Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Postcard from Boulder

You're honoured. I've come in from the quiet hammock to say Hello. 

Wendy had a three hour nap today, so as far as I'm concerned the day has been a success. Now she's at the pool with the girls and I've been lying in the hammock on this warm sunny teatime, catching up on emails, reading the news, looking at the trees, drinking wine and eating crisps. 

It's been a busy day - a knitting lesson, a bike ride to the park, a game of baseball, lunch, beads, reading a chapter of Ramona the Brave, and chat. So an hour in the hammock is just the ticket. 

Yesterday Lux and I went to the pottery painting studio, which was, as they say,  aces. She designed and painted this plate as a surprise for Cece, who has not yet broken up from school.

On Sunday we had another success: we made a rocket launcher from a kit. For all of those who remember the Pom Pom Puppies Fiasco (which I have tried unsuccessfully to link to, because I am working on Isaac's spare laptop and I can't for the life of me work out how the hell you right click for copy without a mouse) - let me inform you that this time I followed the instructions and achieved success. So there: I am not an utter dummy in the craft department.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Guess where I am!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

after Manchester

I am so sad about the bombing in Manchester, and I send my condolences to all those affected by it.

A local poet, Helen Mort - winner of too many awards to list here - tweeted her poem Prayer yesterday in response to the Manchester bombing. 

The poem is from a collection of poems addressed to the mountaineer Alison Hargreaves and appears in Helen's book No Map Could Show Them (pub. Chatto and Windus 2016). She has kindly given her permission for me to share it with you. I should explain before you read it that Bamford and Hope are two villages in the Derbyshire Peak District.


Give us good days.
Days unspectacular but adequate:
the weather neither calm nor wild,
your coat zipped nearly to the top,

a silver thermos cooling in your bag,
the sky at Bamford reddening, as if
embarrassed by its own strange reach
and day-old pipe-smoke clouds.

Above the Hope cement works,
crows wheel arcs of guarded flight
and when you touch the rock
your fingers hold.

© Helen Mort

Photo  © Chris Gilbert by kind permission.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday musings

I woke up from a dream in which I was being interviewed at the Jobcentre. I was sitting between the family member who declines to be named and a man whose CV was handwritten on four small post-its. Because of the cuts they were interviewing three of us at a time. The interview was friendly and relaxed, even convivial. This was not the real world.

I also woke up with a headache from tree pollen because I forgot to use the nasal spray last night. There are a lot of trees near our house.This is the view from a bedroom window this morning:

There've been some beautiful evening skies this month. Look at these, taken from the bathroom window:

We are so, so lucky to live here. We are so, so lucky full stop. I shall be using my postal vote today to keep the Conservatives out because I care about all the people in our society who aren't so lucky. I care about social justice, and I want to save the NHS. If you want to know the best way to vote tactically to do the same, you can put your postcode on this website and it will tell you the best way to do that in your constituency.

Over and out with the politics. I could have said so much more.

I fly to Boulder on Thursday. My case is already half packed, including the Penguins and Club biscuits requested by the girls.  It will be hard leaving Derbyshire looking so beautiful, but so good to see Isaac, Wendy, Lux and Cecilia, and wonderful to be there, able to help. It sucks being thousands of miles away from people you love, people whom you yearn to help and support.  

And Boulder is just as beautiful as Derbyshire:

photo by Isaac

Though they obviously have just as many dandelions, which thankfully, it will not be my responsibility to get rid of.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017


I wanted to tell you that I miss you. I miss writing my blog. But when I wake up in the morning, instead of thinking of a blog post, I am writing the next scene of the novel in my head. There is not room for both.

May this year is stunning. I don't know if it's always quite as stunning or if it's because I've been paying closer attention than I usually do. I mean I know I like May, I know it's my favourite month, but it seems even more extravagantly beautiful this year - as if there's something in the back of my head that's saying - make the most of this - it might be your last. 

Usually I am in Colorado for the start of the Derbyshire spring, and arrive home after the grass has started to go greener, and the very first tiny leaves are pushing through - the honeysuckle and the clematis. This year I was in Colorado at Christmas instead,  so I've seen the whole production of Spring from start to finish and now - at last, in the last two days - the ash trees have come out and it's the grand finale and I'm giving a standing ovation.

Let’s love today, the what we have now, this day, not
          today or tomorrow or
yesterday, but this passing moment, that will
          not come again.

James Schuyler, from A Few days

Saturday, May 13, 2017

don't read this if you're not interested in writing

I just read the poet Anthony Wilson's blog in which he talks about his current writing project: 
'...because it is not like anything I have written before, I am trying to come at it sideways, as though trying to surprise myself...

