Saturday, September 29, 2018

Back home

It's always hard to pick up the blog again after a week off, and especially hard after a week away with my siblings. I want to show you a photo of us all together and some of them wouldn't like me to, and I'd like to tell you about some of the things that were said, and they wouldn't like that either. Each time we go away together I end up posting series of photographs and this time it will be the same.

The only thing I will tell you is that I fancy the pants off the journalist Robert Peston, and Jen thinks he looks grubby:

(It was her Sunday Times.)

So on to the other pictures - all with permission.

This is a view from the converted chapel we stayed in at the top of the village green in Bainbridge:

My brother Pete painting the view:

His unfinished sketch (gosh, I hope that's the right term for it):

He has a set of books like this he has taken away with him on holidays and filled with beautiful miniature paintings. They are fabulous.

Here is my sister Kath on the day we went to Langstrothdale:

And here are some other views from the week taken from our walks. 
First - the Roman road above Bainbridge, which I think is called Cam High Road. (I'm in bed and don't want to get up to check the map):

Another view from further down the road:

Bainbridge Quaker Meeting House at the other end of the village green. The memorial services of our mother and father were held there.

The river Bain, which I believe is the shortest river in England.

OK, now I've broken myself in, I may be able to do a proper post next time that isn't just pictures.

Friday, September 21, 2018

End-of-the-week envoi in which you discover what an old fogey I really am

You know all that bleating about how good for writing this autumn weather is? Well, I can't write all day, everyday. My sax playing is improving, though. Mel was impressed with the progress I've made with Take Five. << follow that link and listen to the original. It's fantastic. Did you know it was the biggest selling jazz single of all time? It's an injection of happiness.

Here's a plug for the site : it said there was no chance of rain here between 9 and 11 this morning so we set out for a walk in the wind and sunshine and grabbed our fresh air. As we were walking back down the lane at 10.55 it started to spit. I am so impressed with that site, and so are my endorphins.

Enough waffling...I want to ask you something. Do you understand why someone would want to have piercings in their mouth? Yesterday in the library the smartly dressed and coiffed librarian had 3 or 4 piercings in her lips. I was baffled, and yes - I admit - rather put off. I'm definitely in old fogey territory now. I barely understand why someone would want to deface a beautiful body with a tattoo FOREVER, but with piercings in the mouth, I am utterly baffled. Can one of you explain?

Also, this morning, I read in the Guardian about the books on the Booker shortlist.

'Unveiling this year’s Booker shortlist, which runs the gamut of topics from sexual abuse to environmental crisis, chair Kwame Anthony Appiah said that the dominant theme among the 171 books submitted for the prize was, “our species, and sometimes the other species who share this small planet, challenged by anxiety, suffering, pain; our institutions and our environment under threat.”
“We live in dark times,” Appiah said. “Or, at least our novelists think we live in dark times.”'

Writers have to write what they care about, they have to write the truth as they see it, and I know the saying 'Happiness writes white' but could no prize-worthy writer of literary fiction write something even a smidge uplifting? Isn't reality bad enough without spending leisure time reading about dystopias?
Tomorrow I'm going to Wensleydale to stay in a holiday cottage with three of my sibs. 

The fourth lives close by. I'm excited! I may blog while I'm there. We'll see. In the meantime I'll leave you with this top tip:
If you find two stale chocolate chip biscuits in the cupboard and decide to mash them up with the end of a rolling pin for the birds, the chocolate chips won't mash and they're not stale. Yum.
If this post is a little too frivolous, blame it on the endorphins. I keep thinking of blogging about the Israeli government, but I don't have the heart to talk about injustice and misery today. 
p.s. Someone on Twitter has given me this answer to the piercing question:

I think one of the main reasons is for pleasure. As in it pleases their partner when being intimate. I've put that as carefully and politely as I can

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Brain ache

Dave has been fretting about a cable that came unplugged from his computer due, he says, to my enthusiastic vacuuming. Now how likely is that? Anyway, Isaac, the family techie, says if everything is still working, Dave should forget about it. So it's going to be labelled and stuck in the attic with all the other computer cables we have forgotten the purpose of. 

