Saturday, March 28, 2015

Outdoor living

It's 24 degrees here today and we've just come home from a bike ride to brunch (kids in the trailer ) and then to this park with a view of the mountains. There's a play area and loads of fitness training equipment there. I had a go on most of it. It was fun! Boulder is so fitness conscious, there are bike lanes on most of the roads, and a complex network of bike routes weaving between the houses. 

This table from Wikipedia gives you further clues as to what Boulder is like.

It's a good place to be, and although I packed my suitcase as if for a British holiday, the weather has been sunny almost every single day. Only on Wednesday did it sleet and rain. The daffodils have come out this week, and buds are breaking out on the trees. Lux has drawn a spring mural. 

The only physical difficulty is you have to keep drinking water to keep yourself hydrated. It's dry here and it's 5,000 feet high, and if you don't drink a lot of water you don't feel well. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015


It's World Autism Awareness Week and I am doing my bit to make more people aware of autism by making my novel BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU - free.
The main male character has Asperger syndrome, although his wife doesn't realise it.
The book is one of the National Autistic Society's favourite novels about autism.
If you click on the book cover to the right it will take you to Amazon and you can get your free EBOOK there. Please spread the word in every way you can. Perhaps you'd consider putting a link on Facebook? I'd really appreciate it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Boulder snapshots

I saw that card again. Inside the card it says "Things will get better."

This time it was in a toyshop and I stocked up with other delightful ones from the same publisher, along with treats for the girls. That was after I'd been to my first ever yoga class, with Wendy. You can't be in Boulder and not do yoga. 

Just like you can't be in Boulder and not eat kale. But you have to ask when you're eating out, "Has the kale been massaged?"  

Apparently, massaged kale is softer, silkier, sweeter and more nutritious than plain old unmassaged kale.

The other thing that surprised me was when a shop assistant said - "As you didn't have a bag for your purchase, would you like a chocolate?"

Of course I said "Yes."  I never turn down free chocolate.

The Carousel of Happiness

When Isaac told me last year that they'd all been on The Carousel of Happiness, I thought it was Lux's name for the carousel, because the name was so naive and childlike. I didn't guess that that's what it's really called.

We drove up the Boulder Creek Canyon road on Saturday into the foothills of the Rockies to a small town called Nederland. That's where the Carousel of Happiness is. The carousel is housed in a small building. There are no other fairground rides. All the wooden animals that you ride on were carved by one man, and it took him 26 years to do it. Lux always rides on the dolphin.

They play songs like Jeepers Creepers on a Wurlitzer, and you can't help singing along. The whole experience is a joy. Anyone faced with something called a Carousel of Happiness who decides to have a ride will be smiling when they get off. It's irresistible. It really does make you happy.  Anyone who pooh-poohs the idea, automatically rules themselves out. 

I'm just feeling cross with myself now that I haven't got pictures of the animals to show you.

Monday, March 23, 2015

making whoopee

You need to know that I am not wasting my trip to Boulder weeping at peculiar stimuli. I am having a fabulous holiday full of treats and trips with my lovely family. Of which more when I can shoehorn suitable photographs into my blog posts - ( not easy when I don't have my laptop here.)

Today I am reduced to words. Lux has noticed that Isaac and Wendy often pronounce things differently from each other, she being American and he English. And sometimes Lux chooses the UK pronunciation  and sometimes the U.S. one. She says tomato and vitamins the English way. She knows that what we call sledging, Wendy calls sledding.

Sometimes there are difficulties. I used the word torch and she admonished me "That's not a torch, Sue! It's a flashlight!"

I'd bought the kids a clutch of Alan Ahlberg Red Nose Readers, and Lux loved Mrs Jolly's Joke Shop, so I decided to buy them a practical joke. The trouble was that I didn't know what Americans call Whoopee Cushions.

Tentatively I said to the man behind the counter in the toy shop, "Do you know what a whoopee cushion is?"

"Yes!" He said. "Do you want one?"

The children love it. Cece ( who is almost 3) and I played with it for half an hour solid yesterday. Every time she sits on it she shrieks with laughter. I wish you could see her. Yes, yes, I know I have a childish sense of humour. I also have a big butt. I am probably the only person in the world who has burst a whoopee cushion. Fortunately Wendy had some duct tape that fixed it, because Cece had been on the verge of heartbreak.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A new experience

On Saturday I had a new experience.

A greetings card display made me cry.

I was in a gift shop in Boulder twirling a carousel of beautifully simple, colourful,  block printed cards and you know how they have categories such as Birthday and Sympathy and Good Luck? There was one called Encouragement. I'm always in need of encouragement  - you know what a wuss I am -  so I checked out the cards. In any case, it's nice to have a bank of greetings cards when someone you love has a need of some kind.

The first one I picked up said
"I made you a kite so you'd have to look up"

And my eyes filled with tears.


