Thursday, December 31, 2015

Oddments at year's end

Thank you, dear readers, for sticking with me through this difficult year. Thank you for coming back, post after post, even when I was a misery. Thank you for all your comments, your emails, and your support.

Tell me…What do you wish people, when you wish them Happy New Year?  Do you wish them what you would like in the New Year? Or do you wish them what you think they would like?

And do you know what they would like? Creative writing students are taught to make copious notes on their characters before they begin to write the novel they’re planning. I have a list of questions I answer about mine. The last two questions in my long list are:

What does she think she wants?


What does she really want?

People wish me good luck with my screenplay and hope I will get it produced, and then they say “Oooh, you’ll be rich and famous.” Actually, I wouldn’t be either. And actually, it’s not what I want. All I want is to get my story on screen – to share my characters and their story with lots and lots of people, and to see my characters on screen for myself. It was such an emotional experience having professional actors and a director work on a scene from my screenplay at the London Screenwriters’ Festival that if/when I switch on the telly and see my characters, I’ll probably deliquesce into a pool of mush on the sofa.

And talking of mushy slush, I didn’t mention my saxophone in my review of the year. I realised this week that for the last six months I’ve been working on two numbers “Here's that rainy day” and “Embraceable you” which seems rather apt.

Here’s a poem I recently fell in love with which also fits my year:

At the Moment

Suddenly, I stopped thinking about Love,
after so many years of only that,
after thinking that nothing else mattered.

And what was I thinking of when I stopped
thinking about Love? Death, of course—what else
could take Love’s place? What else could hold such force?

I thought about how far away Death once
had seemed, how unexpected that it could
happen to someone I knew quite well,

how impossible that this should be the
normal thing, as natural as frost and
winter. I thought about the way we’d aged,

how skin fell into wrinkles, how eyes grew
dim; then (of course) my love, I thought of you.

Joyce Sutphen

 “At the Moment” from Naming the Stars by Joyce Sutphen. © 2004 by Joyce Sutphen. Used by permission of Joyce Sutphen and the publisher, Holy Cow! Press.

I’m wishing you all what you really want for 2016, hoping it’s what you really need. Most of all, though - and call me a soppy date if you like -  I’m wishing you love. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

“The sun rises in spite of everything”

It’s been a tough year. My dearest friend of 30 years, my Anam Cara (friend of my soul) died in February.

I miss her every day. I will always miss her. This is what I wrote about her on the blog.

In April, Dave and I discovered the Lancaster Canal and had a holiday of sunshine. This is my favourite photo of the year, taken by me in my pyjamas at 7 a.m., from a swing bridge I’d just got out of bed to open:

But the woes of the world invaded when we heard on the news that more than 800 refugees had drowned in the Mediterranean, and the UK government thought the answer was to scale back search and rescue operations, to deter the refugees from even trying to escape the horrors at home.

In the summer I got to the end of my tether trying and failing, over and over, to work out a logline for my screenplay. I framed a successful one in October at the London Screenwriters’ Festival, and pitched it to TV producers. Now I am waiting to hear from the people in the biz who have shown an interest. My fingers are crossed, and it is hard to write when your fingers are crossed.

But most of my emotional energy this autumn was taken up with four separate health problems - one minor, one critical, one worrying, one ongoing – which in turn caused frustration, anxiety, discomfort, and all of which taxed my patience and my skimpy stoicism. It interests me that in the fortnight before all of these suddenly broke out (in September) I’d been blogging about how old I felt and how much I hated my wrinkles. You, dear readers, have been very patient and understanding, and I’m grateful.

I try to keep politics off the blog, apart from issues concerning Palestine, and I have mostly managed it this year. But I can’t review my year honestly without mentioning that my depression about the policies of the current UK government – from welfare to green issues, from Trident to the NHS, from refugees to bombing in Syria - has at times overwhelmed me as much as anything personal. I found myself writing in one of my many letters to my Tory MP:

I want to make it clear that I do not object on principle to everything this Conservative government does….Unfortunately, so many policies of the current government seem to result in harsh treatment of the poor and infirm.

