Friday, June 24, 2016


I was lying in bed last night unable to sleep, writing a blog post in my head about the dearth of sitcoms on telly that make me laugh.

This morning I have woken to the appalling news that we are leaving the EU, and I am too upset to write a post that isn't a rant. I am sure you don't want a rant. 

As Blackadder said, "I believe the phrase rhymes with clucking bell."

I am taking two weeks off.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Always read the washing instructions

When we bought the sleeping bags for our asylum seeker visitors to sleep in (see last post) the woman in the shop assured us you could wash them in the machine. 

When I collected up said sleeping bags for washing, I checked the instructions on the label. Yes, you can wash them in a machine - an industrial machine.  So I went to the cleaners in Sheffield and they quoted me £12.70 per sleeping bag, or, if I did it myself in their large machines, it would work out around £20 for the lot. But the machines were not always free, and as I live half an hour away, I couldn't easily pack five sleeping bags into the car and pop in on the off chance.

So yesterday, I washed and rinsed one in the bath, and spun it in our machine. Then it went on the line. I'm hoping it will be dry enough to pack away in a couple of days. Only four more to go.

As I was swishing it around in the bath, my thoughts drifted to the memory of Dave washing the duvet in the bath. You may have read a version of this in But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You.
If not - here it is. Completely true.

While Jem was away, Fran snatched the opportunity to take her duvet to the cleaners. The launderette in Bakewell had closed down, so she rang a dry cleaner's in Sheffield and they quoted her £16.99 and a two week turnaround.
Sol was horrified “That’s ridiculous!” he said. “They don’t know what to charge! I’ll wash it myself.”
“But it’s a double one. It won’t fit in the machine. Really Sol, please don’t bother.”
“I know! I’ll do it in the fun tub!” The fun tub was a huge plastic tub - three feet across and three feet deep – of the kind that builders generally use for rubble, and which Sol used for DIY. But it was languishing in the shed stuffed with used plastic cartons which Sol said would one day “come in useful.”
“It’s fine, Sol. Really,” said Fran. “I’ll take it to the cleaners.”
“No, no. I’m not going to be defeated. I know! I’ll do it in the bath. That’s more commodious and it has running hot water. Better than the fun tub!”
He swung the duvet into the bath and turned on the taps, but the duvet behaved like an enormous sponge and soaked up every drop of water. He couldn’t swish it around to make a washing motion, and had to bend right over and pummel the thing. It was like wrestling with an alligator, though Sol looked less like the hero in Crocodile Dundee and more like an also-ran in a wet T-shirt competition.
Even when rinsed and squeezed, the duvet was so heavy that he found it hard to pick up. He had to bundle it up and clutch it to his chest like those contestants in The Strongest Man in the World competition, who stagger for a hundred yards carrying a boulder as big as a buffalo.
He planned to go down the stairs with it, through the open front door, and outside to the washing line. But he slipped just two steps from the bottom, lurched forwards into the wall, squeezing the duvet and depositing a couple of gallons of water on the hall floor.
Eventually he got the duvet outside and edged it bit by bit over the washing line, which then swooped grasswards in a giant parabola, though miraculously the trees to which it was tied remained rooted.
Fran feared for the trees to which the line was tied. It was a miracle they weren’t uprooted. She wondered how many days it would take for the duvet to dry. Who but Sol would have thought of washing a duvet in February?

Monday, June 20, 2016

World Refugee Day

I've just finished reading a children's classic called The Silver Sword first published in 1956. It's the story of a family of children who are refugees from Poland at the end of WW2, and their journey across Europe to find their parents, who they believe are in Switzerland. It's gripping, moving, funny and very well written, and it had me in tears. 

I saw it on black and white telly in the fifties. Also in the fifties, my children's group at Quaker meeting were making hussifs (small sewing kits) for refugees. Then when I was ten, three schoolfriends and I knitted a blanket for refugees, in World Refugee Year. 

When I was a child, I thought refugees were a dwindling group, 'left over' after the war. It is sixty years later and the UNHCR  has just reported that 1 in 112 people in the world are refugees. One of the reasons I cried when reading The Silver Sword was that it could just as easily be set today. This is what the world is like in 2016 and I don't see any future change. 

A few months ago, inspired (I believe) by the failure of government, Bakewell churches got together to think about what they could do to help refugees. There are no refugees in the area, but there are many asylum seekers in nearby Sheffield, so one of our initiatives was a plan to host a small group of asylum seekers for a weekend break from their everyday lives in Sheffield, in which they are entirely dependent on the charity of others. We wanted to show hospitality, warmth, acceptance, friendship, and support.

That weekend has just happened. The shootings in Orlando and the murder of Jo Cox were on the periphery of my vision last week because I was helping to get ready for our asylum seeker visitors. They had bed and breakfast at the Quaker Meeting House, and shared Sunday lunch with the Quakers after meeting, the Anglicans provided three meals, and the Methodists were in charge of entertainment and activities.  It was a wonderful time, and worked very well, and our visitors ( some of whom had been tense on arrival) left us with warm smiles and handshakes, and assurances that they had enjoyed their visit.

For the churches, it was the first attempt - dipping our toes in the water. We hope to get feedback from our visitors and fine tune our arrangements and do it again. Often. And some of us are going to visit Assist - a Sheffield charity supporting destitute asylum seekers - to volunteer.

Medecins sans Frontieres provides medical aid to refugees, and Refugee Action has opportunities for you to help locally. Around the country there are many places collecting clothes and other items to send to refugees on the continent.

Is there anything you can do to support refugees?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

slackline bulletin

The news here is that it was Isaac's birthday yesterday and I walked ten steps on the slackline.

Friday, June 17, 2016

what we can do

Our life is love and peace and tenderness; and bearing one with another, 
and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another;
 but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.

