Friday, October 31, 2014

Meanwhile, in another time zone…

….in the Colorado autumn sunshine, Wendy, Lux and Cecilia have been choosing pumpkins for Hallowe’en…and Isaac has been taking pictures of them…







Photographs by Isaac Hepworth.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Always here

Six years ago today my mother died.

Missing her has become part of my life now. The good thing is that since she died I have become even closer to my sisters and brothers. I don’t take this for granted: I know how fortunate I am. At least two of them will be reading this – so yes, you guys, I mean you. Here’s to you!  (And Peter – when I say “guys” it’s a non-gendered word. Just to be clear.)

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.

This obituary appeared in the Darlington and Stockton Times.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Are you an idealist?

Do you want to make the world a better place?

Do you feel discouraged and despondent?

If you answered yes (and actually, even if you didn’t), find a cinema that is showing Pride and go and see it.


It is funny, moving, inspiring and uplifting. Even hard-nosed film reviewers (you know the types – Guardian man I am looking at you) like the film and say it isn’t sentimental. I saw it on Monday and as soon as it’s out on DVD I’ll buy it, so I can watch it again. (And I’ll have it to watch whenever I’m drowning in despair.)

Pride is a feature film (not a documentary)  following the true story of how the gay movement supported the miners during the 1984-1985 miners’ strike. Did you know they were the biggest financial supporters of the miners? I didn’t. Did you know a band of gays made friends with the community in a pit village in South Wales and that those friendships still exist today? Did you know that the miners were so grateful, that bus loads of them went up to London for the 1985 Gay Pride march and led the march?  And did you know that because of the support from the gay movement, the NUM led the way in changing Labour Party policy towards lesbians and gays?

pride 3

The audience at the cinema where I saw Pride actually clapped at the end of the film.

The thing that is so inspiring about this bit of hidden history from the miners’ strike is the solidarity between two groups which were both being vilified by the press – a solidarity which led to friendship, commitment, support and change. The pits closed, yes. But now we have same sex marriage and at least in the UK, the social world is friendlier for gays.

pride 4

And there is music in the film as well - loads of pop, but the track that made me cry was Bread and Roses, sung at the miners’ welfare in Dulais . Click here to listen.

pride 2

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My tweet week

It’s been a busy week, and my screenplay has been consuming my writing energy. It takes time to think about what to blog, and then to write the post, and I’ve only had enough time to tweet.

Skip the next paragraph if you understand Twitter.(I know a lot of you don’t.)

There are several kinds of tweets. 1/ a simple tweet   2/ a tweet which is a response to someone else’s tweet   3/ a retweet, which is when you repeat something that someone else has tweeted.

The following are my simple tweets since you last heard from me (I have made sure all the links work, in case you want to click on them):

Me: “It's tough being a grown-up.”

Him: “Never mind, you've not got much longer to do it now.”

Fabulous understated interpretation of Misty. One day I'll be able to play Misty like this. #hereshoping

Woo-hoo! I love my #screenplay, even if the cliffhangers do fall in inconvenient places.

I just bought this book about death. The children might like it @isaach It is very short and very simple.

...and doesn't mention God or heaven... @isaach

Things I learned yesterday

It takes a lot of courage to embark on a day at school when you are 10 and have aspergers and you know you're going to be picked on. #autism

Dr MaxMan 200 doesn't know me at all if he thinks I will open an email saying "Get used to being BIG, Sue Hepworth" #spam

Oh the joy of being alone for the morning and being able to wear my 33 yr old jogging bottoms while I am #writing

And the days are not full enough

And the nights are not full enough

And life slips by like a field mouse

Not shaking the grass.

Ezra Pound

again I ask - does anyone ever follow people mentioned in #ff tweets? I could do without them clogging up my timeline. #petpeeve #grouch

Read this shocking article and then tell me the BBC is not biased against Palestinians.  #BBCBias #Gaza

I dreamed my son's mother in law arrived unexpectedly from 5000 miles away and the house was cold and there was no food in the house.

I may be getting too old for Twitter. The emoticons are too tiny to make out. Even my own.

