Friday, January 29, 2016

Food for thought

This week, Mr Cameron announced in Parliament that the government would fund the building of a Holocaust Memorial in London, and that the memorial would be "a permanent statement of our values as a nation."  On the same day, he described desperate refugees who have fled terror and now survive in the horror of the Calais Jungle - because Britain will not let them in - as “a bunch of migrants.”

Meanwhile, the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights has recorded the stories of the lives of every one of the 556 children killed during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.

Here is one little girl: 

Yara Mahmoud Abdelsalam Al Farrah

Date of birth: 9 April 2006
Date of death: 1 August 2014
Eight-year-old Yara from Khan Younis was a small innocent girl described as an ‘angel’. She was an outstanding student at school. She was a daring and independent child, making her own decisions. She also wrote and drew beautifully. Her teachers keep some of her paintings. She won many art competitions. Her ambition was to be a dentist. Yara was very elegant, and was said to have good taste in choosing and combining colors. “She told me that she did not want to grow up, and I was very surprised to hear that from her,” said her mother. Her mother says that, “destiny quickly made her wish come true,” leaving her with deep sadness. But she hopes that her daughter is in heaven.  
On 1 August 2014, the family home was targeted with a missile from an Israeli drone. The family started to evacuate. Yara and her siblings were targeted by another missile while they were running away from the house. They were killed on the spot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Writers' emails

From my inbox yesterday....from a writer friend...

Thanks, Sue. I had to read this several times. I just COULD NOT see what was wrong. Yes, I'd like to know about typos, please.

Why have you jacked in the novel?

This is about the hardest time of the year. The greyness seems to have been going on for so long. It really gets me down. Cheered up by video of panda enjoying the snow - have you seen it?

Am wishing that I could clone you, so that one of you could read my synopsis and the other could be reserved for reading my first draft.

From her inbox...

That is so bloggable!!
A clone of me!!
The world has more than enough with just one of me, I am sure.
Do you mind if I quote you?
I have jacked in the novel because it was not funny. The horrid character had all the best lines, and he was not on stage much (metaphorically speaking.)

I have tidied my study and now I can delay no longer. Either it is sewing, or it is planning the sitcom........
Love S ( the intelligent one)

Reader, I sewed, and then I planned the sitcom.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Weekend conversations

I met some friends on Saturday for a four hour lunch. 

When I first arrived at Ruth's house, Ruth and Annie were discussing Melvyn Bragg's radio programme in which he and two experts had been talking about the political activist, philosopher and revolutionary Thomas Paine. They said "Sit down. We can't break off, or we'll lose the thread." 

In the course of the afternoon we covered:
Melvyn Bragg's expertise,
Thomas Paine,
the author of a Paine biography, 
the McCarthyites, 
the bleakness or otherwise of Alice Munro,
whether or not a short story writer can go deep, 
Marilynne Robinson, 
Elena Ferrante, 
The Archers
family squabbles, 
Jeremy Corbyn's love life, 
my rejection, 
optimism/pessimism about the future, 
whether older people like us have always felt the world was falling apart vs the idea that the world really is falling apart,
what we thought of David Bowie and whether or not he warranted the media coverage when he died,
Bob Dylan and other heroes,
Colm Toibin's Brooklyn and Nora Webster,
what an old man that Annie saw on the bus was thinking, 
why Ruth won't have an answering machine, 
how cheering is the company of children,
how we thought about bad news when we were young - maybe scared (e.g. nuclear threat) but certainly not depressed as we are now,
the way the news is reported, 
how a constant diet of news is poisonous to the spirit, 
the superficial treatment of current affairs on BBC Radio,
which Radio 4 presenters drive us nuts,
whether the real trouble is that we have all been listening to Radio 4 for too many years,
the ingredients of Waitrose cakes,
people who won't face unpalatable facts,
how fed up we are with cooking,
Alan Rickman,
which interpretation of the iChing is the best,
whether we are just a bunch of grumpy old women,
how I am (apparently) in the habit of saying "Well, that's the last book I am going to write"
how long we've been meeting (23 years).

These are just the topics I can remember two days later. But to sum up, the lunch was the least interesting part.