Isaac Penington, 1667

Tuesday, June 14, 2016


Hi! I haven't forgotten you - I've just been 

And on Sunday I spent the day printmaking. I signed up for the workshop with Laine Tomkinson  because for ages I have been wanting to mess about with colour, and this was one way I could do it. 

It was a two woman workshop that Laine gave in her studio for my friend Liz and me.
It was fab. We did intaglio printing with glue and carburundum grit, and as a break in the middle we did a monoprint. 

Laine's wonderfully light studio is in a massive old lace mill in Nottingham. This is just one end of the mill.

We began the process by making a design on a board with PVA glue, and while it was still wet, liberally sprinkling it with carborundum grit, and then shaking off the excess to leave something like this :

To make sure it was dry we used a hairdryer:

Then we scraped on lashings of oil ink with an old loyalty card:

I have to tell you that I loved it so much when it looked like this that I wanted to stop right there. But Laine was teaching us to print, not paint, so I pressed on and rubbed in the ink with an old rag so it looked like this:

The next stage was to print it onto damp paper using a press like this:

Liz added some bits of tissue paper to hers:

And here is my finished print:

It didn't turn out quite as I wanted it to, but I can have another go, because I can use the block again. But it was super fun. Having had a day to consider the process, I'm thinking that painting is the way ahead for me, so I have more precise control on where the colour goes.

Laine was a super teacher and Liz and I both enjoyed our day.

I'll leave you with this set of rules I snapped from another artist's studio:

Thursday, June 09, 2016


I had the slackline for my sixtieth birthday, blahblah years ago. It's slung very low and needs adjusting, but the point of it is not to do a high wire act: I want to be able to walk from one end to the other without falling off. I used to be able to walk half way, but the line's been in the shed for a couple of years, and I'm out of practice.

So this is me, learning again to balance on one leg. Next week, I'll be trying the walking thing.

Meanwhile, in Colorado, 5 year old Lux is making up tricks of her own. Check this one out.

Yes, I'm a proud grandmother! Sue me!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The fat of the land

I was planning to blog this morning, but the time has slipped by and I must get up and go on my bike on the Trail.

The sun is out, and it won't be out tomorrow. I love these lush green days in June when I can eat breakfast outside, play table tennis on the back lawn in my bare feet, and it's objectively too hot to garden until 8 p.m. And even when I've finished watering the sweet peas, it's too nice to come inside so I practise on the slackline in the stillness of the balmy evening. And the blackbird is still singing at half past nine.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Wiped out

I'm lounging on my steamer chair on the front lawn in the sunshine. The lawn needs mowing but I'm too tired even to cut back the dead bluebells. I've been reading Billy Collins' poems from Sailing Alone Around the Room.

Every morning it's a choice between easing the day open gently by writing the blog, or getting up and out on my bike before the tourists descend.  Then if I decide on the bike, there's a choice between the Monsal Trail - gentle gradient, deserted on the outward trip at 9 a.m., becoming cluttered by hikers and cyclists on the homeward trip - OR a determined attack on Longstone Edge. I've cracked two of the routes to the top, but the steepest remains to be conquered.

Last time I was at the top of the Edge, off my bike, walking the last stoney path to the summit, I met two men whom I didn't know walking down. We stopped to say hello and talk about our routes. One man, while engaging me in chat, felt my front bike tyre, I assume to see if it was suitably inflated.  I was so flabbergasted by his cheek, I said nowt. But I seethed all the way back home. Dave laughed at my outrage. I discussed it with a friend who works with a bunch of cycling men, and she said it was par for the course. It no longer bothered her. Am I alone in thinking it was an invasive impertinence?

Anyway....this morning I chose the Trail, and rode to the end and back. It took me two hours with a ten minute half-time break. When I got home I was too tired even to blog. It's four and a half hours since then and I'm revving up to play table tennis with Dave. He got a new bat yesterday. It's the same as my new bat - the one that he thought beneath him. He decided to get the same to make it fair, to avoid what he called "Bat Wars." All it means is we're back to where we were: he's beating me again.

Tomorrow I'll choose some energetic gardening and eschew the bike ride. I can't do both in one day. I may be fit but my energy - like life - is finite.

This is the current status of our lane. Isn't it fine?

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

On not reading the papers

At last an empty day when I am free to lie in bed from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. surfing the net, then while the iPad is recharging, turn to Try Anything Twice - a collection of Jan Struther's pieces reprinted from The New Statesman, The Spectator and Punch. They're the kind of witty, thoughtful and pithy pieces about everyday life that I hope I'd have written if I'd been upper middle class and living in the 1930s. 

One of her pieces is called On Not Reading the Papers, which is what I've been doing when it comes to the EU referendum issue. I've known what I was going to vote from the start and have been ignoring the nasty, dishonest and unedifying debate - from both sides - that's been poisoning the media these last few months. Dave, however, has been keeping track, and has been 'kind' enough to keep me abreast of the latest scurrilous pronouncements. Daily. 

I did catch one headline independently last week, though, which was that if we leave the EU, house prices will come down. In view of all the young people who desperately want to and can't afford to buy their own house, I assumed this argument (whether or not it's true) came from the Brexit campaign, as a means of persuading young people to vote for them. On conferring with Dave I discovered that it was George Osborne of the 'Remain' bunch, architect of austerity, hammerer of the poor and disadvantaged, who came out with it because he thought people would be horrified at the thought. It just goes to show - if nothing else has - how completely out of touch he is with the needs of ordinary people.

For the record - I shall be voting to remain in the EU. This is for many reasons, including one mentioned in Dave's February letter to the Guardian: "The Europeans often seem far more in line with British values than our own government does, for example on human rights."