Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Current status

I want to explain why I’m quiet this week.

I have some health issues that need sorting out, and are being sorted out. I’ll be fine. I’m not worried, just a bit cheesed off. I’m getting the best that the NHS has to offer at Sheffield Hospitals, and I am very grateful. I am so so lucky to be within reach of Sheffield’s NHS. Not only is the treatment first rate, the staff are proficient and professional, and utter sweeties. I spent the morning on and off with one nurse yesterday and when I left at lunchtime I was sorry to say goodbye. She said “It’s been really nice meeting you,” so maybe she felt the same. Or maybe she was just being charming. It doesn’t much matter. It made me feel good.

At the same time I’ve been scoffing another Anne Tyler novel and I’m in search of enlightenment. Have any of you read Earthly Possessions? I enjoyed it, but I don’t know what it means.

If you don’t hear from me for several days, please be patient. I’ll be back.

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Here’s the thing. Since I got back from Colorado my sinus troubles have returned (courtesy of the air-con on the plane?) and I’ve been feeling rotten. That’s why I haven’t been blogging.

But I have been reading my book on being a screenwriter, and in the section on pitching to producers, directors and film executives, it says that when you’re pitching, you should dress according to the genre of your script.


Which begs the question – what is my genre and how should I dress?

At the moment I am calling it a comedy drama. Any suggestions?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Back next week

Feeling rough. I'll be blogging again next week.

Monday, September 21, 2015

And also...

Isaac is usually behind the camera, probably because that's where he's most comfortable. It's hard to get him to say "Cheese" but Lux can usually manage it. This is her photograph:

And something I forgot to show you is one of the regular visitors to the garden:

On Sunday mornings Wendy runs a yoga class on the back patio. This is until her studio space becomes available in October.

I joined in both Sundays and enjoyed it so much I'm thinking of joining a class when I get home. I don't think I'll find an outside class with a view from the mat like this, however:

Nor will a deer come to join us as happened yesterday.

At the end of the class, Wendy says "Place your hands together, then bring your thumbs to your forehead in reminder of true thought, to your lips in reminder of true speech, and to your heart as a reminder of true intention. Namaste."


I fly home tonight.

Half an hour later....

Oh my God! I was just sweeping the grapes off the patio and a neighbor called over the fence "There's a bear back there!" So I rushed Cece inside and told Isaac and he went out and walked with the neighbour to look over the back fence. The bear was just the other side! It growled and shook the tree, and Isaac and the neighbor rushed inside.

Boulder County website says it's a black bear. Just so you know.


Saturday, September 19, 2015


OK. Enough of the maudlin navel wrinkle-gazing for now. Thank you so much for all your comments, though. It's helpful to know that other people really understand and share my dismay. 

I think it's time to share some fragments of my life out here.
This is me out for breakfast with Wendy, while Isaac was at work and the girls were at school. I love going out with Wendy and having those mother-in-law - daughter-in-law chats that you have when you love and respect each other. I am so, so lucky.
I fancied a "light" breakfast so I ordered the fruit bowl. This is what I got. It was delicious.

The children used chalk-paints to paint on the garage door and Lux dictated a message for Wendy to write for Daddy when he returned late at night from San Francisco. She was too busy organizing the shoes inside the front door to take part in the photoshoot, but Cece was available:

Lux showing off a newly learned trick:

Wendy clearing the dead plants from the garden:

Lux telling Cece something important (as big sisters do):

The girls after their ballet class, not being able to tear themselves away from looking at the big girls. Cece said "I don't want to be a kid. I want to be a lady and do that!" I felt exactly the same. Still do.

I've just finished reading Anne Tyler's newish A Spool of Blue Thread, and loved it. It may well be my favourite Anne Tyler. So Wendy lent me The Alchemist, and Lux gave me her elephant to cuddle. They take care of my every need. I like it here.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Still pondering

I'm feeling a bit exposed because of what I said on the blog yesterday, but I've decided that being honest is important. So I am still pondering here about why I feel old this week. Yes there's jet lag, and there's the fact that Boulder is one mile high so the air is thinner and it's important to pay attention to drinking lots of water. Less oxygen makes physical work more tiring.

When the kids were younger the childcare needs were relentless - not that I did very much, but I did help. This time around it's their energy which is relentless, which is wonderful but it's also exhausting. 

I haven't been on any bike rides or gone out on my own as I did when they lived in San Francisco. What I've been doing is being a Gran. I'm living the life of my Gran when she came to stay with us as children. The day begins when the kids wake up and patter downstairs to my room in the basement and we chat until it's time to get up. 

They go to nursery school some of the time. And when we're not all out and about, I'm around while they play. It was another wonderfully hot day here yesterday and I sat on the garden bench and knitted (how grandmotherly is that?) while they pottered, making "soup" from leaves, flowers, water and mud, played in their version of sand, swiping things from each other, being admonished and making friends again. 

Then Wendy set up the outdoor dining table on the patio with materials for art work, and they were busy with that. Lux made a family of rabbits from paper plates and lolly sticks, and Cece had a glitterfest. 

My job was to open packs of glitter and make sure the glue stick worked.

It's a different life from my life at home: a two week interlude to be with my family, undiluted by writing or pitching, or all the other stuff that takes my attention at home. But I do have intervals of time on my own to lie in the hammock and think about life and death and aging. And that's what I'm doing. 

Oh, and as a postscript to yesterday's post, Lux said last evening that a woman at her school was like me: she was old. So I asked her how she knew I was old, and she said "Because you have wrinkles."

