Thursday, September 30, 2021


I'm so excited!

Tomorrow I'm going away with my sisters for a holiday in Wensleydale, a holiday that was cancelled a year ago because of Covid.

I haven't seen my younger sister Jen for two years and it's been too long. 

I'm just sorry that Pete, one of our brothers can't come with us, as he usually does. The other one, Jonty, lives there, so we'll be spending time with him.

We may be cooped up because of rain but I don't care. It will be so lovely to be together again that I thought I'd share with you an old post celebrating sisterhood that I wrote when we were prettifying our mother's house to sell. 

Here it is...

Love conquers all

I’ve seen some blogs where every post is chirpy, and they read like an exercise in counting blessings. Blogs like that get on my nerves. On a personal basis, cheerfulness is attractive. Upbeat people are a joy. But unrelenting cheerfulness in a diary is dull. I can’t take the cheesiness. And it sounds so fake. What is this person NOT telling me?

Kevock 2

A weekend away for three sisters in their mother’s empty house (empty of their much-loved mother) had the potential not for cheese, but for immense discomfort, when the purpose of the weekend was to prettify the house (on a tiny budget, and with odds and ends from home) so that buyers could see its potential, and be willing to take on the modernisation required. Three women with different tastes engaged on a joint venture of domestic chic is bad enough. If those three women are straight talking, with very definite views, and are also picky, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Other conditions were not propitious. We arrived in fog so thick we couldn’t see the hills; the house was freezing cold (despite the fact that Jonty had turned up the heating and also lit the fire for us – what a peach!) because a cottage with three foot thick stone walls takes a lot of warming up. The weather was cold and grey, with rain and sleet. We were too busy to enjoy the dale, apart from a brief walk to Aysgarth Falls, and an evening out with Jonty and Rachel, who cooked us a fantastic dinner.

Feb 10 049

As for the mission..there was a spat over whether a leather suitcase on the dresser looked old-lady-ish or Country Living–ish, a disappointment over a framed poster that one sister wanted to hang and the others hated. One sister’s cushions were banished to the boot of her car because they were the wrong colour, and there were tussles over the exact position of a vase of flowers on the windowsill, and oh yes – a chair which one wanted in one corner and the other wanted “Here! To cover up this stain!” There was also a last minute overruling that the basket in the porch was an affectation, and looked twee.

But the mission was accomplished: with new curtains, new bedspreads, new cushions, different pictures and lots of hard work and careful thought, the house looks lighter and prettier.

And we had lots of teasing, lots of laughs, lots of cosy chats in bed with mugs of tea. We loved being together.

Love really does conquer all.

(And you’ll just have to forgive the cheese.)

Oh, and this is the bedroom where they wouldn’t let me put the leather suitcase! The b******s!

Feb 10 037

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Not shaking the grass

The news from Hepworth Towers is that I am still obsessed with grasses.

This is my latest painting, inspired by that Ezra Pound poem I keep putting on here...

And the days are not full enough

And the nights are not full enough

And life slips by like a field mouse

                      Not shaking the grass.

Ezra Pound

Acrylic on canvas board 59x42 cms.

And I've been enjoying looking at the book of the latest Hockney exhibition, The Arrival of Spring, which my dear friend Het gave me. Hockney painted all the pictures on his iPad, and it inspired me to buy a painting app for myself. 

I'd already painted this turquoise and white background on canvas below, and couldn't decide how to develop it, so I imported a photo of it into Procreate and have spent a happy hour in bed this morning, playing with colours to learn how the program works, and to see if I can decide where to take the painting.

It beats reading the news. I've been completely focussed, and the free floating anxiety due to the collapse of this septic isle completely disappeared.

Neither is right, but it's a work in progress.

Het said to me, yesterday: 'You're prolific.'
Me: 'I need to keep painting. Then I don't have to clean the bedroom.'

The only other thing to report is that it was back to olden times here last evening. During lockdown Chrissie and I would have drinks and nibbles on Facetime, and last night we did it again because we live six miles apart and we're both saving petrol for upcoming trips. 

I hope you're all staying saner than me in these disturbing times.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Reasons to be cheerful

 I have to admit that I was feeling fairly gloomy this morning.

1/ the state of the country: nuff said.

2/ worrying about whether I will have enough petrol to get up to Wensleydale next week when my two sisters and I are having a holiday together that was cancelled last year because of you-know-what.  (Dave kindly went down to Bakewell at 7 a.m. and filled up the car but reported that several pumps were empty already.)

3/ whittling about when the USA administration will make a definite announcement as to the date we can travel there and whether they will accept those vaccinated with Astrazeneca. It's so tantalising when they say 'early November.' Why don't they give a date?  I want to get my ticket booked this minute to go and see Isaac and Wendy and the girls.

But after my early doctor's appointment in Bakewell I cycled past the Co-op and spotted our lovely Big Issue seller Sofia - whom I haven't seen for 18 months. It was so wonderful to see her that it really cheered me up.

Then I cycled home up the Trail, littered with drying leaves, and bounded by firey rosebay willow herb 

and was thankful for the changing season. It's deeply reassuring that the world continues in its seasonal cycles. 'The sun rises in spite of everything.'

