Thursday, May 30, 2019

Losing it

I'm sitting typing at the kitchen table because my desk is covered in fabric that I've been trying to shape into a collage of Calgary Bay.  

It's 10 a.m. and I'm still in my pyjamas because yesterday I got exhausted and decided that today I would take it easy.

When a new book comes out, the nervous tension drains me. It's wearing for Dave, too, but he's well used to my being peculiar and is always patient and sweet.

But none of that is what drove me to the blog today. I know that some of you are in the same age bracket as me, so I want to ask you...Can you feel your capacity for short term memory ebbing away?

My brother rang this morning, asking if we'd finished the weekend crossword. What was the solution to 2 down: Sneaky, as most female athletes are essentially? (15)

"Oh," I said breezily, "I can't remember now. I'll fish the paper out of the recycling and email you the answer."

I fetched the paper which I had tidied away yesterday, and was amazed to see we had not finished the crossword. We ALWAYS finish the crossword, and if it's too hard, we leave it out on the coffee table or the kitchen table until we have. When I tidied it away yesterday I assumed we'd completed it. I had no memory whatsoever of breaking off and our saying to each other we'd finish it later.

And here's another thing... Have you ever had a discussion with someone about something and reached a decision about a task that needed doing and then two days later when you came to do said task, you'd forgotten what was decided?

Have you ever had an engagement in your diary for three months and then when it came to the day itself, forgotten all about it?

Have you ever told the person producing your book cover how many pages are in the book and then after they'd done most of the work, realised there were 32 unnumbered pages which you hadn't counted, and this would have implications for the size of the spine.

Image result for emoji of head in hands

Yes, folks, I'm on the way out, and it ain't pretty.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019


Writing a new novel, and being a quarter of the way into it so that the hard part is done and the future stretches ahead full of exciting promise - this is my most favoured situation.

I am not in it now.

I am impatiently waiting for the paperback to come out, because so many of you are also waiting, and also because I can then send it to journalists to get some publicity to boost sales. 

Impatience is one of my more prominent and less appealing character flaws, which leads me to check the Amazon listing of the ebook at least four times a day to see if there are any more reviews up yet. There are 4 at present. You can see the listing and the reviews here.

I'm impatient for the ash trees to come out. Last May I was so impatient I was worrying about them and asking everyone if they thought that ash die-back had arrived in Derbyshire. 

This last weekend was Derbyshire Open Arts weekend, and Dave and I have seen a lot of fabulous paintings, photographs, prints and textiles. Yesterday it rained on and off for most of the day and as I am not in that favoured situation described in para 1, I decided to get out my fabrics and make something. It's a card for Wendy, but I am so impatient I am having it on the blog today, rather than showing it to you when Wendy has seen it. I mean! It's not even properly finished yet. Actually she already has seen it, because I tweeted a picture of it before I wrote this blog and she saw the tweet.  At least she liked it.

I've just got back from an early bike ride up the Trail. I set off at 7.30 a.m. because heavy rain is forecast for later.

The Trail is a major character in the new novel, EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW YOU. There is another main character whose name several people have said they don't like and I'm wondering if I shouldn't have used it. But I really wanted to! I'm thinking I should tell you what it is now so you can get used to it before you read the book. It's an old Cornish name. I met someone with it when I was 15 and really liked it. It's Loveday. There. You have time to get used to it now.

Sunday, May 26, 2019


This is a Brexit-free zone.

I have been puzzling over something since Friday.

Should I, a person who wants to be kind, who tries to be kind, forgive Theresa May for what she has done whilst in office?

There has been a lot of the following sentiment about in the media....

Why can I not feel sorry for her as a person? 

I understand she is sad because she failed in what she set out to do. 

I believe that TM was sincere, I believe that she thought she was doing the right things. But why why why did she believe these were the right things?

I have realised that one of my chief puzzlements centres on how she could go to church every week and still pursue the policies she did when so many of those policies are contrary to Christ's teachings.

Why did she believe that it was the right thing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, thus aiding and abetting their war that has caused, and is still causing, the starvation of millions of people in Yemen? 

Why did she think that Universal Credit and all it entailed was a fair and helpful welfare benefit for people in need in the UK? Why did she not reform it? There has been overwhelming unbiased evidence that it is causing hunger and destitution, from the United Nations, from Parliament's own select committees, from charities, from many other bodies. It has caused a huge need for food banks, led to an explosion of rent arrears, inability to pay council tax which lands people in prison. Hungry children turn up at school unable to concentrate and are fed by teachers out of their own pockets, women are shoplifting and selling sex to pay the rent. This is the UK. One of the richest countries in the world.

