Thursday, March 31, 2022

Changed plans

I should have been flying home today but British Airways cancelled one of my flights and the alternative journey they proposed was interminable and insupportable. So thanks to the hospitality/love of Wendy and Isaac I’m staying another three days, and will have - I hope - a tolerable journey home.

Also, I was supposed to be going on Cece’s class trip to the Boulder Museum this morning early, but I woke up dizzy and I cried off. I think my problem is merely blocked sinuses but I decided that a dizzy 72-year-old and a class of excited nine-year-olds were not a good combination.

So instead I’ve been sitting in the sunshine on the front porch reading A Town Called Solace.

I have loved it. I recommend it heartily. Years ago I read and enjoyed Mary Lawson’s earlier books Crow Lake,  and The Other Side of the Bridge. But I think I like this one best.

One of the characters is an old woman who is dying in hospital. I’d pegged her age at mid 80s but it turns out she is 72, the same age as me. It made me ponder. Do I sound like her? Does she sound older because she is ill? Has the author got her voice wrong? Am I a bad judge? Who knows? It doesn’t matter: the book is terrific. 

Today’s photos are of Frisco, a small town where we called in for lunch on the way down from the mountains at the weekend.

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

Today’s poem from ‘Good Poems for Hard Times’ made me smile:

Monday, March 28, 2022


A blog post is long past due and I’m sorry. I don’t know why I haven’t been posting while I have been away this time. I am living off the fat of the land and doing new things but somehow to show you photos and talk about it has felt as if it would be a lame recounting of holiday stories. And I don’t want the blog to be lame. Nor do I want to blog about politics when you will all be able to guess what I think about what’s going on in the U.K. at present.

So…how to blog?

The girls are as fabulous as ever.

Wendy and Isaac are as welcoming: they spoil me rotten.

I’ve done a lot of sitting in the sunshine and thinking. 

Sign outside a Boulder gallery

I’ve bought a pile of books from the Boulder Bookstore.

I’ve had every kind of weather - from snow and ice to rain and cold to wild winds to sunbathing weather. The Boulder climate is WEIRD. 

I’ve had some new kinds of food:

We’ve been to a wildlife sanctuary out on the Colorado plains where rescued tigers, lions, bears, and a host of other animals are rehabilitated and then given acres of pasture to roam. Visitors walk along elevated metal walkways so as not to stress out the animals.

This is Cece, looking down on a white tiger in a smallish cage getting used to the new environment - including the other animals - before being let out into a ‘field.’

This last weekend we had a wonderful stay in Buena Vista, a small town high up in the Rockies (almost 8,000 feet.) It’s set in a ‘dish’ surrounded by mountains. Here’s the view from our Airbnb:

And it’s within half an hour’s drive of hot springs. Here’s Wendy and Lux, feeling the benefit.

Today I came across a strange book by Amanda Lovelace in the bookshop poetry section called ‘unlock your storybook heart’ which I know sounds twee, but it isn’t. 

Someone recently said to me that as soon as you get home from a holiday, and get back into your normal everyday existence, the holiday vanishes. I knew what they meant but I don’t think it’s quite the same when you’re retired. And I hope it won’t be true of me when I get home. This is a page that I liked in the strange book, which relates to my holiday:

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The skies are bluer here

The sky really is bluer here than at home, and I’m not talking metaphorically. We’re a mile high, and the air is thinner.

Yesterday we flew kites in the park.

And last evening Wendy and Isaac treated me to my happy drink in my happy place - margaritas at the bar in Bar Taco. 

I’m aware of the war, and the bad U.K. news with the heartless spring budget and the P&O outrage, but I have to admit that although it’s completely irrational, it feels easier to read about it hours later than I would at home. It makes no sense at all, but I feel as if I’m in another world here with the family. 

Yesterday, though, I found myself buying this book:

And this is what it just opened at:

Friday, March 18, 2022

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Flying away

I must just tell you that if you need a Fit to Fly test, then Wren Healthcare do it online, and it is easy and quick. Logged on at 9 a.m, and test certificate in my email by 9.25. How about that?

I am flying away early tomorrow, God willing, to see my lovely family in Boulder.


Monday, March 14, 2022


Yesterday afternoon I had an email conversation with a Ukrainian friend in Kyiv, and last night, unsurprisingly, I had bad dreams. This morning I read that an apartment block in Nataliya's part of Kyiv had been shelled. 

'Are you OK?' I emailed. 

Yes, she is OK, if by OK you mean alive.

How can it be that I am here in this safe and quiet house and she is there in that hell?

Every morning, a woman in Lviv called Antipina Yaroslava greets her thousands of followers on Twitter, saying she is drinking her war coffee, 

and people all over the world respond with photos of where they are and what they are drinking - coffee, tea - sending her good wishes, love, hope, courage, prayers. She likes the connection. It's a form of solidarity. So far this morning 339 people have sent her messages. 