But it was the UK government’s hard-hearted, inadequate response to the desperate plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees, while David Cameron spouted his espousal of British/Christian values, that was the last straw I choked on.

Enough. No more politics for at least six months – I promise.

My family were my joy and my consolation this year. I'll focus on the grandchildren because they won't be embarrassed. One special moment was when they were all gathered here in May and Isaac took a fabulous picture of the grandchildren sitting in a line on our garden wall.

Another moment was when my American granddaughters squealed with delight when they spotted me at the arrival gate at Denver airport.

And another one was when I saw the look of spontaneous and genuine pleasure on my younger grandson's face, when he opened the front door to find me on the doorstep.

So, it may have been a difficult year, but I am loved. In the end that is everything.

I wish you the same, now and in 2016.

And this is my poem of the year, published here with permission of the poet, and the Gallery Press:

Everything Is Going to Be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

Derek Mahon

from New Collected Poems (2011) by kind permission of The Gallery Press

Sunday, December 27, 2015

My books of the year

The family-member-who-declines-to-be-named and his lovely girlfriend invited me to spend the best part of Christmas Day with them. I shan’t give details: if he doesn’t like to be named, I guess he doesn’t want his activities publicised either. I will simply say – for me it was a perfect Christmas.

Meanwhile, Dave had a nice time shedding. He is in the throes of making a number of wooden puzzles – based on a design by Thomas Eddison’s son (how recherché is that?) They are pretty fab.

I like this quiet time after Christmas when there is a lot of time to think about the year we’re leaving behind. I read some stonking books in 2015.

These are my favourites:
FictionA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler; and Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf. Both beautifully written, both centring on families and relationships. I am a big fan of Anne Tyler, and this is probably my favourite of all her books. I gulped it down on a flight to Colorado, and now I need to read it again slowly and savour it.

I’ll re-read the Haruf book too. I love his spare writing. I get more and more impatient with writers who use two sentences when one would do. I just wish Haruf’s publisher would print the text in a decent size. I bought Our Souls at Night as an ebook (for cheapness.) But even though I had a perfectly good secondhand paperback edition of his Plainsong, I resorted to buying the ebook too so i could increase the size of the text. Picador – I am naming and shaming you. Get your act together!

Non-fiction – Kate Gross’s Late Fragments, which I already told you about on the blog in January....

“I read it in one sitting, something that is rare for me, especially when the book is non-fiction. It’s the beautifully written memoir of a 36 year old woman who died of cancer…. It is sad but not gloomy. It is moving, inspiring, and above all, life-affirming. It is honest, not cheesy. It is more about living, and how to live, than it is about dying.
“The sub-title of the book is Everything I want to tell you (about this magnificent life) – which should give you a clue about the general tenor. If you read just one book this year make it this one. It’s about love and friendship and the importance of paying attention to the wonder all around you; and the last paragraph of the book is the Raymond Carver poem Late Fragment.

PoetryLifesaving Poems, edited by Anthony Wilson. The collection began in a notebook of Anthony’s, and then he blogged them. I found his blog when Mary was dying. I can’t review poetry, all I can say of this collection is that they speak to my condition (as Quakers say). It sits on my bedside table, along with my lifetime companion, Garrison Keillor’s Leaving Home. Thank you, Anthony.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Christmas!

Yes, I love Christmas, and I love my Christmas fairies and angels. So sue me.

