Wednesday, March 30, 2016

My life is a sitcom

One of the great things about being a writer is that you can call spending time on some of your favourite activities "work" or "research." So, if you're a novelist, it's reading novels, if you're a screenwriter, it's watching films, and if you're writing a sitcom, like me, it's watching sitcoms. Oh, life is tough for writers.

I've just written a post for you about all the sitcoms I've been watching. But it was a boring post so I've shelved it. 

Some years ago I saw a documentary about Paul Simon, following his professional life from its beginnings, and ending with what was then the present day. The interviewer asked him what he was working on, and he said he wasn't. He said: "I'm in my life now." That turned out to be a phase, of course.

I'm finding that watching sitcoms and writing my own sitcoms is not conducive to blogging. My head is so bound up with my work and my "research" that there's not much left for discursive musings on life and trivia.

It's a phase, I'm sure. Today Dave is out and I'm working hard on my submission to the BBC Writers Room. They are welcoming comedy submissions until next Monday. Mine is almost ready. Wish me luck!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Memory and desire

Happy Easter!

I've been sitting here in bed feeling melancholic. I love Easter - the lambs, the chocolate eggs, the daffodils, the bright spring skies - but unless we have visitors, I start missing people and times gone by. Yesterday I was missing my best friend Mary, because I was back from a trip and wanted to ring her up for a thorough debriefing, as per usual, but she wasn't here; and she never will be here.

This morning I've been missing my mother, because I often used to take my children up to Wensleydale to stay with her and Pa at Easter. At least that's how I remember it. 

Once you start missing one person, you look around inside your heart and find other people who are inaccessible and you're filled with longing. 

I can't imagine how I'll feel if Dave dies before me. I'll probably drown in a sea of loneliness.

I was thinking all this when I sat here with my morning mug of tea. I switched on the laptop and while it warmed up, I read a two page story in my new Garrison Keillor bookthat I bought in Boulder -

and it made me laugh. I need comedy to get me through this life. Don't underestimate the power of a hearty belly laugh. Or even a wry smile.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 25, 2016

missing persons

OK. I've had my three days R and R, my peace and quiet, my catching up on my writing, my lengthy chats with Dave. Now I want my small companions back. The ones who get into my bed for a chat at 7 in the morning, the ones who make me laugh, who practise their English accents - "pyjamas, bananas, tomatoes" - who want to hear funny stories about Dave, whose stuffies litter the house, who like to play hibernating bunnies on the bedroom floor and who like The Sun Has Got His Hat On played on the iPad to wake them up for spring, who want me to read the same book over and over, which is fine because it's usually a book I like (e.g. Ahlberg's Funnybones and Ahlberg's Tell Me A Story), who persuade me to go swimming with them and entice me down the long slide, when I detest going swimming in an indoor pool.

Lux and Cece, I miss you!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Picture postcards

I've told you, haven't I, how crazy the weather is in Boulder? In the morning you can be wrapped up against the snow and biting cold, and in the afternoon you're wearing a T shirt. They get a lot of snow, but it's not the right kind of snow for making snowmen, or even proper snowballs come to that. Except when it's melting. So on Sunday afternoon when it was warm and bright, Isaac and I made a snowman. The girls only became interested when it got to the pine cone feature stage: I think it was their first snowman.

And here is my last picture from Colorado: Lux and me on the Carousel of Happiness. It will be a sad day for the adults when the girls grow out of the trip up to the small town of Nederland in the foothills (8,000 feet up) where a tiny building houses this fabulous carousel with hand carved wooden animals ( and mermaids!) and with a Wurlitzer organ in the centre.

You know the Carousel's tag line -


Sunday, March 20, 2016


A week before I arrived in Colorado, the girls face-timed me and were beside themselves with excitement because Wendy had bought them a craft kit called Pom-Pom Puppies. They couldn't wait to make these Pom-Pom Puppies, but were saving the kit, so they could do it with me. Oh joy. I can knit and sew quite well, but following instructions in craft kits is not my forte.

It was just as I feared. Even the brand 100% KLUTZ certified was not enough to protect me from what followed. The only thing the girls could actually do was wind the yarn to make the pom-poms. The rest was up to me.

This was the first attempt. It's a chihuahua. Like the one on the packet?

This was the second one we made.

Feeling flushed with success - actually no, that's not true. It was because I was determined not to leave a legacy of a deformed puppy behind me, that I did some plastic surgery on the chihuahua.

Rather better.

This morning the girls got into bed with me before breakfast as they always do. We usually chat and have stories - either from books or from my head. Today they wanted funny stories about Dave, so I obliged. It reminded me so much of staying with my Gran and getting into bed with her, and listening to her stories of when she was little. 

