Monday, December 30, 2019

Crime Against Fashion

Today, there's a real treat for those of you who recall Dave's blog from some years ago. He suddenly stopped writing it, much to everyone's shock and disappointment, and he took it off the net. This morning I said I'd like to post something from it, and he agreed. This is the post I chose:

Crime Against Fashion

Here's my excuse and I am sticking to it. When I was a kid, we got all our family clothes from Blanchards. If Blanchards did not stock it, we did not wear it. Simple as that. And, to take the ambush out of this, let me tell you that Blanchards was never at the cutting edge of fashion.

In the war of style, Blanchards was so far behind the lines that it did not even hear the cannon fire.

When I was not in school uniform, I was wearing Blanchards' best. If Blanchards ever made anyone a babe-magnet, I have yet to hear reports of it.

True, I had occasional twinges of doubt, but the family criteria for clothing were that it should be durable, shrug off stains, not catch on nails or machinery, and keep your body warm as toast, even in summer. Oh yes, and the chief criterion: it should be, if not cheap outright, then fabulous value for money.

If I tell you that I still wear the coat my father got for his wedding in 1949, well, you will get the picture.

The result of all this was that I never developed a sense of style, and have teetered all my life on the high wire of sartorial anarchy. It never worried me that what I wanted to wear would raise eyebrows, or even attract derision. If I liked it, that was enough. 

You would have to ask Sue about the fate of my tam o' shanters which I dearly loved and which vanished in unexplained circumstances. And about the suede jacket with alluring and intriguing suede fringes all the way down the arms. Sheer poetry in clothing. I mean, you do not just lose a piece of kit like that.

Anyway. Here it is: my crime against fashion:

Nonchalant and unapologetically chic
This is my WONderful leather jerkin by Philip Moss. It replaced the previous one, made in 1917 (yes, really) and bought by me in 1967 for 25/-, less than the price of the latest Incredible String Band Album (32/6).  

This works out at about £1.25 for the jacket, and £1.65 for the album. Both phenomenal value.

I dithered for years (yes, literally) about the replacement, and had a very lengthy and jolly email exchange with Philip Moss, who was ever-patient, and who eventually made the sale. He probably needed therapy afterwards.

Anyway, what has fashion to do with an heirloom garment like this? (Heirloom in the sense that it will last way longer than I will, and some poor bugger will not have a clue what to do with it, and have not the heart to chuck it out.)

My jerkin is commodious, warm, keeps out all kinds of weather, has accommodating and no-nonsense pocketry, smart (I feel like a million dollars at least), and rugged. Nothing gets through this baby. Nothing. This things laughs at the weather, Nay, it snorts.

Cheap it wasn't. But then it is modelled on a pattern that goes back to the Civil War of 1650. And it is beautifully made and lined with some kind of woolly stuff. Putting it on is like slipping on a dream.

I have worn it daily since getting it. Almost hourly.

I mean, who would not love this?

Philip Moss: artist in leather.

Friday, December 27, 2019

It all matters

“It all matters. That someone turns out the lamp, picks up the windblown wrapper, says hello to the invalid, pays at the unattended lot, listens to the repeated tale, folds the abandoned laundry, plays the game fairly, tells the story honestly, acknowledges help, gives credit, says good night, resists temptation, wipes the counter, waits at the yellow, makes the bed, tips the maid, remembers the illness, congratulates the victor, accepts the consequences, takes a stand, steps up, offers a hand, goes first, goes last, chooses the small portion, teaches the child, tends to the dying, comforts the grieving, removes the splinter, wipes the tear, directs the lost, touches the lonely, is the whole thing. What is most beautiful is least acknowledged. What is worth dying for is barely noticed.”

― Laura McBride, We Are Called to Rise

Thursday, December 26, 2019

On being 70

I turned 70 this year and it's OK. If you're not there yet, be encouraged!

