Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Yesterday was full of adventure. 

I went out on the bike early, as per usual, managing to get home before the rain set in and hammered these amazing thick white dandelion clocks I saw on the lane.

Then late morning I got in the car for the weekly trip to fetch our click and collect veg box, and - wild excitement! - there was a spring cabbage in it. I haven't seen one since February. What joy. 

On the way home I dropped some unwanted mushrooms off on Liz's doorstep, knocked on her door and ran back to the car and she came out and we had a brief twelve feet distant chat - me in the car, she on the doorstep. Another joy.

In the afternoon I went to the doctor's to fetch a prescription and saw yet another person who wasn't Dave. The dispenser dropped it through a barely open window into a basket below. It was weird. 

I don't mind the rain for short periods. It takes the pressure off and I feel free to get on with indoor pursuits, such as the series of lockdown paintings I'm working on.

I saw this tweet yesterday from the best-selling writer Marian Keyes:

And at the weekend a columnist suggested it was OK to talk about the normal fripperies we used to talk about before the pandemic. We can't focus 100% 24/7 on the realities of life and death outside our four walls: we need to look after our mental health.

So here are my recommendations of gentle distractions:

Book - R C Sheriff's novel The Fortnight in September, published in 1931.

Film - Ladies in Black on Netflix, set in Sydney in 1959

Documentary - Becoming Matisse, on BBC iPlayer

Memoir - Days Are Where We Live by Sue Hepworth, available on Amazon here

Latest review:

Come on, you need to cut me some slack. At a royalty rate of 58 pence per copy I need to do some heavy duty marketing. Any suggestions?

Sunday, April 26, 2020


I can't tell you how many words I have written on my blog in the last ten years, but I copied and pasted 250,000 when I first decided to publish extracts from it.
I whittled this down to 110,000 so only the best would be on offer in my new book Days Are Where We Live, now available as a paperback as well as an ebook.

I know some of you have been reading the blog for years and years, but there are also a lot of new readers, so I thought I'd give you a sample entry from ten years ago, two entries which appear in the new book.

Here they are:

July 21st 2010
The Bunny Club – a late night posting
Do you remember I said we had a mouse in the kitchen and the cat wasn’t interested because she just wants to catch rabbits these days? Well…
… there I was in the dining room at 7.45 pm, eating a late tea of fish and chips and drinking a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc, trying to recover from some bad news I’d just received via a phone call, when Dave came in from the kitchen and said, “It’s not a mouse in the kitchen, it’s a rat. And it’s hiding under the dresser. I’m getting my boiler suit on and my wellies, and I’m going to deal with it.” Then he retreated.
Five minutes later he came back and said, “It’s not a rat, it’s a rabbit. Can you come and help?”
I finished my tea and went into the kitchen, to find him climbing behind the washing machine.
“I thought it was under the dresser,” I said.
“It ran out when I poked it. It was too quick to catch.”
We don’t have a big kitchen. We don’t have a fancy kitchen. Half an hour later we still had not found the dratted rabbit. Had it escaped through the open window while his back was turned? Who bloody knows? We’ve left the cat in there, and I’m telling you now, Dave can go in there first in the morning.
The phone caller with the bad news had left a message with Dave for me to call her back when I got in at 7. “I hope that doesn’t spoil your dinner plans,” she said.
Dinner plans? Fish and chips for one, while the only other person at home dismantles the kitchen in search of a fugitive rabbit?