My best friend just died. Yes.
And in my quiet times, I am currently engrossed in Vera Brittain's moving memoir of the First World War - A Testament of Youth.

But to cry at a greetings card in a shop?
It's weird.
This morning I came across this tweet from Liz Winstead, the co creator of the Daily Show. I think it holds the answer.
"When life gives you lemons you find out where all the tiny cuts on your hand are."

I think it's quite deep.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Au revoir

Passport clip_image002

Travel insurance clip_image002[1]

Visa clip_image002[2]

Dollars clip_image002[3]

Checked in clip_image002[4]

Jam for Lux clip_image002[5]

Jumper for Cece clip_image002[6]

Present for Wendy clip_image002[7]

Bovril for Isaac clip_image002[8]

Books for both of the girls clip_image002[9]

New cossie (to replace my 35 yr old one) to go in the pool with the girls clip_image002[10]


Stay tuned. I may blog from Boulder.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The past is a mystery

Since all the first World War hoohah started last year thanks to David Cameron’s devoting £50,000,000 to ‘commemorating’ it (in a cynical manoeuvre to continue on from national celebrations like the diamond jubilee  – ooh, politics alert! – this is a politics free blog) I’ve been thinking about my grandfather a lot. My grandfather was a conscientious objector.

It was easy for me to stand in the cold rain for an hour last November in a peace vigil to mark Remembrance day – my local Quaker meeting’s response to the 2014 commemoration.

Our banner -


We see WW1 as a political and humanitarian disaster and not a cause for any kind of celebration, and we’re concerned that the current commemoration risks glorifying militarism.

Since November, I’ve been wondering how easy it was for my grandfather to stand up before a conscription tribunal, and to live with the aftermath in his community when he was granted exemption. I have imagined him being denied promotion in the bank where he worked, being given white feathers, ostracised, and much much worse.

This is his exemption certificate:

Matthew's cert 1

matthew's cert 2 

I don’t know what were the prevailing attitudes to C.O.s in West Hartlepool in 1916, but at a lecture on Saturday given by Cyril Pearce, I discovered that there were places around the country where the local community supported the conscientious objectors, because of the local political zeitgeist. Huddersfield was one such notable place, and Cyril Pearce’s book explores this. Following on from his research on Huddersfield and other hotspots of dissent around the country, he questions how popular the War was amongst ordinary people of the time.

It was a fascinating lecture, and when I get back from seeing the chundies in Colorado…….


…..I’ll be organising more peace vigils in Bakewell. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015


Isn’t it ridiculous - and frankly pathetic - how fed up a bad cold can make you feel?
I went to see the GP about my chronic sinus problems on Monday, and the next day came down with another cold…which went straight to my sinuses. Plus I’ve been missing Mary badly this week. Yesterday teatime I felt like this Charlie Smith quote:
”We are often far from home in a dark town, and our griefs are difficult to translate into a language understood by others.”
And then I started missing my mother, who died six years ago.
I sent a miserable self-pitying email to the Aging Hippie and got an understanding, loving and encouraging email back from her, a woman who is literally far from home, and often lonely. And Dave brought me a mug of tea to bed and said "You look marginally better. Or maybe just a whisker less close to death," which made me smile. And he said that no matter how bad I felt I should definitely go to the talk about Conscientious Objectors in the two world wars that’s been in my diary for two months.
So I’ve had my croissant and home-made lemon curd and I’m going to get up and get moving, no matter how crap I feel. I may be self-pitying and whinging, but I am loved. And really, isn’t that everything?


Thursday, March 12, 2015

The lure of turquoise

People around here are beginning to notice that I like turquoise. There’s even an 80 year old Quaker at my local Meeting who calls me “the turquoise lady,” and when Lux and Cece see turquoise, they call it “Sue blue.” I like turquoise. It suits me. You got a problem with that? (last sentence to be said in an American accent.)

I realised I was addicted last week, however, when I found myself on the verge of buying two expensive items I didn’t need. Let me explain.

Toast have been sending me their catalogue for over a decade, and I don’t think it’s because they’ve read the Plotting books and know that Sally Howe loves Toast. A catalogue arrives every month these days and I was worrying about the waste of paper and thinking I’d post it back and tell them to stop, because the clothes are usually so muted you wouldn’t be able to find them in a charcoal factory. This means I never even want the clothes, let alone worry about how much they cost. But when I had a quick flick, two items hit me in the eye.

turquoise 2


turquoise 1

and I swooned. If they had been any other colour, I would not have looked at them, because:

a/ I wear skirts once a heatwave – really. I like skirts, I just don’t like tights, and I don’t like my legs. Plus I only have one pair of shoes I could wear with a skirt and tights: everything else under the bed is a sandal or a boot.

b/ I already have an ancient but what my mother would call a “perfectly serviceable” towelling bathrobe, and a silk dressing gown my sister Jen gave me ten years ago, and anyway, I have a collection of silk blouses in the cupboard waiting to be made into a silk patchwork robe. So why would I want a new one, however pretty and however turquoise?