I hated being 60. I was miserable at 60, and 70 is so much better. I was telling this to a 59 year old friend at Meeting yesterday and he said, jokingly, 'Is that because you don't have to worry about what you're going to be when you grow up?' 

It sort of is.

I feel as though I've arrived. This is me, warts and all, or, in my case, wrinkles and all. (See yesterday's photo.) Take me or leave me. 

I was recently in the supermarket with my two teenage grandsons and embarrassed them by explaining to the young and pleasant check-out man that it is much easier for the customer if, when giving change, you proffer coins first into the palm, and then notes. Said check-out man responded graciously. It was Waitrose.

As we left, I told the younger grandson 'I know you find it embarrassing but the great thing about being old is that you don't care what people think of you.' 

'I wish I didn't care,' he said. Of course when you're a teenager, what other people think is crucial.

Later in the morning, he said 'Actually, Sue, you do care what people think.' He calls me Sue, as they all do. 'When you buy something new to wear, you always ask Mum what she thinks of it.'

He'd got me. 'You're right. But I don't care what people I don't know think of me.' 

The other nice thing about turning 70 was the party. It was wonderful. I mean it was really wonderful. The last time I had a birthday party was when I was 40. That was a fancy dress party and people had to dress up as what they wanted to be when they grew up. This growing up thing is obviously a big thing for me. I realise that only now as I write this post.

Different flavour cakes made by Zoe, friends and me

Isaac and Wendy and the girls came over from Colorado for my 70th birthday party, and of course my local 'kids' and grandkids were there, all my siblings and spouses came, plus one niece, and lots of old friends. I got to dance with three of my four grandchildren (one a 15 year old boy - dancing with him was one of the highlights of my night - but along with his brother I am no longer allowed to name or picture either on the blog, and more's the pity, because I would dearly love to show long-time blog readers who recall them from ten years ago what these fabulous teenagers look like now). 

And there was a surprise cake...

Surprise cake made by a friend, Chris Oxley

made by a friend and relation-in-law, Chris Oxley. Look! She put on it all my books - those dear little books - sweet pea packets, sax, sax music - and the sheet music is Misty - my patchwork and my laptop. I am still in awe of it. We ate the cake and the icing but I've kept everything else.

I only had the party so I would have a chance to dance, but having all the immediate family together plus old friends and the way everyone helped to make it happy - that was what was special. I went to bed that night thinking 'If I die tonight, I'll die happy.' Maybe that's what turning 70 is about for me. If I die now, I'll die happy – with my life, you understand. Not with the state of the world.

The grandchildren I am still allowed to show you - Cece and Lux
Photo by Isaac

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Happy Christmas!

Wishing all my friendly readers a Very Happy Christmas.

I hope you're having too nice a time to check my blog, but if you're not, bear up. It will all be over soon.

Monday, December 23, 2019

The blurred Christmas

Apart from the sign on the landing - and look at it very carefully, friends - 

visitors to Hepworth Towers wouldn't know this was an OFF Christmas.

First there were was the forest of Christmas trees that Dave made from scraps in the shed. 

He had intended to make just one, but when Dave makes something that costs nothing but his time, and he likes said object, there is something about the wiring in is head that makes him go on and on until my cries of protest finally get through and he stops. I think he got up to twenty this time. It's happened before with wind chimes, Edison puzzles, trivets, kumiko, coffee tables from recycled wood, and little wooden boxes.  

Then there is the fact that the tree - which should technically be corralled in my study with all other decorations on an OFF Christmas - is in the sitting room. I've had a new carpet in the study and Dave thought I'd be bound to spill water on it when I was watering the tree, so it's in the sitting room with Dave's latest innovation...

What has got into him?

Anyway, we had our OFF Christmas family meal, presents and games on Saturday, and it was fabulous. I am so lucky to have such a lovely family, and a husband who is happy while hiding in the kitchen to do all the washing up.