Happy Christmas to you all. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Party time at Hepworth Towers

You might be amused by this piece I made earlier:

Party time
“The best thing about being self-employed is that I don’t have to think of an excuse for missing the office party,” said my fellow home-worker – my husband.
I, however, am in need of some fun and games. Living up a lane in the Peak District is heavenly for three seasons of the year, but when the looming mists swirl in and blank out the fabulous views, and I can’t go anywhere without wellies, and it feels as though the long dark tea-time of the soul has set in till March, I get desperate for bright lights and company.
Unfortunately the man at the computer downstairs is not a party animal: he neither goes to parties, nor understands what they are for. I remember when I decided to have one for my fortieth birthday, he asked “Why on earth would you want to celebrate getting older and moving another few steps downhill? All we’re heading for now is death.”
He couldn’t face attending the party, but was concerned about the hordes of people I would be having in the house, and wanted to make a contribution to the preparations. He did. He calculated the tonnage of the assembled revellers, worried that the sitting room floor might collapse because dancers would refuse to keep to the edges of the rooms, and he went down to the cellar, where he used chunky four by four wooden posts to prop up the floor from underneath.
Apart from that, the only other time he’s been anywhere near a party was one New Year’s Eve when he found two of our oldest friends on the doorstep, unannounced, and waving a bottle of champagne. Unhappily, I was away, but he phoned me and while he wailed about the “scandalous imposition” of their expecting him to stay up until midnight and be jolly, I jumped up and down with frustration that I couldn’t be there to join in.
He’s not what you’d call a singing-and-dancing-kind-of-guy. Think less Gene Kelly and more Fraser, the Scottish undertaker in Dad’s Army - “Doomed! We’re all doomed!”
But he does have a tender heart, and, eager to cheer me up, he has suggested we have our own office party – just me and him.
         We should have it in his study as it’s bigger than mine, he says. I am just wondering how he will press me up against the filing cabinet for a quick snog when you can’t get near it for all the wallet files spread out on the carpet for easy access, when he offers to clear the floor. He will also carry out into the hall the stacking plastic boxes stashed with papers and reports, and he’ll even wheel his poncey, sorry, precious new bike out to the shed (to join my sturdy workhorse) where he thinks it might be all right, just for a couple of hours.
I’m not sure what he’s got to offer by way of food and drink, though. He is teetotal, and he’s never been able to grasp the concept of eating as an enjoyable activity: as far as he’s concerned, eating is for refuelling. That’s apart from yoghurt, of which he is a connoisseur. At Christmas when he has to pre-buy in bulk, and yet I also need extra fridge space for family entertaining, he keeps his extra cartons of yoghurt cool by floating them in the water tank in the garden.

It may be just me, but when I think of party food, yoghurt isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.
 I don’t care though, because for the party he says he will wear a Santa hat and download a festive screensaver onto his computer.
He really knows how to show a girl a good time.
         I do appreciate the offer of an office party, I say, but I wonder whether it’s possible to have a party with only two people. Couldn’t we invite someone else ? Unfortunately, the only other people we see during our working days are the postman, a sweetie who likes to tell us how many buzzards he’s seen on his round, and our neighbouring farmer, who calls when he is moving his heifers, to ask us to stand in our gateway to stop them from coming in and cavorting on the lawn.
But we do have a continuous stream of telephone callers. Perhaps during the party we could have the phone on loudspeaker, I suggest, and at least have some conference calls, maybe with a Christmas quiz, so it doesn’t feel so lonely? He says we can’t do that, because he’s just recorded a seasonal message on the answering machine saying “Sod off, it’s Christmas.”
He says he’s willing, but his Christmas spirit is weak. And even after detailed explanations, his grasp of partying is non-existent. So I may flip out: cabin fever does strange things to people. If you see a news report of a desperate middle aged woman in sparkly reindeer antlers streaking through a Derbyshire village shrieking “Does anyone want to party?” you’ll know who it is.

©         Sue Hepworth /Times newspapers 2015
Published here with kind permission of The Times

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

I just got back from London, where I met up with the Aging Hippie, not the Queen. Karen was en route to Morocco for a holiday from her Peace Corps placement in Pretoria. I hadn’t seen her in far too long. 

Karen is an aging hippie I met at a peace vigil in San Francisco nine years ago. There I was, wearing a sun hat over my long grey plait, standing outside the federal building with my placard on my first day in SF, 

and there  was she, wearing a Grandmothers for Peace badge, a purple splodge in her grey hair – she doesn’t do subtle -  with a placard, and her grand-daughter in a buggy. She came up and said ‘Hello,’ and that was that. Since then we’ve been on more trips together in California (holiday trips! holiday trips!) than I can remember.