July 22nd 2010
The Bunny Club episode 2: Outed
I wrote the last post late at night because I couldn’t sleep (on account of the bad news – of which more later). I sat here in my study writing. The house was silent, and I was just about to go and make some cocoa, when I heard a sudden skirmish behind the kitchen door. I froze. I didn’t want to stumble on a scene of carnage. So I went to bed, cocoa-less. When your kitchen -the ultimate altar to domesticity - becomes a place of creepiness and possible death, it’s deeply uncomfortable.
What was hiding in there behind the units? When four mousetraps had not caught it, but were contemptuously tossed across the kitchen by the quarry, you worry. When the demon is lurking out of sight, just sneaking out occasionally to snatch fragments of chocolate digestive lodged on said mousetraps (“Sorry, Ben,” (the painter), “the rabbit has finished the chocolate biscuits, you’ll have to have shortbread fingers”)  - somehow the intruder assumes the proportions of a monster. I mean – Dave said he saw a rabbit, but was it really a rabbit? It could have been a rat. He has been known to be wrong. He is a man. He just came in the bedroom saying he was freezing cold and had been waiting for me to wake up before coming in for clothes, and I pointed out that he has a heap of discarded jeans and jumpers in his study. If he can miss those, he could surely confuse a rabbit and a rat…
Thankfully, in the morning, the kitchen floor wasn’t strewn with bloody lapine entrails nor garnished with a headless corpse. We hadn’t really wanted the cat to kill the intruder, but we’d gone to bed fed up, and it seemed the natural thing to say to her - “You brought it home, you flush it out!”
When we opened the door, she bolted from the kitchen, as if desperate to get away from something. Was it a rat? Later she deposited a gutted bird on the doorstep, an apology for failing us.
“Right,” said Dave, after breakfast. “We can lure it out with lettuce, or consider force majeure.” He began to dismantle the kitchen again.
“I think it must be behind the fridge,” I said.
Dave pooh-poohed the idea: “There isn’t room.”
He pulled out the washer, the cooker and the dishwasher and cleaned their tops, their sides and the floor behind them. Then he took the kickboards off the units and swept out the droppings underneath. “Where the hell is it?” he said.
“I think it’s behind the fridge,” I said.
More pooh-poohing: “There isn’t room.”
He poked between the units and the wall with a long stick. Nothing.
“I think it’s behind the fridge,” I said.
Finally, he pulled out the fridge, and yes! It was a rabbit! Thank God! It wasn’t injured, and it didn’t have a stray mousetrap clipped to its ear. But then it rushed into the boxing around the pipes. So Dave unscrewed the boxing.
He put it on the back lawn and the harmless, cuddly bunny hopped jauntily away. 
Our kitchen hasn’t been this clean for years.
Dave is a star.

You can buy the book here.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Letter from home

How are you coping with lockdown? I hope you're all well, in body, mind and spirit.

It's not been easy here. A good friend, a young person who lives alone, was diagnosed with the virus last Saturday and her condition worsened during the week, until she was too weak to look after herself and had to go to hospital for emergency treatment. It's been a worrying time. She is back home again now, and we hope and pray she has turned a corner.

The intermittent waves of sadness, anxiety, anger at our shambles of a government, and contentment with life at Hepworth Towers continue for me. 

Yesterday I decided that the best way to stay on an even keel is NOT to linger in bed in the morning reading the news, but to get up straight away and do something practical, such as cooking, or watering plants. Then after breakfast - which I am trying to remember to eat in a different place in the house everyday to kill the samey-sameyness of lockdown - I go out on my bike. That is assuming I have had a good night's sleep.

Yesterday I took a flask of coffee with me and at the end of the Trail I climbed down 

to the river, and sat in the sunshine watching and listening. It was heavenly.

That set me up for the rest of the day.

Here's the view over our garden wall last evening when I went out to put the sweet pea seedlings to bed.

Today I woke up to find that Amazon now has the paperback and the ebook of DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE available 

here in the UK

and here in the USA.


p.s. A note on pricing...
Because the paperback has 500 pages, Amazon would not let me charge less than £9.53. If I wanted a royalty, I'd have to charge more. So I have charged £10.50 which means you get free postage and I receive 58 pence for every copy sold. So as Dave would say - I shan't be ordering my white Rolls Royce just yet.

Happy reading, friends, and I'd love it if you'd review the book when you've finished it.

Here are two reviews I've shown you before:

Thursday, April 23, 2020

It's here!

A short excited post to say that if you live in the UK you can now order the paperback edition of DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE  - postage free. Just follow this link.

It will be available overseas in a couple of days. I'll keep you informed.

I hope you enjoy it. It's a book to cheer you up during lockdown.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Desperate recipes

The last time I put a recipe on here was in 2008, when I posted Dave's mother's recipe for parkin. It's cracking stuff, so follow the link if you want the recipe. According to Dave, the top of his mother's cooked parkin "looks like an acned face that's been lightly Ronsealed," but don't let that put you off. 

That was 12 years ago, which might give you a hint as to how interested I am in cooking. These days, though, I am having to think about it more because we are still not going in supermarkets, we still have not managed to get a delivery from one, and we're relying on click and collect fruit and vegetable boxes, with occasional specific items acquired by my friends Liz and Chrissie. (Thank you, L and C.) The village shop is also making deliveries, but their range is limited. Gosh, this is boring.