And because my brother Pete was impressed yesterday when I told him the list of things I managed to cook in my small kitchen and normal sized cooker, I'm going to boast to you as well:
roast free-range chicken
veggie nut roast
veggie gravy
vegan nut roast
vegan gravy (admittedly ready-made from Waitrose)
roast potatoes 
baked potatoes
roast parsnips
pigs in blankets
force meat balls (a wartime recipe from my mother and my favourite part of the meal, I've decided)
I had intended to make bread sauce as well but as it's only me who likes it and things got a bit fraught towards the end, I missed it out.

My only disappointment was the quality of the roast potatoes, but it's hard making successful vegan roast potatoes, and the oven was rather full. The hordes wolfed them down anyway. 

Now it's a week of peace and quiet, writing, cycling, walking, and reading my new compendium of Nora Ephron's writing, The most of Nora Ephron.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Early mornings at Hepworth Towers

Every morning for the last three months, Dave - who gets up hours before me - has come into the bedroom while I am drinking my first mug of Yorkshire tea in order to recount the latest outrage from Trump. I wish he wouldn't. 

For one thing, it is not a good start to the day, and for doesn't matter what awful thing Trump does, he can no longer surprise me. I say this to Dave, but still he tells me. Every morning. 

On Wednesday Dave went out before I was awake, and when I woke up I breathed a sigh of pleasant freedom, thinking I'd have a Trump-free morning. What to begin the day with no news from here and no news from there. We have sufficient problems on this side of the Atlantic without dwelling on the US horror show. 

I got out of bed, switched on the fairy lights on the weeping fig in the bedroom, and fetched my tea. Then I picked up my iPad to check my emails and found an early morning email with an attachment from Dave, entitled 'Nuts!' Inside was a domestic message, and then 'What do you think of the letter?' 

He had attached a copy of a letter from Trump to Nancy Pelosi, beginning thus:

There was I, thinking I'd escaped the morning bulletin on Trump, and here instead was a six page bloody letter to wade through. Reader, I didn't. 

Yesterday, Thursday, I woke up at 5 a.m., too late to go back to sleep but also too early to switch on the light, so I thought, 'Ooh, I know, I'll listen to the next episode of The Railway Children on BBC Sounds.' 

I found this delightful programme by chance. A young actress [sic] is reading The Railway Children in 14 entrancing episodes. It's a wonderful antidote to everything OUT THERE. 

Yesterday's chapter was entitled The Amateur Fireman and featured a part of the book I'd forgotten, where the children rescue a baby from a burning barge. It was so exciting! I was on the edge of my pillow! It was far too exciting for a gentle musing doze, and at the end of the episode I switched on the light, over-heated and charged up for the day, and it was still only half past five. It took me some time to recover.

I've just realised that a biographer could use this as a vivid illustration of something about me, but it's only 6.52 a.m. and I am still drinking my first mug of tea, so you'll have to decide what it is.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Stages of grief

Before I begin this post, I want to make it clear that this is about how I feel,  and how I feel is not open for debate, so if you're spoiling for a fight, please go somewhere else. 

I am avoiding the news: I can't face it. There could be a third world war for all I know. 

Last Friday morning my brother rang up to say "Isn't it awful?" and I shut him down. "I don't want to talk about it. I'm sorry but I really don't."

My other brother sent me a text:
"Feeling so depressed about the election. Our man got a majority of 27,000."

"I am too depressed to talk about it."

I was in shock. 

I couldn't believe that so many people were wiling to vote for someone they know is a liar. And that so many people didn't seem to care about poverty, the crisis in the NHS, the increase in homelessness, in racism, in awful working conditions, the lack of funding in schools, the likely future infringement of civil rights, the lack of care about global warming, etc, etc - the list goes on and on.

It's not just me. There are an awful lot of people on Twitter who feel the same, who are too stunned to think about what to do next, about leaders or strategies or anything else. People like me who can't bear to look at a newspaper because even a photo of the new Prime Minister makes them feel sick. 

On Saturday I met with good friends who share a lot of my interests, including politics, but none of us could bear to talk about what was bothering us the most.

