Monday, May 17, 2021


I have been blogging for 15 years, but lately I've been dithering about giving it up. This is because I don't feel I have anything fresh to say. Every time I think of a post, I realise I have already blogged about the subject.

There is too much to say about our appalling UK politics, but I don't want to make this a political blog. 

There is also much to say about Israeli apartheid and the current cruel bombardment of civilians living in the open air prison of Gaza. But I don't want to blog about that either.

I want to be quiet with my own thoughts for a while.

Also, I need to do do some extensive blobbing.

In March 2014 I wrote a post called 'Goodbye to the Blog'  when I was not sure if I would be coming back. Three months later I returned, and have been blogging ever since.

I have no idea if this intermission will be for a month, a year, or for longer. I will still be on Twitter @suehepworth where I will signal any new blog posts, but you could also check in to once in a while. I am also on Instagram where I post paintings and photographs. And of course, there will always be the best of the blog in DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE.

I will miss you. Thank you for your loyalty, comments and suggestions, your support, encouragement, and sympathy. Having written that last sentence I'm thinking 'Do I really want to say that this is the end?' because I really will miss you. That is why I am leaving the future of the blog uncertain. 

And as an envoi, here are some photographs from my recent wonderful break in Northumberland:

Me, overawed by the colours

Dunstanburgh Castle - my favourite castle

Not Northumberland, but St Abbs in Scotland

St Abbs coastal walk

St Abbs coastal walk

View from Holy Island 

Holy Island harbour

Wall on Holy Island

A proud moment, even if my feet were killing me

The ultimate blob

So this is goodbye. But I am not leaving without posting one last petition calling on the UK government to impose sanctions on Israel.

Good bye dear friends.

Stay healthy, stay cheerful, and try to be kind.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Home to destruction

I had a wonderful time in Northumberland and the change has given me a new perspective after the shut-in, day-to-day routine of this last Covid year. I had planned to show you some photographs of the beautiful coastline, but I don't have the heart for it because of the news from Palestine.

I wrote extensively on the blog in January 2009 and in August 2014  - for days at a time - about previous onslaughts on Gaza. There are links on the archives. Now, in addition to the stealing of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, and the racist thugs at work, there is another cruel onslaught on Gaza, which will result in more motherless children like these:

More homes destroyed like these:

Be aware that Israeli violence towards Palestinians goes on ALL THE TIME.

B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights centre, gives details and statistics about the everyday oppression of the Palestinian people.


Make yourself aware of the basic causes of this conflict. Then explain to other people what is going on and why.

This short animation made by Jewish Voice for Peace is moderate, straightforward and clear. It explains the roots of the conflict very well, but not the flashpoints this year.

Don’t rely on the BBC to give you a balanced view. Channel 4 News is better.


Giving money to a charity working in Gaza.

e.g. Medical Aid for Palestinians is a British charity already working in Gaza.

Emailing your government to make a stand.

Did you know that the UK sells arms to Israel? – ask the government to embargo these sales.

Ask them to put pressure on Israel to end the conflict and the theft of Palestinian homes and land, and an end to the illegal building of Israeli settlements on occupied land.

Demonstrating wherever you can.

Whichever country you live in, there will be a demonstration about the war on Gaza and the treatment of the Palestinians. 

Boycotting Israeli goods 

This is a well established movement. BDS explains what you can do. Here.

Don’t forget about the Palestinians when this current crisis is over. They will still be there, oppressed and suffering and their need will be even greater.

Thank you.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

On the need to blob

I had bad dreams last night. I dreamed I was waiting in a hospital to be examined, pretending to be ill, because I didn’t want to to go to school and work towards exams. The doctor said there was nothing wrong with me and then someone (my mother? my big sister?) was looming over me, remonstrating with me, telling me I needed to go back to school and buckle down. I realise now  that the person lowering over me, berating me, was me.

It’s probably because yesterday I went for a short bike ride (not because I thought ‘Ooh! I want a bike ride!’ but because of the drive to keep fit and a wish not to waste the sunshine) and then I did absolutely NOTHING for the rest of the day but cook a roast veg lasagne and read Illyrian Spring. I was so tired that soon after lunch I got a slice of white bread out of the freezer that was left over from a Christmas recipe and had it toasted with butter and golden syrup.

Then I read in the sunny bay window.  I did go and sit at my painting table for a few minutes but didn’t have the oomph to pick up a brush. I was utterly and completely pooped, so I went back to read. I was so pooped I couldn’t even face walking up the garden to water the sweet peas in the cold frame after tea. 

