Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Missing, but always here

I think about Mary every day. It's a fleeting thought. It's a - "I wish she was here to talk to, I wish she was here to tell about X, to ask what she thinks about Y, to share a laugh about such and such." She is like when I notice the moon coming up, or Venus appearing in the cold winter sky. I miss her and then move on. Or she is like someone walking briskly across a screen I am watching. She's like a bead on the thread of my day. There's no telling when she'll appear, but appear she does.

I am fortunate to have had such a friend. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

All that remains

Toys and books put away.
All that remains are the yoghurt cartons. (Is the yoghurt cartons?) 

I'll tackle those tomorrow.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Treatment plan

Fresh lemon juice and honey with Lemsip

Steaming head over menthol crystals

Warm bed

Olive Kitteridge

Gilmore Girls on iPad in bed

This is the third day: tomorrow I hope I'll be better.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Tweet of the day

Saturday, November 26, 2016

All quiet on the eastern front

It is 12.35 p.m. I am sitting in bed in a silent house, reading the Guardian Review. I have a sore throat and a cold and I am short of sleep. Dave, never short of energy, is out on his bike. The Colorado Hepworths have just taken off from Heathrow, flying home.

Earlier, Dave and I watched murmurating starlings in the field across the road and I said "what a pity the girls aren't here to see them." This kind of observation will continue for a couple of days.

You know that expression "photo-bombing" don't you? ( Don't worry, Pete, I'll explain when you ring tomorrow.)

I feel as though I've been love-bombed, and it lasted a week.

They left at 6 a.m. This is me having a last minute cuddle with a sleepy Cece, en route to the car in her pyjamas.

Photo by Isaac..

Friday, November 25, 2016

Thanksgiving cum Bonfire Night

We celebrated Thanksgiving with our American family - the Colorado Hepworths - and with the family member who declines to be named, plus the newest member of the family - his lovely partner. We combined it with Bonfire Night, as Wendy has always wanted to be here for Bonfire Night and never managed it.

Celebrating anything against a background of breast cancer and mastectomy-talk was always going to be a tough gig, but I think it was a success. 

The fireworks were modest (and that's being kind) but the kids had fun. 

The bonfire was perfect ( thanks, Dave.)

We had Thanksgiving food and I even made a pumpkin cheesecake. I'm kicking myself I didn't take a picture of it to show you - it had homemade pumpkin seed brittle on the top and looked fantastic. ( Please forgive the boasting. I am no longer an enthusiastic cook and am impressed by minor triumphs.) But the kids disdained it. Cece preferred a homemade chocolate brownie. Lux had been baking oatcakes with Dave in the morning and she chose an oatcake spread with my lemon curd. 

Oh, these girls. They are such a joy.

Children by Isaac and Wendy.
Photographs by Isaac.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Current status

Monday, November 21, 2016


My American family arrived on Saturday, and yesterday everyone else came for tea (supper to you southerners). I worried in the morning about how I would seat the eleven of us round the table, but I had two glasses of wine at lunch, and after that, everything seemed possible.

It was noisy, chaotic, fun and fabulous, and Dave did the washing up.

This morning we got out our home-made two-room marble run. Forgive the blurry Cece. These kids don't stand still.

And here is yet another use of those pesky yoghurt cartons...

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thought for the day

Friday, November 18, 2016

Is it your cup of tea?

OK, I've written to my MP AGAIN about honouring the DUBS amendment and bringing all vulnerable refugee children over to the UK from the group that were in the Calais jungle. So far they have only brought over 300. It's deplorable. I have also signed this petition. Will you?

Now I can tell you about my trip to London on which I feel I grew up - I got my very first Oyster Card for travelling on the tube. 

You know that polite British expression "It wasn't my cup of tea" ? It's nowhere strong enough to describe my aversion to Wayne McGregor's new ballet Multiverse. My friend and I went to see three of his short ballets at the Royal Opera House on Wednesday. I enjoyed two of them, but for the first ten minutes of Multiverse, I sat with my fingers in my ears because the soundtrack was so punishing and objectionable. My friend did the same and so did other members of the audience. Others got up and left the theatre.  After it calmed down and changed to something recognisable as music, and we removed our fingers from our ears, we were so traumatised we couldn't concentrate on the dancing, and sat there rigid, waiting for the thing to end.

But I did like the other ballets, especially the first one, Chroma.

In the afternoon we went to see the Abstract Expressionists at the Royal Academy and I fell in love with Jackson Pollock. I have never seen his work before in a gallery. Wow! 