On Monday I was stomping around in a mood as I prepared the vegan nut roast and the veggie nut roast for Saturday's OFF Christmas family meal. I was mean, I was snarky, I was full of resentment, and poor old Dave kept asking if he'd done something to annoy me. 

"No, no," I said. 

It was at teatime that I realised I'd moved on from shock to anger. 

It's Wednesday today, and I spent half an hour sorting out presents for one brother and one sister's Christmas presents. They wanted a donation to charity. It was such fun giving money away to people who really need it.

And I've just been in Sheffield where I saw a large graffiti (yes, Pete, I know it is technically graffito if it's only one, but that is way too formal) and the graffiti made me laugh.

It was a very rude, two word rejection of the new PM written in large bold capital letters.

Yes, it made me laugh. It cheered me right up. Can I move on to the another stage now? Acceptance, perhaps?  

I will leave you with this quote from Martin Luther King:

We must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Kindness in a cruel world

Yesterday I came across an article saying that since the election result, food banks and housing charities had received a huge increase in donations. It warmed my heart. 
And here from another century is this...

"Merry Christmas, Marmee! Many of them! Thank you for our books. We read some, and mean to every day," they all cried in chorus.

"Merry Christmas, little daughters! I'm glad you began at once, and hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little newborn baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there, and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?"

They were all unusually hungry, having waited nearly an hour, and for a minute no one spoke, only a minute, for Jo exclaimed impetuously, "I'm so glad you came before we began!"

"May I go and help carry the things to the poor little children?" asked Beth eagerly.

"I shall take the cream and the muffings," added Amy, heroically giving up the article she most liked.

Meg was already covering the buckwheats, and piling the bread into one big plate.

"I thought you'd do it," said Mrs. March, smiling as if satisfied. "You shall all go and help me, and when we come back we will have bread and milk for breakfast, and make it up at dinnertime."

They were soon ready, and the procession set out. Fortunately it was early, and they went through back streets, so few people saw them, and no one laughed at the queer party.

A poor, bare, miserable room it was, with broken windows, no fire, ragged bedclothes, a sick mother, wailing baby, and a group of pale, hungry children cuddled under one old quilt, trying to keep warm.

How the big eyes stared and the blue lips smiled as the girls went in.

"Ach, mein Gott! It is good angels come to us!" said the poor woman, crying for joy.

"Funny angels in hoods and mittens," said Jo, and set them to laughing.

In a few minutes it really did seem as if kind spirits had been at work there. Hannah, who had carried wood, made a fire, and stopped up the broken panes with old hats and her own cloak. Mrs. March gave the mother tea and gruel, and comforted her with promises of help, while she dressed the little baby as tenderly as if it had been her own. The girls meantime spread the table, set the children round the fire, and fed them like so many hungry birds, laughing, talking, and trying to understand the funny broken English.

"Das ist gut!" "Die Engel-kinder!" cried the poor things as they ate and warmed their purple hands at the comfortable blaze. The girls had never been called angel children before, and thought it very agreeable, especially Jo, who had been considered a 'Sancho' ever since she was born. That was a very happy breakfast, though they didn't get any of it. And when they went away, leaving comfort behind, I think there were not in all the city four merrier people than the hungry little girls who gave away their breakfasts and contented themselves with bread and milk on Christmas morning.

excerpt from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Mystery and suspense

Today on the blog I am pleased to shout about a new book from Christine Poulson, the art historian who turned to crime. Her latest novel, An air that kills, out last month, is the third in a series about medical scientist Katie Flanagan. 

Chrissie is here on the blog today, answering some questions I put to her. If you want to ask her something yourself then please comment at the bottom. It will find it's way to her and she will post an answer below.

Where do you get your ideas?

