Friday, May 29, 2015

Time off

I'm taking a few days off from the blog. See you one day next week.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A quote for today

"I'm not telling you to make the world better, because I don't think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I'm just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave's a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that's what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it."

Joan Didion

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The view from the kitchen table

I was talking to my big brother at the weekend about whether or not to post on the blog my journal about my father’s dying, and I realised something. When I’m writing my blog I feel as though you, dear readers, are sitting in my kitchen, and we’re having a chat and it just happens to be my turn to speak.

Do you remember last year’s sweet peas? How for the first summer in goodness knows how long, they failed? This year I have planted them somewhere else…in front of the strawberry patch, to see if the new location makes a difference. 

sweet pea patch

And the compost is mature this time. So fingers crossed. If they fail this year, I am giving up.

But what I really want to say, dear friends sitting round my kitchen table, is this: I really miss Mary.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Aging well

I am vain. And I don’t like looking old. And that’s why I had the profile pic below (from April 2008) on my blog until this year. There wasn’t another one taken in the last seven years that I liked as much.

Sue Hepworth 1

Then at my nephew’s wedding reception last month, my younger brother was sitting opposite me and took some photos I approved of. The new one at the side >>>>>is one of them. I like it, but I think it makes me look a bit matronly. Whereas this one makes me look more fun:

Why am I going on about all of this when last week I was talking about refugees? Look: I am shallow as well as sensitive.

I just binge-watched the whole of a new Netflix series, Grace and Frankie, about two seventy-year-old women, whose husbands have left them for each other – i.e. the men love each other and want to get married. The series has several flaws. As one example, there are issues raised which are only glanced at, when I would want them explored more fully. But this isn’t a review.

The stars are Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen.


But the women are the main focus – how refreshing – and it’s their different images which interests me.

Jane Fonda plays Grace, who is uptight and cold, formal, conservative, and is always, always beautifully made-up, coiffed and dressed. She is thin and beautiful. She looks 64, she plays 70, but in real life she is 77. Amazing. And yet finally (!) I don’t want to have her body. She looks fake. And uncomfortable. And you couldn’t cuddle her.

Lily Tomlin, who plays Frankie, is the one I am mesmerised by. She is a warm aging hippie, with long thick hair, not beautiful like Fonda, but she has a really interesting face, and arty, way-out clothes, very stylish. It’s Tomlin who intrigues me. And yes, she does look cuddlable. And fun.

I think I’ve just found out where this blog post is going: I’ve reached a new stage in the aging process. I no longer want to look like an aging rock chick. I want to be like Frankie: to look unconventionally stylish, interesting, comfortable and fun. And if any of you know where Lily Tomlin/Frankie gets her clothes, please tell me.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Three things I learned this week

The list is a hotchpotch, but if you know my blog,  you’ll take that on the chin.

Two domestic

1/ I need to wear my varifocals if I want to see when the house needs cleaning, otherwise I am oblivious to the dirt and dust. Dave would say I’m oblivious anyway, but that’s not true.

2/ I keep trying to clear invasive Spanish bluebells from my garden (which are not the same as the lovely deep blue wild English ones.) If you pick them from your garden and put them in a vase they droop, so I have never bothered, but the girls picked posies the last day they were here


and after a couple of days the flowers perked up and looked lovely. So now I’m picking them. I may as well enjoy the buggers inside. Here I’ve put them with some white stocks (from the Co-op.)


One publishing

3/ I thought I felt comfortable putting several journal entries about Pa’s dying on my blog, but now I find that I’m not. I don’t mind my regular readers seeing ALL of it. But I realised when I read the next journal entry – the one for May 20th – that it was too personal to share with just anyone, and after all, it’s not just my trusted regular readers who come here.

