Friday, January 31, 2014

All clear

I had a check up on my (remaining) breast yesterday, and the scan was clear. The process was really efficient and the staff were lovely. I was in an out of the hospital within an hour. Rock on, the NHS. The consultant who examined me was a lovely bloke, though he was the spitting image of our old postman. It was most disconcerting.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

It’s addictive

You’d think a broken-down old writer would be pleased when it’s a grey rainy January day because there are no lures competing with the desk and the emerging work-in-progress (despite the fact that writing a screenplay is turning out to be soooo much harder than writing a novel, especially when it’s an adaptation of your own novel – I mean – how can a woman slice out whole sections of prose which she thought were important enough to include in the first place? ) 

deep breath – Even so, be that as it may, and notwithstanding, (just using too many words there as a form of rebellion against screenwriting) by yesterday afternoon I was feeling twitchy and desperate for exercise. This was despite the fact that I have Fair Isle arm warmers to knit for Zoe, and a patchwork quilt of my own that requires weeks of work.

It’s all due to the new diet and fitness regime designed to shed those Christmas pounds, so I could go to the GP for the over-60s health check. I can now sit comfortably on the sofa after tea (dinner or supper to you lot down south) without undoing the waistband of my jeans. I can now get to the third tunnel on the Trail and back again without needing mouth-to-mouth.

The upshot of getting fit is that you can’t bear to get no exercise for more than two days at a time. So I braved the rain and went out. But the mud! The mud!


I have booked the surgery appointment for next Wednesday. I am fit, and almost my normal weight again. Let the nurse call me apple-shaped. I’ll give her what for.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pete Seeger - hero

Did you know that because of Pete Seeger’s ties with the Communist party, he was blacklisted from appearing on television in the US for most of the 1950s and 1960s?

pete seeger

And did you know that he was part of the Occupy WallStreet movement even though he was in his 90s?

Here are eight other things you might like to know about Pete Seeger.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Planning the future

Yesterday morning early I was lying in bed looking at the latest catalogue from Wrap that had dropped unbidden through my letterbox. I was turning down the corners of pages to mark the items I liked.

Later in the morning I inadvertently saw a side view of my face, and my spirits plummeted far lower than my sagging neck. There is no getting away from it: I look my age. The trouble is that inside my head I am still 41. Oh Wrap, you turn my head with your skinny boyfriend jeans and your biker jackets.

Do you have plans for your next life? I do. I was embellishing them yesterday as I sat freezing on a country station platform waiting for a train to take me to Sheffield to see Inside Llewyn Davis. (I dropped that bit in to impress people who think that all I do is watch Rom-Coms, and not critically acclaimed Coen Brothers films.)

So these are my current plans for my next life…

I shall have a body like Audrey Hepburn’s, and I’ll bleach my hair and have it in an urchin cut. My style will be rock chick.


I will take up the saxophone at 20 instead of 60, becoming expert at trad jazz improvisation. I will travel during my twenties, and most importantly, I’ll hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and camp there before hiking back. 

At 30, I shall begin to write, and also have my children. By the time they are all at school I shall be a published novelist.

In my forties I will be a hard-hitting and influential columnist, writing about social injustice, and the oppression of the Palestinian people.

In my fifties I’ll have a wild time.

In my sixties I will join the slow lane and spend a lot of time with my grandchildren.

In my seventies, I will take up photography.

After all that, I think I’ll be satisfied.

the heart

Monday, January 27, 2014

Standing in the gutter and looking at the stars

I like to live it up a little and yesterday’s living it up involved waking up late (8 a.m.) so I had time only to blog before I rushed out to Quaker meeting, and then after lunch I was just trying to decide between writing and playing my sax when the rain stopped and the sun came out and gave me other options.

Dave didn’t want to go for a walk. He was ensconced in what we euphemistically call his “study” (but which is really an indoor shed) and he was already getting some cold January air - the window was wide open and the heating was turned off. He was wearing an apron and a beret, and cutting a stained glass piece while listening to a recording of T S Eliot reading the Four Quartets.  He was sorted.

So I went out alone, on my bike up the Trail. The lanes were awash with rain draining off the fields, and the drains on the lane were blocked again. So on the way home I spent a glorious ten minutes unblocking the main one.You know how I love unblocking drains on the lane.

At dusk we drove up over Longstone Edge in search of starling murmurations. And we found one.


