Thursday, July 29, 2021

Image problems

What do you think of the new header photo?

Be honest.

(I've just realised that if you are reading this on a phone you might never see the header photo - so to deal with this problem, I'm putting it at the end of today's post.)

I used to change the header every time I did a new post but Blogger has now made that impossible for me to manage, so I have to pick just one and stick with it, and I've been puzzling over what to use. 

I thought this photo was right, but seeing it up there makes me feel exposed and uneasy. Also, I look like an eminent someone on an arts programme being asked for their opinion on a new biography of Proust. 

It doesn't look like someone who picks sweet peas in their pyjamas and wellies, who loves riding up the Trail on her bike, someone who likes watching Atypical and Grace and Frankie and Virgin River (although I have to say that the latest series of VR (3) is dire.)  

I do like the photo. I like it a lot. Isaac took it when he and my other two 'kids'  took me out for lunch on my 70th birthday, so there are lovely memories attached to it. But I don't like it up there.

So the problem is - what to choose?

All my header photographs have been seasonal, and specific to the month in which they appear. 

I'm veering towards this one of our lane:

Or this one of our garden:

I have to have it all decided asap, because Isaac starts a new job on Monday and I don't want to pester him with my non-urgent tech problems after that.

Before I go, here is my latest painting, just completed:

'Still missing'
Acrylic on canvas board 35 x 29 cms

And here is a quote from Marc Chagall that someone read out in Quaker meeting on Sunday. 

“If all life moves inevitably towards its end, then we must, during our own, colour it with our colours of love and hope.”

I'm wondering what colour hope is, and what colour is love.

This is the current header photo for those who don't usually see the header:

Photo by Isaac Hepworth

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Books and weeds

First of all, a big thank you to all of you who have suggested books I might enjoy. I have made a list of them and will be choosing my next read from the list, which will be as soon as I've finished The Citadel by A.J.Cronin (published 1937) which I fell into after hearing a dramatisation on Radio 4/Radio4e (I'm not sure which). 

I am gripped by it, and if you have never heard of it, it's a cracking read, and is credited with laying the foundation of the NHS a decade later. The latest edition has an introduction by Adam Kay, author of This is going to hurt. 

He says: "Read The Citadel and tell everyone you know: this is the world waiting for us if we don't look after the NHS. No pressure."

And now, my garden. 

It happens every summer. It's usually when the hardy geraniums have stopped flowering, and the crocosmia lucifer is out. 

Can you spot the weeds in this one?

And every year it seems worse than the last, though I think that might be subjective. What's happening? The couch grass and the convolvulus and even in places, brambles, are taking over. Also, the drive is covered in weeds:

and I despair. I despair because I have less and less physical energy with every passing year and what little I have I want to spend on cycling or walking, not weeding. 

And then I start wondering which border I can get rid of and put down to grass?

But I like flowers!

This year, however,  it feels as though there is a little leeway: we were urged not to mow our lawns in no-mow May, and this week a weed garden won the RHS gold prize at Tatton Park flower show, and we are all being urged to have wild spots in our gardens to cater for the bees and other insects.

A month ago I persuaded Dave - who mows the lawns and cuts the hedges and chops things down but does no other gardening - to leave the lawns, because they looked so pretty. This was our back lawn:

Photo by friend Michelle

I may never be in the village Open Gardens event, but no matter how uneasy I feel about my ill-kempt borders, I can tell myself the garden is helping to save the planet. 

So gold star to me.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Weekend thoughts

You know, for someone who is 71 and retired, you'd think there'd be no difference between a weekday and a Saturday, but I can't shrug off the distiction. It's deep in my head. 

Here I am, sitting in my pyjamas at 9.40 a.m. feeling relaxed and easy. Had it been a weekday I'd be feeling I should have been showered and dressed a couple of hours ago, and up and doing, but I can't escape this weekend feeling even though I haven't 'gone out to work' for years and years.

But I've been thinking about something else. If you read my last post and you saw the comments and my responses, it's clear what a fussy reader I am, how difficult I am to please, and how narrow are my tastes.

I have a theory that the older people become, the more like themselves they become. By that I mean that their distinctive personality characteristics become more and more exaggerated. I see it in my siblings. I can't say I see it in Dave because he has always been pretty extreme. 😉 (That's a wink emoji, Pete.)

