Saturday, July 30, 2022

A weird day

I was out of the house early this morning, to buy extra supplies for the Colorado family, arriving tomorrow. I am not a morning person and when I got home again at 9.30 I was bushed, and needed a cuppa before I started the cleaning. 

Dave had kindly washed the kitchen, hall, porch and bathroom floors while I was out, so what should I clean now? The fridge. That done I wondered what next. I am not a natural cleaner, and that is putting it mildly.  

I checked my messages and found one from faithful blog reader Sally. She asked if I'd watched the very last episode of Neighbours

You all know I am a big Neighbours fan. I started watching it in 1986 with Isaac when he was a teenager, and I've watched it ever since, apart from a couple of  breaks - the first when the village went digital and we didn't and I had nothing to watch it on. Then last year I had a short break because the plotlines had become circular and they were circling around a couple of characters I couldn't stand. 

But I have loved Neighbours: yes, it was tosh, but it was harmless tosh. And it has been a surefire way for me to relax when I've been mentally exhausted. I would watch the same episode twice when I was stressed. It even featured in the two Plotting books, Plotting for Beginners and Plotting for Grown-ups. 

"Neighbours is fab, and I love all the stupid plotlines – the amnesia, disputed paternity, blackmail, on-off love affairs, business wars, mistaken identities, manipulative ex-girlfriends, violent ex-boyfriends, people stuck down mine shafts, plane crashes that kill off half the street. And the characters – Paul Robinson, Karl Kennedy, Lucas, Jade – they’re like family."       (from Plotting for Grown-ups)

So after cleaning the fridge I watched half of the final episode, and it was mostly dire. The other half I'll save for tomorrow. I'm casting around for something to watch in half hour slots as a replacement and It is likely to be Grace and Frankie, despite the fact that I've already watched it twice.

After that I made brownies, which always cheers me up. And then I had a peanut butter and gooseberry jam sandwich with a glass of wine for lunch. I needed the wine. I'm driving Dave up the wall because he says - and for once he is right about my emotional state - that I am an unhappy mix of excitement and anxiety about the family arriving tomorrow.   Have I made sufficient preparations? Will they get here safely?  How long will it take to pick up their baggage? Will their cases arrive before the end of the week? And if all that is not enough I read in the paper today that car-hire firms are letting customers down because they’re over subscribed. Aaargghh.

So what now? I'm going to paint while listening to the sound track from Out of Africa, a sure fire stress reliever. (It's raining and it's a summer Saturday, so a ride up the Trail on my bike is not a winner.)

I took this picture at the end of the Trail, a place where I sit down and relish the sky and the quiet, the grasses and the flowers.


Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Feeling pleased

Well, the country is still going down the plughole, and the sweet peas are a wash out this year, but there are so many other things to be pleased about. For one, the patch of wild flowers we sowed beside the sweet peas, 

and Dave’s sunflowers doing well behind. 

Also we have another successful Bakewell Refugee Hospitality Day under our belts. Last Saturday was terrific and everyone enjoyed the day - the lunch, the activities, the welcome. 

These are the posies I picked to put on the lunch tables. Note the dearth of sweet peas. 

Our visitors think Bakewell is gorgeous and they’re right. The riverside walk with the humongous trout, the back street mill leat, the surrounding hills, the historic buildings.

And lastly, I’m pleased about my paintings that I collected from the framer on Monday. I look at the still life and the hedgerow painting and think ‘Did I really paint those?’

The dancers

I painted this one above after going to the ballet at the Royal Opera House in London with Het. 

My bedside table, February 2015

Evening light


Dave is coming to Buxton this morning to see the washing line painting, March Wind, in the gallery. The exhibition it’s in,The Derbyshire Open Exhibition, won the visual arts award in the Buxton Festival Fringe events. You can see it at the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. 

The last and best thing to be pleased about is the family arriving from Colorado on Sunday, airlines permitting.


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Heat and respite

What a relief. I've just had to close the window because the breeze was too chilly for me in my sleeveless nightie. 

How have you found the heat? 

I hated it.

Dave loved it. He was outside most of the day - early on in the sunshine on his 50km bike ride. Later, sitting in the shade with his feet in a plastic box of cold water, reading Lytton Strachey's Cardinal Manning. Dave comes alive in the heat. (What am I saying? He's the most alive person I know and only shrinks into the background in social situations.)  

I, meanwhile, got up early to drive a friend to hospital, then went for an early ride on the Trail and then came back to the north end of the sitting room (south window shut and curtains closed) to paint for the rest of the day.

