Monday, April 26, 2021


I had my second jab on Friday! 

I feel so blessed, so fortunate. I have emerged from the last year unscathed by personal loss, and fit and well, if slightly aged. The news from India is beyond horror, and here I am, able to go out in the spring sunshine without fear. I'm truly thankful - to the NHS for their organisation, and for the scientists who produced the vaccine, not spurred on by greed, but by higher motives.

Here I am, saying hello to my first bluebell on Friday:

photo by Liz

and here I am, sitting in the first cafe I've been in since March 2021, eating a bacon sandwich:

photo by Liz

I had the Astra Zeneca, and the after effect this time was feeling washed out all weekend. Of course it could be the result of too much socialising, sunshine and excitement, but I think it was the jab. I am not complaining, just reporting.

All I had the energy for was finishing my current painting:

The view from here.

I need a new novel to read. Any suggestions?

no sci-fi

no magic realism

no horror

no crime

no unmitigated darkness.

What I want is a warm novel about ordinary people, beautifully written, and not too wordy (like Barbara Kingsolver and Maggie o'Farrell are.) The ideal is Kent Haruf's trilogy - which begins with Plainsong ;   or All the Light We Cannot See - which I am still telling everyone about. 

I can take a sad ending.

Chrissie has suggested A Gentleman in Moscow and I'm going to check it out.

Do you have any other suggestions?

While you think about it you can look at the photo I took last week of the sunrise - from the field next door, while in my pyjamas:

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Sunshine and shadows

Yes, I have definitely aged since this time last year. I've been cycling all winter when it's been possible, but battling the cold and the wind has been hard work. And it has taken me until this week to cycle as far as the Trail bridge over the river and still have enough energy to get down (and up) the flight of steps to the river. I realised when I woke up the next day that I'd pulled a muscle in doing it, but there you go. Old age ain't for sissies.

It was worth it to sit by the river with my coffee.

I've also seen a lot of people for real just lately and that's been as energising as the sunshine. 

It's been odd, though...catching up with old friends from Sheffield where we used to live, friends who I haven't seen in months, has made me feel the loss of Mary again. If she'd still been here I'd have been sitting in the garden with her. The scar opened up again this week.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

My week

Cece asked me on FaceTime on Friday: 'When are you going to write another book?'

Another book? I can't even write the blog.

Admittedly the sun has been bewitching this week, and the current painting has been absorbing, but really, I've not been in a bloggy frame of mind. 

This is what I am trying to paint - our front garden when the daffs are out:

This was how I began:

I didn't have a fine enough brush to do the tree correctly and the result was rather Hockney-esque, but it didn't look like a hawthorn, which is what it is. Here's the second attempt with some added first-draft daffodils:

The tree is better but then I realised that daffodils have six petals, not five. Durrh.

They now all have six, 

but need some definition on the petals, and the stalks need sorting out. Then I need to add the blue Adirondack chairs.

There are other things that have happened this week - e.g. a hospital visit in which a breast lump turned out to be normal breast tissue - but I cannot find the words to make the relating of them entertaining. Maybe after a year of keeping going with the blog, as some kind of lockdown contribution, I've flopped... just as we're emerging into the spring sunshine and the shops and pubs are opening up, and we can have family and friends in our gardens. 

I don't care about the shops, but hooray to this latter liberation. My daughter and grandson came yesterday afternoon and it was so lovely, that in the evening after they'd gone, I felt like a normal person and not a locked down one.

Did you see this article this week?

Brain fog: how trauma, uncertainty and isolation have affected our minds and memory  

A friend emailed me the link, saying:

It’s official - your worries about memory are shared, and lockdown related!

With the advice to get out there and have as much variety in our lives as possible - bring it on.

To which I replied:

I am pleased you sent me the brain fog link – I saw the headline this morning in the Guardian and thought I would read it later and would probably have forgotten to!

I hope you're enjoying the sunshine and that like me, you're feeling a little less cramped, and on the start of the journey back to being your old self. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

No news

I'm really sorry, but the only news at Hepworth Towers on this sunny but bitingly cold Monday morning is that I have finished the painting of my painting dungarees  

which means that I can wear them again to work on my next painting.

I hope to be back very soon with a decent post. 

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

The shape of the day

Dave says all kinds of things that brighten my day. Take what he said this morning as I was eating my breakfast: 'What's happened to Vim? It used to be a demi-god of kitchen cleansers. Has it fallen from its pedestal?'