Me: “When I woke up I had an epiphany on my screenplay.”

Him: “It'll wipe off.”

Other non-tweeting activities:

  • Baking thousands of cakes for a meal after my friend’s memorial service at Quaker Meeting,
  • attending the service,
  • finally deciding the wording and format of our new banner for our next peace vigil,
  • cycling,
  • gardening,
  • working on my interpretation of Misty. I’ve been able to play the notes for nearly five years. Now I’m working on my ‘articulation’ and trying to make it sound like this.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Things I learned yesterday

Yesterday I learned several things.

I learned that you are only allowed to go to sleep in the world of Minecraft when it’s night, so daytime naps are out. I’d say that smacks of ageism.

But it is possible in Minecraft to create a world “inspired by the Coliseum” – as Tate and Gil have done (their words.) It is their current world. You will see the arena to the right and the seating to the left.

minecraft coliseum

(Who me? Proud? Nah!)

I also learned that when I have breakfast with a young family on a day when both parents are going to work and children to school, the quiet house after they’ve gone feels very different from the quiet house when my family were young and had just gone out to school. In those days it was a “Phew” moment. But sitting there in Zoe’s quiet kitchen yesterday, it was sad. The house was bereft. Does the house miss them when they are out for the day?

It made me think of a quote from Out of Africa:

If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a colour that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?

And this makes me think of the poem:

Wet Evening in April

The birds sang in the wet trees
And as I listened to them it was a hundred years from now
And I was dead and someone else was listening to them.
But I was glad I had recorded for him
The melancholy.


Yep. It seems to be that kind of a week.

Oct 10 021

p.s. for those of you who have no idea what Minecraft is – I’d describe it as a kind of digital LEGO, but you can find out more about it, here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Suffused with melancholy

Sad, odd times. Good and bad.

A friend died last week. Suddenly. She fell off her bike. All those who knew her are reeling with shock, and overwhelmed by sadness.

Also last week, it was my birthday, and I had smashing presents, and nice times.

Chrissie invited me to tea, and took me to see a tiny travelling theatre company at a local hotel. We sat on the front row and lapped up their adaptation of A Month in the Country, by J.L.Carr. The family member who declines to be named took me for a lovely lunch. I cracked on with the screenplay. And I had some fabulous rides through autumn on the Trail.

Nov 2011 029

But everything was suffused with melancholy. And in between times, banks of gloom swept in. Sadness for the loss of a life still vibrant and giving. Huge empathy for the immediate family.

But there was more than that. Have you noticed how a death close at hand, sad in itself, also has the ability to bring to the fore every other death you’ve experienced, past and imagined? For me, bereavement is one of life’s horrors.

Then, one must think again about how to live. Here’s a favourite quote of Dave’s:

sera nimis vita est crastina: vive hodie

Living tomorrow is too late: live today


In our Quaker classic, Advices and Queries, there is the query:

Are you able to contemplate your death and the death of those closest to you? Accepting the fact of death, we are freed to live more fully. In bereavement, give yourself time to grieve. When others mourn, let your love embrace them.

And the epigraph at the beginning of my novel Zuzu’s Petals holds true -

Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.

Henri Frederic Amiel

Lastly, after being a helmet refusenik for years, I gave in and bought one (even though I am sure my friend would’ve been wearing one.)

Friday, October 17, 2014


Sometimes the best comfort for sad bad shocking news is an early morning bike ride on the Monsal Trail. That and a hug.


This morning at 7 a.m. I was sad. Now, after a ten mile ride when I saw only three dog walkers and two cyclists, autumn trees, hills, gorges, dales, cattle, sheep, sky and wet leaves…I feel better. Still sad, but sound.

Onward and upward.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Flow and boiled eggs

People sometimes ask me - “Is it hard to make yourself sit down and write? I wouldn’t have the willpower.”

Listen - I’m currently having trouble making yourself do anything apart from write. When I’m in the middle of a project, I wake up happy. Then certain shadows flit across my consciousness. I deal with those, and then I launch into thinking about the screenplay.