This is what I was working on and at teatime thought I'd finished

but now I've posted it on Instagram I realise that the left hand side foreground tree leaves need to be slightly darker. 

Dave kept coming in and saying 'Come outside and experience it!' and I kept retorting 'I know what it's like! Hateful! And shut the door! I'm trying to keep out the heat!' Yes, I do mean those four exclamation marks.

Today Dave went out early and is out all morning so I've been lying in bed late, relishing the quiet, and gripped by this:

It's about death and dying. It's written by a palliative care consultant and is educative, challenging and utterly fascinating. It's such a relief to find a book I don't want to chuck in after 28 pages.

Have you heard of this reading rule suggested by someone called Nancy Pearl?

When you are 51 years of age or older, subtract your age from 100, and the resulting number (which, of course, gets smaller every year) is the number of pages you should read before you can guiltlessly give up on a book. As the saying goes, "Age has its privileges."

Now I'm going to pick some sweet peas, then make a coffee and I'm going back to bed with my book. There have to be some perks of being ancient, and freedom to do this is one of them. Friday and Saturday will be full on: Friday cooking for the refugee day and finding flowers that have not wilted to decorate the lunch tables, and Saturday the day itself. 

Enjoy the breeze. I am.

Monday, July 18, 2022


I made sixteen jars of blackcurrant jam eight days ago and yesterday I made another eighteen. I only have two blackcurrant bushes now - having given away three - and yet there is loads more fruit to pick. 

I was thinking this month that I had moved past the stage of being excited about picking fruit from my own bushes, that it had become a chore, and jam making another chore. But I came home from a trip out yesterday worried about something and the sorting and washing of the fruit and the making of the jam assumed a meditative, calming quality and I felt a whole lot better by the end of the afternoon.

Today I picked my first bunch of sweet peas and they are sitting on my desk as I write this, smelling heavenly. I will never get tired of growing sweet peas.

It is seven years since Mary died and last week was her birthday and for the first time ever I felt cross with her that she wasn't here to talk to. Grief follows no pattern.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Het rides to the rescue - again

First, let’s get the crap out of the way - ALL the candidates for Tory leadership would keep the obscene programme which trafficks desperate and distressed  refugees and asylum seekers to Rwanda. And all of them are complicit in the corruption of Johnson's "government." 

Nuff said.

So….there I was on Monday, sitting on the train to London in my FFP2 mask, on my way to Winchester to stay with my sister Jen, when my brother (who was also going) rang up to say that he’d spent the evening with his daughter the night before and she had just rung to say that her friend - with whom she had spent the evening before that - had tested positive for Covid. He thought he should warn me. Jen didn’t mind if we still went to stay, but how did I feel about it? 

Now you might think I'd be as likely to catch Covid from the person sitting next to me on the train as I would from my brother, but said person was wearing a mask and told me she had tested negative that morning. Also, the incubation period for the current strain of Covid is 2-3 days, not 5 as before. And I'd be with him for 4 days.

I have two important events in the next 10 days - one of which is a Refugee Hospitality Day that I absolutely cannot miss, so getting Covid right now would be massively inconvenient. Therefore I told my brother (who lives in Belgium but was already in London) to go, and I'd turn round when I got to St Pancras and catch a train home. I had already arranged to meet Het for a coffee at Waterloo, and that would rescue the day.

But it was better than that because Het invited me to stay for the night, and I did. 

Toasting the demise of Johnson

Plus she was happy to cut my hair for me, which my sister had agreed to do.

Ready for my haircut

What a friend.

We talked and talked and talked, and the next day on the way to the train saw the wild flowers blooming in the grounds of the Tower of London. They looked fabulous.

But I cycled up the Trail yesterday and loved the wild flowers there just as much. I am so so lucky to live here.

Also, I plan to see all of my sibs in October in Wensleydale. Let's hope Covid doesn't have other plans.

Friday, July 08, 2022

Tuesday, July 05, 2022

Where the blog is heading

Why do I have the same dreams time after time? Is it because I watch so many repeats on Netflix?

Last night I dreamed AGAIN that I was late for school. I am 72 for Pete’s sake. Perhaps it’s my aging brain. I don’t remember ever being late for school, and if you asked my friends and family, they’d say I was a punctual person, so what’s the dream about?

And why did I not mention that the photo that inspired the painting in my last post was taken one dark morning a few days after Mary died? I don’t usually have flowers on my bedside table, but I bought those freesias and genista to cheer myself up. (Blog post here.)

The fact I didn’t mention this shows how my blogging powers have diminished: it’s sad, but it’s real. What should I expect when I tell people I’m not a writer now but a painter?