He has, however, a recurrent question, and it gets on my nerves: 'What are you going to do now?' 

Under pandemic circs we spend nearly all of every day together, or at least we're at home at the same time, unless one of us is out on our bike. We get on very well, and I feel lucky to be sharing living space in lockdown with Dave. 

Even so, there are times I yearn to be left alone and to not have to account for my every minute to someone else. This irritation obviously shows, because yesterday when Dave popped the question I sighed, and he responded 'Sometimes I feel as though I am something you're trying to get off your shoe.'

Hepworths have always said first thing after breakfast 'What's the shape of the day?' It's a given. And this question was originally framed and employed by Dave. He is a very organised person, and also, it has to be said, his aspergers makes him dislike surprises and sudden changes of plan.

I like spontaneity. (Yes, Dave - as long as it suits me.) These days when I set off on my bike ride Dave wants to know where I am going so he knows where to send the search party when I don't return, as death lurks round every corner.

Me: "When I go out for a walk and I'm longer than you expect me to be, you're always anxious."

Dave: "Only because I've been worrying how far I'm going to have to carry the cadaver back.") 

So I tell him my route, and then when I get to the end of our lane I get a yen to go somewhere else, and I dither - should I go back and tell him I have changed my route? should I just stick to what I told him? or do I think Oh sucks, I'm not going further than a ten mile radius so what's the fuss about?

In lockdown, when most days are the same, the anodyne question 'What are you going to do now?' has become particularly irksome. What are the options? - cycling, walking, painting, reading, gardening, cooking, facetiming a friend, writing the blog, ringing the bank - apart from the first two they are all home based. 

But they are how I am spending my life right now, with the occasional delightful blip such as when friends or family call to sit in the garden with us, to chat, drink coffee and shiver. 

Here's an Annie Dillard quote I thought apposite for this post:

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living. Each day is the same, so you remember the series afterward as a blurred and powerful pattern."

I wonder how we will remember these days.

We may be largely housebound but we have beautiful views.

Here is the view from the east bedroom window on Easter morning:

And here are two from the front door:

We're lucky. And I don't take it for granted.

Saturday, April 03, 2021

A frayed thread

Progress on my dungarees painting is slow because the sun has been shining which means no loitering inside. So far my favourite part is the frayed threads on the top of the bib:

It sums up how I've been this week. Upset at the start, then feeling better, then unsettled and then upset again.

The credit for the above cartoon is dinosaur on Twitter:

I went on the Trail yesterday at 8.30 a.m., before the tourists arrived, and I had to stop for a rest on the up journey and on the down one too. I spent the rest of the day recovering. Admittedly the day had started rather early - at 4.30 a.m. - when we heard that scratching in the bedroom ceiling again. There is a creature that wants to live between the plasterboard and the attic flooring and Dave's attempts to catch it have so far failed. 

We have all kinds of measures already in place (both humane and otherwise* - *cue complaints from the family member who declines to be named). All have proved ineffective, but this morning Dave told me that humane pest deterrers online recommend cayenne pepper, so that's one new thing to try. I'll keep you posted.

I saw a clothes advert online this morning and thought - Hmm, I could do with some new pants, and wondered if M&S had got their act together in that department since I ditched them for Victoria Secret eleven years ago and Zoë suggested I become a transatlantic knicker mule.  

My searches of M&S turned up nothing and then I saw a line that said 'Pink and Black Female Empowerment High Legs 5 pack.' 

Would female empowerment pants sort out the pants problem AND the low morale?

I don't think they're the answer.

Apart from anything else, I worry about my 'children', even though a friend who also worries said on Thursday 'When has it ever done any good?'

This morning, after a week of emails, a friend down-under sent me a two line email:

Like Cece, 'I love you Sue.'

Here are my Autumn crocuses to wish you a happy Easter xxx

I think she was quoting from Days Are Where We Live:

Cece sitting on the downstairs loo down the corridor shouting out, a propos of nothing: "I love you, Sue!"

In my Thursday conversation with my friend I'd said that if children feel loved and safe it would make them resilient for their uncertain futures ahead.

Do you think that's true?

I felt loved and safe, and I feel loved and safe, and I'm still vaguely sane, even if frayed.

Sending love to all of you with all my best wishes for good times ahead. 

And I also hope that you're not fraying more than me.