It was breathtaking. Here is a link to some murmuration photographs in the Guardian. Open the gallery. You’ll need to see them, because all I got with my little camera without a zoom was this:



Sunday, January 26, 2014

Not so mad about “Mad about the Boy”

On Friday I got my hands on the new Bridget Jones – Mad about the Boy. I didn’t fork out £18.99 for it – and wouldn’t -  but a kind friend lent it me.

What a disappointment.

I loved the first Bridget Jones (the book) in 1996, and I was so looking forward to reading this one. So why didn’t I enjoy it?


Unlike some BJ fans, I have no argument with Helen Fielding killing off Mark Darcy – after all, Jane and I knew we had to get rid of Gus, if we wanted Sally to have a chance at a real romance.

The problem lay elsewhere. When BJ first appeared in 1996, she was a thirty-something, and I was a forty-something living in a different world, and yet I identified with her. She was a sympathetic realistic heroine and I raced through the book over a weekend after I’d wrestled the book out of Zoe’s hands (who was a twenty something living in a media world in London, just like BJ.)  The age difference and the world difference did not matter because the book was fresh and funny, and I could identify with the heroine (which is not always important, but I think it is with this kind of fiction.)

Now BJ is 51, almost the same age as Sally Howe, when she first burst upon the world in Plotting for Beginners, but gosh, how different they seem. But now BJ is a rich widow and single parent – a very yummy mummy -  with a toyboy. Her different world would not have been a problem if the story and/or the humour had gripped me, but it didn’t. Not at all.

After page 27, fed up with reading about nits and jokes about nits, I skimmed huge chunks of the book, only reading it properly for the last quarter, when the new true love of BJ’s life finally became part of the action.

For the last 24 hours, since I finished the book, I have been mulling it over and wondering and worrying about Plotting for Beginners fans. Do they feel let down by Plotting for Grown-ups? The two books are rather different, and I have a feeling that Plotting for Grown-ups may be what Billy Mernit calls a room-splitter. Some people have told me they love it better than any of my other books, and Lynn, of I Prefer Reading, listed it as one of her top ten books of 2013  (which was lovely!), but some people I know have not mentioned it at all.

Ooh, ooh, ooh….nearly forgot! BJ has written a screenplay and while at an important meeting with a film producer, she has her mobile phone on her knee and is texting frivolously throughout. What a noonah! You can bet your children’s life that if Sally Howe was lucky enough to have a screenplay under consideration she’d behave like a professional.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Life begins at 5.34 a.m.

Have you ever been able to recapture a dream? Once I managed to get back into the same world with the same characters the following night. Now, that’s cool.

I woke up from a lovely dream today and tried to go back to sleep to recapture it, but I failed. So I started surfing and found some wonderful drawings that the cartoonist Ronald Searle did for his wife when she was diagnosed with cancer. I tweeted a link to them, and Isaac in California saw I was awake and we had the most wonderful, easy messaging chat, as if he was sitting here next to me…. about work, and about Lux at pre-school (she started this term and loves it), And he sent me these pictures:

off to school 1

off to school 2

What a perfect way to wake up. Isn’t t’internet champion?



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bran tub

Today is a lucky dip.

For those of you who like to see photos of my grandchildren, here is my latest favourite one of Lux -


and Cece -


For those of you who are discouraged writers, here’s some encouragement.

And for those of you who like questions…

I realised yesterday that the books that move me to tears are amongst my favourites. I mentioned The Secret Garden, but there’s also The Age of Innocence, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and Homestead. Tell me - which books have moved you?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter struggles

It was foggy here yesterday, and frosty, and the sun didn’t cut through till the afternoon. I wrapped up warm and went out on my bike on the Monsal Trail.

Jan09 026

It was cold and I felt as if I was working inordinately hard, but I pushed on and got to my favourite turning spot, stopped, and had a think for ten minutes while I looked at the limestone cliffs opposite, and the river below, and saw a heron fly downstream.

I struggled to cycle home, even though it’s downhill for most of the way: I felt limp and weak and hot, as if I’d been suddenly struck down with flu, and all I could think about as I battled on was a slice of bread spread with butter and golden syrup.

I am going to get a new bike. This one is like Sally’s in PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS – old and cronky with broken mudguards held on by plastic ties. Which pretty much describes how I felt when I got home and flopped on the sofa, and Dave said, “You look as if you might die.”

secret garden

I am rereading The Secret Garden. It’s a good book to read in the winter. It’s full of hope, renewal and The Spring. This morning it moved me to tears.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Romance of the Lunchbox

I was trying and failing to untangle that mess of grey wool while I was watching Working Girl as part of my screenplay studies, noting camera shots and imagery, and gaily spotting plot points (Ooh, this is the Inciting Incident! Hey Dave, this is the Dark Moment! ) There was also a certain amount of lusting after a young Harrison Ford – but that wasn’t homework.