So there's no getting away from those wrinkles, folks. I'm just going to have to suck it up.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Home truths

I come to the States twice a year to see Isaac, Wendy, Lux and Cece. Each time I come, Isaac has a little more grey hair, and the girls are taller and more grown-up. (Wendy doesn't seem to change.) And I was wondering what I looked like to them. So I asked Isaac if he thought I looked older every time he met me at the airport.

"It's not that I think you look older, you do look older."
(He's his father's boy.)

This is what I look like to me:

This is what I look like to Isaac:

When I was little and went to stay with my Gran, I never thought about what she looked like. She was my Gran. She was old, she was lame (that's what we said back then when someone had had polio and couldn't walk without sticks) and she was huge fun. I loved her, and I loved staying with her. She always looked the same to me, through the years, from when she was 65 to when she died at 92. Or maybe I just didn't think about what she looked like, just as Lux and Cece love me for who I am, not what I look like.

Isaac loves me, of course, even though he notices my wrinkles. Lux and Cece just love me.

The thing is - my wrinkles make me feel less confident, and I'm disappointed that they do. I'm going to the London Screenwriters' Festival at the end of October, where I'm hoping to get someone interested in producing my script. There will be crowds of young vibrant people there with screenwriting careers ahead of them, and then there'll be me. Ten years ago I'd be excited. How do I drum up some confidence and enthusiasm for the coming fray?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Away with the fairies

I have stepped so far back from struggling to write my pitch that whereas at home I was having nightmares about my mentor visiting me to help, and my not being able to find my pitch papers...last night, by contrast, I had a dream in which I couldn't even remember the name of my mentor. 

Life is good in Colorado.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


I am flying away to Boulder today. Whooppee!

I’ll keep in touch, if I can tear myself away from this:


Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Anam cara

If Mary was still here, I’d be talking to her about the UK government’s inadequate response to the refugees’ crisis (punctuation intended) and what we could do about it. And how if I wasn’t going to be in Colorado, I might go on the London demo.

I’d be telling her that Dave has gone to Coventry for the day, and I have an undisturbed day to think, write, cycle, garden, paint my toenails and pack, and we’d laugh about the glories of an empty house. I’d tell her about this jumper I bought from mail order that’s a disappointment, and about how Tate got on in his first week at secondary school, and how Lux (5) said to Isaac “Daddy, I organised these hibernating caterpillars. The blue one is the queen” –

hibernating caterpillars

And I’d tell her all the things I can’t share with you.

I recently came across a Celtic concept anam cara, which I really liked.  John O’Donoghue explains it in his book on Celtic wisdom thus:

“In the Celtic tradition, there is a beautiful understanding of love and friendship. One of the fascinating ideas here is the idea of soul-love; the old Gaelic term for this is anam cara. Anam is the Gaelic word for soul and cara is the word for friend. So anam cara in the Celtic world was the “soul friend.” In the early Celtic church, a person who acted as a teacher, companion, or spiritual guide was called an anam cara. It originally referred to someone to whom you confessed, revealing the hidden intimacies of your life. With the anam cara you could share your inner-most self, your mind and your heart. This friendship was an act of recognition and belonging. When you had an anam cara, your friendship cut across all convention, morality, and category. You were joined in an ancient and eternal way with the “friend of your soul.””

That’s what she was: a friend of my soul.


Monday, September 07, 2015

Nothing to say

The only thing I want to say today involves David Cameron, refugees, and the open arms of Germany. And as my regular readers know, I don’t do politics on the blog, so you’ll have to read between the lines.

And if you live in the UK, perhaps you’d like to email your MP, and sign this petition.

Friday, September 04, 2015

How you can help

I have a list of things to do before I fly away to Colorado, and on it, below the

buy Hobnobs for Wendy


buy Bovril for Ise

is an item which reads


Today’s the day to cross it off the list.

I’ve already told you about a couple of charities helping refugees, here and here, but I was going to collect all the charities I’ve found that are supporting refugees and list them for you.

Last night I found that someone has done the job for me, namely, the Guardian. So, if you’re wondering what you can do to help the people living surviving in the Jungle in Calais, and the people arriving on the shores of Greece, and those kept out of Europe by razor wire fences, and those people languishing in refugee camps on the borders of Syria, read this.  There will be something on it that you can do. And I know you’ll want to, because I know you’re all out and out sweeties.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Calming down

I’m sorry I’ve been over the top just lately.  Sally Howe (from my Plotting novels) seems to have been writing some of my posts. I mean! Just look at Not writing but pitching
Remember when she went to see the doctor about various symptoms and he said it was psychosomatic, a result of strain, and she was reacting like that because she had an artistic sensibility? And she said…
I am going back to bed. I may be missing the best spring weather in a century, but at least I have an artistic sensibility. Yah boo, world!
I was over-excited about being on someone else’s blog. I’m better now. It’s wonderfully calming playing castle Lego and then snoozing in a deckchair in the sunshine for an hour and a half while my grandsons play lifeboats in a neighbour’s swimming pool, even if the older one is applying to join the RNLI and the younger one makes him have three work trials before he makes the grade. (They’ve just come home from the Scillies where they saw a lot of lifeboats.)

The other thing that’s helped has been the family member who declines to be named coming home from his hols in Croatia and telling me I need to forget about the pitch for a while: only with some distance will I ever get it right. It just happens that next week I’m going to Colorado to see Lux and Cece.
20181521472_38bc2aa4e2_o 19000345943_70b2381302_o

That should be sufficiently far away to get a new perspective.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Today’s post

Today I am honoured to be a guest blogger on the poet Anthony Wilson’s wonderful blog. I came across his blog in February when I googled “reading poems to the dying.” Then I discovered his Lifesaving Poems project and ordered the book. Since it was published in June it has been on my bedside table with my other indispensable books.


You can read my guest post here. The subject is Writing my way through bereavement.