Anyway...remember the iceberg lettuce that arrived unwanted and unloved in a salad box? There were actually two of them, and a couple of days ago one was still languishing in the fridge salad drawer.  I've been reading the definitive edition of Anne Frank's diary with 30% more material in it than the original, and I'd got to the bit where the families were boiling lettuce to eat. 

Then on Sunday my sister Jen, who knows 90% of what there is to know about cooking, suggested I make pea and lettuce soup, and she sent me a recipe. It was simpler than Zoë's recipe but surprisingly tasty, so here is a link.

Now, responding to a request from long time blog reader Marmee, here is Dave's (handmade) bread recipe, which he wrote out at my request:

500 gms wholemeal flour
1.5 teasp dried yeast
1.5 teasp sugar
.5 teasp salt
300 mls warm water

Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl using a spoon. (Add a knob of butter or a little oil if required. This will slow the rise.) Add 300 mls of warm water and stir with a spoon. The mixture will be sticky and discouraging.

Use hands to put the mess onto the kneading surface which has been sprinkled with spare flour.
Knead the mixture vigorously.
There will be a sudden moment when the mixture is no longer sticky and your hands are dough-free. 
Continue to knead according to mood.

Grease the inside of a bread tin  with butter.
Shape the dough and drop it into the bread tin.
Cover with a clean tea towel to ward off flies.
Let the bread rise to twice its original size. It needs to be in a warm place to rise.
Overcome doubts and knock it back, kneading as before, and letting it rise again.
Remove the tea towel before baking in the oven for about 40 minutes at 220C. not a fan oven. Make sure the oven has a bowl of water at the bottom during the bake.

I was going to give you my recipe for the old family favourite from the  Penlee Reform Cookery Book (1916) - cheese and lentil savoury -  from the early 20th century UK vegetarian movement. 

I could also give you the recipe for my amazingly delicious curried red lentil soup, but I'm too bored by writing about food to bother today. Let me know in the comments section if you'd like them and I'll post them another day.

Art is currently more appealing to me, and I'm pretty pleased with my drawing of one of my favourite shoes:

which I am wearing on the front cover of my new book DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE, currently out as an ebook and very very soon (yay!) out as a paperback. If the proof that is arriving tomorrow is perfect, it'll be out by the weekend.

I hope you have a good day, despite the lockdown. 

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Getting out of bed

I was so exhausted yesterday I spent half the day in bed. It's been a busy week on the publishing front, and my bike rides have been more strenuous than usual. I've lost an inch round my waist. What do you think about that?

Then last night I had a bad night and couldn't get out of bed again this morning. I was wondering what my contribution should be to the world during lockdown, and decided that today it would be cheerfulness, if only I could drag myself out of bed.

Ping. I got a text from my 15 year old grandson, sending me a link to his JustGiving page. I whooped and jumped out of bed and made a donation.  

He's pledged to do a 5km run everyday for a month, to raise money for the national food bank charity the Trussell Trust. I'm so proud of him. He starts tomorrow.  If you'd like to support him follow this link.

Now I'm going to Zoom with the family member who declines to be named, and after that, work on my current painting. I'm doing a series on the theme of lockdown. I still feel physically crap for some reason, but my lovely grandson has made me smile.

Thursday, April 16, 2020


It's another beautiful sunny day with a clear sky and the promise of heat.

This is me in bed right now, blogging:

This is the bedroom window the sun comes through:

This is the sunshine on the wall opposite:

It was like this yesterday and I spent most of it proof reading and correcting the paperback version of my new book, DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE. Every post-it in this photo represents things I needed to tweak in just half of the book. You might not have noticed the glitches when you were reading it, but I want it to be perfect.

There were no spelling mistakes. Most of the tweaks were italics and indents that should not have been there, plus a couple of unhappy sentences that could have been better phrased.

Now the corrections are done, I've decided I want to change the font (!) and also the line spacing - yes, at this late stage - as long as it is still easy to read. A change of font will make it lovelier in my eyes, and a tighter line spacing will make it have fewer pages and thus cheaper for you to buy. Dave and I have scheduled the start of work for 8.15. this morning.

Meanwhile in London, my amazing friend Het is stitching scrubs to be donated to the NHS:

I've lost count of how many she's made so far and she told me yesterday she has more fabric arriving next week.