I got the idea for An Air that Kills on 10th February 2018 when I read this headline on the front page of the Guardian: ‘Blunders exposed scientists to killer bugs.’ The piece that followed made hair-raising reading. It claimed that breaches of protocol had led to dengue virus - which kills around 20,000 people worldwide every year - being sent through the ordinary post and to students studying live meningitis pathogens that they mistakenly thought had been killed by heat treatment. As soon as I read it, I knew where my character, Katie Flanagan, was going next: I was going to send her undercover to a high security lab where the scientists were as dangerous as the diseases.

How long did it take you to write the novel?

I finished writing it at the end of June 2019, so that is about 17 months. I think that is pretty standard for me. I'm a slow writer and have never been one of those writers who can turn out a book a year. And in the past, I haven't written during the school holidays, but now that my daughter is older, that is changing.

You've had squillions of short stories published as well as your many novels. Which do you most enjoy writing?

Hard to say. I like the way that you can inhabit a novel over a period of time and get absorbed in the characters and the places that you're writing about. But I do also love the change of pace that the short story offers and the freedom to experiment with things that I couldn’t sustain for a whole novel. I once wrote a short story from the point of view of a fish (you can read it for free on my web-site). More recently I wrote a short story entirely composed of receipts and other financial documents, and it was short-listed for a Crime Writers Association dagger award.

And do you prefer writing standalone novels, or a series about the same character?

I've only ever written one standalone, Invisible, a suspense novel that came out in 2014. It is a novel that is close to my heart. But I have to say that writing a series comes more naturally to me and I enjoy reading them too.  I like to get really invested in the characters, both as a reader and a writer. It's also seems to be what publishers want. I have two more ideas for Katie Flanagan novels, so hopefully there are more to come.

What single thing would make your writing life easier?

A combined housekeeper and personal chef!

Thanks, Chrissie, and good luck with sales!

Friday, December 13, 2019

On this blackest of black mornings (updated)

What to blog on this blackest of black mornings?

I am stumped.

Does the majority of the electorate really not care about the suffering in the country - poverty, homelessness, the reduction of public services, the crisis in the NHS, the appalling conditions in the GIG economy, the severe lack of funding in education, the increase in racism, the likely future infringement of civil rights?

And how can people be willing to vote for someone they admit is a liar?

I am horrified and baffled and full of dread for the future of our country. 

Lovely loyal blog reader, Jenetta, has just commented on yesterday's post with this:

Jack Monroe’s post this morning gives me hope. She finishes with “But first we rest, we grieve, we hold one another and we never ever give in" worth finding and reading the whole post.


So here is Jack Monroe on Twitter this morning:

We get back to basics - read our local news. Fight like hell for all the seemingly small things in our own areas and communities - every library, every children's centre, every school place, every youth club, every refuge, every firefighter, every post office. Yes, you. Who else?

We stand up for one another. We put decency and society at the heart of everything we do. We take the anger that's boiling inside and use it to fuel real social change. But first, we rest, we grieve, we hold one another, and we never, ever, ever give in.

And here are Andrew Boyd's thoughts on hopelessness that I have quoted before:

You are faced with a stark choice: do you dedicate yourself to an impossible cause? or do you look after your own, making do as best you can?
The choice is clear: You must dedicate yourself to an impossible cause. Why? Because we are all incurable. Because solidarity is a form of tenderness. Because the simple act of caring for the world is itself a victory. Take a stand – not because it will lead to anything, but because it is the right thing to do. We never know what can or can’t be done; only what must be done. Let us do it.
Andrew Boyd

What can we do?
A good start would be to donate to a food bank today. This morning. Now.

Here is a link to the nationwide food bank charity - the Trussell Trust.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The only  selfie that has ever moved me. And to tears, too.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


Don't imagine for one moment that I haven't mentioned the election because I don't care what happens tomorrow. 

You bet I care. I am consumed by dread, but it is tinged with a flicker of hope.

Sometimes things don't go, after all, from bad to 
worse. Some years, muscadel faces down frost; 
green thrives; the crops don't fail, sometimes 
a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war; elect 
an honest man; decide they care enough, that they 
can't leave some stranger poor. Some men become 
what they were born for.