So yes, I admit I am very choosy about what I want to read, and yet I have read more widely during this last year. I've read several memoirs for example, which I have always shied away from in the past, admittedly about subjects I've been particularly interested in - the experiences of ordinary non-fighting people in the second world war. 

But I have also noticed how impatient I've become with on-screen fiction. If the characters annoy me, I switch it off. I told you I'd given up Neighbours for that reason and switched to Last Tango in Halifax, didn't I? Well now I've got to a point where Gillian is beginning to piss me off big time. and it's not just her actions, it's also the way she expresses herself, or is it the actor's delivery? Who knows? I've given up on it.

So...I was wondering if this is an example of my becoming more and more like myself as I get older, i.e. more picky and more impatient, or whether there is another reason...

I think it's that the actions, the hopeless communications, the muddle, the cack-handedness, the ridiculous incompetence of our so-called government - added to their corruption and lies and lack of compassion -  makes me so angry that they have used up all of my short supply of patience, and I have none left to spend on characters in any kind of entertainment - in books or on-screen.

That is my conclusion. I rest my case.

And now, a propos of nothing, except that I'd like to leave on a sweet spot: you cannot have too many sweet peas:

Thursday, July 22, 2021

All quiet on the home front

My big sister and her husband came to visit yesterday. They live in flat, flat Lincolnshire and she's been pining for hills and rivers and been unable to get up to Wensleydale this year, so I took them to my favourite local river, where we could walk in the shade. It was so lovely to see them. These days it feels more special than usual to spend time with family.

My sweet peas this year have been better than ever, and I can't decide if it's because of the weather patterns or the way I sowed the seeds. 

I put two loo roll insides in a large yoghurt carton and filled the whole thing with compost, and then sowed one seed inside each loo roll. That way the roots of the plants stayed separate. I know you can buy root trainers, and actually I had ordered some to try, but this worked just as well. 

I'm back to the lovely summer pattern of going out every morning to pick a bunch.

I finished my latest painting:

Acrylics on canvas board 30.5 x 25.5 cms

Does this heat make you lazy? I have a list of boring jobs on my desk that I look at each day - stuff like choosing a new electricity provider, and finding an internet company that will give better speeds than Plusnet for a house on the edge of a village - and think -  I'll sort those out tomorrow.

The heat also turns my brain to mush. If I have a normal busy morning, by 3 o'clock in the afternoon I am wiped out, too tired to even draw or read. Yesterday I was so bushed I lay on the sofa and - I'm disappointed to admit - I watched Neighbours after a month's abstention. Oh dear.

I am between books and need your help, and I'm asking because in the past you've come up with some terrific book suggestions. Having read and relished Standard Deviation, which was not just hugely entertaining but also thought provoking, I bought the author, Katherine Heiny's new book. But I don't care about the central character and have given it up. 

Please, friends, give me some suggestions. I want fiction that is accessible but has some depth. No crime, sci-fi, or magic realism, nothing harrowing and nothing impossibly wordy (e.g. books by Barbara Kingsolver.) 

Please help.

Monday, July 19, 2021


Well, it may feel like 'Freedom Day' to some people, but it feels like 'back to square one and a half day' to me.  I saw the tag 'Chaos Pirate Johnson' today on Twitter and on Saturday Marina Hyde coined the phrase 'this septic isle.' They sum up my feelings.


I did have a lovely time away, and I've come home feeling very lazy, which is why you've had to wait this long for a post. 

There are definitely advantages to going for a walk on your own. You can stop and rest whenever you want to without losing face; you can stop in the middle of a field of beautiful grasses and sit for as long as you like, trying to get the perfect shot:

You can sit in the shade by the river and finish your Anne Tyler book. That river - the river Ure - has such a delicious and distinctive summer scent it takes me straight back to being a child when we camped by it for our summer holidays.

It's a problem when you come to a bridge across a stream, though, 

because it's not much fun playing Pooh sticks on your own:

But then it's OK to walk up to the same spot at the end of the village everyday to try to get that perfect shot of Lady Hill:

And here's one from a new vantage point:

I also went for a long walk with my brother Jonty, who took a day off work to spend it with me:

You can tell from this photo how seldom either of us indulges in taking selfies...but who cares...we got together, after so long apart. What a joy.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Picture postcard

 Pictures from Wensleydale for you…

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

I’m off!