Another interesting conversation I had was with Tate and Gil. Sadly I am not allowed to report on this. But I can tell you that they think I'm improving on their car crash XBox game - Burnout. Yay!

Lastly, I talked to Lux on Facetime who was soooo excited about her wobbly tooth. I woke up to this photo of her sans tooth, going to bed, beside herself at the thought of the upcoming visit from the tooth fairy. 

Melvyn Bragg may be the BBC's answer to Renaissance Man, but I am obviously Derbyshire's Renaissance Woman - I can have erudite conversations about Thomas Paine, Alice Munro, Burnout and the Tooth Fairy.

Friday, January 22, 2016

What happened next

The second day after the rejection you say to yourself - Well, I have other people considering it. It's not as if he was the only one. And it's not as if he didn't like it - just that it wasn't what he was looking for. Tant pis pour lui.

Then you practise you sax, drive to your lesson, and there your fab fab teacher has got you some new music which she knows you'll love: Kiss the Rain. You doYou admire her new sax, tell her about the rejection (she adores your book and wants to see it on screen and agrees the theme tune should be It Had To Be You, and thinks it should be you playing it on the sax.) 

Then in the afternoon you meet your friend Liz and she takes you up and around her favourite hill for a wonderful walk. 

You come home exhausted, and at night you have a two hour fight with the bedclothes and eventually get up and eat % fat yoghurt while watching an episode of As Time Goes By. Then you go back to bed and sleep soundly and wake up as if drugged, but very thankful for programmes that are so gentle, warm and funny. And then you remember that yesterday a friend emailed and said her husband, who is not well, was re-reading your books in the middle of the night when he couldn't sleep. And you smile to yourself and think - Yes. Sex and violence are all very well, and while at least the former may always be welcome, sometimes the soul craves other things.

With thanks to Liz for the photographs of her Fairy Hill.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How to read a rejection

I got a rejection yesterday. It's a funny thing about rejections by email. Your eyes register the name of the person the email is from. You open the email with all virtual fingers crossed, and when it's open, you do not read it from the top, oh no. Your eyes skip straight to the sign off, because from the sign off you can immediately tell the tenor of the email. If, for example, it says "Wishing you every success with your project" you know it's a rejection. So you take a deep breath, and harden your heart, and only then do you allow your eyes to go to the top of the email and read the thing properly. Then you take in all the nice things they say about your writing. 

Then you close the email and tell your nearest and dearest. 

Then you go back to your computer and forward the offending missive to those (and only those) of your friends and family who will understand fully 
a/ how gutted you are 
b/ exactly the right way to respond.

What happens next depends on how much you were depending on this particular professional to love your project as much as you do. If you previously thought that they were "the one," you spend the rest of your day "treating yourself" to an extra glass of wine, and then a pudding after tea of Haagen Dazs chocolate ice cream (when you usually eschew all puddings.)

The next day you feel very annoyed by the reasons they give that they couldn't pursue your project, even though (and especially because) there was so much about it that they liked.

Then you blog about it.

And the next day you think - OMG, that was not very professional to blog about it. Then you think - What difference will it actually make? And then, if you had thought this professional was "the one," you think - FFS. I am finished, and nothing further will ever happen to any of my writing.

And tomorrow I will tell you what happened next.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Another story

You know I said I was going to read Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend? And you know how I said that if I wasn't enjoying a book, I'd stop reading it? 

I want to qualify that statement. If I have spent £11.99 on a paperback novel - which is a huge amount for me ...I will spend that much on a text book or a book of poetry, but hardly ever a novel...the last time was on Carol Shields' Unless, because I could not wait for it to come out in paperback and I knew I would love whatever she wrote and it could technically be counted as an investment because it was a hardback first edition...oh dear, I don't know how to get out of this sentence.

I bought Ferrante's novel in London when I met Karen and I was feeling buoyant. We were in Waterstones and I was buying something else and I saw Ferrante and it was a lovely edition and I thought - Ooh, I can get discount here with my Society of Authors card (although it has to be said that the frisson of using it has little to do with the 10% discount). So I bought it. 