Sometimes our best efforts do not go amiss; 
sometimes we do as we meant to. The sun will 
sometimes melt a field of sorrow that hard 
frozen: may it happen for you.
I have permission to quote this poem as long as the poet's name is not mentioned.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

This is a good time to explain that when you post a comment on my blog, it will no longer appear immediately. I will be sent an email telling me there is a comment, and then I have to approve it – which i will always do unless it is irrelevant, or spam, or obscene. If I am away and not checking my email, then there may be a delay in the process.

Monday, December 09, 2019

The home-office party

I am so engrossed in a new writing project that I can't think of anything to blog about, so I hope you'll forgive me for sharing this blast from the past. The only substantial change since I wrote this is the provenance of the yoghurt.

Party Time
“The best thing about being self-employed is that I don’t have to think of an excuse for missing the office party,” said my fellow home-worker – my husband.
I, however, am in need of some fun and games. Living up a lane in the Peak District is heavenly for three seasons of the year, but when the looming mists swirl in and blank out the fabulous views, and I can’t go anywhere without wellies, and it feels as though the long dark tea-time of the soul has set in till March, I get desperate for bright lights and company.

Unfortunately the man at the computer upstairs is not a party animal: he neither goes to parties, nor understands what they are for. I remember when I decided to have one for my fortieth birthday, he asked “Why on earth would you want to celebrate getting older and moving another few steps downhill? All we’re heading for now is death.”

He couldn’t face attending the party, but was concerned about the hordes of people I would be having in the house, and wanted to make a contribution to the preparations. He did. He calculated the tonnage of the assembled revellers, worried that the sitting room floor might collapse because dancers would refuse to keep to the edges of the rooms, and he went down to the cellar, where he used chunky four by four wooden posts to prop up the floor from underneath.

Apart from that, the only other time he’s been anywhere near a party was one New Year’s Eve when he found two of our oldest friends on the doorstep, unannounced, and waving a bottle of champagne. Unhappily, I was away, but he phoned me and while he wailed about the “scandalous imposition” of their expecting him to stay up until midnight and be jolly, I jumped up and down with frustration that I couldn’t be there to join in.

He’s not what you’d call a singing-and-dancing-kind-of-guy. Think less Gene Kelly and more Fraser, the Scottish undertaker in Dad’s Army - “Doomed! We’re all doomed!”

But he does have a tender heart, and, eager to cheer me up, he has suggested we have our own office party – just me and him.

We should have it in his study as it’s bigger than mine, he says. I am just wondering how he will press me up against the filing cabinet for a quick snog when you can’t get near it for all the wallet files spread out on the carpet for easy access, when he offers to clear the floor. He will also carry out into the hall the stacking plastic boxes stashed with papers and reports, and he’ll even wheel his poncey, sorry, precious new bike out to the shed (to join my sturdy workhorse) where he thinks it might be all right, just for a couple of hours.

I’m not sure what he’s got to offer by way of food and drink, though. He is teetotal, and he’s never been able to grasp the concept of eating as an enjoyable activity: as far as he’s concerned, eating is for refuelling. That’s apart from yoghurt, of which he is a connoisseur. Our village shop gets in catering size cartons of Longley Farm natural, just for him. At Christmas when the shop is closed and he has to pre-buy in bulk, and yet I also need extra fridge space for family entertaining, he keeps his extra cartons of yoghurt cool by floating them in the water barrel in the garden.

old pic of dave
It may be just me, but when I think of party food, yoghurt isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

I don’t care though, because for the party he says he will wear a Santa hat and download a festive screensaver onto his computer.

He really knows how to show a girl a good time.

I do appreciate the offer of an office party, I say, but I wonder whether it’s possible to have a party with only two people. Couldn’t we invite someone else? Unfortunately, the only other people we see during our working days are the postman, a sweetie who likes to tell us how many buzzards he’s seen on his round, and our neighbouring farmer, who calls when he is moving his heifers, to ask us to stand in our gateway to stop them from coming in and cavorting on the lawn.