Hooray! I am well enough to drive to Wensleydale for a three day break. My second holiday since March 2020. The first was four nights in Northumberland. Dave thinks it’s odd I am going on my own because I am such a sociable person and although I’d rather be with a friend, I am desperate to get away. He doesn’t understand my intense need for a change of scene. These days he only goes away if a narrowboat is involved.

It’s the first time I’ve been away and staying on my own since 2006 when I drove to Yosemite from San Francisco, found a note on the B and B door addressed to me telling me the hosts had had to go away and would I make myself at home? Oh, and not to leave any food in my car or bears might come and rip off the doors so they could get it.

I’ll post again when I get there. Bon voyage to me!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

The quiet life

 What to blog about when I live such a quiet life?

You will see how quiet it is when I tell you that the most exciting thing that happened this week was getting an email on Thursday from Duolingo. 

Two years ago (to the month) I was buffing up my French to go on a trip to France with Chrissie, and I lost marks when I translated 'pharmacie' as 'chemist shop.' I was so annoyed I emailed them to say that in the UK, 'chemist shop' is a perfectly acceptable translation of pharmacie. (I actually just say 'chemist' but I thought that might be too radical for the US-based Duolingo.)

Yay! I have changed the world!

Fortunately, Quakers don't have anything but names and dates on their headstones, so 'changing the world of Duolingo' will not be on mine.

The other bit of trivia I have to share is that I was upset to lose my favourite mask, made for me by my grandson, who will be 17 this month. I was upset because masks will be in vogue for residents of Hepworth Towers until, I'm guessing - well, as long as we still have a government that ignores the science - until next year at least. I needed a new one and bought two from Every Doctor UK, a doctor-led campaigning organisation fighting for a better NHS for every doctor and every patient.


The masks are triple layered and comfortable and great for wearing with glasses, and they are supplied by a British collective of textiles workers who have been left unemployed in their former roles by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can buy them without the labels if you like, and they also have lots of lovely patterned fabrics if that's your bag. (Who me? An aging hippie?)

Here is a reminder of what my grand-daughter Cece (then 8) said last year in a video she made on her own with no supervision:

Third bit of trivia - I finished the painting of the view into my study window:

Looking into sunshine
Acrylic on canvas board, 37 by 55 cms

Fourth item - I was unwell yesterday, and so wobbly on my feet for some reason that Dave suggested I might need a zimmer frame. 

'And don't worry about your trip to Wensleydale next week,' he said. 'If you're not better I can drive you up and dump you there.'

Such tender words.

Lastly I went down Miller's Dale again and took this video for you:

That's all, folks. Have a great weekend. I'm off to a tiny local art gallery for a little sustenance.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Screenshots come to the rescue

I was sitting in bed with my first mug of tea this morning feeling gloomy because of the laissez-faire, look-after-yourself-and-screw-everyone-else-attitude emerging from No 10, as well as the let's-be-as-brutal-as-we-can-to-refugees attitude emerging from the Home Office.

I was also sitting there thinking it was time for another blog post and I had NO IDEA what to say except that the current painting is still not finished, though yesterday I kidded myself it was because I am so tired of working on it.

So then I did what I often do in bed on gloomy mornings, I started looking at my screenshots for good cheer/inspiration.

Here's one to start with:

and another, less personal, 

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

This quote above is from the Diary of Anne Frank. What a challenge.

But there's harsh reality amongst my screenshots too:
excerpt from the poem Home by Warsan Shire

Photo from the Guardian

And lovely things that Lux has said in previous years:

and quotes from books:

taken from Charlie Mackesy's book  The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

not a screenshot, but from my walk above the village yesterday

from Keep Moving by Maggie Smith

Yes, I admit that last one was not a screenshot but it was already in my picture file.


I hope you have a good day today. I am going to have a rest from the window painting and work on a birthday card for my grandson who is tall and bright and who has the signature Hepworth curly hair inherited from his mother and his grandfather and who will be 17 next week. One day you will know his name.