When she said she was passing through London and asked if I'd go down and spend some time with her, I said there was nothing I would like less than going to London the weekend before Christmas, but I loved her, so yes, I’d go.

We only had 24 hours to catch up on all the things that won’t fit into a weekly Skype conversation. We walked and talked in Regents Park one day, and in Kensington gardens another. 


And we spent an hour and a half over breakfast on Monday, where sore stuff spilled out from both of us. A friend is someone to hold your hand when the darkness of the world is overwhelming.

It was so good to see her. Next autumn she’ll be back in California and we're planning a trip to Yosemite.

Something happened on the tube that has never happened to either of us before. People stood up and offered us their seats. We must be looking even older and more wrinkly than I imagined. Sic transit gloria mundi.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Untitled - postscript

I can't think of a poem that captures me (see yesterday's post) 

All I can think of  - having read this year's blog posts - is that I am some kind of hybrid literary character .... a melancholic version of Fortherington-Thomas (from How to be Topp singing "Hullo birds, hullo sky" ) 
Francie from A Tree grows in Brooklyn 

Any suggestions?

Here is yesterday's dawn. Enjoy. 

Friday, December 18, 2015


Some years ago I attended a wonderful creative writing workshop led by the poet Char March, where I bought a postcard printed with her poem, Ridge Walking. At that time a very good friend of mine was being treated for lymphoma, and it was as if the poem had been written about her, and her whole way of being. I sent it to her, and when I went to visit, she’d stuck the poem on her wall.

She died in 2006. There’s a dedication to her in Plotting for Beginners, published the same year. Her funeral was short, but a lot of people spoke at the celebration of her life, including me. I planned to talk about her and then to read the poem. It turned out that two other people had the same idea. They must have seen the poem pinned on her wall and thought it captured her.

Here is what I think of as Chrissie's poem, published with kind permission of the poet:

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.

This morning I was lying in bed thinking about my life this year, and Ridge Walking came into my head, though it doesn't describe me or my life. 

But it made me wonder whether there is a poem that does, and whether a clutch of people who know me might all agree on one, the way we did for Chrissie. 

I don't think it's likely.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

There are some things that should never be rushed

When we were young, my sister Jen and I would take it in turns to decorate the Christmas tree. I don't mean year by year, I mean day by day. I would decorate it one day and she would do it the next, and this would continue from when the tree arrived, until Christmas Eve. 

On Saturday I dug up the tree from the garden, a blue spruce I bought last Christmas, and stood it in the shed to let it get used to being out of the cold. The next day we brought it into to my study, where it will live incognito, born to blush unseen, except when I leave the door open. 

Bring in a tree, a young Norwegian spruce,
Bring hyacinths that rooted in the cold.
Bring winter jasmine as its buds unfold -
Bring the Christmas life into this house.                                                                                                                           

There was a one and a half hour time slot between my arriving home from somewhere and Dave and I going out. I'd asked him what time we needed to set off and I thought I'd have time to decorate the tree before that. Then he brought forward the departure time and I got snarky. I left the tree in disarray and spent the first ten minutes of our journey doing deep breathing and telling myself that I couldn't expect someone who doesn't get Christmas to understand that wrenching me away from the tree decoration was just NOT ON.

You know what? It was all my own fault. You cannot rush dressing a tree, and I should not have tried to fit it into a slot, any slot. I completed it yesterday, but it may need further tweaking, like a manuscript. 

The quote above is from a poem by Wendy Cope called The Christmas Life. I don't have permission to publish it, but you can read it here. I love this poem. Do read it.

Friday, December 11, 2015

What really matters

I’ve had some difficult Decembers in the past, and it doesn’t seem to be related to whether or not it’s an OFF Christmas. I know this because I’ve just been reading earlier Decembers on my blog. Last year, for example, was an ON Christmas, and yet my heart was so dark that when I was decorating the tree I was telling recalcitrant baubles to fuck off. The world news was getting me down, and the lack of light, but mostly (I realise now) it was my sadness over Mary’s fast failing health.