I also enjoyed the Mark Rothko.

But Ad Reinhardt's work was not my cup of tea. This was an artist who for the last ten years of his life painted nothing but black paintings. Not black and white. Black. And he specialised in square paintings of black: five feet by five feet. I don't understand his stuff but someone somewhere does. I am one of those ignoramuses who judges a painting by whether she would like to have it on her wall. Pollock and Rothko are welcome at Hepworth Towers any time. Reinhardt? Not so much.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


I act as if stunned every morning. Dave has been up for hours and walks in the bedroom and asks how I am and I say "I feel awful, but I'll be OK." 

Now I'm OK. I've been awake for 2 hours. It takes that long. 

So anyway, I don't have time for a lengthy blog as I have to clean. The chundies are arriving on Saturday from Colorado for a week's stay. Woo-hoo!

Yesterday I sorted out the toys and books: first things first. Today it's cleaning. 

Tomorrow I go to London to the abstract expressionism  exhibition at the Royal Academy and then to the ballet at the Royal Opera House. How's that for an injection of culture? (For a republican - small r! small r! -  it occurs to me that I'll be spending an awful lot of time in Royal hangouts.) And I went for a garment from TOAST for those of you who are wondering. It's the kind of thing that will never date and is also fabulous.

Friday it's last minute shopping and cooking.

The busyness is why I am posting photographs today. They are all pictures taken at home or locally in the month of November, though not all this year. I hope you like them.

personnel photos by Isaac
the rest are mine

Saturday, November 12, 2016


You know that sketch I showed you recently in which a writer and three script editors walk into a bar? (Here's a link to remind you.) I've seen it several times and it makes me crack up every time. And my writer friends also think it's hilarious. How about you?

I ask, because Dave said it made him furious - that a creative person should be demolished in that way - and he launched into one of his rants. My brother said the sketch made him sad. 

The reason writers like it is because they recognise it as an exaggerated version of what they go through all the time. I think it was Matt Haig who said (something like) "You need a thin skin to write and a thick skin to sell your writing." Usually what happens is you tell the story and then you show it to other people and then they launch into all kinds of questions which attack your story or your telling of it. In the sketch, the script editors don't even let the writer get his story out.

Last week I was telling a friend my news and said "I got a lovely rejection for my children's picture book" and she laughed and said what a positive person I was. Other people, too, have laughed when I've said I got a nice rejection. They were not writers.  If you're an experienced writer you have had years of deconstructing the subtext of rejection  letters and have learned to tell the difference between a blank rejection - thank you, but no thank you, followed by phrases of flim-flam -
e.g.  I have read your material, but I did not feel it would be right for my list and therefore I am unable to offer you representation. I am sorry not to be writing with better news, but I hope this response will not discourage you and I wish you all the best with your writing.

and a rejection where it is clear that the person can see your work is good, but for some reason has decided they don't want to take it on.
e.g.We enjoyed your writing, but after extensive consideration, we do not feel that we are the right agency to represent your proposed material.
...followed by flim flam.

If, God forbid, you are the agent who wrote that last email to me, please DON'T contact me and tell me it was your version of a blank rejection. 

The point about all of the above is that writers develop a thick skin to cope with rejections. But life itself is a different matter. A friend and I agreed last week that we are less resilient to bad family news now than we used to be, and with age we become even less resilient. And it surprises me. I thought that as I went on and life threw more and more things at me, I'd become stronger and more able to absorb the blows. I don't, which means that I don't agree with the popular quotation: "Whatever doesn't kill you simply makes you stronger." 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Dark times

Twenty years ago, we had a bad year at Hepworth Towers. We were renting, trying to find somewhere to buy, and we had to move from our (lovely) temporary accommodation to a dark, dark cottage. Everything seemed grim. 

Then we got a letter from the removal firm that was storing 95% of our possessions. Their warehouse had burned down, and our things were gone. You can imagine our shock and our sadness.

Six weeks later I was told I had breast cancer. This was a shock too, but nowhere near as bad. I think now it's because I was still numb from losing so many irreplaceable things - the physical manifestation of 25 years of family life. 

In June, 52% of the British people voted for Brexit. For the 48% of the population - of which I was one - who wanted to stay in an imperfect Europe, with its cooperation, its care for human rights and equality, its inclusiveness, its care for the environment, the referendum result was a huge shock.

I woke today, forgetting about the US election, and padded down to the kitchen where Dave was already baking oatcakes. He turned to me and said grimly: "Trump's won."

