s zany idea on how to spend Christmas, and they would like to give us a double page spread in the November issue (which is in fact the Christmas issue—what?)

Gus and I are going to be in a feel good feature about people who have unusual Christmases.

The entire piece was a spoof. It was bloody obvious it was a joke.

Not so to Mrs Features Editor.

She asked me if this was an OFF year or an ON year.

“Why?” I asked.

“We’d like to have a picture of you in your Christmas Shed.”

“Oh, we don’t have a shed just for Christmas,” I said.

“So you decorate your normal shed?”

“Well, actually,” I said, “it’s an ON year this year, which means I’ll be decorating the house.” This is true. With Gus away, I am going to have a Christmas celebration such as Goose Lane has never seen. “So unfortunately,” I went on, “it wouldn’t make a very interesting picture—it would look like everyone else’s Christmas.”

“That needn’t be a problem,” she said. “Would you be willing to pretend—for the sake of a good story for our readers—that this Christmas is an OFF one, and that you’ll be decorating the shed? It would only be like time shifting it a year, just as the photoshoot is made to look as if it’s in December but actually takes place in September.”

“I suppose that would be all right,” I said. I know it was stupid to agree, but at the time it sounded so reasonable: she had caught me up in the idea of providing a good story for her readers.

“So I can send a photographer to shoot you sitting in your deckchair in your decorated shed, then?”


“Would tomorrow, or next week suit?”

“It’ll have to be tomorrow. I’m going away on Saturday.”

“Fine. Tomorrow. And don’t fret about a tree,” she said. “Our consumer department has a batch of artificial ones we’re reviewing. And I’ll get the art department to sort out some decorations.”

“Could you send some extra lights?” I asked.

I can’t believe what I have agreed to. One minute I’m telling her we don’t have a Christmas Shed, and the next minute I’m arranging for them to come and photograph me in it. I should have told her to make sure that when the photographer comes to shoot me he brings some ammunition.”

Plotting for Beginners E Book Cover.004

Only several years later did we decide to put the joke into practice.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

This year it’s an OFF Christmas

Forgive me, old friends, but some of my new readers don’t know about the ON/OFF Christmas at Hepworth Towers, which began as a joke in our kitchen and became a reality. Here is an explanation:

Our ON/OFF Christmas  (aka Christmas in the Shed)

Are you and your partner at odds as to how to celebrate Christmas? Does one of you want to go and sit by a peat fire in a bothy in the Outer Hebrides, while the other wants to stay in the thick of things and party every night ?

Although we have tried to find the perfect Christmas compromise, for us there is no middle ground. It was somehow not a problem when we were first married. As impoverished students we both thought it fun to have a second hand Christmas tree and to make baubles out of painted eggshells. Now – forty years and three children later – we disagree.

You may need some background. I come from a meat eating, sub-Walton family of five children, with a history of jolly Christmases - not extravagant, there was no money for extravagance - but certainly festive. I don’t ask for incessant parties, or for spending overkill. For me there is nothing more heart warming than having the house packed with people I love, sharing good food, conversation and games, and to have decorations and a tree.

cropped tree

For my teetotal, vegetarian, atheist husband, who is an only child, and who is not one of life’s natural celebrants, an empty, quiet house is the ideal. He is allergic to visitors, cards, tree, seasonal food and tinsel, and his idea of jolly activity is a spot of DIY, whilst his only concession to over indulgence is an extra carton of natural yoghurt.

Last Christmas I tried to be selfless and to accede to his puritan yearnings by having no decorations and by giving up the tree. This was painful. Admittedly we missed out on the annual row about where to place it (the issue for him), and whether or not it was perfectly vertical (the issue for me), but still I was bereft. I lasted out till Christmas Eve, but failed to go cold turkey, and resorted to assembling all my over-wintering geraniums in the dining room, and stringing the fairy lights on them. It was sad, but it was better than nothing.

This year he floated the idea of the Christmas Shed. I was suspicious, because we already have a potting shed, a storage shed and a workshop shed, and I know he harbours an evil imperialist plan to have the garden covered with a vast shed complex. But actually his idea has promise.

Firstly, we would alternate a Christmas ON year with a Christmas OFF year. In an OFF year (his year) we would have no visitors and the house would be declared a festivity free zone. I would decorate the Christmas Shed to my taste, with a tree, cards, holly and tinsel, and there would be a stash of Christmas goodies in there, and a radio for Christmas music. If friends or family visit I would entertain them in the Shed. If no-one calls (who would blame them ?) and if the sitting room is not available for a surreptitious screening of It’s a Wonderful Life, I could seek refuge from the monastic desert and go out to the Shed for a mince pie and an invigorating blast of Jingle Bells.

In an ON year, the house would be mine to fill with whoever and whatever I liked. My husband could slink off to the Christmas Shed with a bowl of yoghurt and sit in a deck chair in his boiler suit reading Walden. If he wanted a little light activity he could mend a few broken chair legs.