That's exactly what I'm doing with my new novel - coming at it sideways. But actually, on reflection, the reason I am doing it this way is because I so hate the preparation at the start of a novel - the plotting, the character development, the agony of writing the first three chapters. 

This novel is solely based on an idea that I've been quietly mulling over for a couple of years. It's a different kind of novel from my others. I'm afraid there is very little humour in it, and every time I think of trying to inject some, it doesn't seem right, so I forget the idea. In the past, I couldn't keep humour out of the novels. The humour was endemic. 

The other difference with this one is that I feel completely free to put in it what I like and to make of it what I like as I have no expectation that in the current climate anyone will want to publish it but me. This is liberating. My only guiding principle is that I'm writing the kind of novel that I would like to read. The other thing to tell you is that the story is set in the Derbyshire Peak District, and has characters you have never met before.

I've written half of the first draft and am trying to get as much more done as I can before I fly to Colorado on the 25th to help out.  

This is Cecilia and Lux at Cecilia's school May Faire:

I can't wait to see them and their parents, and to give Wendy the biggest hug that is comfortable for her in her present condition.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

oddments, fragments

You may not believe this but it can take an hour to write a blog post which is why I'm being mean with them at the moment: I don't have any writing time to spare.

So here are some oddments that have not been crafted into a post and do not contain my usual fact checks and hyperlinks:

I just read Julia Samuel's new book called Grief Works, which I think is helpful. She has general information and suggestions, and she also has sections on losing a partner, losing a parent, losing a sibling and losing a child. She does not, however, have a section on losing a friend, and this is a shame.

I was looking for a novel that Gil (almost 11) would like to read. He likes exciting fiction but he doesn't like fantasy (rule out Harry Potter)  he likes stories about families, and he doesn't like stories that are too dark. (His tastes are fairly similar to mine.) I asked around and got some good suggestions and as a result bought him a book called Once by Morris Gleitzman. It arrived on Saturday and I decided to read the first chapter just to check it out. A few hours later I'd finished it. I hadn't been able to stop reading. I can't wait to see what he thinks of it.

When I was a beginner writer I read a lot of writing books that talked about 'finding your voice as a writer' and I wondered what on earth it meant. As I went on, I understood. Also, I found my voice. I'm trying not to read any fiction at the mo (except children's books) but I did read a piece in the New York Times by Garrison Keillor, and then dipped into a book I am saving by Sebastian Barry and it hit me in the face as I moved from Keillor to Barry ( two of my favourite writers) how different their voices are. I'm thinking they should show excerpts to budding writers to explain the concept of voice.

Last week Dave and I went with his sister and husband for a fabulous walk that involved two steep climbs. The second was up High Tor from which there is a sheer drop of several hundred feet (you'll have to find the stats on the net) to the river valley below. We were looking down on the cable cars that Kit and Sally ride on at the end of Plotting for Grown-ups, and I asked my sister-in-law to take a picture of me with them in the background. If you look carefully you can see three tiny pale dots in the centre of this photo: 

Here is her photo-shopped version:

Lastly, I am trying to ration myself and blanking out complete days in my diary cos it's been a bit too frantic lately. Realising how I badly needed some peace and quiet yesterday, I was reminded of a sentence from an Amazon review of But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You and thought how the same could be said of me:

"Fran is an extrovert who is drawn to people, but she becomes both distracted and exhausted by their needs."

That is one very perceptive reviewer.  

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Protest and Persist

For those of you who want to make the world a better place and who get discouraged - especially in the light of the current worldwide zeitgeist - I recommend this article. It's a bit long winded, but the message is encouraging.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Think it possible you may be mistaken

I have been so engrossed in the month of May and in writing the new novel, that I've been able to suspend depression about current politics. Yesterday, however, I had a day off from the book, and the walk in the bluebell wood was spoiled by noisy loggers. So today I woke up and looked at the news and the news overwhelmed me. 

I have never in my life been so depressed about the current state of British politics and the likely outcome of the same. I abhor the combative stance of Theresa May in pursuing the disastrous Brexit.

What happened to sanity and co-operation?

Quakers have a book called Quaker Faith and Practice and in it there is a section called Advices and Queries - which comprises a list of points to be considered. 

Here is a query which is worth considering. If you don't believe in God (and I'm not sure that I do) it is still worth considering. If the word God really upsets you, then skip the first two sentences.

Do you respect that of God in everyone though it may be expressed in unfamiliar ways or be difficult to discern? Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken.

And here is something to cheer you up.  7 year old Anu, in Birmingham, showing her friends her new prosthetic leg. Click here and get a tissue.