Why has her government treated ill and disabled people with such callousness? There are numerous stories of people with terminal cancer being judged to be 'fit for work' and their sickness benefits stopped. There are so many more examples of cruel treatment.

Why did she think it was the right thing to create what she herself described as a 'hostile environment' for illegal immigrants, to 'deport first and hear appeals later?'  

This hostile environment led to the Windrush scandal - people living and working here for 40 years or more quite legally, being made homeless, jobless, or deported.

This hostile environment - which she created as Home Secretary - has infused the treatment of all immigrants, illegal or not, as well as asylum seekers. The treatment of asylum seekers and refugees by this government has been lacking in all compassion. People who have survived torture are locked up in detention centres for indeterminate lengths of time. Refugee children in Calais  who have the right to be in the UK are sleeping rough and being abused by the French police, while this government's uncaring bureaucracy blocks their entry.

The people who survived the Grenfell Tower disaster are still not being heard by this government. 

Legal aid cuts mean that ordinary people are denied justice, and more than that, the legal system itself is becoming unfit for purpose.

Youth services, libraries and other local services for ordinary people have been cut or closed down.

People are exploited in unstable underpaid work, in zero hour contracts, in the gig economy, and TM has not cared, despite her claim that she wanted to help ordinary working families. Ordinary working families are dependent on foodbanks in the UK today. Why does TM  think that this is OK?

The social fabric of the country is in tatters as a result of years of austerity engineered in such a way that ordinary people have suffered. It did not have to be this way, and yet TM let it continue when she came into power.

I understand she is upset that she has failed in her own eyes. I can empathise. But I cannot feel sorry for her and I cannot forgive her or her government.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Letter from home

My stinking cold started the day after Karen flew back home, and it goes on and on. I've had to cancel a curry night with friends, a trip to the dentist and a sax session with a pianist friend.  So this morning when my big sister said she would still be coming to see me tomorrow, I let out a whoop.

Yesterday I sat in the garden reading Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. It was heavenly out there, despite all the boring and essentially trivial symptoms.

Crossing to Safety is apparently a modern classic but I'd not heard of it until one of you lovely blog readers suggested it. Thank you, Kristine. It is beautifully written, just as you said. I'm only at page 58 and I'm already thinking I need to be rationing how much I read every day so I don't finish it too quickly.

And that, I'm afraid, is the news from home.

Oooh, oooh, oooh, except...I now have four nice reviews of my new book EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW YOU on Amazon. And to all of you who are waiting for the paperback - I'm sorry it's not ready yet. I will let you know as soon as it is. You can be sure of that.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Road trip, day 10

We arrived back in Derbyshire on Friday. Karen flew back to California yesterday and I woke up today with a cold.

On that last day we drove down the M6 from Lockerbie to Tebay and headed for Wensleydale.

I took Karen to my favourite cafe - Hamiltons in Aysgarth - and then to the Edwardian Rockery Garden just along the main street.

This is the back of it, where you can sit and hear the rooks cawing and the sheep bleating and feel at ease.

We walked up the lane to where my mother planted a beech tree for my father after he died in 2002

and where the sibs and I planted an oak tree for our mother after she died in 2008.

This is the view from the lane as you walk back down to the village:

Then we drove home, which is as lovely as anywhere we'd seen. The cow parsley is high on our lane and the May blossom is out. In heaven it will always be May.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Road trip, day 9

We left Mull early this morning:

And then drove from Oban to Lockerbie the scenic route, via Irvine and Dumfries. The scenery north of Dumfries was beautiful, far more beautiful to my eyes than Loch Lomond and the mountains. I’ve realised I’m a gently rolling hills, valleys, rivers and trees kind of girl, not a bleak highlands lassie. This is the view from the deck of our B and B tonight. Beat that.

And here’s the walk through the woods at the side:

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Road trip, day 8

Calgary Bay is my favourite place on Mull. And Karen likes it too so we went again today. You park at the gallery and look at the fabulous art, then you walk through the woods and enjoy the 200 year old beeches, the fragrant vegetation, the woodland paths and the quirky sculptures dotted here and there, like this one made of old found rope

And then you stand on the white beach looking at the turquoise sea and dither over whether to swim or paddle; then after you’ve paddled and collected some stuff from the beach to make your own art when you’re home (because you’re so inspired) you go to the Calgary Farmhouse Cafe and sit outside in the sunshine and eat a delicious lunch.

And then in the evening your friend treats you to an early birthday dinner in Tobermory. And then you lie on the bed feeling fat and writing your blog.

