Tuesday, April 26, 2022

April is the cruellest month

‘April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring  

Dull roots with spring rain.’

The warm weather disappeared last week and there’s been a cold east wind blowing here. Inside the house with no heating on it’s been hard. But I keep telling myself  how lucky we are, and that it’s not a matter of sinking or swimming….it’s just about saving money. And we do have our lovely log burner.

I’m sorry not to have blogged for so long, but my head has been full of private stuff I’ve been working through. I’ve picked up Keep Moving by Maggie Smith again, and I’m back on the cold showers. The world seems so dark right now, and my place in it a mystery.

My sweet peas were very late going in their pots this year, and only 12 out of 80 have germinated so far. They seem slower than usual. Is it the cold? The compost? Who knows? It’s disappointing, though.

So looking for new growth, I decided to pay close attention to the trees on the Trail because I think the new shoots and buds are so delightful - as lovely as lambs. The clarity of some of my photographs is disappointing as that cruel east wind was fluttering the branches.

The other thing that happened yesterday was that I finally finished my washing line painting. It’s called ‘March wind.’

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Taking myself in hand - again


I’m feeling a bit better, thankfully.

My agenda:

1. Skim, don’t trawl the news.

2. Back on the hot-then-cold-then-blast-of-hot-showers, which I had given up, because cold showers on top of turning off the heating seemed a step too far into ascetism for this soft bunny.

3. Back on the deep breathing.

4. Reading an engrossing book (The Beekeeper of Aleppo.)

5. Practising my sax every day.

6. Writing a to-do list in the morning and crossing things off.

7. A trip away booked…to visit Het in London for yakking, fun and culture. Yippee! 

8. Working on the garden.

9. Painting. Here is the latest, to capture the colours of Colorado in March:

And yes, Pete, I know it is crooked, but I can’t get it straight! Ok, yes, I could if I really tried, but the sun is shining and life is too short, and my readers are forgiving. 

Today’s poem:


The woman who wrote from Phoenix

after my reading there

to tell me they were still talking about it

just wrote again to tell me that they had stopped.

Billy Collins

Sunday, April 17, 2022

What I wanted

Yesterday morning was odd. Or rather... I was odd.

Dave had set off early in the car on an errand while I was still asleep: usually I like that kind of morning. I like to wake up to a quiet house with no need to speak. I feel free and my world seems spacious. And I usually like Saturdays because I feel as though I can do what I like and not answer to the Puritan who sits on my shoulder throughout the week, asking me if I am using my time profitably.

But yesterday Saturday felt wrong. Something felt missing, and I thought it might be family. Any family - Zoe and co, Isaac and co, the family member who declines to be named and the lovely Jaine. 

I read the news online and felt worse (surprise, surprise.)

I had breakfast in bed and stayed there reading a book. That was no help: it was about the first world war. 

I thought: This isn't what Saturday mornings are like. Saturday mornings in Boulder consist of the girls getting into bed with me, showing me funny cat videos, inviting me into their Minecraft worlds, and Isaac cooking breakfast while Wendy has a lie in. He cooks bacon on Saturdays when I'm there as a treat for me. Then we take the girls to their gym class and we watch them through the viewing window while doing the New York Times crossword together. That is my Saturday morning in Boulder, and that's what I wanted.

Cece and me playing Guess Who

In the early afternoon when I knew Isaac would be waking up, I texted him and said I missed them all and I missed their Saturday morning.

He texted back: it is a strange one this morning. both kids are at sleepovers elsewhere. first time ever.

So it turns out that what I was yearning for wasn't happening anyway. 

I tried to paint outside but the light was too bright and I wasn't in the mood. Eventually I gave myself a talking to, and did some gardening (the first time this year.) I sowed my cosmos and some more sweet peas. Dave had got back and we dug up an annoying and ungainly buddleia and planted something else to replace it. 

When we first moved here the garden was a solace and I sometimes spent all day working in it. It was good to be making a difference to something when I couldn't make a difference to other things in my life, and I couldn't change the awfulness out there in the world. Yesterday that awfulness got me down, but later, walking above the village before tea, I sat down in a field and looked at the view and counted my blessings. 

I'm feeling so bad about the news out there that I'm going to take a week off from it. I shall focus on enjoying tiny moments of happiness and being thankful.   

That book I bought in Boulder called Good Poems for Hard Times is excellent. On the back cover it says the book is “a buoy for people in ordinary trouble.” I think that's me.

Here is a poem I read in it yesterday that I enjoyed:

The Future

On the afternoon talk shows of America
the guests have suffered life's sorrows
long enough. All they require now
is the opportunity for closure,
to put the whole thing behind them
and get on with their lives. That their lives,
in fact, are getting on with them even
as they announce their requirement
is written on the faces of the younger ones
wrinkling their brows, and the skin
of their elders collecting just under their
set chins. It's not easy to escape the past,
but who wouldn't want to live in a future
where the worst has already happened
and Americans can finally relax after daring
to demand a different way? For the rest of us,
the future, barring variations, turns out
to be not so different from the present
where we have always lived—the same
struggle of wishes and losses, and hope,
that old lieutenant, picking us up
every so often to dust us off and adjust
our helmets. Adjustment, for that matter,
may be the one lesson hope has to give,
serving us best when we begin to find
what we didn't know we wanted in what
the future brings. Nobody would have asked
for the ice storm that takes down trees
and knocks the power out, leaving nothing
but two buckets of snow melting
on the wood stove and candlelight so weak,
the old man sitting at the kitchen table
can hardly see to play cards. Yet how else
but by the old woman's laughter
when he mistakes a jack for a queen
would he look at her face in the half-light as if
for the first time while the kitchen around them
and the very cards he holds in his hands
disappear? In the deep moment of his looking
and her looking back, there is no future,
only right now, all, anyway, each one of us
has ever had, and all the two of them,
sitting together in the dark among the cracked
notes of the snow thawing beside them
on the stove, right now will ever need.