This year she is gone, and yesterday one of her lovely daughters sent me this photo from the park:

It made me cry.

But earlier I had walked in my study and found this year’s hand made Christmas card from the man who hates Christmas:

I love it.

The only Christmas we have spent apart in our 45 years was an OFF Christmas a few years ago. My big brother invited me to go and celebrate Christmas with him and his family and I thought it might be the solution to the Hepworth Christmas dilemma. The Christmas was lovely but I was miserable. It didn’t seem right to be away from home at Christmas.

And this reminds me of a conversation I had with Isaac some time ago when Dave and I went on holiday to Northumberland for three weeks, and Isaac said “That’s the longest time you’ve ever been away from home,” and I said without thinking: “But I wasn’t away from home. Dave was with me.”

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

‘Christmas in the Shed’ in a different light

I’m having terrible trouble deciding how to write this post.

Do I start with this paragraph -

Dave and I have been married for 45 years, and if only we’d known at the start that he had Asperger syndrome (or autism, as you’re now supposed to call it) things would have been easier. Take Christmas, for starters.

or should I start with this paragraph -

In my Christmas mailing from the National Autistic Society I received this card, which illustrates beautifully why a lot of autistic children have huge problems at Christmastime:


Maybe I should start here -

I have a lot of new blog readers this year, who don’t know that at Hepworth Towers we have a custom of alternating years when Christmas is ON, with years when Christmas is OFF. When we started the scheme, neither of us knew anything about autism or Asperger syndrome. Dave was moaning about Christmas, one November, as per usual, and then he jokingly suggested the ON/OFF Christmas (or Christmas in the Shed as it is popularly known). 

I then wrote a piece for the Times about it:

Our ON/OFF Christmas 

Are you and your partner at odds as to how to celebrate Christmas? Does one of you want to go and sit by a peat fire in a bothy in the Outer Hebrides, while the other wants to stay in the thick of things and party every night ?

Although we have tried to find the perfect Christmas compromise, for us there is no middle ground. It was somehow not a problem when we were first married. As impoverished students we both thought it fun to have a second hand Christmas tree and to make baubles out of painted eggshells. Now – forty years and three children later – we disagree.

You may need some background. I come from a meat eating, sub-Walton family of five children, with a history of jolly Christmases - not extravagant, there was no money for extravagance - but certainly festive. I don’t ask for incessant parties, or for spending overkill. For me there is nothing more heart warming than having the house packed with people I love, sharing good food, conversation and games, and to have decorations and a tree.


For my teetotal, vegetarian, atheist husband, who is an only child, and who is not one of life’s natural celebrants, an empty, quiet house is the ideal. He is allergic to visitors, cards, tree, seasonal food and tinsel, and his idea of jolly activity is a spot of DIY, whilst his only concession to over indulgence is an extra carton of natural yoghurt.

Last Christmas I tried to be selfless and to accede to his puritan yearnings by having no decorations and by giving up the tree. This was painful. Admittedly we missed out on the annual row about where to place it (the issue for him), and whether or not it was perfectly vertical (the issue for me), but still I was bereft. I lasted out till Christmas Eve, but failed to go cold turkey, and resorted to assembling all my over-wintering geraniums in the dining room, and stringing the fairy lights on them. It was sad, but it was better than nothing.

This year he floated the idea of the Christmas Shed. I was suspicious, because we already have a potting shed, a storage shed and a workshop shed, and I know he harbours an evil imperialist plan to have the garden covered with a vast shed complex. But actually his idea has promise.

Firstly, we would alternate a Christmas ON year with a Christmas OFF year. In an OFF year (his year) we would have no visitors and the house would be declared a festivity free zone. I would decorate the Christmas Shed to my taste, with a tree, cards, holly and tinsel, and there would be a stash of Christmas goodies in there, and a radio for Christmas music. If friends or family visit I would entertain them in the Shed. If no-one calls (who would blame them ?) and if the sitting room is not available for a surreptitious screening of It’s a Wonderful Life, I could seek refuge from the monastic desert and go out to the Shed for a mince pie and an invigorating blast of Jingle Bells.