I have another friend who has been sewing masks for the hospital where her son works. Now she is making scrubs as well.

If you would like to know more about this, here's a link to a Facebook group. And if, like me, you want to contribute but don't feel you have the sufficient expertise, you can give money to buy fabrics for volunteers who want to sew but don't have the funds. Here is the link to the justgiving page.

Foodbanks also need donations. There will be local ones near you, and the national foodbank charity is the Trussell Trust - here.

I hope you have a good day. Once the book is done, I'm going to collect a fruit box and then go out on my bike. If I feel brave enough I'll be standing on my front doorstep at 8 p.m. playing Over the Rainbow on my sax.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Lockdown mood swings

I'm finding it hard to stay on an even keel for more than three days at a time. What about you? In my case, broken nights are partly responsible, but I don't think that's all it is. And I know that there is NOTHING in my personal situation to complain about.

But since March 13th  when I started my personal lockdown with a sore throat (10 days before the national one), I've moved through the following moods: 

quietly happy, 
pleased - about my improvement on sax,
resigned and settled, 
sad about what other people are going through,
angry - at the government,
fed up, 
wildly happy - because of good book reviews
sad about the intolerable conditions for NHS workers,
euphoric - sunshine induced,
happy - after meaningful Facetime chat with 9 year-old granddaughter, 
angry - at the government,
excited - by my painting,
exhausted and droopy after yet another terrible broken night, and feeling like Dr Seuss's Mr Bix:

Mr Bix's borfin

and accompanying the Mr Bix feelings yesterday was annoyance with everyone who is not either a key worker, an NHS worker, or friends and family.

A good friend of mine is also finding it hard to keep on an even keel, but she went for a glorious dawn walk from her house yesterday, up and around Peak Tor, her favourite local hill, and she's letting me share her lovely photos from the walk with you. They show Peak Tor emerging from the mist:

On my Friday bike ride I saw my first cowslip, crazily early:

And on Saturday the busy road I always avoid on my bike in normal times was so quiet I could stop to capture the sticky buds bursting: 

I had a really good night last night which is why I am in a fit state to write the blog. Yesterday, you really would not have wanted to hear from me. 

Dave has been a rock through all of my ups and downs and yesterday because I was yearning for bread when we had none, he made me this amazingly delicious wholemeal loaf:

Bless him.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Thought for today

Thursday, April 09, 2020

A month in self isolation

You know I had a series of nights in which I was having nightmares at 3 or 3.30. a.m.? It was making me miserable, and Dave suggested I break the pattern by setting the alarm for 2.30 a.m. I was so fed up that I tried it, but then couldn't get back to sleep again afterwards. But the NEXT night I slept through. So it seems to have worked.

I think the nightmares must be showing how much sadness and anxiety there is below the surface even in a happy and safe self-isolation. This morning a friend sent me a link to a prayer on YouTube - Praise song for the Pandemic. I listened to it and it made me weep, which I think is a good thing. It released more sadness.

I am lucky. I live in a house with a garden in fabulous countryside, with someone I'm happy to be in lockdown with. I have a pension. So many people are stuck in flats trying to care for their children with scant resources, people either without work so they are worrying about money, or working from home so they are impossibly stressed. How do you care for young children when both you and your husband are working from home and there is nowhere to play outside? There are those people who live alone and are lonely. There are people who are in abusive relationships.

And then there are the people out there on the front line in this scary world of plague - the NHS workers, care workers, the supermarket workers, delivery people, transport workers, etc etc. Our key people whose work is only now being valued. Someone said to me the other day that the pandemic is a great leveller. It's not. It hits some people much harder than others, even those who don't have it and don't have a loved one who has it.

Let's think of happier things...Spring has sprung at Hepworth Towers. The blossom on our plum tree is out.

My tête-à-têtes continue to be a joy.

Though yesterday I didn't see much of either.  I spent seven hours inside, working on the paperback cover and the formatting of the book - DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE -  to meet the very specific requirements of Amazon, who are publishing it.  The good news is that an author's proof is arriving next week for me to check. The bad news is, price-wise, that the book is 500 pages long, which means that Amazon won't let me charge less than £9.54 a copy, which covers their printing costs and THEIR royalties. 