Anyway…the heroine, Tess, is a working class secretary who dreams of a career in finance, but she has the wrong voice, accent, clothes and hair, and is treated as a sex object by her bosses, and we are cheering her on in the pursuit of her dream throughout the film. At the end, she finally lands a job that suits her talents, and the audience is thinking Yay! Go Tess! And we’re shown her in her office, but then the camera pans away to show all the other worker bees in their small boxes with a window out onto a soulless cityscape and I was jolted out of the fictive dream. It was such a big shock that I looked on the internet to see if anyone else found it disturbing.

I found nothing, but I did find an academic paper by Jennifer Ailles, which deconstructs the film in terms of gender and class politics. The title – The Romance of the Lunchbox: Negotiating Success in Working Girl - refers to a scene near the end when Tess’s lover (Harrison Ford) hands her a new lunchbox he has bought for her and filled. The paper made me look at this scene and the film as a whole in a different way. It made me think. And it’s made me see how aware I must be of the subtext in my own screenplay.

28 Feb front cover

One person said of BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU that it didn’t have a very feminist message. I did not see it this way. And I still don’t see it this way. So I must make it clear in my screenplay - explicitly, or in the subtext.

Here endeth today’s lesson.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

What do you want to know?

This is a picture of my day yesterday…


but without the light.

And when I have a day like that, I hesitate about sharing it with you. Do you want to hear me wittering on about minor complications, obstacles and greyness?

The Aging Hippie says people read my blog to find out about me, and what I am thinking and writing.

Why do you visit?

Please give me some feedback, and I’ll try to oblige.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Happiness is…

Happiness is having…
  • A writing project that grips you
  • A tenor sax with a beautiful tone
  • Grandchildren who wake up in the morning and think - “Ooh, Sue’s staying” - and come and get into your bed for a chat.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Think global, act local

I was thinking about how depressed I was in December, and how the root of it was the loss of courage and hope.  Yesterday I realised that a feeling of defeat was in there, too…a feeling that there was nothing I could do to make the world a better place.

I went to Greenham, marched against Britain entering a war with Iraq,

iraq demo

demonstrated here there and everywhere, signed petitions, hawked petitions round door-to-door, volunteered at CAB, boycotted Israeli goods, knitted blankets, filled up Aquaboxes, donated money, etc, etc. 

Everywhere there is injustice, suffering, poverty and war. Politicians can’t or won’t solve the problems. Is there any hope?

Yesterday I had a messaging chat with a friend in her 60s who has just been accepted for Voluntary Service Overseas.

My friend, whom I am proud to know, said: “I just watched a TV programme called 1964. My time! We wanted to change the world!”

Me: “I am defeated with that one but you are still going strong. Kudos to you!”

Her: “I still want to, but actually don’t think I can any more.”

Me: “But you are! What else is VSO about?”

Her: “It’s about friendship, sharing, witnessing, helping.”


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

What I can and can’t say

As this is not a political blog, I have already excised my first paragraph about this person.

Moving along…I am sure you are too high-minded to be fans of Neighbours (except for one of my sisters, who never comments on my blog anyway) so I can’t ask you why the three males in the Turner family all have such weird hairstyles. All different, but all really weird, and not in a good way.

You may be fans of The Archers, so I can share this joke about Rob Titchener’s past that I found on Twitter – posted by @lomelindi12.

And I can tell you that the more I read my screenwriting books…


…and think about adapting BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU, the more I understand the constraints on screenwriters when they adapt books for the screen. The problem I am wrestling with at the moment is that there is not enough room for all the minor characters and subplots, so I am trying to decide which to drop and which to keep…Jem, for example, may be for the chop.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Airport security for cats

The trouble with having someone else clean your house – unless you have been married to them for 43 years - is that if they are incompetent, you end up doing the job anyway and if they are good at their job, you feel you have to clean before they come so they don’t despise you for being a dirty Dora.

I have only once paid someone to clean my house, not because of any principle – after all, some people like cleaning, and why not earn a living doing it? – but because the woman cried off the following week with some excuse, and never came back, and I am sure it was because she was overwhelmed by the hopelessness of the task.

But why am I wittering on about cleaning?

Partly because the windows are filthy, and partly because that thing about having to tidy up before the cleaner comes, is like the situation I am in with the doctor.