In an ON year, the house would be mine to fill with whoever and whatever I liked. My husband could slink off to the Christmas Shed with a bowl of yoghurt and sit in a deck chair in his boiler suit reading Walden. If he wanted a little light activity he could mend a few broken chair legs.

We could have a sign inside the front door saying “Next Christmas: December-” and then give the year. That way, adult children visiting the house during the year would be able to discreetly note it in their diaries, and no-one would suffer embarrassment or hurt feelings when the subject of Christmas was raised in those difficult parent-offspring telephone conversations that often occur in September. Outside the house, my husband could erect a sign directing carol singers and other assorted revellers towards the appropriate location.

So, that’s decided, then. We’ll buy a Christmas Shed and get started. The only problem now is to decide whether we start the new regime with an ON Christmas or an OFF Christmas. He says we’ve had Christmas for thirty years, so this year should be OFF. I say I did without the tree last year, so Christmas should be ON.

© Sue Hepworth/Times Newspapers 2009        published here with kind permission of Times Newspapers

This year Christmas is OFF, which means all decorations will be confined to my study, and nothing special is happening on Christmas Day (unless Dave brings me breakfast in bed in the form of a bacon sandwich and a mug of tea, as he did last OFF Christmas. Hint, hint.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Words matter

Someone in the biz who works with words (i.e. someone who should know better) recently missed out a word from the title of my third novel when she was writing to me. She missed out the But from But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You, and it pissed me off. The But is important. I put the But there on purpose. The But implies so much background meaning.

In writing that last paragraph, I typed “pissed off”, and then thought – Oh dear, some of my readers will find that vulgar, I had better change it to “I was annoyed,” and I changed it and changed it back several times until I thought – Dammit! Pissed off expresses my feelings perfectly. I am using pissed off.

Moving on...

You know how in the past some people used the word “cripple” and “spastic” as terms of abuse, until more thinking people pointed out that it’s not acceptable to use a disability as an insult? Well, I’ve noticed that “autistic” is now the insult du jour. That’s not acceptable either. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder.

That’s all.

Tomorrow, I’m going to talk about this:


Saturday, December 05, 2015

It is not about respect

The dentist I went to see the other day called me Susan, and I hated it. The telephone banking people call me Mrs Hepworth, which is fine (I think they must have a note on their files.)  I don’t like people who don’t know me, and who are in one stroke business relationships with me, calling me by my first name. As my name on their official records is Susan, they tend to call me that, which is even more alienating.

But I’ve been puzzling a lot over why this is, when I’m essentially a very informal person. I don’t mind strangers using terms of endearment, because they are generic terms, and they’re friendly while being impersonal. When the woman on the hospital appointments switchboard says “I’m sorry, darlin’ but I’m having trouble with my computer,” I like it. And I’m perfectly happy for bus drivers or nurses or shop assistants or whoever to call me love, me duck, sweetheart, etc etc. (But I’d rather they didn’t call me dear because it sounds as if they think I’m elderly.)

Some of you might not know I’m a Quaker. Quakers have always (i.e. since the 17th century) avoided using titles when they are addressing people. This stems from their testimonies of equality and simplicity, and their desire to use plain speech. Mostly it’s about treating everyone equally. They would not use the terms Lord, Lady, Sir, Madam, etc, or Mr, Mrs or Miss. This means that if you’re a Quaker and you don’t know someone well, you call them by their first name and last name, as in “Good morning, Sue Hepworth.” Children are treated with equal respect, and they would not be expected to use titles when addressing adults.  When Quakers write letters to people they don’t know, they don’t write Dear Sir or Madam, they tend to write either Dear Friend, or Dear first name last name.

My children and grandchildren call me Sue and that’s fine. And it may or may not be relevant.