When I got home our boxes of cox apples arrived. There is no apple that compares with a new season cox. I once embarrassed a greengrocer by saying that biting into my first cox of the autumn was almost orgasmic.

And now I am considering the irony of my whittling about leisure travel, when Sofia will be worrying about paying for heating this coming winter, and the swingeing cut to the benefit she's probably claiming.

This poem never fails to comfort me:

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, September 20, 2021


I was having a chat with my GP the other day about why I get so tired. We went through all the possibilities and came up with nothing, which was reassuring. Then I found myself telling him about my daily life, and heard myself say '...cycling, creative activities, thinking...' 


Thinking? He probably checked my occupation to see if I was down as a philosopher.

But I do think a lot; and thinking is tiring. I've just checked the science, and brain activity accounts for 20% of calorie expenditure, so there you go.

And there is so much to think about. Even before you start reading the paper, look at the bumph that comes with it:

How can I even think of buying a new jumper that I don't actually need, when there is so much real need in the world?

But there are so many other things to worry about. What's troubling me at the moment is the fact that every single thing the current government does is anathema to me. Just one example is the upcoming cut in Universal Credit, which does not affect me personally but which will affect nearly 3.5 million children.

Here are some other things  -  privatisation by stealth of the NHS, the collapse of the care sector, the demonisation of refugees and asylum seekers and the criminalisation of those who arrive by "illegal means."

The second reading of the Nationality and Borders Bill was backed by a majority of MPs in July. It included provisions for people who have fled war, terror and oppression to seek asylum here to be arrested and prosecuted under a new offence - that of arriving in the UK without a valid entry clearance. Such vulnerable people could face up to 4 years in prison.

What can I do about any of this? It feels as though there is nothing apart from writing to my (Tory) MP to say: 


And it's not as if there is a decent opposition. I'm 72, and it feels that for the rest of my life the UK will continue to go downhill.

A friend who shares my feelings said it was very tempting when feeling powerless to effect change to simply disengage and turn one's back, but that that felt wrong. 

When I asked the family-member-who-declines-to-be-named about it, he said: 'Violent revolution, but it's probably not a good fit for you.' Very true. Apart from being a pacifist I wouldn't have the energy.

Hey ho.

The good news is that I finished a painting I am pleased with:

Acrylic on canvas board 59 x  42 cms

And the other good news is that it's a sunny day.

I will leave you with this:

by William Stafford from the anthology ASK ME, pub. Graywolf Press 2014

Go gently, friends.

Thursday, September 16, 2021


I LOVE my phone. I love the fact that I can have quick interchanges with three of my friends from the comfort of my bed, sharing laughs and love and beauty.

I love the sunshine coming in the window.

I have had a wonderfully sociable week seeing friends and family but another strand of it has been ridiculously stressful - trying to get established with BT as our new internet service provider. 

We have the connection - such as it is - but their customer ID security system is ridiculously rococo and they have so many glitches that have to be referred to the back room people that I'm seriously wondering if we have made a mistake in switching to them. But we have so few choices, living as we do up this lane in the sticks. 

If it hadn't been for my wonderful BT helper Amanda, I would have already pulled out and told them to stuff it. After a week of trying to get an online ID with them I am still not sorted, and Amanda is ringing me tomorrow to try again. I told her that if we are successful we should each have a piece of cake to celebrate.

I have other admin crap to sort out and I realised yesterday that if I find all this stressful now, in ten years time Dave and I will have to get our daughter to sort things out for us. He said it'll be fine in ten years because we'll both be dead. You can always depend on Dave to see the bright side.

So anyway...back to the morning sunshine streaming in through the window and texting friends. It's better than reading the hellish news and fretting about what's to be done about any of it. 

One of the problems of being a Quaker is having all these other ancient Quakers dead and alive doing such heroic things - those 80 year olds protesting with Extinction Rebellion and being arrested, for example. 

I need to cut myself some slack. An old friend who is twenty years younger than me has just had a hot tub installed in her miniscule back yard. She says you can have a dreadful day and then get in the tub and lean back and you instantly think - Whatever!

I think I need to do more whatevering.

Today I am going to paint outside. I have a sky to paint and more grasses to add to this

and a brand new painting waiting to be continued.

Tonight it's fish and chips in Chrissie's garden.

I'm making hay: we have a long winter ahead.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Peace witness

I've just come back from a silent peace vigil in Buxton's main shopping street.

We were there to draw attention to Europe's largest arms fair (Defence and Security International) which is beginning in London today. We were there, too,  in solidarity with all those protesting outside DSEI. Here's another link.

DSEI is promoting the sale of arms that cause death and destruction for thousands of innocent civilians all over the world. 

The British government sends out formal invitations to countries, including those with a known record of human rights abuse, internal repression, and external aggression: they invite countries that the government itself considers to be a human rights concern, namely Bahrain, Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt and Iraq. 

These were some of our placards:


It was easy to stand silently for an hour holding these signs. I've done it often in Bakewell with other placards - for Remembrance weekend and Hiroshima Day.