I realise now what the dream means: I am not just tired from a difficult week, I am exhausted with trying to make the days count. I am done with it. This last year of the blank diary, a year devoid of warm and close interactions with friends and family, a year of no time away from home, a year of forced retreat from the world that I did not want to waste, is coming to an end. Now all I want to do is blob. It’s all I have the energy for.

And the only way for me to blob is to be away from home, where I am free of self-inflicted demands. 

I sat in my favourite place on the Trail yesterday morning

(and incidentally, look at the difference, thanks to the freezing cold spring, from the same day two years ago)

Yesterday, behind me, the cowslips were beginning to flower.

This is what I feel like...

...a tiny flower emerging into who knows what? For example, is it safe now I am fully vaccinated to go to London to see the Tracy Emin/Edvard Munch exhibition, and the Hockney exhibition? I have no idea. 

All I know is... I need to blob.

I am going to Northumberland for a few days, and I hope I’ll feel better when I get back.

I hope it will be like this:

and not like this:

May 8th 2019

Whatever! I am going to blob.

Northumberland spring 2010

Thursday, May 06, 2021

What's been happening

I usually ignore recipes in the paper but I saw a recipe for croque monsieur this morning and decided I was going to make one. I have perhaps only had five in my lifetime but every single time I've thought them delicious. 

The last time was with Het in The Wolseley, next door to the Ritz. It was a special treat. Unfortunately my photo of the dish has been subject to a recent purge so Het sent me this one of me in the restaurant at the time, looking pleased:

And it makes me think that treats are always worth it - nothing you do for a Sue is ever wasted, just as nothing you do for children is ever wasted. (See last post but one.)

There are a lot of treats to come in the next few months - everyday things that I haven't been able to do for over a year - and I am going to relish them and be thankful.

Painting continues. After I'd finished the painting of our front garden, my brother suggested I try painting a self portrait. So I began with some pencil sketches of myself, using photographs, although purists would say you should do it from life, using two mirrors.

I did three sketches which took me ages, and involved lots of rubbing out and redrawing along the way, and this was the last and the best. 

It was a sketch and not a perfect finished drawing: as you can see, I paid scant attention to the hair. I was really pleased with it until two of my 'children' said the mouth was sinister, leering, whatever - you get the idea. I don't mind their comments. I asked for their opinion, and how do we get better if we don't listen to criticism? But I was disappointed, because my mouth is the hardest part of me to draw. I don't sneer, but drawings often make me look as though I do.

Anyway...after this failure I decided that painting a self portrait would be much too hard and I've been working on an abstract instead. But the self-portrait idea is niggling me and I think I'm going to try a painting after all.

What else has been happening?

Lots of tedious admin;

Having a haircut for the first time since February last year. It was so nice to see Nicola again, my hairdresser for 30 years;

Having my first Indian take-away for over a year - scrumptious;

Planning for a few days away next week - whoopee! - while telling myself it doesn't matter if the forecast is right and it rains the whole time, because it will be such a treat to see the sea;

Feeling anxious. I have never thought of myself as an anxious person, but aging seems to be changing that, and yesterday I was so jumpy inside that I wrapped up warm and went on my favourite local walk and ended it sitting in the village churchyard. 

Sitting there for 15 minutes listening to two blackbirds singing was heavenly and made me feel calm and settled again.

On the grass when I arrive,
Filling the stillness with life,
But ready to scare off
At the very first wrong move.
In the ivy when I leave.

It’s you, blackbird, I love. 

( from The Blackbird of Glanmore, by Seamus Heaney.)

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) published here, by kind permission of The Gallery Press

Monday, May 03, 2021

Letter to Priti Patel

I am posting this tomorrow. The consultation (such as it is) closes on Thursday May 6th.

Please feel free to copy my letter and post it first class to Priti Patel.

Dear Ms Patel

(Copy to Ms Sarah Dines MP)

Consultation on new asylum plans

I have looked at your online questionnaire and it is cunningly designed to get just the answers you want, while making it impossible to reject the questionable arguments it is based on.

I am therefore writing this letter as my response to your consultation.

I reject your new plans because:

1.    They discriminate against people who have arrived via irregular routes like small boats or in the back of lorries – and your plan is potentially in violation of the Refugee Convention.

2.    They ‘fast track’ life and death decisions about vital refugee protection decisions so that you can more quickly expel people seeking sanctuary. It is not reasonable to expect people fleeing life-threatening situations to have all their documents supporting their claim ready at the first interaction with the UK Home Office. They need time to get their evidence ready, or for their legal representatives to do so.

