Saturday, July 28, 2018


I woke up excited today. First - it's only 24 hours till I fly to Croatia and spend a week with all my kids and grandkids and attend the wedding of the family member who declines to be named; second - because it's raining. 

But on with business...

Do you own a smart phone? Of course you do. 

I don't, and I've  been dithering for months about whether to get one. This is my (tiny) phone

except that for a couple of years the screen has been cracked and mended with sellotape. I hate the thing because the buttons are tiny and I have chunky fingers. I am a normal size, and not fat, despite my chubby feet (as seen on the last post), and I have lost weight since that pic of me on a previous one where I am on my slackline. But my fingers are twice the width of my friends' and this makes accurate texting a torturous exercise. So I email people or ring them, when everyone else is Whatsapping or messaging or whatever.

One reason I don't lash out on a smartphone is because I am not convinced that the texting will be any easier. The other reason is expense. The third reason is that I don't want to be one of those people who is always checking their phone, one of those people who walk down the street looking at their phone and not at the trees.  

So far, everyone I know has encouraged me to get up to date and buy one. But recently a smart-phone-owning friend said there were downsides. 'Do you want to be contactable 24/7 by anyone at all?' she said. 'Even by people who send annoying emails that need attending to, but which you don't want to have on your mind until you sort them out?'

There have been only three occasions when I regretted not having a smartphone. One was when an important person I was going to meet (who did not have my phone number) emailed me a date and time and I was away from my iPad and laptop, which meant I missed meeting her. The second time was when I was waiting outside Denver airport for Wendy to pick me up and there was a huge delay and I needed to contact her. I tried my iPad but the wifi didn't work outside the building. I asked a woman nearby if I could use her phone to message Wendy. The English accent must have swung it because she was very sweet and said yes. The third time was when I was visiting Isaac at the Google office and Google emailed me a digital invitation with one of those square barcode thingies (what are they called?) that I had to use to check in at reception. Was I going to have to take my iPad in so I could check in and enter the Google portals? Of course it would not occur to the Google office that a visitor might not have the wherewithal.

Tomorrow I will check in at Manchester airport with my passport and my printed boarding pass. Soon, they won't be doing printed boarding passes. In ten years EVERYONE will have to have a smartphone or be locked out of the world. But right now, Brits have more basic worries, worries at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy.  After Brexit will we be surviving on tins of chick peas we keep in the shed? 

That sounds like another blog post, and I have more important things to do - these glittery turquoise toenails have got to go. Pedicure or no pedicure, I'm going back to classic red.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


Phew. I am now O K. I cancelled everything that was non-essential, allowed myself to sit in the garden with my feet up doing a crossword IN THE AFTERNOON - OMG! - and some days I even had an afternoon nap. I've managed to nibble away at the lengthy to-do list in my new book of lists and all that's left is to fill in a form that arrives on Friday, and to sew up a long promised jumper I've knitted for Lux's doll. I crossed off the last items yesterday teatime - a travel towel and a pedicure.

Note to self - take the nail polish to the door of the salon and view it in natural light before you say yes to it. It's a little lurid, but Lux and Cece will love it. And anyway, what the hell? It's a small family wedding and everyone who's going is lovely. 

The family member who declines to be named is getting married next week in Croatia to the lovely Jaine - hooray!

and immediate family (minus Dave) are flying out for it. I can't wait!

p.s. I know there are three exclamation marks in this very short post, but if a mother can't sprinkle a few around when her youngest offspring is getting married, it's a poor do.

Friday, July 20, 2018


It's been a bad week, which is why I haven't posted. I've felt too vulnerable to spill it all out here.

But the sweet peas are going strong. Here's a bunch in a vase Zoe made and gave to me. I love this photo. I hope you do too.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The end of the line

When I was six, I wanted to be a trapeze artist, and when I was 60 I wanted to walk a tightrope. The nearest thing available was a slackline, so Zoe and family gave me one for my 60th birthday and Dave fixed it up on our front lawn with sturdy wooden posts and supports. I have been searching through my photos for a good picture of me walking on it, and this is the best I can find. Goodness knows why Dave likes to take pictures on the slant. It's really annoying. The slackline is in fact horizontal.

This was some years ago, since when I've been spending more of my time outdoors on my bike than on anything else. The slackline has been neglected, and this spring Dave pointed out that after 8 years, the polypropylene band would be weakened by exposure to ultraviolet light and would be unsafe. We took it down, and I felt sad. I had only ever managed to walk half the length of it in one go - 13 steps - though I could balance on it on one leg for 20 seconds or more.

Dave kept asking me when we were going to pull up the wooden posts that had supported it, and I kept saying - 'Not yet. I might buy another slackline.' But last week I accepted that just as the back garden has needed remodelling to take account of decreasing energy and increasing bike rides, buying another slackline would be a waste of money. 

When he pulled up the posts, two of them snapped, so saying goodbye on safety grounds was a good call. Even so, letting go is hard. 

But my genes go on. Seven year old Lux had trapeze lessons on her holiday in the spring. Here she is - my beautiful granddaughter -

Bridges not walls, and me and Trump

Do you recall my telling you about Bakewell Quakers organising a Bridges not Walls event last year to coincide with Trump's inauguration as president?

Because I was interviewed on the radio at the time (as one of the organisers) BBC Radio Derby rang me up yesterday and asked me to be interviewed live on Martyn Williams' teatime show.