For the price of £9.54 I would get NO royalties. I am telling you this now, so you won't be shocked at the price - all those of you (and it's the majority) who are waiting for the paperback edition. I'm dithering between £10.99 (£1.25 cut for me) and £9.99 (25 pence cut for me.) Comments welcome.

You've seen the first two reviews. And I do think the book is a solace for our present predicament. Also, with so many people unable to concentrate on serious books, mine is one you can read a few pages of at a time and not lose the thread.

Onward and upward. I hope you have a good day.

Monday, April 06, 2020

The first reviews

I had another nightmare at 3 a.m. but look what I found just now on Amazon - the first two reviews of DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE. I am so chuffed I can't think of a suitable simile to express how chuffed I am. Woo-hoo!

DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE is available worldwide on Amazon as an ebook. the paperback will be out very soon.

you can buy the ebook here in the UK

and here in the USA

Saturday, April 04, 2020

This week I learned

This week I learned :

that ebullient newly-on-email almost-eight-year-olds, (ooh, hyphen overload!) no matter how bright and how literate, are not nearly as interested in emailing their grandmother as their grandmother is interested in emailing them;

that children being home-schooled can play as many as four April Fools day tricks in one day, including this:

that waking up at 3.30 a.m. to go to the loo means I either can't get back to sleep and thus have a miserable subsequent day, or I do go back to sleep and have nightmares. This has happened three times now, and I have no idea how to stop waking up at 3.30 a.m.;

that a nightmare where you think a giant bulldozer is knocking down your old house is probably due to your reading about the Israelis still bulldozing down Palestinians' houses even during the pandemic. What CAN one say about the Israeli government that does not involve cursing?

that this UK government is as duplicitous and incompetent as you thought it was going to be when it won the election;

that the Monsal Trail is still a soothing, calming and restorative place to cycle, no matter how dark the times;

that if you leave a note for your husband so he knows what an iceberg lettuce is (that unfortunately arrived in the veg box, and which he has said he will 'hoover up') you will come home from your bike ride and find this:

that the sun rises in spite of everything:

Everything is Going to be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

Derek Mahon

from New Collected Poems (2011) by kind permission of The Gallery Press

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Going wild

Hello. Are you all well and cheerful?

I hope so. I know times are tough and stressful for so much of the planet. There is so much hardship and so much to worry about. 

I came across this article today in the Guardian, about ways you can help by volunteering in the crisis. The only thing I can volunteer for, being 70 and considered to be vulnerable, is ringing up lonely people. I am pondering whether I have the suitable skills. I might sound chatty to you, but I can't do small talk, so I am not convinced I am cut out for talking on the phone to people I don't know. I am thinking about it.

But I can keep writing bulletins from Hepworth Towers, giving you a snapshot of how "normal" life can continue at home for wrinklies who are not allowed out. Actually, I don't want to go out any more, unless it's in the garden or on my bike. It sounds much too risky. After watching last night's news, I'm not convinced they'd be letting Dave or me have a ventilator.

At home, when I am not thinking about the world out there, I am having fun. When I started learning the sax ten years ago, people asked me if I wanted to eventually perform and I said 'No, this is just for me.'

Now I have started painting, I feel just the same. It's very liberating sitting down to paint and not worrying about anyone else appraising it. My painting just consists of sloshing vivid coloured acrylic paint around and giving the resulting abstracts semi-convincing titles like February Cabin Fever. Although in this specific case I did paint it in February and I was expressing how I felt.

Exhibit 1:

February Cabin Fever
mixed media

Don't you like the 'mixed media' tag? It was genuinely so - acrylics and oil pastels - but I added the tag to make it sound swanky. 

It's helpful that Dave is the most encouraging and supportive person I have ever met (which is one of the reasons he was such a popular teacher) and even when he doesn't understand or even like my creative efforts (for example, my choice of sax music) he cheers me on. 

I showed you that painting to encourage YOU to try things you have never done before and not to worry about making a fool of yourself. If I can do it, then so can you. It's fun! I have even taken to dressing up for the part, which is also fun:

Sue Hepworth wears her old dungarees and her mother's over-sized knitted waistcoat.

I think I might be channelling Frankie from Grace and Frankie, which I am currently rewatching from start to finish. It's so comforting.

This morning we had a beautiful dawn. 

I hope you have a good day and that something makes you smile.

p.s. My new book DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE is available worldwide on Amazon as an ebook. the paperback is coming out soon. 

Here is a link for the UK

and here's one for the USA