Another huge shock. Strangely though, just as in 1996 in our own personal domestic annus horibilis, it did not hit me as hard as the first political shock this year - of Brexit. 

But it's terrible news. I am sad for America, but more than that, I am afraid for the world. These are dark times, and getting darker.

We can't do anything to change this result, nor apparently to make our own government behave with humanity. But as well as keeping up the pressure on our own government to do the right thing, we can act in our personal lives in a way that shows sanity, compassion, humanity and love. Think global, act local. Don't give in to despair, apathy or hatred.  

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

Sunday, November 06, 2016

This isn't that minute

Wendy has put it on Twitter, so I feel able to share it with you.

Wendy, beloved daughter-in-law, dear friend, loved like a daughter, sharer of good times, welcoming, indulgent and patient host of mothers-in-law, generous and thoughtful sender of videos of Lux and Cece opening their birthday presents that I paid for and Wendy went out and bought after consultation, expert maker of Bloody Marys and maragaritas, expert drinker of same, fun-time companion, sad time companion, fantastic wife and mother, inspiring and compassionate yoga teacher, all of the above and so much more that I can't think of at 6 in the morning but I will think of later and be annoyed that I didn't put down....has breast cancer. 

She reads my blog and the comments below, so if you'd like to send her a message, please do. 

And here, 5,000 miles away, I am going to be rock-like (don't scoff) and to try hard to be the best support someone can be from so far away. I'm channeling my emotions into stocking the freezer, because they are all coming over for a Thanksgiving visit before Wendy starts her treatment.

She's a peach.

photo by Isaac

Friday, November 04, 2016

Why does a mother need a daughter?
Heart's needle, hostage to fortune,
freedom's end. Yet nothing's more perfect
than that bleating, razor-shaped cry
that delivers a mother to her baby.
The bloodcord snaps that held
their sphere together. The child,
tiny and alone, creates the mother.

A woman's life is her own
until it is taken away
by a first, particular cry.
Then she is not alone
but a part of the premises
of everything there is:
a time, a tribe, a war.
When we belong to the world
we become what we are.

excerpt from Poem for a Daughter by Anne Stevenson

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Don't read this if you don't like clothes

When you've been brought to tears by the plight of 1000 vulnerable refugee children that two "civilised" countries are washing their hands of, and then knocked sideways by some awful family news, it takes time to stabilise yourself in order to be able to blog. 

Once stable, you have to decide what to blog about...

It could be how difficult it is when you're feeling heavy-hearted to respond to chirpy building society assistants who ask if you're using the money you're withdrawing to treat yourself. How intrusive! All I could come out with was a sullen "No." Walking away from the place I realised I should have said what Kit said in a similar situation in Plotting for Grown-ups: "Sex, drugs and rock and roll." 


It could be to list your pet hates, but all I can remember of the list at this moment is people winning a competition opening a bottle of champagne and spraying it everywhere - why do they want to waste champagne????? It makes me want to knock them over the head with the empty bottle.


It could be another third world problem of trying to decide what to wear for a particular smart event and looking in the wardrobe and finding only the unsuitable. My London friend has invited me to the ballet again (whoop whoop). Last time, in June, I wore the same thing as when she took me out to dinner in London, last October. I cannot wear it again: that would be just too country-mousish.

So then, what? I love clothes and could afford something new, but I am afflicted by a Puritan guilt about spending money on clothes, when there are 65 million refugees in the world, half of whom are children. If I'm going to wear something a lot, I can justify it. But I only realistically need smart evening wear about twice a year, so am I justified in forking out for something new? And if the answer is yes, what should I buy? Something classic and black, probably, but Dave has a pathological hatred of black, so much so that he made a white cardboard frame to cover up the edge of his computer monitor. But then, does Dave actually go out to smart affairs with me? Rarely.

This blog post could ramble on for some time, and I don't think the topic is worthy. So let's just say that the Toast item I was dithering over yesterday - loving it, but unsure about its suitability - has now sold out, so that's a decision I don't have to revisit. This could go on for some time, until the day before the ballet, and end up in my same dark tunic dress (a gift) with silk velvet jacket (secondhand Boden) I wore before. And does anyone at the Royal Opera House look at a sixty-something grey haired woman from the sticks, anyway? If only I could wear my birthday hat.

Later: I just tried on some stuff from my wardrobe and found that a classic black top will do very nicely. So the two things I bought from John Lewis yesterday - without much attendant joy - will be going back to the shop. Sorted.