Monday, August 26, 2019

Washing the duvet

Someone recently reminded me of the time Dave didn't want to pay to have the duvet washed.

We don't have a local laundrette so I'd rung a dry cleaner's in Sheffield and they'd quoted me £16.99 and a two week turnaround.
Dave was horrified “That’s ridiculous!” he said. “They don’t know what to charge! I’ll wash it myself.”
“But it’s a double one. It won’t fit in the machine. Really Dave, please don’t bother.”
“I know! I’ll do it in the fun tub!” The fun tub is a huge plastic tub - three feet across and three feet deep – of the kind that builders generally use for rubble, and which Dave uses for DIY. But it was languishing in the shed stuffed with used plastic cartons which Dave said would one day “come in useful.”
“It’s fine, Dave. Really,” I said. “I’ll take it to the cleaners.”
“I’m not going to be defeated. I’ll do it in the bath. That’s more commodious and it has running hot water. Better than the fun tub!”
He swung the duvet into the bath and turned on the taps, but the duvet behaved like an enormous sponge and soaked up every drop of water. He couldn’t swish it around to make a washing motion, and had to bend right over and pummel the thing. It was like wrestling with an alligator, though Dave looked less like the hero in Crocodile Dundee and more like an also-ran in a wet T-shirt competition.
Even when rinsed and squeezed, the duvet was so heavy that he found it hard to pick up. He had to bundle it up and clutch it to his chest like those contestants in The Strongest Man in the World competition, who stagger for a hundred yards carrying a boulder as big as a buffalo.
He planned to go down the stairs with it, through the open front door, and outside to the washing line. But he slipped just two steps from the bottom, lurched forwards into the wall, squeezing the duvet and depositing a couple of gallons of water on the hall floor.
Eventually he got the duvet outside and edged it bit by bit over the washing line, which then swooped grasswards in a giant parabola, though miraculously the trees to which it was tied remained rooted.
It was February. You can imagine how long it took to dry.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Life at Hepworth Towers

I'm looking back on my week and trying to remember what went on. I know I picked a lot of sweet peas. They've been fantastic this year.

I know I've cleaned out a lot of cat poo. 

Last year Peanut - the cat belonging to the-family-member-who-declines-to-be-named and his lovely wife Jaine - lived here for a month (much to our cat's disgust) while T-F-M-W-D-T-B-N and J were on their honeymoon. 

On Monday, Dave and I were saying to each other smugly, 'Thank God we don't have to have Peanut again this year,' when the phone rang. It was T-F-M-W-D-T-B-N telling us that Peanut had broken his leg, and would we look after him  while T-F-M-W-D-T-B-N and Jaine went to Greece for their hols? He had been booked into the cattery but obviously that was now no-go. 

Peanut was supposed to be kept in a cage 

and to wear a cone to stop him picking at his stitches, but he hasn't needed the cone, and most of the daytime he's roaming around my study. 

This year Dave and I finally decided to give up our massive strawberry patch because the weeding is so tedious, and Dave is digging it up and extending our lawn.

He's using one of his favourite tools - a mattock. When I went out in my pyjamas to admire his progress, he said he loved the fact that an Iron Age man wandering into our garden this morning would immediately recognise the implement and would probably set to and help.

Because a blisteringly hot weekend has been forecast I decided to wash the loose covers from the sofa. We don't have a tumble dryer, so weather matters to me when I'm washing. I wish I could persuade Dave to only wash on good drying days, but after 49 years I know it's a lost cause.

When I took the covers off, I found these plastic things in a fold which are half the width and half the length of my little finger. I challenge you, dear reader, to tell me PRECISELY what they are.

Last week Moira Redmond, whom I have never met and who who writes an amusing and interesting blog called Clothes in Books, devoted a post to my new book EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW YOU. How fab!

And last night after my evening dose of Call the Midwife, I checked the listing of my book on Amazon to see if there were any more reviews, and there was!

Dear Reader, if you've read any of my books and you enjoyed them please be a peach and review them on Amazon and/or Goodreads. It helps sales, it really does. Also, it encourages me to keep on trucking writing.

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Turbulent times

Did I really blog that I'd detected seeds of change and I was feeling rather more hopeful? Well that feeling bit the dust.  

Also, my last week was full of stress, and my brain was whirring round and round, impossible to channel into calm thought, while my emotions were impossible to discipline. This is why I haven't blogged. I didn't want to splatter my feelings all over the screen.

Now I feel calm: last night I slept for 9 hours and I haven't read the news yet and I feel more like myself.

Tell me...would you say you are more emotional the older you get?

This morning in the Guardian there is a long article about peoples' television habits, with a subtitle 
"We are in an era of 'prestige television' with unprecedented choice and quality. So why are so many of us streaming endless reruns of 90s sitcoms?"

Do they really need to ask? The Guardian itself needs a health warning before you even glance at the headlines.

Television can be a great escape. Recently two separate friends recommended Summer of Rockets. I began to watch it, and was enjoying it, but twenty minutes into the first episode a 7 year old was sent away to school (bad enough) but then was being cruelly grilled by the headmaster and I couldn't take it and switched it off. 

Since then I've been rewatching Grace and Frankie, and Call the Midwife. I never saw the latter when it originally aired on telly because we didn't have a telly then. I've since caught up with it on Netflix and now I am watching it again. Yes, there is darkness in many episodes, but it has everything a Sue needs - engaging stories, emotion, kindness, humour, hope, satisfactory conclusions. Above all, though, it's deeply moral, and this I find reassuring. Everywhere in the media there is aggression, vituperation and argument. Even people on Twitter whose politics I agree with come out with statements full of hate. What disturbs me more than anything about current politics, though, is the moral vacuum. 