It would be different if I published it as an ebook, and people knew what they were buying. That would feel OK. So if I go ahead and do it, you, dear readers will be the first ones I tell, after my sibs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My father

Thirteen years ago this week my father died. I was keeping a journal about him at the time, material which I later used in my novel Zuzu’s Petals. I had tried to publish the journal, but although publishers liked it, and said it was good enough to publish, it wasn’t marketable. I was not famous. I am still not famous, but I’ve been thinking about publishing it myself as an ebook. I thought I would post some entries here on my blog, as a start. Perhaps you’ll tell me if you would be interested in reading it all.


Wensleydale       May 19th 2002          

I slept in Pa's room at Kevock last night. I went to the nursing home at 8.30 to say goodbye to him, as I intended to go home for a few days, but he looked terrible. He was in a different room, and was lying in bed looking wild, and though he recognised me he couldn't say much. I sat with him and fed him a few of Kath’s raspberries with my fingers.

I spoke to the matron who said I should not go home, but stay. He had been struggling in the night and she had sat with him for some time. She said she knew the signs.

I asked if I should ring everyone and she said yes. Kath drove Ma up straight away.

The doctor came late morning and examined Pa, and told Ma he wanted a word with her. Matron signalled to me and to Kath to come out too. We all trooped down the long corridor to her office. The doctor sat opposite mother and leaned forward close to her, his head ducked down, his voice calm and serious, making close eye contact all the time, and he said "He's not going to get better. And it looks as though it's going to be fast."

Ma said "It's better if it's fast."

"And you don't need to worry -" said the doctor, "we'll make him comfortable. We won't let him be in any pain."

Jeny, my younger sister, drove up from Winchester in six hours and arrived in the afternoon. She brought a huge cool bag full of frozen meals for Ma that she’d prepared at home.

We sat with Pa all day - sometimes all of us, sometimes in twos or threes. I didn't want him to be alone. We got them to move his bed over to the window so that we could have chairs on both sides of his bed. Jonty and Rachel came in the afternoon and Jonty sat Pa up in the bed so that his lungs could drain. He also lit him a cigarette, and we fanned the smoke out of the window, though the matron had said she really didn't mind about his smoking.

Kath is staying with Pa tonight.

lady hill

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Things that have been puzzling me

I’ve been thinking a lot about the migrants crammed into boats on the Mediterranean, suffering, desperate, and shunned by the UK. And then at the weekend I read that more than 700 migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar had been rescued from a sinking boat off Indonesia's coast. They were fleeing religious persecution and poverty.

The conditions on these ships in the far east approach the squalor and brutality of slave ships 200 years ago. The reports are shocking. How can it be that here I am safe, secure, well fed, with time to spend as I like, and at this very moment, hundreds of people are crammed onto ships desperate to escape their lives, and they are left stranded, starving, in the middle of the Andaman Sea?

And what can I do about it?

And here is another thing that puzzles me. Last night we watched Shadowlands, about C.S.Lewis and Joy Gresham. As I see it, there are two strands to the film – the love story and the religious and philosophical theme. To put the latter into a very banal nutshell, Lewis preaches that suffering and pain are lessons given to us by God to make us perfect. Then his wife dies of cancer and he is challenged by his own ideas. In the film there is a scene where Joy and Lewis are happy on holiday and she wants to talk to him about her impending death. She says “The pain then is part of the happiness now.”

I really don’t know what this means. Do you?

The double rainbow I saw out of the bedroom window this morning may or may not be relevant.


Monday, May 18, 2015

To welcome in the summer, to welcome in the May O

I love May.

Hal an tow, jolly rumbalo
We were up long before the day o
To welcome in the summer
To welcome in the may o
For summer is a comin in
And winter's gone away o

They love May at Lux’s and Cecilia’s school too. Last week they had their May celebrations….








Photos by Isaac Hepworth

Friday, May 15, 2015

Like jewels in my hand

Sometimes, it seems, I am just not meant to have a good night’s sleep. It could have been the fact that I got home late for tea, tired, and had a large glass of wine and shoved a frozen pizza in the oven (which I overcooked) and then ate nothing healthy alongside it, or maybe there was another reason.