But we do have a continuous stream of telephone callers. Perhaps during the party we could have the phone on loudspeaker, I suggest, and at least have some conference calls, maybe with a Christmas quiz, so it doesn’t feel so lonely? He says we can’t do that, because he’s just recorded a seasonal message on the answering machine saying “Sod off, it’s Christmas.”

He says he’s willing, but his Christmas spirit is weak. And even after detailed explanations, his grasp of partying is non-existent. So I may flip out: cabin fever does strange things to people. If you see a news report of a woman in sparkly reindeer antlers streaking through a Derbyshire village shrieking “Does anyone want to party?” you’ll know who it is.

old pic of me and dave
© Sue Hepworth/Times newspapers 2019

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Seeing the sights (updated)

I've been very busy this week with writing and with family stuff, which is one reason I haven't posted. 

Another reason, though, is that I usually tell you about exhibitions I've seen on my London trips, and I didn't enjoy the one I saw on Tuesday: Eliasson at Tate Modern. Here is an excerpt from the description on the Tate Modern website:

This exhibition brings together over 40 works of art made between 1990 and today by the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. Born in 1967, Eliasson has created a broad body of work that includes installations, sculptures, photography and paintings. The materials he uses range from moss, glacial melt-water and fog, to light and reflective metals. .......

......Eliasson puts experience at the centre of his art. He hopes that as you encounter it, you become more aware of your senses. You add meaning to the works as you bring your associations and memories to these experiences. You might also become more aware of the people around you with whom you form a temporary community. 

I don't know if it was because of my own state of mind, or because the exhibition went over my head, or swerved round the side, or whether it just wasn't aimed at someone like me. The critics have swooned over it, but that's never made me feel I ought to like something before...all those impenetrable Booker prize winning books for example? 

I found a lot of it irritating, and was relieved to leave. One exhibit I actually hated was a room of fog, which we were supposed to walk through with other visitors whom we could not see. I hated it and turned round immediately and left the way I'd come in. I felt not only disorientated, but also claustrophobic, and I hated being in a room full of unseen but audible strangers. When I got home, Zoe told me that when she and her friend had been there, they were so intrigued by the fog room they went through it twice. Now I consider it, that exhibit was probably successful in terms of the artist's aim, but that doesn't mean I would want to repeat it or suffer more of the same.

I feel very exposed in saying this, but when I go to an exhibition I want an emotional meaning or message, not just a sensory one. Eliasson did not speak to my condition.

I enjoyed walking around London in the sunshine with Het so much more.

Look at the low December sunshine catching the unlit Christmas lights...

And back home on the Trail yesterday, Dave and I saw a rainbow over the field where the corn has just been harvested:

I'm happy.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the exhibition failed to move me is that I don't need to go to the Tate and smell a vast wall of Scandinavian reindeer lichen to become aware of my senses and my reactions to what I sense. I can see and smell and feel stuff here, in the garden, and on the Trail. 

Monday, December 02, 2019

Bright lights

A writer friend of mine, whose latest novel is just out, was telling me how much she hates marketing her books, and the self-promotion required. 'It feels like showing off!' she said.

It is showing off - but you know what? If you're not a famous best-selling author whose publisher devotes squillions of pounds/dollars to promoting you, you HAVE to show off. You have to engage in self promotion. 

And if you're like me, who is even lower down in the pecking order than my friend (because at least she has a publisher) if you don't self promote, then no-one is even going to know you have a new book out, let alone think about buying it. That's why I'm doing my own bit of 'showing off' this morning. I have four lovely new reviews of my 2019 novel EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW YOU. Yippee!

And now I'm going to get up and get packed because I'm going to London for a couple of days. This country mouse is ready for bright lights, an injection of culture at the Tate Modern, and most of all and best of all - fun with my lovely friend Het.