Let me explain. In September, during the hectic run up to my book launch, I got a letter from the GP offering me an over 60 check up, and not having any spare time, I tossed it to the back of my desk. After the book launch, I went to California, then I had my cataract removed, and then it was Christmas. Now I have run out of excuses.

But…. it is after Christmas and of course I have put on weight. I know how strict the nurse is at our surgery – a friend went down for her over 60 check-up – a fit friend, a friend I would not have thought was more than  half a stone overweight -  and was told she was almost three stone overweight and apple-shaped. I was furious on her behalf, but that’s not the point. The point is – I DON’T WANT TO BE TOLD I AM OVERWEIGHT WHEN I KNOW I AM, AND I CERTAINLY DON’T WANT TO BE TOLD I AM APPLE SHAPED WHEN I CERTAINLY AM NOT.

So now I have to lose my Christmas weight before I go for my check-up. You see, if I get back to my normal weight, I can say to the nurse, “I have been this weight for years and years and have never had anything seriously wrong with me,” and so stub her out.

And what has airport security for cats got to do with any of this?

dec05 002

We don’t have a cat-flap because we don’t want the cat to bring in presents for us in the form of livestock. (That rabbit was bad enough. And when you have read episode one on that last link, here is episode two.) This means that there are dirty paw marks on all of our windows from when she signals to us that she wants to come in, and the low winter sun shows them up. We need a cat-flap that doesn’t allow the cat to bring anything inside the house, not even paw-luggage.

And I need to ask Dave to clean the windows.

p.s. The photo of the cat is out of date. She, too, has put on weight since she arrived here, 8 years ago. But that’s another story.

Friday, January 10, 2014


Yesterday was a trying day but three small sweet things happened, even so.

I had my first sax lesson of the year and Mel had found me a book of Jazz Solos for the tenor sax that has backing tracks and some lines of blank stave for me to improvise. This is all part of the Sue-learns-to-improvise-on-her-sax-plan. I am so excited! Watch out Corcovado, All the Things you Are and In a Sentimental Mood. I dismissed The Way You Look Tonight because they had pepped it up. Some musicians are weird. The song is slow and romantic – no two ways about it. Watch this clip from Swing Time and tell me otherwise.

The second nice thing was an unexpected letter from an unexpected person.

The third was my arriving at 7.45 at the Bakewell chippie after an exhausting afternoon and evening in Sheffield, and being told by the woman cleaning the counter that they only had one fishcake plus chips left, and they were getting ready to close.  But then the sweet young man (well, young to me) who was mopping the floor, took pity on me and cooked me a fish. And his wife (?) said as I left, “You look very tired. Go home and have your supper and a rest.”

So I did, and Dave had lit the stove. (Fourth nice thing.)

Dec 10 060

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

What’s happening

OMG, I had one of those awful long nights that goes on forever, when you dream and dream and dream, and wake up to go to the loo and think – Is it time to get up for a rest, yet? But it’s only ten to two. So you go back to sleep and become embroiled in yet more annoying dreams and finally at 5.40 a.m. you stir, and turn on the light and think – That’s it. I am waking up!

What I am watching – any intelligent Rom-Com I can get my hands on (for screenplay-writing homework)

What I am readingFifty Shades of Feminism

What I am listening to – Fleetwood Mac’s The Dance

What I am playing on my sax – anything and everything

What I am thinking -

1/ It’s a real shame that the person who writes the screenplay is not allowed to suggest the songs for the soundtrack, because I can’t help choosing them all the time – for both PLOTTING FOR GROWN-UPS and BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU (and I’m not even writing the screenplay for PLOTTING.)

2/ My tidy study is looking more and more like a staid old lady’s sitting room and less and less like the exciting hub of a creative, maverick, disenfranchised writer/publisher and wannabe screenwriter. Pretentious? Moi?

But look at the lovely shoeboxes covered so expertly for me by Dave. (Yes, I could have done it but it would have taken me a day, and it took him half an hour)


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

What’s important

In the heat of battling with life, bad news from every direction, trying to get fit on the bike again after the bad-weather break so every trip up the Monsal Trail doesn’t feel like forced labour, it’s easy to forget what I achieved last year…so I’ve been thinking back to encourage myself and reassure myself that it’s OK to be distracted from writing by the drive to clear out clutter (oh this Protestant Work Ethic is a hard thing to shake – actually – it’s not that, it’s my much loved mother always saying when she rang up “And what are you making/working on/writing?” ) ….so back to what I achieved last year…two ebooks published, one paperback published, that fantastic launch, beating down internet pirates, having BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU named as one of the National Autistic Society’s favourite novels about autism, finally finishing the Fair Isle hoodie…


But the thing is, two of my grandchildren came to play yesterday (and I had a brilliant time playing with castle Lego) and when Zoe said they had been very excited about coming over, that felt like a bigger achievement than any of the other more worldly ones above.  Just like when Lux ran across the concourse in San Francisco Airport last March, shouting “Sue! Sue!”  - I knew I’d hit the big time.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A tidy desk is the sign of a sterile mind

Is this true?