I think I’ve worked it out. When the dentist I have never met before (and who I shan’t be meeting again because of his skimpy check-up) said “Hello, Susan,” it smacked of an assumed intimacy, in the same way that when he asked me what I was doing today, it implied that he had the right to know. It could be because I can’t do small talk, and maybe it’s because I’m too honest (see last post) and if I chose to answer him I would feel impelled to answer him honestly (e.g. “I’m going home to write a letter to my MP about the deterioration of NHS dentistry due to poor funding”).

This post is an example of how I understand myself better, and find out what I think, by writing it out.

Sadly, my conclusions gives the lie to one of my favourite sayings - “I don’t care what you call me as long as you don’t call me too late for dinner.”

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The perils of being honest

I have a reputation amongst immediate members of my family for being too honest. One thinks I’m a blurter, another that I’m too blunt, another that I don’t hold back in expressing an opinion.

My own view is that I sometimes speak too hastily and then regret it. But I can live with the criticism of being too honest, even though this comes from someone not a million miles from here who says things like “You look all crumpled and sad, like an ancient party balloon that’s got caught in a tree.”

So, being that honest person, you can see why I miss Mary so much, when she was the only person in my world to whom I could say absolutely anything and be sure of a sympathetic and understanding hearing. If she didn’t understand, she would gently probe until she did understand.

My honesty makes blogging difficult, and that becomes more and more true the longer I go on, because I am now aware that there are a lot of readers out there who are hugely sympathetic, and that makes me want to be more open.

So this week, while the biggest thing on my mind has been the debate about whether the UK should bomb Syria, I’ve not been able to talk to you about it, because this is a 95% politics-free blog. Yes, it’s my decision to make it politics-free, and I think it’s a good decision. If I changed my policy, you’d get nothing but rants.

So….what I will tell you is that yesterday I got a new £10 phone handset


(non-smart) and when Dave rang me up I couldn’t work out how to answer it.

And when I went to the dentist for a check up, he’d been replaced by someone who looked 16, and took two minutes to give my teeth a “check up” and when his fingers were in my mouth he asked me what I was doing today. (I can’t stand it when people I don’t know ask me questions like that, even when they don’t have their fingers in my mouth.)

Lastly, when I cycled down the lane yesterday I found that while I was doing the vacuuming, someone else had been down the lane with a spade and cleared out all 12 drains, and I was gutted. Never mind “Make hay while the sun shines” it should be “Clear drains while the rain falls.”

Here is a December photo of the ancient bridge over the river Wye in Bakewell. I’m so relieved it’s December. My stock of decent November pictures is miniscule.

Christmas Eve 07

p.s. I have changed my dentist.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Rainy day

Every time I come back to the blog after having a week off, I lose my nerve. What do I really have to say? Why do people want to come here to read it? Then someone helpful gives me a kick up the bum and says - “Get writing!” This time it was my big brother.

So I’m here. Some days I will have something interesting to say, or I will say nothing in an interesting way, and sometimes I won’t. I realised some time ago, though, that this blog is more about connection than substance. I say this because some of my blog readers write to me when they’re concerned about me. It’s pretty wonderful. So these days, if people ask me if you can be friends with someone you have never met in person I would say Yes!

Yesterday it rained all day. Yesterday the patchy internet drove me crazy again, and Dave dropped me off at Hassop Station so I could use their Wi-Fi to work. I bought a hot chocolate and sat in a corner with my computer and notebook, and it reminded me how it felt to go out to work. I used to like going out to work on winter days.

If I can force myself out of the house when it’s raining, things always feel better.

I walked home along the muddy Trail and up the lane, where the drains were blocked with leaves, and I cleared them with a chunky stick. It was huge fun. (You know how I love clearing drains. You know how when I am famous and dead I am going to have a blue plaque on the biggest drain down the lane, saying Sue Hepworth, writer, cleared this drain every winter 1996 –  )  When I finally got home, drenched and exhilarated, I said to Dave - “I’m going to get my wellies on and take a spade and finish the job!”

But then I remembered the vacuuming, which also needed doing, and which is no fun at all.