My Californian aging hippie friend and I had a Facetime chat the other day, and I asked her if she had seen the moving footage of German people at the Berlin railway station, greeting Ukrainian refugees with offers of accommodation. No, she hadn't, but she had seen a line of empty baby buggies left on a platform so mothers with babies could step off the train and use them straight away. Who thought of that? How kind, how empathetic.

I was upset and disturbed when I set off for my morning ride on the Trail. Now I feel better. I'm so fortunate to live here in this safe and quiet place, with daffodils about to come out in the garden, and cows in the field along the lane.

This morning on the Trail

This is the poem I read after the news and before I got out of bed this morning:


Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear   
   one more friend   
waking with a tumor, one more maniac   

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness   
   has come   
and changed nothing in the world   

except the way I stumbled through it,   
   for a while lost   
in the ignorance of loving   

someone or something, the world shrunk   
   to mouth-size,   
hand-size, and never seeming small.   

I acknowledge there is no sweetness   
   that doesn’t leave a stain,   
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ....   

Tonight a friend called to say his lover   
   was killed in a car   
he was driving. His voice was low   

and guttural, he repeated what he needed   
   to repeat, and I repeated   
the one or two words we have for such grief   

until we were speaking only in tones.   
   Often a sweetness comes   
as if on loan, stays just long enough   

to make sense of what it means to be alive,   
   then returns to its dark   
source. As for me, I don’t care   

where it’s been, or what bitter road   
   it’s traveled   
to come so far, to taste so good.
Stephen Dunn, “Sweetness” from New and Selected Poems 1974-1994. Copyright © 1989 by Stephen Dunn. 


Sunday, March 13, 2022



Saturday, March 12, 2022


A family member rang me up in tears this week because of the war in Ukraine. 

Friends and family have told me they can’t bear to watch the news. One person has even stopped reading it: she is reading ‘around’ it - about the history of Ukraine and Russia and NATO and how we got here.

All of these people care deeply about what is going on and have done their best to give succour to refugees - through donating goods, giving money, signing petitions about refugees and writing to their MPs. It’s like a letter writing factory at our house: Dave and I are both at it. The response from my Tory MP so incensed me I wrote back immediately pointing out the untruths and the ridiculousness of her arguments.

But I don’t think it is helpful to allow ourselves to be in constant torment about the suffering. We have to do what we can and as much as we can, and stay informed, and then live our normal daily lives. It’s OK to have fun and enjoy ourselves.

This is a tweet this weekend from someone in Lviv:

So I went to a wonderful exhibition at the Buxton museum called ‘Treasuring Trees - Celebrating Derbyshire Trees.’ It is largely the work of three people: watercolourist Sarah Parkin, visual artist Valerie Dalling, and environmental storyteller and artist Gordon McClellan. 

I don't know Sarah and Gordon, but Valerie lives in the next village to me and it was she who took the photograph for the front cover of EVEN WHEN THEY KNOW YOU.    

These are the two photos by Valerie from the exhibition that I liked the best. They’re both taken on the eastern moors of the Peak District.


Birches at play

The exhibition is on until June, so if you can - go! If you do, check out the super photo exhibition on the ground floor, which has been put on by a group of local photographers. 

Another small pleasure this week was meeting Chrissie Poulson at Hassop Station for lunch outside. Chrissie has written many crime novels (e.g. her latest is An Air That Kills ) but she is also a prolific short story writer, and we had huge fun discussing an idea she has for a new really gruesome story. Her mind is way darker than mine. 

Wordle is a daily small pleasure and I like it best when I get the answer in 4, because it means I’ve had to work for it, but it still feels like a success. I am one of those people who shies away from fads, but I investigated Wordle and I’m so glad I did.

Last thing at night I watch something comforting, and recently I’ve moved back to Virgin River, but I am still baffled as to why anyone should want to be friends with Hope, the most annoying and selfish character - who is nevertheless loved by lovely people - that I have ever met on screen.

Back to refugees and Ukraine...

The following event is taking place next week but I hope to be in Colorado so unfortunately I won't be able to go. Please, of you're local, it would terrific if you could support it.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Letter from home

It is so hard to know what kind of post to write while the war in Ukraine continues with all the concomitant suffering.

I know you’ll all be as upset about it as I am, so what else is there to say? Except to rail against our cruel and mean spirited government that is making it so hard for refugees to get here to safety. All EU countries are allowing entry with no visa and offering three years residence along with the right to work and to benefits. The U.K. insists that desperate people work their way through the bureaucracy of a visa application, and even then there are only a few people eligible.

The only good thing about this situation is that British people who have so far been ignorant of just how impossible it is to enter the U.K. as a refugee can now see the truth about our government's 'hostile environment' policy. 