Yesterday at a quarter to eight I was lying in the bath missing my parents. (Those weren’t the shadows.)

At half past eight I was sitting at my desk immersed in Episode 2. Apart from getting up to go to the loo and making a coffee, I stayed there for four solid hours. I glanced up at the clock at 9 a.m. The next time I looked up it was 10. And so on. I only stopped for a sandwich (and to put some eggs on to boil) when my eyes were aching and my brain was tired. One thing I will say: it is not advisable to put eggs on to boil and then go back into your study. You are liable to find them in half an inch of water in a steamed-up kitchen. I have no idea how long they were boiling for. Dave ate them anyway. He’s good, like that.

The trouble with flow is that I have nothing to blog about.

And I am sure you don’t want a photo of boiled eggs.

So how about this one that I should have put on the blog yesterday?

flag bigben

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Celebration! and also, the niceties of formatting screenplays

Yesterday was a special day – the British parliament voted to recognise Palestine as a state. It’s a long road to peace and justice, but we’re on the way.

Here, it rained. And I had a lovely day working on my screenplay. That’s all I want to do……I’ve become very boring. Even last night as relaxation I watched an episode of Last Tango in Halifax and made notes on it throughout – mainly on the settings used.



Caroline is in the bedroom putting on her make-up. John  knocks and comes in.

I’m doing this to examine how many scene changes and how much variety Sally Wainwright (the writer) uses.

I bought some new software called Final Draft that formats your screenplay automatically. You may think this is going a bit far, and why don’t I format it myself? But you should try it. You have to have five different sets of margins in a screenplay – one for the

  1. scene headings and the action description
  2. the dialogue
  3. the parentheticals
  4. the name of the character
  5. the transitions

The parentheticals  are the directions under the characters’ names about how the character is speaking e.g. (shouting)   (under her breath)  (exasperated beyond words)      I love learning new bits of specialist terminology, just like I did when I was publishing -  I still remember “sewn limp” with fondness.

Here – look at this -


Just imagine how long it would take you to format that ‘by hand.’ You’d have to do it more or less line by line.

I had some normal life on Sunday, though. One thing I did was go for a long walk in the autumn sunshine. We started in mist, and I thought there’d be no point in taking my camera, so the pics are courtesy of Liz. (Thanks, Liz.)

walk with liz 1

walk with liz 2

walk with liz 3

It was beautiful.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

If you do just one thing this weekend, make it this one…

PLEASE email your MP today to ask her/him to vote to recognise Palestine as a state. You can find your MP’s email address here.

On Monday, MPs are voting on whether or not to recognise Palestine as a state. Some people say it should not be a state until there is a ‘settlement’  - until a peace plan is in force.

The Israelis have shown by their actions this year – by the bombing of Gaza

gaza under attack


and the killing of thousands of innocent people –

dead gazan children

and by their recent theft of yet more Palestinian land for illegal settlements –


that the Israeli government does not want peace, or a settlement, if it involves treating Palestinians as equal human beings.

PLEASE email your MP today to ask her/him to vote to recognise Palestine as a state. You can find your MP’s email address here.

The moment for peace is now.

For fuller information about this, click here.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Too early

It’s 5 a.m. which is far too early for a Sue to be awake. The thing is…I woke at 4.40 for the loo and then couldn’t get back to sleep because my screenplay was twirling around in my head.

When the children were young I can remember being exhausted by 8 in the evening, ready for bed, but not wanting to go to bed because the next thing I knew I’d be waking up with the children, and the day would start all over again and I’d have had no time at all for myself. Relentless is a word that comes to mind when I think about looking after small children day-after-day.

Last night I was tired earlier than bedtime but I didn’t mind sloping off, because I knew that when I woke up there’d be peace and quiet and I’d have my writing brain recharged. And here I am! I finished the first draft of episode one yesterday and I’m starting on episode two. There are not many things more wonderful that writing when it’s going well.