The more I tidy my study and throw stuff away, the less it feels like mine, the less comfortable it feels, and the more it looks like the ‘after’ shots in a feature on decluttering in a lifestyle magazine. Yesterday, I even bought some pretty wrapping paper to cover my random storage boxes. That’s today’s job. I should have taken some ‘before’ photos for you. Here’s what it looks like so far.

study shelves jan 2013

Anyway, I am becoming uneasy…

Two of the most creative people I know – Dave (husband) and Zoe (daughter)  - both have rubbish-tip rooms that are bursting with clutter, junk and STUFF. And yet (?) they make the most beautiful and original things.

For example – this was Zoe’s advent calendar one year -

Dec 2011 005

Dec 2011 014

So where does that leave me?

With a clear space for a new creative adventure, I hope.

Screenplay-writing progress has been slowed by the mammoth clear out, but I did watch Mr Deeds Goes to Town, a 1936 Frank Capra film for homework, and fell in love with Gary Cooper. Eat your heart out, James Stewart.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Paper bags and quivers

I did some more clearing out yesterday – one set of shelves in my study. I got rid of a heap of stuff, but there are some things it is hard to throw away – even when they were  not wanted in the first place because the printer made an error – such as these duff invitation cards to my last two book launches. They are smooth and shiny and mint and they have my book covers on them. Any takers? 


Then there is this camera case which was a freebie from Virgin Airways, and is stained and scruffy now – but still it’s useful – I mean, Dave said it could be a quiver for a teddy bear.


And this paper bag from the bookshop in Mendocino, where I went on my very first trip to California.

bookshop bag

And I uncovered things I’d forgotten – like this photo of me at a printing workshop in Wensleydale – get a load of that plait.

print making 

This morning I woke up from a dream in which I drove over a cattle grid and three sinister cows threw rocks at the wheels of the car, and then I drove past Bakewell Golf Course when a police chase was going on and I was shot in the neck. What do you suppose that means??

Friday, January 03, 2014

Is a blog the literary equivalent of a selfie?

I didn’t post yesterday because I spent my blog-writing time reading January – December of last year’s blog. There was a lot of stuff in there – anxiety, stress, complaints, love, enjoyment, achievement, and a couple of sustained periods when I counted my blessings because I was feeling so low.

Oct 09 020

(I wish I could persuade Dave not to take these stupid tilted shots)

Every now and again I lose my nerve with the blog. I wonder if I should be sharing my feelings online. Is it a bit self-obsessed when there is so much suffering in the world?

Then I read another post on Megan Young’s wonderful The Scent of Water blog, in which she shares her everyday life – her thoughts, her feelings, her difficulties, her joys and blessings, and so much more. Her blog has been a source of inspiration and comfort to a lot of people for a lot of years. (And she writes so well.) Personal blogs are OK in my view, because they keep us connected - “We read to know we are not alone.” And being connected to a woman in New Zealand who i have never met and will never meet is a pretty amazing thing.

Today I want to share a poem with you – Ridge Walking by Char March. She has given me permission to publish it here.


Ridge Walking


is my life

out here on the edge

windy here

-a narrow ridge

often I am scared

have to squeeze my eyes shut

hug myself to the rock

crawl along on all fours

mumbling mantras

but sometimes I dance the thin line

whirling in the sun

shouting in an arms-up

head-back laugh

this is my life out here

a slim chance

with steep drops on either side

but Christ the views

are bloody marvellous.


© Char March    Ridge walking is published by Indigo Dreams in Char March’s latest poetry collection The Thousand Natural Shocks  and is available direct from her, or through Amazon.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Don’t look down

I do hope the New Year brings you what you hope for.

Do you have a mantra for 2014?

I’ve decided that my mantras will be

Day by Day


Don’t look Down.

sept 2011 136

This is the Aging Hippie on our trip to the Grand Canyon. Thank you, AH, it was one of the best trips of my life.