Wesley McNair

"The Future" by Wesley McNair, from Talking in the Dark. © David R. Godine, 1998.

Friday, April 15, 2022


Why, when the world is such a beautiful place...


do some people behave in such an ugly fashion? 

And here, the actions of the current UK government have been shameful in so many ways, with this the latest nastiness:


Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.

Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine

in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,

a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways

I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least

fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative

estimate, though I keep this from my children.

For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.

For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,

sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world

is at least half terrible, and for every kind

stranger, there is one who would break you,

though I keep this from my children. I am trying

to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,

walking you through a real shithole, chirps on

about good bones: This place could be beautiful,

right? You could make this place beautiful.


Maggie Smith

 "Good Bones" from Waxwing.  Copyright © 2016 by Maggie Smith.  


Yesterday I wrote to my MP to tell her that in times of war it is vital to have a leader who is honourable, truthful and trustworthy, and that Johnson is patently not that person.

Today I am writing to protest against his cruel new policy to dump people fleeing from war and persecution in a country well known for its repressive regime. They come here to seek asylum and we should deal with their asylum claims here. 

I am trying to remain hopeful that eventually compassion, justice and honesty will prevail in public discourse.  

And to remember that it is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.

I've been on my bike on the Trail, I've been to a local art exhibition, and now I'm going to garden and paint. 

I hope you have a lovely Easter weekend.

Monday, April 11, 2022

There’s no place like home

 Dave has always called Hepworth Towers “the ugliest house in the village,” and perhaps it was when we bought it. Now it’s not. But in any case, I don’t care what the house looks like from the outside because if I’m inside or outside I’m looking at our fabulous views of the countryside, not the house. Just look at the header. And these:

It’s always hard to say goodbye to our Colorado family, but Hepworth Towers is a fabulous place to come home to. And coming home this time, at the beginning of spring, has verged on a spiritual experience. This is me, lapping up the greenness after the dried grass in Colorado:

But there have been changes.

First up, the tower of yoghurt cartons in the kitchen window: they have to go.

Then there is the toothpaste tube hanging on the bathroom window reveal.

I’ve always chided Dave about his messy habits with toothpaste and this is his new solution. He says he is using far less toothpaste as a result, and if he’d made this adjustment 50 years ago he’d have saved enough money to buy another guitar. Yes Dave.

The other difference is the temperature of the house. It’s bracing. The lane we live on has no gas supply and we depend on oil-fired central heating, plus a log burning stove. The price of our last batch of oil was 61 pence per litre but two weeks ago the price was 128 ppl. So we didn’t stock up and the heating is off. So although we don’t have ice on the inside of our windows, like we did when I was little, its …well…bracing, as I said. But I am getting used to it. I lived without central heating for the first 30 years of my life and I can do it again. We do have plenty of logs thanks to Dave’s hard work scouring the countryside last winter, and we’re fine. 

And the last change? I brought it home with me. These Lego figures were a present from Isaac when we visited the Lego store in Golden with the family:

Dave and me

Wednesday, April 06, 2022


My extra long journey home was not so bad, despite the fact that the baggage handlers at Heathrow broke my faithful 15 year old suitcase, despite the fact that Trainline double booked my seat….my first ever first class seat that I’d booked to avoid the 1 in 13 people in the U.K. who have Covid.


As I was sitting waiting for my train, eating my croque monsieur at the St Pancras Pain Quotidien, I texted my friend Het a photo and said “Guess where I am” and she did and asked what time my train was, and then the conversation went dead. I finished my lunch and walked up to the seat by the ticket barrier and 5 minutes later somebody walked up and poked me on the knee. It was Het! She’d left her flat and hopped on the tube and come to spend twenty minutes with me.

We’ve known each other for over 50 years, and usually get together 2 or 3 times a year but since the pandemic arrived two years ago we’ve had to make do with FaceTime, and it was such a treat to see her and have a hug. It brightened my long journey home.

Today I feel gruesome with jetlag and I’m lying on the sofa reading poems.

This is the one I’d like to share with you today:

Saturday, April 02, 2022


 Isaac is in the basement having a workout. Wendy and Cece are at a clothes swap.  Lux has cycled to meet friends to decorate the yard of another friend with welcome back signs, as this friend has just returned from three months travel with her family.

I am sitting in the sunshine resolving not to take the same route to Boulder as I’ve taken the last 12 trips. BA have cancelled my connecting flight again! For some reason they don’t consider the afternoon flight from Heathrow to Manchester worth saving. Pah!  I’ll fly with someone else next time on a different route. They’ve lost me, the rats.

I now have my first ever E rail ticket in my thus far empty Apple wallet, plus my first ever digital Railcard. As I waded through all the forms and passwords and checkboxes online, I said to Isaac (sitting next to me, providing back up confidence) “This is good for my brain cells, isn’t it?

It’s fabulously sunny here this Saturday lunchtime, and there are three hyacinths flowering in Wendy‘s garden. But the grass is not yet green and although there are buds on the trees, I’ve seen no leaves. It’ll be a wrench to leave the family tomorrow, but I’ll be pleased to see Dave, my daffodils, green fields and lambs, blackthorn blossom and hawthorn leaves.

Yesterday Wendy and I cycled into town to an art exhibition. It was thought-provoking, and I saw something I want to try when I get home.

Afterwards we went to the Tea House where Wendy treated me to sparkling wine PLUS a hibiscus refresher – another new thing for me and my brain cells – but also for my enjoyment.