But I've been thinking lately about my Quaker grandfather, who was a Conscientious Objector in WW1. He went to a Military Tribunal and was fortunate to be granted absolute exemption, presumably because he was a pacifist on religious grounds.

But his life and that of my grandmother throughout the war must have been so difficult. They lived in West Hartlepool which was bombarded by German warships in December 1914. 130 people were killed and hundreds more were injured. Dozens of buildings were destroyed or damaged and many of those hit are still scarred by pieces of shrapnel embedded in the walls. More than 1,100 shells rained down on the shipbuilding town.

The attack galvanised the local people, with 22,000 men joining up, a huge proportion of the population, and many more men and women working in the shipyards and munitions factories.

The other result was that Hartlepool, on three occasions, won awards for raising the most money per head of population of any place in the British Empire for the war effort. The equivalent today would be £545million.

I'm thinking it would be hard enough being a CO in WW1, but to be one working in Hartlepool as a bank clerk, a public position, must have required huge stoicism. I have imagined him being ostracised, denied promotion for years and years, and much much worse.

This is his exemption certificate:

Matthew's cert 1

matthew's cert 2 

I honour him.

by William Stafford

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Crossing off STUFF

I've told you how every morning Dave asks me what are my plans for the day, haven't I?

Yesterday when he asked me I said: 'I have some stuff to do and then I'm going out on my bike.'

Dave: 'What stuff?'

Me: 'I don't want to say.' and only when I explained it to him, did I realise why. 'It's boring domestic stuff and I'm trying to keep it under the radar, not think about it, try and slip it into my schedule without my noticing it and feeling fed up.'

It's possible this only works for me, and that it's because it takes me so long to wake up in the morning. Yesterday we were waiting for the satnav to boot up

and it twigged that the blank screen, where even the menu doesn't work, is just like me first thing in the morning.

There is, of course, another way of dealing with tedious but necessary tasks: you can make a list and have the satisfaction of crossing the items off when done. 

My new method of slipping things in under the radar is good for things like changing the sheets and cleaning out the fridge, but not so good when trying to activate my new BT account which I'd put off for too long and then getting snarled up in BT's overtight security measures and having to talk to a charming BT person who cannot fix the problem even after 50 minutes of trying, with me on the other end of the line. Aaarghhh! 

I don't want to be dealing with the glut of plums, either:

That's just the first batch of our harvest (from our only tree.)  Last year we had no plums at all. This year the branches are so laden they are breaking off.

I am getting so possessive of my time and energy. All I want to do is paint, 

or be outside in this current spell of sunshine, cycling, walking, reading or playing table tennis... 

...or looking at this beautiful book that my dear, thoughtful and generous friend Het sent me in the post

because she knew I was sad to miss the London exhibition.

'Living tomorrow is too late: live today'


Video link address: 

Friday, September 03, 2021

Friday round up

It's been a week of ups and downs, beginning with a down on Sunday when after keeping the news at arm's length for a fortnight, I decided it was time to brave it. I was so overwhelmed by the suffering and darkness I couldn't write my own words on the blog, I could only supply quotes and give you links. 

Since then I've come across a really helpful piece on how to deal with this feeling. If you sometimes feel the same, it's worth a read.

On Monday I cancelled a treat trip away with a friend because Dave pointed out it 'wasn't safe.' The friend I'd been going away with reacted better than me, saying we have to respect others' fears in this chronic pandemic scenario. 

I bounced back with fish and chips for tea in our garden with my dear friend Chrissie the next day. Our garden is on the edge of the village and exposed, and it's rare for us to be without a chill wind, but on Tuesday it was warm enough to stay outside talking till 8. 

On Wednesday I spent four hours editing our Quaker newsletter. This time the question we had to answer was "What brings you joy?" and I had more contributions than ever before. It's a very uplifting edition.

I answered this question on the blog some weeks ago, but here is my up-to-the minute answer:

Reading there was a 3000% raise in donations to the RNLI after Nigel Farage criticised them for rescuing asylum seekers and refugees in distress while crossing the Channel.

Picking sweet peas in my pyjamas before breakfast

Spending time with my grandchildren – the ultimate bringers of joy

Cycling down the Monsal Trail on a sunny summer teatime after the tourists have gone home

When I got off the bike and sat under the trees by the river

Playing table tennis in the back garden with Dave

The first glimpse of the sea between the sand dunes at Embleton Bay

Going out to lunch with my adult children - just me and them - so rare and so special

Dancing to music from the sixties

Vivid blues and greens and oranges

Drinking margaritas with Wendy (my daughter-in-law) in Boulder

Someone telling me that one of my books made them laugh or cry, or both

Licking out the bowl after making chocolate brownies

Hearing our blackbird sing while I’m watering my pots outside in the evening

Laughing with Dave

Getting a text after a Bakewell refugee hospitality day to tell us what a wonderful time our visitors had

That's it. Tonight I'm going to an open air art show and I'm very excited!

I hope you're all finding sparks of joy in your days to get you through.

Any Morning

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can't
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won't even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

William Stafford