And I have been reading it and thinking Well, it's OK I suppose, but it's not really doing anything for me. And I would have given up reading it, EXCEPT that I spent that ridiculous amount of money on it. So now I am three quarters of the way through and I am enjoying the book. That's the full truth.

The news is that I worked on my new novel yesterday and had so much fun that I'm going to do it again today. Yay!

Saturday, January 16, 2016


You may as well know it - I've lost my nerve.

It's been a quiet week and I've been thinking a lot about life, death, losing hope about UK politics, the world, the future, how hard aging is, missing Mary, whether it is worth starting another novel, whether anything will ever come of the screenplay. At times I've thought about posting what's in my heart, but then a voice behind my right shoulder has whispered: "For goodness sake, stop talking about yourself on the bloody blog. Readers want something different. It's all very well doing a review of the year and plans for 2016 at New Year, but now it's time to move on. Get a life! They want to hear about what you're actually DOING, not what you're yearning for, and certainly not what you're miserable about."

I'd like some feedback on this, dear readers. All I know is that my elder brother wants me to blog about anything, but thinks I should steer clear of pics of the grandchildren, and my younger sister doesn't want me to blog about making jam, because she says I've done it to death.

I've had an inner ear infection this week. Perhaps that's to blame. I felt better this morning and went out on my bike on the icy Trail. It was good. 

I was cycling through one of the tunnels, and up ahead of me, nearing the other end, were two walkers. All I could see were their silhouettes against the brightness beyond. They were wearing bulky jackets against the cold. One was carrying a hiking stick, and he had something jutting out horizontally from his neck that looked like the end of a scarf. 
Had I had a companion, I could have said to them "Look at that guy! From here he looks just like a Ninja Turtle! Look! There's his neckerchief, and there's his sword!" 

But I was cycling alone, and I became one of those embarrassing older people who make random comments to total strangers - "From behind you look just like a Ninja Turtle!" Fortunately they laughed uproariously.

Really. I worry myself.  

an hour later - I am already wondering whether to delete this post. That's what i mean about losing my nerve.

Friday, January 15, 2016

All quiet at Hepworth Towers

My brother Pete asked me why I hadn't blogged. The answer is that I've had nothing to say.

Today I am very sad about the death of Alan Rickman. He was a great actor, and he sounds as if he was a thoroughly nice person too. And if you've been reading my blog since 2014 you'll know that the person I dreamed of playing Sol in the screen version of But I Told You Last Year That I loved You was Alan Rickman. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I have hundreds of fabric triangles that I cut up from old jumble for earlier patchwork projects and which I have never used. For months I have been puzzling over how to use them without repeating one of my earlier designs, and now I have solved the problem.

This is the cushion cover I've tried out my new design on, and I really like it. Now when I have the time and inclination, I can make a quilt using the same technique. Yes!

And now I shall get back to my writing.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

In my bones

For readers who don't live in the UK, December 2015 was the wettest since records began, and thus far January has continued the trend. We don't have horrendous floods here in Derbyshire, as Yorkshire does. Our rivers are swollen, some fields are flooded, but that's about it.

But it has been wet and wet and wet, and the garden is sodden. The patio furniture looks as if it's made of soggy cardboard. And too many mornings it has not been light until after 8 a.m. because the skies have been laden with dark rain and heavy mist.

At least the rowing boat on the bank above the Monsal Trail is watertight:

Every morning on getting out of bed, I've been saying to myself - at least we aren't flooded, at least we don't live in the Jungle in Calais. We have a warm, cosy home that we can afford to heat. We have so much to be thankful for. And then there's the fact that we're still ----- alive!

In the last week, when I've been quiet on the blogging and writing front, I've been thinking. Last year was tough. Mary died in the spring, and I had health worries in the autumn. The result of my quiet week is this
1/ lots of ideas for stories, characters and writing projects
2/ a decision about what to pursue this year.

What last year taught me - at last -  in my bones - is that we don't know how much longer we have to live, and we don't know how long we'll be fit enough, well enough, to enjoy the things we like to be doing. So I've decided that my word for this year is ENJOYMENT, and that means keeping as fit as I can so I am able to do all the things that I enjoy. This will mean forcing myself out in waterproof trousers on my bike on rainy days. But it also means that I shan't feel like a wastrel if I get to the end of a day in which nothing tangible appears to have been "achieved," but which has been filled with loveliness - people, kids, nature, creativity. It also means I shan't be beating myself up if I buy an occasional garment in the Toast sale, such as thisI've missed the window for being a rock chick in this life, and I've spent the last year resisting biker jackets of one sort or another, but now I've succumbed. So there.