He's quiet now, so I think he's gone back to reading Bob Woodward's Fear. Meanwhile in California the Aging Hippie is having postcard parties with her Democrat friends to write to voters in swing seats to persuade them to oust their sitting Republican in the midterms.  My elder fabulous grandson (14) asked me at the weekend whether if I could press a button and remove Trump and have Obama back in the White House, would I do it, and I said 'Yes! Of Course!' and he said - 'But what about the damage to democracy?' and I said 'Yes yes yes, I would still do it.' He was surprised at my fervour.

But back to the problem closer to hand (no, not Brexit - arrgghh) - my plot. 

I am working on my rewrite, specifically on the plotline, because that is where the trouble lies. I went back to basics and got out an old how-to book called The Weekend Novelist by Robert J Ray. You will see that I have consulted this chapter on plotting so often that the spine is broken:

The title on the left says Guidelines for Plotting with Aristotle's Incline. Posh or what?

Ray uses The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler as his model to explain the classic approach to plotting. 

I like Anne Tyler. I've read a lot of her novels, but I last read The Accidental Tourist 20 years ago. So I read it again so I could see what Ray was talking about, and this time I enjoyed it even more than last time. This time not only do I relish her characterisation but I truly appreciate her huge skill as a novelist. 

Of course, when I got to the end I had that familiar feeling - She's a master! Who am I kidding? What makes me think I can write a decent novel? - but having shucked that off, I am working hard on the plotline. It is slow progress. Very slow progress. I can't remember working so hard on anything, unless it was a sax piece. Yesterday I got out Take Five which I gave up on several years ago. I am doing better at it now. Some of my scribbled notes taken from Mel's instructions make me laugh: "Don't put rests between the notes - it is continuous sound and relentless."

Wish me luck, give me strength...I have another hard morning of brain ache ahead of me. At least we have autumn wind and rain, which is perfect writing weather.

Friday, September 14, 2018

The joy of screenshots

I just read Jenetta's comment on the last post where she mentions a quote I had on here some time ago. It's weird, because by chance I came across a quote yesterday also mentioning defiance, and I'd already cued it up for this morning's blog: 

The thing I love most about my iPad is the ease of taking a screenshot. I have a whole album full of quotes and cartoons and photographs I've saved via screenshot.

Here's another, relating to the great 2018 wrinkle debacle:

quote by Augusten Burroughs

And another I found this morning, which is a paragraph taken from Megan's blog The Scent of Water:

This last one is so encouraging.

And here's a doting grandmother screenshot:

Thank you, dear readers. It warms my heart to think of all the loyal blog readers I've never met, those who are with me through hard times and joyous ones, posts where I moan or boast or grieve or protest, who comment on the frivolous posts as well as the serious ones. You feel like friends. I know some of your names - Marmee in South Africa, Ana in Australia, Jenetta, Helen and Sally in the UK, Phoebe in the USA (?). Thank you to all of you. You make my world less lonely.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Progress report - or a bunch of trivia, depending on your point of view

The plum mountain has now been reduced to two bowlsful (I don't think this is a word but it ought to be) on the kitchen table. The plums are no longer pink and yellow, but dark red. Their destination is likely to be another crumble. It's urgent, because they are fast heading for the land that no delicious Victoria plum should ever see - the compost heap.

You know what? I miss custard. It's not worth making it just for me, because I don't like it cold and how could anyone possibly judge the right quantities for one portion? I don't like ready-made.

The sweet peas are still flowering but their stalks are getting shorter and shorter. 

I'm feeling better about my new glasses since my sax teacher said they suited me. They are also so comfortable that I often forget I have them on. (Dave also said they suited me, which was nice as he is always honest, but as he has suspect fashion taste it didn't cheer me up a lot.)

This morning, Dave is working on a stained glass project in the shed, rain is forecast, and I am going to sit at my desk and work out how to get out of the hole I am in with the book. It's short of narrative drive and the solution I started to apply last week has changed the whole nature of it so I need to think again. I had thought of giving up writing forever, but I get too bad tempered when I don't write, so that's really not an option. 