Whatever it was, I had a rotten night and ended up getting a cuppa at 3 a.m. and sitting up and reading poems from a new anthology I’ve been given. That was good. The trouble was that underneath each poem there are biographical notes about the poets and several that I read said that the poets had not been loved by their parents in their childhood. I then lay awake thinking about all kinds of things – death being one of them, my dear lost friend being another – and then when I finally slept I dreamed that some woman my age was casting out Lux and saying “I can’t look after this child, she is too much trouble” and I scooped Lux up in my arms and said “I will look after you! I will love you and love you and love you!” and I woke up crying.


I got back to sleep eventually but then woke up crying about someone else.

I feel like a wreck. Thank goodness I can sit at my desk this morning and work on my screenplay. Sometimes I think writing is for people with control issues….in fiction you can make things turn out exactly the way you want. 

There is a garden where our hearts converse,

At ease beside clear water, dreaming

A whole and perfect future for yourself,

Myself, our children and our friends.

(from The Promised Garden by Theo Dorgan)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On with the show

I woke up in my own bed this morning to a sunny day in a quiet house.

The chicks have flown. It was such a wonderful visit, and a sad goodbye.

But … I do love the first waking up in my own bed after someone else has had the room. It’s so clean. It’s so tidy. It’s so uncluttered! That’s because I made it that way before they came to stay.

In a wider sense, the de-cluttering of the house goes on.

Yesterday I started on my overflowing fabric cupboard and cleared out fabrics that have been given to me for patchwork - fabrics that I don’t like, and so will never use. (You know the mantra – Does this bring me joy?) I gave away a huge bag to a local secondary school for their textile and art departments. Today it’s the toy shelves on the landing. I just walked past it on my way back to bed to write this, and realised that I have a problem: my twin dolls.

Do you remember Fran’s dolls that she found in the ashes in BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU?

She was amazed when Sol found Belinda and Angela, the twin dolls she had played with as a child. There they were, still dressed in the clothes she had made for them. Their knitted dresses were damp and stained and matted. Their hard plastic bodies were cracked from the heat, and their limbs and heads were twisted and deformed. Belinda had long before lost her blue glass eyes. Now Angela’s eyes were melted shut. Fran cradled them as if they were babies rescued live from an earthquake.


These are the dolls. After the fire, my mother knitted them new clothes and now they are triply treasured – I loved them when I was little, I loved them for surviving the fire, and I love my mother’s empathetic gesture. They are safe. I wouldn’t dream of de-cluttering them. But what will happen to them when I die? No-one will want them. They are objectively ugly. I don’t want Zoe feeling she has to keep them when they don’t bring her joy. I can’t bear the thought of them being thrown away. I’m going to have to have them tucked inside my coffin. How weird is that?

Monday, May 11, 2015

A grandmother is a mother who has a second chance

Grandchildren restore your faith in humanity and your zest for life.

How blessed it is to have all your children and grandchildren under one roof, even if it temporarily exhausts you.
Sue Hepworth

(photo by @isaach)

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Grown-up hiatus

We all went to Chatsworth Farm and Adventure Playground and had fun


and then for 24 hours the children left us. Isaac and Wendy, Lux and Cecilia, went to stay with Zoe and family in Sheffield and I got to sleep in my own bed, cycle early on the Monsal Trail in the sunshine, weed the strawberry patch, make a pasta sauce and chocolate mousses, think about the changes I need to make to the screenplay, and try to make myself feel better about the election results.

They came home at teatime and the fun returned. Hooray! We played garages by the fire with a box of dinky toys from the fifties (my childhood), seventies (Isaac’s childhood), and eighties (the childhood of the family member who declines to be named.) 

Lux was on sales: “Everything is on sale today, so this car will be one dollar.” Cece assisted, except when she was a customer: “I crashed my car and I need a safer one.” “OK,” said Lux, “this one has seatbelts.”