Yes, I've become an old fart. 

There is other evidence supporting this. I have stopped sending presents to young people who do not ring or write to say thank you. 

You know I said I'd been brushing up my French? I am using a language app/course on my phone called Duolingo. It's excellent, but it's American so if i translate Je suis dans la pharmacie as I am in the chemist's shop  I am told it's the wrong answer. Pah! It's galling, and I rail about the American English. This never bothers me when I'm visiting the family in Boulder. I accept they use different terms. So why does the French course make me so mad? Because I'm an old fart.

And lovely gardens send me into ecstasies - more evidence.

Here is a photo of my front garden (which is irrelevant) except that it gives me pleasure every time I go out there, and now the cosmos are all out and so are the white Japanese anemones.  I should go out and take an up to date photo, but the light today would not do it justice.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


I was in the Pas de Calais region of France last week, having a wonderful relaxing holiday, flaunting my newly revived French after years of neglect, perhaps showing more confidence than competence. Whatever...I loved it.

Chrissie took me to two of her favourite gardens: Maizicourt and Jardins des Lianes. They were both beautiful, but I fell utterly in love with the latter, which was a smaller private garden.

Eliane and Guy Lebel have spent more than 30 years developing their garden which contains 500 varieties of hydrangeas and 450 varieties of rose. Imagine. It was breathtaking. I've always felt hydrangeas verged towards the dull, the municipal, but not any more. 

The colours and delicacy were stunning. I could have wandered round the woodland paths of the garden all day.

In amongst the shrubs and trees, there were several little playhouses, built for their children. 

The sign says:  
A simple gaze resting on a flower and you have a day filled with happiness. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The seeds of change

Nine days ago Quakers in Bakewell held a one hour silent peace vigil by the pedestrian bridge over the river Wye. 

We were remembering Hiroshima, and our placards were a mixture of pacifist slogans such as 'People need bread not bombs' and 'Arms are for hugging.' But we also had broader mottos, such as  'Build bridges not walls' and 'Love trumps hate.' 

We've been holding occasional vigils for some time in Bakewell, and passers-by, mostly tourists, show various reactions. Some avert their eyes and hurry past, some stand a distance away and stare, read the placards and wonder if we're going to chant, or burst into song. Some walk close to us and read every placard and smile. Children are interested and ask their parents what it's all about: some parents explain, some pull their kids away and say nothing. 

This last time, we all agreed it felt different, and this was quite apart from the fact that two children came to join us. We felt a warmth and interest we've never felt before, and I've been wondering why. Was it because everyone is sick to the back teeth of vicious arguments over Brexit? They've seen so many demonstrators on the news, chanting or shouting, some of them trying to intimidate their opponents, and they've heard politicians hurling insults and lying. Whatever the reason for the warm reception of our silent vigil, I came home feeling more positive about the future of this country than I have for  years despite the bitter turmoil we see everyday in the media.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

My week in pictures

I'm still thinking, and also wishing that Mary was here to talk things over with, but the upshot is that I don't feel up to writing a decent blog post, so I thought I'd share my week with you in photographs.

Sunday, Zoe and I worked out what was the best method to make bag charms. I need to be prepared for when we offer it as an activity on the next refugee hospitality day.

Also on Sunday we had a bat in the bedroom. I like bats, but I like them in their proper place - the garden. It was not a pleasant experience, but at least the bat got out alive. 

photo by Dave

On Monday I cut Dave's hair:

I always cut his hair, but this time it was not a success. He thinks he looks like a dinner lady. I am sorry I can't show you a picture so you can contribute to the debate. 

On Tuesday I spent the day with my 13 year old grandson (no names, no photographs, as requested by same) As well as playing Grand Turismo on his Playstation, and my coming second in a 20 car race  - whoop! whoop! - we went to a cat cafe:

Wednesday was Lux's 9th birthday. I hadn't been able to squeeze a birthday list out of Lux or her parents, so in the end I asked Isaac to buy her something from me and I would pay him back. Lux Facetimed me to demonstrate the present - a remote controlled fart machine. She loved it, and so did Cece. They were still playing with it at bedtime and are taking it on their camping trip this weekend. Great present!

Photo by Isaac

Also on Wednesday I got a text from a new friend who had been reading my book, BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU, on holiday. 

I've clipped it for confidentiality purposes.

You have absolutely no idea how getting a text like this cheers me up. And I'm going to say it not only cheer up writers, they boost sales.

On Thursday the village newspaper arrived and I was in it:

On Friday I had a super bike ride. Here is Monsaldale:

For the uninitiated, the Monsal Trail runs over the viaduct.

Tomorrow at noon I shall be at a tiny silent peace vigil in the centre of Bakewell, remembering the horrors of Hiroshima.

Sunday, I am going to France with Chrissie for a few days. I am hoping that by the time I get back I will have worked out what small but meaningful rearguard action - something positive and helpful - I can engage in to make me feel I am contributing some kind of resistance to the horrors of this government. 
I also hope I'll be back in shape for blogging.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Quiet times

I'm doing a lot of thinking, and whereas I sometimes do my thinking on the blog, I don't think it would be helpful right now, either for you or for me. So here are some photos of my rain-lashed garden instead... 

And my ridiculous agapanthuses. One shooting tall and the others, dwarves. What's going on?

The sun is shining inside

and out.

There are flood warnings for the local river, and if we want a dry bike ride we'll have to be home by 10 a.m. but first, Dave needs to perfect this morning's letter to the Guardian and I need to make my porridge.

À bientôt. 

Ooh, ooh, what I can tell you is that I'm mugging up on my French conversation because next week I'm going to France with Chrissie.