So it goes.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

One of my favourite things

Is reading in bed with a three year old.

Another is dancing in my pyjamas to American Pie with a five year old.

Meanwhile, outside, in the back garden

Friday, March 18, 2016

My daughter in law

It takes two margaritas to get me drunk. I only get drunk twice a year and I am always with Wendy (my daughter-in-law) when it happens. Today there was four inches of snow. Wendy was busy and the kids were at school, and Wendy treated me to a pedicure. She paid for a uber taxi to take me to the salon and paid for the pedicure and picked me up afterwards and took me to lunch and got me drunk on margaritas. Everything seems possible when you are drunk on margaritas. For one thing, it's the only time I don't feel old.

After lunch we visited the wonderful Boulder Bookstore, half a block away. Cece held my hand very tight on the snowy pavement to stop me falling over. When we got there the kids and Wendy rushed off to the children's section and I stood mesmerised by the bestsellers at the front of the store and nearly bought three, at $25 (before tax) a pop. I wanted When Breath Becomes Air, My Name is Lucy Barton and Billy Collins' Aimless Love. I restrained myself. It was touch and go. Then I dallied with some silly, funny fridge magnets...things I would never think of buying if I were sober. Then I asked at the desk for a book I was looking for and the assistant asked if I would like her to find it for me. "Yes," I said. "Thank you. My daughter-in-law got me drunk on margaritas and I am fit for nothing."

You should all have a wonderful daughter-in-law like Wendy.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Love in Colorado

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Don't delay joy

Another way is to spend time with children. 

Lux has kindly mapped out two weeks of pleasure for me.

That's me, arriving with my suitcase on the 9th. The next day we go swimming. On the 11th we play at home. And yay! On Saturday 12th we're going to drive up into the foothills of the Rockies for a ride on the Carousel of Happiness.

I will try to post when I'm away.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Three things on my mind

I've been busy! There have been three things on my mind since last I posted: writing my sitcom, getting everything ready to take to Colorado, and refugees.

On Saturday I went to a meeting of local people in Bakewell to talk about practical ways of helping refugees and asylum seekers (though we have none in Bakewell.)  It was heartening to be with other people I didn't know who care as much about refugees as I do.  

This is a smattering of what I learned that might be useful to you:

-   It's easy to volunteer on Lesbos, even if you only have a couple of weeks to give. There's a Facebook page with full details about how to go about it. Check it out if you're on Facebook. I'm not.

-   Asylum seekers in this country are supported by the Home Office while their claims are dealt with. If their claim fails they have to move out of their accommodation, and they stop receiving their £5 a day subsistence, but they are not allowed to work. This means that while they are gathering more evidence to renew their claim, or to appeal, they are destitute. They need hospitality from groups - such as churches - or from individuals. We're planning something in Bakewell.

-   There are some charities specialising in helping asylum seekers. A speaker from one in Sheffield told us that top of the list of asked-for items is lessons in English. Next is bicycles, because bus fares are so expensive. I'm going to give them my old bike. Could you help with either of these needs, in your nearest city? 

-   A lot of people have donated clothes, tents and sleeping bags to charities supporting refugees. One thing that many families need when they arrive in Greece is baby carriers. I never thought about this. Now I'm going to try to find as many as I can to send to Lesbos.

The headlines this morning are all about refugees: how to turn them back. You could write to your MP (I do, but he doesn't listen) and you can try to lobby the current government. Good luck with that.

The world is a dark dark place right now and we cannot rely on politicians to do the right thing. So much is obvious. I know it's a structural problem, but nevertheless,  we can all do something to help.

It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.

Lastly - 
Here is a video worth watching - it's a TED talk  by Professor Alexander Betts about our response to the current crisis.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Spring 2016

Yesterday the first daffodil heads in our garden flopped horizontal, ready to open.

It rained in the morning. I'd been busy writing, then walking with Dave under a grey sky to Hassop Station for a coffee, then sewing dolls' patchwork quilts for Lux: 

Eat your heart out Audrey Hepburn

and Cece: 

because next week I am flying to Colorado to visit them.

Lux has put me on the calendar:

But in the afternoon there was a perfect March sky - bright sunshine and a mixture of grey and white clouds scudding across a brilliant blue. I was too tired for a bike ride, but desperate to get out under that sky, so I walked to the village to catch the afternoon post. And I needed no gloves!

This morning there is snow on the limestone edge behind our house. I am sitting cosily in bed as I write to you. But in Calais, refugees have had their "homes" demolished and many have nowhere to go. And on the Greek border in Idomeni, refugees - many of whom are children - are being teargassed. And in the US of A, Donald Trump is threatening yet more dystopia. This is spring, 2016.

You can donate to Medecins Sans Frontieres for their work with refugees here.