Friday, January 08, 2016

Writing refusal

You've heard of school refusal, haven't you?

Well, since Monday I've had writing refusal. It upset me for a day and then I got on with other things...cycling on the days it didn't rain, and on wet days, sewing and listening to ancient episodes of Hancock's Half Hour. Again, I am asking myself the question - just as I wonder if As Time Goes By would be so fab without Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer, I wonder if Galton and Simpson's scripts would be as funny with someone other than Hancock delivering them.

I'm currently trying out a new patchwork process on the hundreds of triangles I haven't used up elsewhere. 

See my laptop languishing at the back of the desk?

I've been writing in a note book, and ideas for stories keep popping into my head. Maybe next week I will pursue them. 

I also have diet refusal, but that's another story...

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Young, old and elderly

I realised yesterday that although I spent a lot of time after Christmas reviewing my testing 2015, I didn't consider – as I usually do –  my aims for the coming year. It's odd. I wonder why I didn't. I have, and one of my aims is to spend more time with young people, children and toddlers.

I think their energy and positivity will help me combat the tendency to melancholy I've acquired in the last few years.

I never used to be like this. I used to be a bouncing bunny.

Do you think that the world is worse now than it's ever been? Or is it that older people (as a group) have always thought that the world is in a parlous state, and there is dwindling hope that things will ever get better? 

And talking of older people...

Last rainy day I was on the Trail on my bike, a load of women my age who were newbie cyclists (I could tell by their tentative pedalling) teetered past me in the opposite direction. Then I cycled past two male hikers, who looked older again, and they shouted out jovially "Is there a group of elderly women cyclists on the trail today?" to which I shouted, over my shoulder, equally jovially, "I wouldn't know. I'm not elderly." They laughed. Really, though. The cheek. I will admit to being older but I certainly won't admit to being elderly until I am 80. No. Maybe 90. 

Monday, January 04, 2016

I read for enjoyment, not self-improvement

I’ve just finished reading a really good novel – Amy and Isabelle, by Elizabeth Strout – and I’m trying to decide what to read next. Shall I try one more time to conquer Franzen’s The Corrections? I have tried twice, and I enjoyed what I read, but he tends to go on and on, and I get discouraged.

Hepworths are known for being dogged, but I don’t feel the need to exercise that doggedness in the reading of a novel. I’m not at school now, I don’t have exams to pass, and if I get fed up, I jack it in. Do you always finish reading a book, once you’ve started it? If so, why? 

There are some books I mean to go back to – such as Franzen’s. And then there are those which I have tried twice and given up on. Take, for example, We are all completely beside ourselves. I can say here without fear of damaging the author’s sales ( as the book is already a bestseller and this is a one-horse-town blog ) that I tried once and gave up on it because I didn’t like the narrator’s voice. Then I went back and tried again, because everyone was saying how good it was, and I got to the middle and got bored. Yes. Bored. So that was that.

Ah, just remembered, I have Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend waiting on the shelf. That's next.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Apologies about the housekeeping

No, Dave, don't get excited, I'm not talking about that kind of housekeeping, I'm talking about the blog.

If you're as pernickety as me, dear readers, you'll have noticed the formatting of my blog as been rather awry the last few weeks. This isn't to do with a surfeit of champagne (sadly.) It's due to a new incompatibility that has arisen between my blog-writing package and my operating system. All very boring. I have spent so much more time on the blog than usual, trying to make the format come out as I want it to, and failing. The look of my blog really matters to me, so I will probably have to do something drastic this month. If, therefore, the blog disappears for a while, you'll know why. I will be back. This is my tenth year of blogging, and I don't want to give up before that's completed.

In the meantime, here are two photos of my beautiful granddaughters for the new year - no formatting necessary. I make no apologies for including them here: I'm a grandmother, before I'm a writer.