At the Cafe Fish. Yum.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Road trip, day 7

The man selling kipper baps in Craster car park told me that when we were on Mull, we HAD to go to Calgary. We had to walk through the woodland trail with the sculptures in it, and end up at the beach. He was absolutely right.

First review

I’m interrupting the road trip picture postcards to show you my first review on Amazon, because I am so damn chuffed with it.

Road trip day 6 - Iona

Oh Iona! Everyone said it was beautiful and they were right. That turquoise sea, those white beaches, the peace, the views. We caught the ferry early so we could beat the first coach loads of visitors. I’m going to try to squeeze three pictures in today.

Road trip - belated day 5

It’s bad enough fighting with a recalcitrant blogging package to post while away from home, and being restricted to a couple of sentences and pictures, but the last couple of days I’ve not even had the WiFi to do it. 

From Callander we drove to Oban and caught the ferry to Mull. 

Here’s a view from the road to Oban

And here’s one from our B and B on Mull at dawn the next morning.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Road trip, day 4

We drove from Northumberland to Callander yesterday. Callander is like Bakewell. It’s a town set in lovely countryside that is full of trippers eating fish and chips on a Saturday afternoon, who disappear in the evening.
 May is definitely the right month to have a road trip in the U.K. The trees have been breathtaking all the way north from Derbyshire.

Road trip, day 3

Because I can fit hardly anything into this ‘mobile’ blog, It will consist of picture postcards until I get home.

On Friday, day 3, we went to Holy Island. The sun shone! Here is my photo from the trip - flowers on  a cliff. Note Bamburgh Castle on the horizon, on the mainland.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Road trip day 2

For technical reasons my blog posts have to be short when I am away from home and my laptop. Also, I can’t change the header, which is really annoying.

We’re still in Northumberland. Today I showed the Aging Hippie my favourite castle - Dunstanburgh - and my favourite bluebell wood; and we met the artist responsible for my favourite tweets - Mick Oxley aka @SeaWindowCraster.

In Mick’s tidy studio

Mick takes a photograph of the sky and sea from his bedroom window every morning at sunrise and posts them on Twitter. Sometimes the news is so bad that all I can bear to look at on Twitter is Mick’s photographs,  and the twitter feed @ObamaPlusKids which posts photos of one of the Obamas playing with children.

Mick’s photos are uplifting and essential. They are such beautiful photographs and it’s such a treat to be able to see one every day that I have written two blog posts about them. (If you google ‘Sue Hepworth’ and ‘Observing the everyday’ and then after that,‘Sue Hepworth’ and  ‘Hope and love’ you will find them. Links are technically impossible while I’m away, another annoyance.)

We called in to see Mick at his gallery in Craster and had a really interesting chat with him. What an honour.

If you’re ever on the Northumberland coast, you should do the same.

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Road trip

The Aging Hippie and I drove 200 miles in driving rain to Northumberland today on the first leg of our trip.

Love from my favourite beach - Embleton Bay.
Over and out.

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Chewing my nails

Look, I know I shouldn't be admitting what follows. 

I know I should be playing it cool and professional and aloof. I should be beginning my next novel, or reading Proust, or doing yoga or trying out a new Yotam Ottothingy recipe, but I'm not. I'm sitting here DYING to know what any of you think of my new book, and at the same time trepidatious because it's not like any of my others... 

I realise that most of you will probably be waiting for the paperback, and that's fair enough, but I know that some of you have bought the ebook.

By the way, the link I put on the blog yesterday was for the UK Amazon. But the book is now available worldwide.

Yesterday I was flooded with excitement and satisfaction and went for an early  ride to the end of the Trail. The Trail is so central to the new novel that it's almost a character.

And on the way back I called in at Miller's Dale Station Cafe as their first customer of the day. I really like this cafe. If it had been open last year, the main character of my book, Jane, would definitely have been a regular.

On the ride back down the Trail I stopped at my favourite spot and took this picture:

I am so so lucky to live in the Derbyshire Peak District. Is it any wonder I want to set my novels here?

Friday, May 03, 2019

Even When They Know You

The ebook edition of my new novel is published!

It's been three years in writing numerous drafts, with joy and boredom, excitement and setbacks, discouragement and fun.

I hope you enjoy it. 

Please review it online - Amazon and Goodreads and Twitter and Facebook and anywhere else you can think of. I have no back-up team of agent or publisher or marketing department: I'm depending on you. Thank you, dear faithful readers.

I hope to get out the paperback version by the end of May.