This is the first of my books that is not a comedy and contains only a couple of pages of amusing dialogue. Is this the problem?  Who on earth knows? 

I have revised a book before, but never rewritten one, which is the territory I am in at the moment. It's hell for me, and everyone else as well.

from the brilliant The Unstrung Harp by Edward Gorey
Let me know if you can't read the text and want to. I'll post a close up. 

Over and out.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

My life

Someone commenting on my last post, in which I bemoaned my EXTREMELY wrinkled face, told me to    "Get on with living your interesting, full and satisfying life and stop worrying about pointless things."

I did respond in the comments section - twice - but I can't get that phrase 'interesting, full and satisfying life' phrase out of my head. It keeps cropping up in all kinds of situations. Take this morning, when I woke up feeling like all writers do from time to time - that I was a big fat impostor, that I was kidding myself that I could ever write page-turning plot, and I should give up, and concentrate on the rest of my 'interesting, full and satisfying life.'

Is my life interesting, full and satisfying? Is this what it looks like from the outside? 

From the inside, I know I am very fortunate. I have good health, a lovely home, a great family (Dave is included in this word though he would argue that he doesn't count as family. I know! Take it up with him.) I have good friends, and I have enough money so I don't have to worry, though the price of domestic heating oil is currently causing some alarm at Hepworth Towers. 

No-one outside can tell if my life is satisfying, but as for interesting and full...I had always thought that mine was a very quiet life. I do the same bike rides over and over, we rarely go out in the evening, and these days, my domestic and admin duties seem to take up far more time than they ever did, and they are neither interesting nor satisfying. I have a couple of trips down to London a year, one up to Wensleydale, and two to see the family in Boulder. That's about it. 

Yesterday I woke up thinking - Oooh, Dave is out all morning, so I can write. Then I went downstairs to get my first mug of tea and walked in the kitchen and there were the plums that we picked the day before.

These are from our one tree. And it's not all of the crop. They needed processing - stewing so Dave can eat them with his yoghurt, jamming to give away, making into crumbles for freezing, and dispersing amongst friends and neighbours. 

Dave has worked as hard as I have on them and we've more or less cracked it now. But the freezer is full and we have four large containers of stewed plums in the fridge for Dave to get through before they go off. 

So...I have fun. I am happy. I like my life. But I still don't like my wrinkles. Does anyone? Honestly?

Monday, September 03, 2018


I'll be 70 next year.

Three years ago on the blog I wrote a post about my wrinkles. That was September too. There must be something about the sad September sun that makes me morose. Or is it the fading garden?

This year my wrinkles - which used to be just around my eyes and could be brushed off as laughter lines - have expanded and completely annexed my cheeks. One reason is that I like being in the sun; another is that I have lost weight. The third cause is genes.

That nice photo of me in my wedding hat that I posted a week or so ago does not show the full horror of the wrinkles. And now, to top the distress, I have some new glasses which were a big mistake. I started wearing glasses when I was three, gave them up for contacts when I was seventeen and I have only returned to them since my cataract operations.  I do not suit glasses. I hate glasses on me. Every time I need a new pair I am determined to get ones that suit me and every time I fail. This time the ones I REALLY wanted were a hundred pounds more expensive than the second choice, and I couldn't justify the extra expense. £400 for a pair of specs? Noooo! Do you have a notional top price you will pay for any given item? - jumper, bike, book, bottle of wine, theatre trip? I do.

But to get back to looks...

I recently bought some Chet Baker CDs:

Doesn't he look cool? I'd like to look as cool as that. But then he's young on this picture. Perhaps I could look that cool (with my sax) if I was young. 

Then I thought of one of my sax heroes - Ben Webster - who was old when he died, and a little overweight, and who wore a funny woollen hat which didn't suit him, and I realised that if an old person who is not favoured in the looks department is sufficiently talented, no-one cares a jot what they look like.

That still does not help me, as I don't have sufficient talent in any realm to get over the problem of my horrendous wrinkles. What to do? I finally understand why someone might want plastic surgery, though there are so many arguments against it for me personally that I won't bother you with them.

Personal vanity is a trial. Suggestions would be welcome.