We could have a sign inside the front door saying “Next Christmas: December-” and then give the year. That way, adult children visiting the house during the year would be able to discreetly note it in their diaries, and no-one would suffer embarrassment or hurt feelings when the subject of Christmas was raised in those difficult parent-offspring telephone conversations that often occur in September. Outside the house, my husband could erect a sign directing carol singers and other assorted revellers towards the appropriate location.

So, that’s decided, then. We’ll buy a Christmas Shed and get started. The only problem now is to decide whether we start the new regime with an ON Christmas or an OFF Christmas. He says we’ve had Christmas for thirty years, so this year should be OFF. I say I did without the tree last year, so Christmas should be ON.

© Sue Hepworth/Times Newspapers 2009

published here with kind permission of Times Newspapers

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Marie Celeste Christmas tree

My half-dressed tree has nothing to do with our ON-OFF Christmas


and everything to do with me rushing off to hospital in the middle of decorating it.

A word of advice….

Don’t keep your post operative eye drops on the same shelf as your contact lens cleaner. Otherwise you might go upstairs to put your eye drop in and grab the cleaning solution by mistake and squirt that in your eye.

This will necessitate a trip to the local emergency eye clinic so that the sweet young doctor (oh how ancient I am) can clip your eye open so you look like an anatomical dummy (thanks, Dave) and hose down your eye with two litres of saline solution, and THEN do unspeakable things to your eye with a cotton bud. That last manoeuvre alone is enough to teach me a lesson.

The good news is that we only live half an hour away from the wonderful Royal Hallamshire Hospital and the other good news is that the sweet young doctor said it wouldn’t have harmed my new lens. It was my cornea that needed attention.  But the Ph was back to normal when I left and they don’t want to see me again, and I don’t blame them.

They do want me to keep my bottles on separate shelves.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

The last of the moans

I’m feeling a bit better. I just have to stay away from the news.

Also, yesterday I brought my new tree into my study. I’ll dress it today.

new tree

This year at Hepworth Towers, Christmas is OFF, but inside my study it’s ON. For those of you who don’t know what the hell I am talking about, i will explain tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Dave is grooving to this, which is huge fun, though I don’t understand a word of it. Do you?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pub quiz as mini-break

Who would have thought that an evening in a local pub the size of our sitting room, doing a pub quiz with a bunch of friendly women I didn’t know would be such a treat? And such a holiday from the stuff inside my head?


Well it was. Thank you Liz, and the other members of our team – The Five Gold Rings.

I feel a bit better today. Maybe I should go out every night and then I wouldn’t have to worry about how the world is falling apart.

Here is the last of the week’s cheering quotes from Dave:

Me: “We’re really old.”

Him: “Fortunately, nature has its own way of sorting that problem out.”


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Comfort and Joy

I had a good day yesterday. I worked all morning on my own in the garden. That’s what I like to do at the moment. I don’t want to talk to anyone. And it was sunny.

We watched Billy Eliot again – this time for screenplay-examining purposes (and I only cried twice.)

dec 07 031

And loving people sent me messages. Barbara sent me this short animation, which I liked a lot.

I read Megan’s post again about making good art, and hope.

But as it’s Quotes from Dave week,  here is another gem – so good that I used it in BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU.

I was worrying about being old…

Me: “I’ve just noticed I’ve got those old people’s freckles on the backs of my hands!”

Dave: “I’ve had those for some time. I keep telling you how ancient we are. Stranded in the grey, dank land of old age, and everywhere the stench of death. I’ll make our coffins this winter.”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

I’ve been feeling really low. Last night I cried my way through most of Billy Elliot. I haven’t felt this bad for such a sustained period since the year after my mother died, though the present malaise is different from how I felt then.

This week I’m trying to lighten up by remembering things Dave has said to me in an attempt to cheer me up.


Me:  I’m really fed up, Dave. Actually, I think I might be depressed.

Dave: Don’t worry – it’ll pass. Either that, or you’ll die.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cheering words

OK, I played the Glad Game last week. The effect was patchy. Sometimes I felt cheery, and sometimes I felt like this (found in our bath yesterday):

sad bath toy

N.B. dirty marks courtesy of the cat.

This week I’m trying another tack.  I’m going to share some things Dave has said to me over the years when he’s been trying to cheer me up.

Yesterday, it was this:

“At least you’re not at risk of cannibalism. If you were a depressed Neanderthal, you’d be an easy straggler for the neighbours to pick off.”

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Temporary Remedy

If your Christmas tree looks like this:


and you’ve had enough of the short days and the long nights and your SAD light doesn’t seem to make much difference and you’ve tried playing Pollyanna’s Glad Game for a week while you avoid the news and you’ve still got the winter blues, I recommend watching back-to-back episodes of Frasier while you begin to knit your daughter a pair of Fair Isle arm warmers for Christmas. It cheered me up, even if just for a couple of hours.