I love clothes, but I have this Puritan ethic that makes me feel guilty when I buy new ones, so I don’t do it very often. So when I was invited to a swishing party (definition here) to raise money for charity, my heart soared. And I came home with two velvet tops and a jacket. Admittedly they aren’t turquoise, but they are lovely, and I’m a happy bunny.

p.s. I forgot to mention that when I went into John Lewis for vacuum cleaner bags and came out with a raincoat, the raincoat was turquoise. And I don’t regret it.

Monday, March 09, 2015


In case you can’t see a sunset in my latest patchwork quilt (see last post) here is a photo that inspired me:


Sunday, March 08, 2015


I am unhelpfully addicted to pork scratchings, the colour turquoise, and patchwork.

Let’s start with patchwork. It’s tedious, infuriating, and soul-destroying.

I have complained about it on the blog about patchwork before – here, and here. So why do I do it?

I should start by saying that I am a purist in that I only use scrap material, which may include jumble sale booty. I am not a purist in so far as I do use a sewing machine. It is not the sewing that interests me, and that – of course – is the heart of the problem. I make patchwork quilts because I love fabrics and more than that, I love COLOUR!

Here’s one I made when Tate was born, for his cot:

Cot quilt for Tate

And here’s one I made when Lux was born for her cot:

June 2010 138

Now, they weren’t tedious or traumatic to make. Maybe I should concentrate on quilts for babies.

Here’s a full size one I made for Isaac and Wendy as a wedding present, which was still in use this week:

kids in patchwork

Because patchwork is so arduous, I have considered painting instead, but you can’t put a painting on your bed and wake up every morning and enjoy it, as I have with the quilt that’s been on our bed since 2007. This is a traditional Shaker design, similar to the one I did for Isaac and Wendy:

march08 005

Now – after two designs, more than two years and much cursing, the current one is finished. Here’s a design I rejected and unpicked:

patchwork 016

Here’s the one I just finished, an abstract sunset, using many of the same patches:

patchwork March 2015

I like it a lot. Tonight it’s going on the bed. But if I ever mention again that I am thinking of making another full size quilt, please, please, make me see sense.

Friday, March 06, 2015

The choice of words

There’s an episode of Last Tango in Halifax when Caroline is distraught, and in a heartbreaking situation, and Gillian says to her “Are you all right?” and it makes me think that Gillian is even stupider than we all already realised. (Not that we don’t love her.) Of course Caroline is not all right! Gillian can see that Caroline is not all right.Why does she ask her if she is?

I couldn’t decide if this was poor writing on Sally Wainwright’s part, or very good writing, because people do say inane things to distraught people. (I am having to be very guarded here as some of my blog readers live on continents where series 3 of Last Tango has not yet been aired.)

I was chatting about this to Dave and he said that when people say these things they mean well, and the recipient should accept the enquiry in the spirit in which it was given. Surely, though, the upset person should not be the one in the position of having to make allowances for the one expressing concern. The latter should be more thoughtful and choose their words more carefully.

Last week someone commented on my post and said I was a “keeper.” No-one has ever called me ‘a keeper’ before, and I loved being called ‘a keeper.’ I loved that word, that concept. And this reminded me of the love letter that 4 year old Lux wrote to me, ending with the words:

You are my Sue and I love you,


That choice of words - “You are my Sue” – were the ones that meant the most.

That’s it, really. I’ve just been thinking a lot about the choice of words, as you do when you’re a writer.


Monday, March 02, 2015

not going there

Last night I dreamed I was pregnant, but I didn’t react as I usually do when I dream this – with panic, a hurried waking up, and then a time spent reassuring myself that there is NO WAY it could be true, because I have had a hysterectomy. No. Last night was weird. I was quite at ease with being pregnant.

Babies in dreams are associated with creativity and new projects. Maybe I dreamed it because yesterday when I was re-reading The Siege by Helen Dunmore, I thought – Oh, I really want to write another book.

I don’t, however, want to self-publish it. Nor do I want to hawk it around agents and wait for months to see if one of them wants to take it on, and then to be told by three or four that it is beautifully written, but too quiet to sell.

So what’s to do?

In the meantime I have episode one of the screenplay to add a touch more conflict to. The problem with episode one is that I have to establish that Fran and Sol love each other and have a happy marriage and yet by the end of the episode suggest that their marriage is under serious threat. A tough gig.

Also in the meantime, I have the patchwork sunset quilt to finish. More on that (and the unhappy ruching near the bottom) next time. It’s currently spread out on the sitting room floor on top of the backing and the wadding, waiting to be tacked together. That’s a shaft of sunlight on it, not a faded streak.


 In the meantime, it’s snowing.