Go into the programme for 1 hour 17 minutes and there I am. Here's the link:

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Fresh air

I've just had one of my 24 hours trips to see my friend in London. What a blast of fresh air.  She met me at St Pancras and we didn't stop talking for nine hours.  

As well as catching up on each others' news, we covered books, films, clothes, style, photography, My Name is Lucy Barton, writing, the colour orange, family, the boys in the cave, Moon Tiger, her work, this shambles of a government (but only briefly when we heard the news about Boris Johnson resigning - which we used as an excuse to share her half bottle of champagne she keeps in the fridge)  my slackline, how we are both drawn to sewing and yet the process bugs us, how to let things go, architecture, her future plans, my future plans, and lastly the view from her window, which changes with the light and time of day, so I can sit in bed in her spare room and gaze at it endlessly - the moving boats, the clouds, the changing light on Canary Wharf. 

This last was a teatime shot from her couch that she emailed me when I got home. I keep trying to persuade her to set up a tripod and a camera and tweet the changes, like Mick Oxley with his wonderful views of the sea and sky from his window in Craster @SeaSkyCraster  If you haven't already, you should check him out. I wrote a post on him once - here

We also went to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which was really fun this year. 

Have you ever been? Anyone can submit a picture and have a chance of being included, and I'm considering it myself for next year, though my chances might not be as good as they would have been this year, as Grayson Perry curated it and included the strangest - in terms of expertise -  pieces of work I've ever seen in a world class gallery. e.g. this model/sculpture

I can't show you pics of my favourites because they're protected by copyright, but they were by Diana Armfield (RA) Nasturtiums with the last of the phlox, and Dawn over snow, Llwynhir. 

All the items were priced, with the tags stretching from £250 to £350 million for a Banksy (another one I liked.)

If you haven't been - go. It's a blast. We got tickets for 10.30 in the morning and it was lovely and quiet. When we emerged, the queues were manic.

So now I am back home with my views of the fields. Here is a favourite shot I took over the garden wall of the evening sunshine one evening last week:


Friday, July 06, 2018

Freedom. And something to read.

Today was going to be a day off but then I went out to pick some raspberries and strawberries for breakfast and noticed the blackcurrants were ripe. Ah me. I need to pick them and make jam and freeze the rest, before they shrivel in the heat.

Dave just set off early for a long bike ride and on leaving, he asked me what I was doing today.

On 'days off' I don't like to specify. I like to hang free and be unaccountable. That's part of the chill. But there is a list in my head apart from fruit picking - submit to a new literary agent, renew the house insurance, check the price of heating oil, ring the Home Office for a friend. I refuse to list anything else. That's already too much for a day off.

Life has been so hectic, and I've been wanting something to read to relax. I had four books on my to be read pile:

I picked them all up in turn and read the first two pages and not one of them was right for my mood. Do you ever feel like that? You have good books to read and you don't fancy any of them? And this was after I'd started and given up on Reservoir 13

Then a friend lent me this:

which turned out to be hugely important. I recommend it, and this comes form a person who generally can't read non-fiction. Even so, on one really bad day I stalled, desperate for something escapist but intelligent. So I bought this:

It's been a page turner, a good thing to read on a hot afternoon in the shade when I've needed a rest.

What have you been reading and enjoying lately?

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Letter from home

I've been both busy and beleaguered which is why I haven't blogged. 
(Oooh - the alliteration!) 

That was what I wrote on Monday and then got no further, because the busy-ness took over again. My sax has been neglected too, so I'm making zero progress with a bitch of a piece called 'Another Night in the Naked City.' It's actually a fantastic piece but there are a lot of accidentals, and worse, the timing keeps changing from triplets to what I call - much to my teacher Mel's amusement - "two stripe notes" (semi-quavers) then to "three stripe notes" (semi-demi quavers) and then back to crotchets. And when there do happen to be simple straightforward quavers, they're swing. I'm struggling.

So what have I been busy with? One thing was preparations for another refugee hospitality day put on by Bakewell churches. That took a lot of work and was both wonderful and exhausting. It was last Saturday and it took me Sunday to recover. I've written about these days on the blog before, e.g. here and here.

I seem to have spent a lot of time watering the garden, and this year my sweet peas are doing well, so sowing them myself is obviously the way to go. So far here we don't have a hose pipe ban, thank goodness.

I've been doing stuff I can't write about on here because other people are involved, and I've also been fielding rejections from literary agents for my latest novel. That takes up a lot of emotional energy, even though when I sent off the emails I'd persuaded myself that it wouldn't. There are still some I haven't heard back from, so watch this space. 

Sometimes when people find out I'm a writer they say things like "Ooh, my friend has written a book. Can you tell me how she gets it published? Can you tell me who your publisher is?" as if all her friend has to do is ring up a publisher and in a couple of months the book will be on the tables in Waterstones. 

At such moments I sigh inwardly. Firstly there are very few publishers who will look at a book if it hasn't come via a literary agent, and secondly, the decision as to whether a literary agent will take you onto their books is about more than the quality of your writing. Does the book have mass market appeal? Are you yourself marketable in terms of publicity articles in the press? Do you have a long career ahead of you so the agent will have a steady future income assured?

If you want to get a good picture of what it's like to be an aging, struggling writer, listen to the sitcom Ed Reardon's Week on BBC Radio 4, currently available on BBC iPlayer. It's my favourite radio comedy. It's hilarious and has so much in it that I recognise. But at least Ed has an agent. I do not. I'm not giving up:  I believe in my book and I'll get it out there one way or another.

Oh - almost forgot - Dave is still enjoying his new wheelbarrow.