3.    They expand inhumane immigration detention. I also reject your repulsive suggestion of having Australian-style offshore detention for people seeking refugee protection. And I also think there should be an end to indefinite detention, the introduction of a strict 28-day time limit with judicial oversight and appropriate safeguards, and the introduction of community-based alternatives to detention.

4.    They make a false distinction between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ arrivals to the UK. There are many reasons why those fleeing persecution are forced to make spontaneous and dangerous journeys to the UK to seek asylum. The UK must fulfil its commitments as signatories to the Refugee Convention and not punish those seeking sanctuary.

5.    They want to introduce reception centres to house those arriving in the UK spontaneously. These plans amount to de-facto detention and a return to a detained fast-track. Those seeking asylum, regardless of their route to the UK, should be offered accommodation and support in the community, have their asylum claims assessed fully and fairly with adequate legal advice available, and should never be punished for having arrived spontaneously.

Lastly, I think there should be a humanitarian visa to be introduced to provide genuine safer routes to claim asylum in the UK.

The UK has in the past welcomed refugees from war and terror and we should continue to do so. It is the humane and compassionate thing to do, and more than that, Britain has signed up to international agreements about refugees and asylum seekers and we should honour our commitments, not try to weasel our way out of them in a mean-spirited and heartless way.

Yours sincerely

Sue Hepworth 


Saturday, May 01, 2021

Things that are stuck in my head

In the comments section of the last post, blog readers helpfully suggested some books I might like, and I have ordered three. Illyrian Spring arrived in the post today.

In the first few pages there is a paragraph that amuses me hugely. The main character, Grace Kilmichael, is running away from her husband, her grown up children and herself. It is the 1930s. She is on the Orient Express, leaving Victoria Station, and reading that day's edition of The Times...

It struck me that for high society in the 1930s, the personal column of The Times was obviously like Twitter or Facebook.

But also, I love the sentence: 'No correspondence will be forwarded.' In other words - 'Leave me alone and bugger off.'

I am going to enjoy this book. And in the future I will always remember those hilarious two sentences. And that made me think about short paragraphs or sentences in other books that catch my attention and linger in my memory long after I have finished the book.

SPOILER ALERT for The Age of Innocence and Even When They Know You

There is such a paragraph in The Age of Innocence in the last few pages -  when Newland finds out via his son Dallas, that Newland's wife knew of his affair with the Countess Olenska;

Every time I read the book this paragraph makes me cry. And I stole the idea and used it in my book Even When They Know You:

There is a sentence I adore in another book that I have shared with you in the past. It's from Nora Ephron's Heartburn:

" 'Now you can sing these songs to Sam' was part of the disgusting inscription and I can't begin to tell you how it sent me up the wall, the idea of my two-year-old child, my baby, involved in some dopey inscriptive way in this affair between my husband, a fairly short person, and Thelma Rice, a fairly tall person with a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs, never mind her feet, which are sort of splayed.”

I love it because her writing is so skilfully funny.

Then there are two paragraphs from Garrison Keillor's Leaving Home that mean a lot to me:

It speaks for itself. Images of the past - wonderful or sad - stick in my mind in a very visual way. And I sometimes feel blissfully overwhelmed by a moment of natural beauty aligned with a feeling of happiness or rightness.

This is from Willa Cather's Shadow of the Rock:

When Jacques and Cécile ran out into the cold again, from the houses along the tilted street the evening candlelight was already shining softly. Up at the top of the hill, behind the Cathedral, that second afterglow, which often happens in Quebec, had come on more glorious than the first. All the western sky, which had been hard and clear when the sun sank, was now throbbing with fiery vapours, like rapids of clouds; and between, the sky shone with a blue to ravish the heart,--that limpid, celestial, holy blue that is only seen when the light is golden.

"Are you tired, Jacques?"

"A little, my legs are," he admitted.

"Get on the sled and I will pull you up. See, there's the evening star--how near it looks! Jacques, don't you love winter?" She put the sled-rope under her arms, gave her weight to it, and began to climb. A feeling came over her that there would never be anything better in the world for her than this; to be pulling Jacques on her sled, with the tender, burning sky before her, and on each side, in the dusk, the kindly lights from neighbours' houses. If the Count should go back with the ships next summer, and her father with him, how could she bear it, she wondered. On a foreign shore, in a foreign city (yes, for her a foreign shore), would not her heart break for just this? For this rock and this winter, this feeling of being in one's own place, for the soft content of pulling Jacques up Holy Family Hill into paler and paler levels of blue air, like a diver coming up from the deep sea.

I think that perhaps such moments where I feel 'there would never be anything better in the world for her than this'  are what I would like to capture in my paintings.

Cece (8) just sent me this photo she took of her sunrise in Colorado - oh, those colours!