So with all of the above, it feels wrong to be writing about what is going on at Hepworth Towers. What this war is teaching me, though, is how important it is to appreciate what we have, and to allow ourselves to enjoy small pleasures. It would be ungrateful not to.

Warmth is one such pleasure. We live up a lane and there is no gas supply so we have oil central heating. When I rang up to order some last Friday I was told that although usually I could order 2000 litres, they would only sell me 1000, and the price had gone up in a week from 69 pence per litre to 96 pence. I did not order any, and we have turned the heating right down and severely restricted the hours it is on. Lucky for us we have log burning stoves and a stock of firewood that Dave collected last winter. With the stove lit, the sitting room is warm on the coldest day. Snuggling in my warm bed at night I feel lucky I am not sheltering in a cold, cold metro, or a basement in Ukraine with no food and no water and children to care for, like my friend who is trapped in Kyiv with her teenage son. 

Other news...

If nothing worse happens on the world stage, I am hoping to fly to Colorado next week to see the family; and I have been working on two paintings. This one is finished.

Acrylic on canvas board. 59 x42 cms.

This one of Wensleydale is nearly finished. It needs a tiny barn adding somewhere on the bright green hill, and I think I am going to lighten the sky.

Wensleydale meadow.
Acrylic on canvas board 42 x59 cms.

I want to paint a washing line next and I’m so pleased I  managed to get a photo of our line one day when the sun was shining and there are shadows on the grass.

Last evening I joined with 250 other Quakers from America and the U.K. for an hour's zoom Meeting for Worship with the focus being Ukraine. It is a daily event  sponsored by Friends House, Moscow, a small, non-profit organisation living out Friends' testimonies in service to the people of Russia, Ukraine and beyond. 

The Meeting was powerful and sustaining.

If you would like to join in, please email me at hugsDOThepworthATgmailDOTcom and I will send you details.

That's it.

I must get up and dressed. I am going with a friend to an art/photo exhibition in Buxton called A Celebration of Derbyshire Trees.

Wishing you all a peaceful day.

Our plum tree last spring

Wednesday, March 02, 2022


I have been in turmoil over the war in Ukraine, at times completely overwhelmed by the horror and the sadness and our impotence to stop it. This has been amplified by anxiety about the future. Will there be a nuclear war, with Russia and Europe wiped out? So much for the nuclear policy of 'mutually assured destruction.' (MAD)

But my turmoil has resulted from other things too. I've been wrestling with all kinds of questions - some by the response to the war from western politicians, the press and ordinary people - and some from challenges to my own way of thinking.

All war is horrific, with civilians being killed, whether it is in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine or Yemen. Where has been the outrage in the last five cases? When, for example, does the western world chastise Israel for its everyday violence towards Palestinians, and when they bomb built up areas in Gaza? What about their use of white phosphorus in the bombing of Gaza? And cluster bombs in Lebanon?

Then there is the subject of Ukrainian refugees. The EU countries have stepped up swiftly and generously. The UK has been guarded and evasive, happy to wave the Ukrainian flag but not to waive the need for a visa for refugees.

A field of rape in Northumberland, 2008

At least many more of the UK public can now clearly see the inhumanity of Priti Patel's hostile environment, introduced by Theresa May, in putting up barriers to people fleeing from war. 

There is a bill going through parliament which wants to veer from the UN Refugee Convention, and to create two classes of refugees: ones which come here with a visa, and ones which arrive by whichever way they can. The latter would be criminalised. The Lords recently rejected these clauses, but when it goes back to the Commons, what will happen then?

Unfortunately, some commentators have been drawing their own disgusting distinctions between white, European refugees with clothes like ours, and people of colour who come from faraway countries outside Europe.

They are all people in a desperate plight.

They all deserve to be treated kindly.

There are other strands to my turmoil - how did we get here? This one about NATO expansion is interesting.

Then there is the question of my pacifism. My father and grandfather were COs, and I've been reading about conscientious objectors in WW1 and marvelling at their commitment and bravery. When Russia invaded Ukraine, I thought  - 'What use is a pacifist in the Ukraine?' 

But then I thought - it is always the politicians who decide on war. What if no-one was willing to fight?  What if there was a war and no-one came?

I leave it with you.

Today, I've got two poems:

Refugee blues

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew;
Old passports can’t do that, my dear, old passports can’t do that.

The consul banged the table and said:
‘If you’ve got no passport, you’re officially dead’;
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go today, my dear, but where shall we go today?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said:
‘If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread’;
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying: ‘They must die’;
We were in his mind, my dear, we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren’t German Jews, my dear, but they weren’t German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren’t the human race, my dear, they weren’t the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors;
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.


Luck in Sarajevo

In Sarajevo

in the spring of 1992,

everything is possible:


you go stand in a bread line

And end up in an emergency room

With your leg amputated.


Afterwards, you still maintain

That you were very lucky.


Izet Sarajlic

translated from the Serbo-Croat by Charles Simic