Last week I got an email from The Society of Authors (which is a kind of writers’ union you’re allowed to join when you’ve had a book published.)  They run courses and events and send out a journal four times a year, and they give you advice on legal matters, copyright, contracts with agents and other heavy duty stuff. The fee this year for my membership category is £83, and I’m dithering about whether to renew it.  If I’m not writing there seems little point. The only reason for staying in is if a legal issue comes up with one of my books, or if I am finally discovered and someone wants to be my agent, or if Hollywood comes knocking. We all know how likely the last two are.

The only membership benefit relevant to me these days is a 10% deduction on the price of books bought from Waterstones, and I go there perhaps twice a year. Yes, there’s a certain frisson from waving the card around in a bookshop quite apart from the 10%, but £83 is a big price to pay for said frisson. After all, £83 will go towards the tank of heating oil we’re currently not buying because of the cost.

So. What’s what on this summer Tuesday which has a cloudy sky and an annoying breeze that interferes with outdoor table tennis?

For one thing the moonpennies are going from strength to strength.

And the meadow cranesbill is out on the Trail and looking lovely

but this year's sweet peas are pathetic and I will not shame them by showing you a photo.

The fabulous grandsons have finished their exams and left school. I am not allowed to say anything else, more's the pity.

The fabulous granddaughters are well

and they're coming over with Isaac and Wendy at the end of the month. Yay!

The girls are currently engaged on an art project to fix to their back garden fence:

Dave is still busy making three Adirondack chairs like these

for a friend. 

The family member who declines to be named and the lovely Jaine are moving house, and we have Peanut to stay for the duration

The house needs cleaning.

I am painting.

We have a new microwave and yesterday I tried making jam in it because the booklet says it’s possible. Unfortunately I got distracted and I think you can imagine what happened. But I shall try again. Also yesterday I made a roast vegetable lasagne to freeze for the next refugee hospitality day.

But what about the blog?

Well, you’ll have noticed that politics is rarely mentioned. If I started on politics these days when would I stop? We live in a rogue state that breaks international law. Our government is corrupt and sleazy. It’s led by a man with no morals. Enough. Most of you live here and you know.

So what about the blog? 

I used to be devoted to a certain blog, and then the blogger turned her focus away from everyday life and turned to her art. And I didn’t like her art. Besides which, I wasn’t reading the blog for her art I was reading it for her insights into life. I don’t want to go down that same road on my blog and it feels as though it’s heading that way.

I am proud of the blog. It’s been going a long time, and of all my books, I think the collection of the blog’s best posts in DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE is probably my favourite. So I don't want the blog to peter out in a string of less-than-entertaining posts. 

Therefore, if you don't hear from me for a while, you'll know the reason why. But I have been here so many times before that I fully expect to be week or next month or next season.

Thank you, dear friends, for visiting. 

p.s. I also forgot to tell you that when I recently teased Dave about his awful baggy stripey shorts he said snootily "I am an inexplicably unregarded sartorial cynosure."  


Saturday, July 02, 2022

This and that

What can I tell you? That I woke up from a lovely dream this week in which Alec Baldwin was feeding me the most delicious warm chocolate pudding? I know why I dreamed about him. It was because the night before I’d been dithering over whether to watch It’s Complicated for the third time. It’s not a top notch film but he and Meryl Streep are so entertaining in it. 

Telly is wonderful. It amuses you when you have the most boring job in the world to complete, such as topping and tailing gooseberries.

And again when you’re waiting for the jam to reach setting point.

Dave wasn’t there to amuse me as he normally is during jam making as he’s in the middle of a big carpentry project. The wood is cluttering up our bay window because his shed is so full of things he can’t bear to throw away. Hey ho.

It’s been an up and down week due to a/ family stuff, and b/ how my current painting has been progressing. And the week's up-and-downness does not even take into account our "government" and the further disastrous lurch to the right of the USA Supreme Court. You know the story.

But let's focus on Hepworth Towers for now.

On Monday night I was so excited about my painting I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning to continue work on it. 

On Wednesday night I thought it was so dreadful and so difficult that I was considering stopping work and starting all over again.

Here’s one of those Spot the Difference puzzles for you…it's in order of progression through the week...

It’s almost done now - at least to my satisfaction. I’ve the title to write on the white book’s spine and one or two other details to add, and then I’m calling it a day. It’s not perfect, but I am quite pleased with it. And Dave says it’s one of his favourites, which is nice.

This is me last Saturday at the exhibition preview in the Buxton Museum and Art Gallery also feeling pretty pleased with myself, because my March Wind painting was on the wall amongst work by so many talented professional artists. 

Photo by Cath Dunn