In the meantime, I know you guys like photographs of where I live, and here’s one that my friend Liz  (Happy Birthday week, Liz!) took in August. I love this photo. It’s a picture of the gate down the road that Dave and I always lean on  and think of Isaac and family way out west, and wonder what they are doing.

THE gate by Liz

The gate makes an appearance in Plotting for Grown-ups.

Richard came to tea and afterwards we sauntered to the end of Goose Lane to look at the sunset. We leaned on the gate and looked at the sky and I said, “I wonder what Daniel is doing right now, in Denver, this very minute.”

“There’s no telling,” said Richard, being someone with no imagination. He’s like the man in the Thurber cartoon who doesn’t know anything except facts.

“Well, you make the conversation,” I said.

“I listened to a podcast while I was walking Pippa’s dogs this morning,” he said. “Melvyn Bragg on In Our Time. There was a fascinating discussion about the development of the scarf joint.”

“No, talk about something else.”

“OK. I’ve been making a list of potential income streams to boost my pension, and I think the one to crack is pet embalming. A cheap stuffing service would go down really well.”

And now – to work/play. Well, anyway, to write…

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

A list of pleasures

“A multitude of small delights constitutes happiness.”



A list of ten small, but special pleasures:

- shiny new conkers

- finding an old letter from my mother (in my underwear drawer) that I’d forgotten about

- going to the compost heap at the top of the garden and spotting some autumn fruiting raspberries hidden in the convolvulus

- waking up to a morning of writing and feeling excited about the work in progress

- watching Neighbours in bed and finding that Channel 5 has forgotten to insert the adverts (oh, come on! You knew I watched Neighbours! – just like co-author Jane, and Sally Howe.)

- finding a home-cooked item in the freezer (that I’d forgotten about) that will do for tea

- a newsy email from a friend I haven’t heard from for a while

- an unsolicited hug from a grandchild, son or daughter

- coming home from a tiring afternoon in Sheffield and finding that Dave has already lit the fire

- finding that my 12 year old Moshulu slippers have finally split so I can buy myself a new pair without feeling guilty of extravagance.

I tag Chrissie Poulson and Megan Young of The Scent of Water blog to tell us their small pleasures.

Ooh, thought of another one… swearing when I play a bum note in my sax lesson, largely because my sax teacher says I am the only person she knows who can swear and not sound offensive (and this amuses me.)

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Pearls before swine

Do you remember that Friends episode, The One with Ross’s Sandwich, when Ross leaves his “special turkey sandwich with the moist-maker” in the fridge at work, with a note attached to warn off scavenging colleagues, and his boss eats it? What triggers Ross into a definitive rage is not that his boss ate his sandwich, but that his boss says the sandwich was rather large and he threw most of it away.

“My sandwich ? You threw my sandwich away ?”

Poor Ross. It’s free fall into rage, being sent home from work, a trip to the psychiatrist, and tranquilisers. Of course, he was under stress at the time….but still. I know how he felt. I can forgive a person for scoffing that last delicious portion of rhubarb and ginger crumble that I’ve hidden at the back of the fridge, as long as they don’t say, “It was disgusting. I only ate it because I was so hungry.” No names, no pack drill.

This may explain why, when I make 4 jars of lemon curd – nectar of the gods - at enormous expense and some trouble, as I did yesterday,

lemon curd making

I don’t offer a jar to all and sundry. I only give it to people who I know will truly appreciate it, such as my old friend Dot, my sax teacher, and my sister-in-law.

This time, it’s going to be just Dot and me. There’s been a lemon curd deficit around here lately and I need to make up.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

No thought for anything else

It’s like being in love. I am enjoying working on my screenplay so much I don’t want to do anything else.

But a girl has to get her exercise, so of course I go out on  my bike on the Monsal Trail at teatime.

Here are some photos I took last time I went:


View towards Ashford-in-the-Water:


And a view towards Great Longstone:


I realised after I typed the second paragraph above, that it is politically incorrect to say ‘girl’ in that context. As a committed feminist, I should have said ‘woman.’ However, I like the sound of ‘girl’ better. It’s not because it makes me sound younger, so what’s the the reason?