Lux was an excellent saleswoman: “I will clean this one off and take off the tag and deliver it to your door.”

Isaac and I played a series of customers with specific requests.…

“I am a pig and I need a car to take my piglets to school.” 

“I want a car that is pink when I go to see my friends and red when I go to see my mother.”

pink car

red car 

It’s rainy again this morning, but we have our toys and our imaginations. And we still have our marbles. 

Friday, May 08, 2015

Politics-free zone

If you want to know how I feel, you’ll have to read my tweets.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Wet playtime at Hepworth Towers

It rained most of yesterday, but Dave’s assorted collection of gutters came in handy…


and then he found more…


Wednesday, May 06, 2015


I haven’t forgotten you. It’s been busy round here.

We have visitors for a week: Isaac, Wendy, Lux and Cece (seen here playing with the family toy farm which I brought here after my mother died. We’ve had to extract a few animals because they were made of lead. You know how things were back in the fifties.)


I am writing this in bed on my study floor, where I slept last night.


I don’t have the old mattress like I did last time, because I de-cluttered it. But foam base cushions from the sofa covered by a foam mattress topper make a pretty good substitute.

This is all waffle because I have no deep thoughts or quirky observations to share with you. (Does she ever, was the cry?) We’ve been anticipating this visit with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, and I am sure Wendy and Isaac won’t be offended by my saying that, because when they visited two years ago, the children never managed to switch to UK time, and we had a rota for childcare all round the clock. Read about it here, and weep. At the end of the week all four adults were wrecks.

Last night was night two, and everyone slept through the night. So miracles happen.

Now we need a dry day so we can go to Chatsworth farm and adventure playground. keep your fingers crossed for us.

Saturday, May 02, 2015


You know I like Neighbours, don’t you? As does Sally Howe, the heroine of Plotting for Beginners and Plotting for Grown-ups.…

You have to realise, Kit, that a writer can learn from any fiction, good or bad. It shows you what mistakes to avoid in your own writing – caricatures, poor plotting, unconvincing dialogue. Watching Neighbours is educative. You don’t think I watch it for entertainment do you?

I really haven’t known him long enough to tell him the truth: that Neighbours is fab, that I love all the stupid plotlines – the amnesia, disputed paternity, blackmail, on-off love affairs, business wars, mistaken identities, manipulative ex-girlfriends, violent ex-boyfriends, people stuck down mine shafts, plane crashes that kill off half the street. And the characters – Paul Robinson, Karl Kennedy, Lucas, Jade – they’re like family. One day I’ll confess to him, but not just yet.

Yesterday I realised why I, Sue Hepworth, like Neighbours. It is fiction as defined by Miss Prism in The Importance of Being Earnest. “The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.”

It doesn’t matter how dastardly are the plots of the villains, you know they are always, always going to get their come-uppance, so you can enjoy the ride with a happy heart. It is so unlike real life where evil goes on all the time and there is nothing good people can do to stop it; where general elections are run by Westminster and the media and the people don’t get a look in; where you can vote for the candidate who shares your vision but you know they cannot possibly be elected.  (ooh, politics alert – this is a politics free zone.)

At present in Neighbours we have an internationally renowned cancer specialist telling the resident villain (Paul Robinson, my favourite character) that he has leukaemia, and personally treating him with chemotherapy. And it is all a lie. Paul Robinson is not ill. It is just a plot so that the visiting villain can get what he wants – a new cancer research centre. It is hilarious! It is totally ludicrous and wonderful and we know full well that the doughty nurse Georgia (who has been framed by the visiting villain) will somehow uncover this scam and be reinstated at the hospital. And Paul will recover and carry on being the (cosy) resident villain.

It’s an escape from the real world. And I love it! So bite me.


Friday, May 01, 2015

Fed up

I miss Mary.