Saturday, December 07, 2013


I’ve been lying in bed trying to choose my small pleasure for today, but every time I think of one, I decide it’s not small, it’s BIG .

e.g.the fact that I have my own room for a study – with a south facing window onto the garden:

Oct 10 045

or the fact that whichever way you turn out of our gate, you can walk for miles in lovely countryside:


or all the beautiful things around the house that Dave has made, for example:

march08 016

sept 2011 051

Let’s face it – there’s so much I have to be thankful for. And these are just things. I haven’t even mentioned people.

So here is the small pleasure for today – breakfast in bed, which I have most days, as Dave is not a breakfast person, which means there’s no-one to eat it with in the kitchen.

Dec08 062

Friday, December 06, 2013


I was driving home from Sheffield over the hills at teatime yesterday, feeling sad, and then I saw the new moon. That’s another small pleasure – seeing the moon in the early evening, when you’re not looking for it. That’s Friday’s choice.

new moon

And why was I feeling sad?

I was thinking about what a horrid world my grandchildren are growing up into, and about this report in the Independent. And we’re back to the perennial problem – how to stay informed and engaged and work for social justice and still stay cheerful.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Thursday’s choice

Shunning the news this week and thinking about small pleasures has made me feel so much better.
I see my local grandsons once a week, and it’s a huge joy, not a small pleasure.

Seeing my San Franciscan granddaughters is a huge joy too, but that’s only twice a year.
But Isaac and Wendy send me photographs of them several times a week – and that’s the small pleasure: the arrival of a new photo of the girls in my inbox. These are two I got this week.

Aren’t I lucky?

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Wednesday’s small pleasure

These posts this week are reading wrong. It sounds as if my pleasure on a Monday is the washing line, and on a Tuesday it’s the pictures in the kitchen. The things I’m listing this week make me happy every day.

I’ve chosen Dave’s oatcakes today. He makes them twice a week and I have them for breakfast with my home-made lemon curd or blackcurrant jam.


They’re made with medium oatmeal and they’re like nothing I have ever eaten before – soft, with a hint of sweetness, and with a gritty, crumbly texture. That makes them sound disgusting but they are utterly wonderful, and mega-yummy with cheese. Medium oatmeal is hard to source in Bakewell, so Dave has it shipped in from Scotland in sacks. Yes. Really.


Ooh, almost forgot. I was on BBC Radio Derby yesterday on the Sally Pepper show. Sally is smart, sassy, sensitive and brilliant at her job. Jane and I love her to bits and are very keen for her to play Wendy in the film version of Plotting for Grown-ups.

I was on the show because my  BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU  has been listed as one of the National Autistic Society’s favourite books about autism.


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Tuesday’s small pleasure – my kitchen wall

When we moved into this house, we had not very much. Nearly all of our things had been lost in a fire.

Loving people gave us things. My younger sister gave me these sweet little wooden frames, and my mother raided her photo collection for some family pictures from the fifties. The top one is of my big sister, my big brother and me, the middle one is my parents, and the bottom one is my big brother and me.

kitchen pictures

Dave made the shelves to go above the kettle in the kitchen, specifically to house the pictures, along with the tea and coffee.

One way or another, there’s a lot of love on that wall.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Monday’s small pleasure

You know, I put something on the blog – like yesterday – and the next day I think - “Why did I open up like that?? I must stop doing this.”

Still, following through…here is my small pleasure for today: my washing line. I like hanging out clothes, I like taking them in smelling of fresh air, and I like the look of them hanging in the garden.


(And no. A compact, rotary line would not be the same.)

Sunday, December 01, 2013

You may think I’m pathetic..

…but this is who I am. Thirty years ago a renowned psychological astrologer looked at my birth chart and told me I was a Pollyanna figure – happy, optimistic, starry eyed - who goes out into the world expecting it to be beautiful, and is shocked at how awful it is.

It’s true. And sometimes it overwhelms me, and I am filled with despair, so much so that I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.

This week I felt unable to take even one more bit of bad news – whether it be Israel ethnic cleansing the Bedouins from their ancient homeland – the Negev desert - (and the New York Times describing it as “regulating settlement”) or a news report about refugee children orphaned in their flight from Syria, or Boris Johnson, mayor of London, saying envy is a good thing because it fuels competition, or a British court ordering that a woman who has had a breakdown be sedated and given a caesarean section and her baby taken away – all without her consent.

I won’t poison your day by referring to any more of the stories that have upset me this week, about which I feel powerless to do anything to make things better, apart from donating money to charity.

Anyway…today I decided I was going to give up reading the news for a while, and concentrate on making heaven here where I am. I bunked off Quaker meeting and sought solace in the garden. The sun was bright and warm and there was lots to do. But I so often get twigs and muck in my eyes, that Dave said I shouldn’t be gardening with my new eye still healing, so I wore his safety glasses. Look carefully and you’ll see them.





I hate snails, but a dear friend persuaded me in the summer to put them in the council compost bin (collected tomorrow) instead of stamping on them. So that’s where this lot went: today’s contribution to a kinder world.


And my next trick is this: every day this week, I’m going to post a photo of something around Hepworth Towers which brings me joy. Eat your heart out, Pollyanna.