Thursday, January 26, 2023


I’ve had a love hate relationship with London over the years. If someone I love lives there and I can visit them, I love the place: I have a companion and I feel safe. Being accompanied overcomes my country mouse nerves and any loneliness and alienation the place might engender. There was a time around the turn of the century when both Zoë and Isaac lived there and I would visit quite often. They would take me to the new ‘in’ places and indulge me. It was huge fun.

I was writing pieces for the Times, and my visits made guest appearances in some of my articles, such as this one:

...For several years my eldest two children have lived in London, thus providing me with comfortable bolt-holes from which they could take me out to sample the delights of young urban chic entertainment.

How else would I - a country bumpkin who has led a sheltered life - have the chance to sample tequila slammers in an ex-engineering-workshop bar in Hoxton, with décor so uncompromisingly industrial I expected the ladies loos to consist of a row of galvanised buckets? My last exciting foray into their lives led to cocktails in a private bar with a secret Soho location, which, when I entered the blacked out frontage, made me feel as if I was time travelling back to the prohibition...

Then they both moved out - one to Sheffield and one to the USA - and my visits to London became less frequent. They centred on protest demonstrations, such as this one against the bombing of Gaza in 2014 

and on major exhibitions, such as the wonderful Hockney one in 2012, which I went to with my siblings. The poster still hangs on the bedroom wall.

Then I began to visit Het. She invited me to stay when I was grieving for Mary and it was so lovely it’s since been hard to keep away. I’ve had so many restorative and stimulating visits since 2016 that I feel as though her spare bedroom is my personal fiefdom. 

We talk and look at art, and eat nice things, occasionally have a glass of bubbly, and talk. We’ve been to the theatre and the ballet several times. One visit inspired this painting:

My last visit was last week. I went on blue Monday for two days and it broke the spell of black January. We saw the Cezanne exhibition and I tried to get to grips with why/how he revolutionised the genre of still life. Comments on the gallery wall like this one below did not help. Ahem.

Admittedly Rilke was a poet, but really…Why do art exhibition curators put such unintelligible crap on the walls?

We also visited the Courtauld and discovered what a nasty man Wyndham Lewis was. He was short of a canvas one time so he painted over the most acclaimed painting done by an ex-lover. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, it was to paint a portrait of his latest squeeze. 

The last thing Het and I did was walk the 5 miles from her flat to Tate Britain. It was a bright cold day and was invigorating walking along the Thames. We passed parliament and I was delighted to see the veteran anti-Brexit protester Steve Bray, on a traffic island with his banners and his ghetto blaster. It was a highlight of my trip.

Steve Bray used to protest on College Green but had an injunction taken out against him. You have to admire his pluck, determination and inventiveness.

Steve Bray (wearing a hat) is holding the placard to the right of the picture

Now Het is leaving London to live in Cornwall, and I am back home, working on my own still life. 

I am so invigorated by my trip I have even begun the first step in tackling something that has been on my to-do list for three winters:

They're downloaded and printed and now 'all' I have to do is fill them in and register them.

Watch this space.


Anonymous said...

Glad to read that you're beginning to chase away the winter blues. London sounded like a lot of fun & you're even up to tackling horrible admin tasks! So happy that you're back blogging! Sally x

marmee said...

Oh sue, started commenting on your Courage post and then something intervened! Yes, such a luminous painting! So lovely to read about your London visit. In a previous life I was lucky enough to visit London a few times each year and it made me happy to think I went to Tate Britain just as you guys did! I so so loved walking hither and thither in London. Yes , those "admin" tasks you are doing is certainly a must do. Been talking to my children . Here one's family can over ride one's wishes. And back to your previous post again: it is a struggle to know and care about stuff without damaging oneself. And belatedly...welcome back

Sue Hepworth said...

Hello Sally and Marmee. Thank you so much for your warm welcome back. xx

Shafia said...

I was born in London and have always lived here (Camden to be more precise). I love travelling around the city with my friend from Cornwall, we go to similar places as you and Het and for a short period of time I get to feel like a tourist and I love it too. I'm glad you had a good trip and had fun here.

Shafia x

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue, glad you are blogging again. So much better to have a base in or near London, my aunt used to live very near Holland Park station in sheltered flats for retired nannies with a guest room where I used to stay. Every year Austin would play in the proms and we would go down to listen - I love the Albert Hall. But now there is no-longer any reason to go, so its lovely to visit through your eyes.

Looking forward to hearing about trips to see Het in her new home in the future - hope the move goes smoothly for you Het.

I have begun a yoghurt pot collection in an attempt to rival Dave’s

We have snowdrops here other than which the garden is fairly dull - how goes it there?

Love to all


Sue Hepworth said...

Hello Shafia, lovely to hear from you and to hear about your trips round the city with your friend.

Hi Jenetta, we have nothing out in the garden except a pink shrub that this morning at 6 a.m, I just cannot remember the name of!
Viburnum! But there are two clumps of snowdrops tucked under the wall along the lane that are out - the same ones that make an appearance in DAYS ARE WHERE WE LIVE.
Good luck with your yoghurt collection. The girls still use ours though they are 10 and 12, and I take them down to Bakewell for refugee hospitality days too. I have started recycling new ones as we can’t cope with any more, and I can’t persuade anyone else to take them. I think it’s a question of storage but also lack of imagination…

rowantree said...

Pleased that you're back, Sue, to brighten up drab February days especially with the unbelievable state of affairs here in the UK.

Also useful to see what an Enduring Power of Attorney form looks like, plus the cost of registration.

I like your painting of berries!

Glad too that you made it to London. I find it such a pleasure and am lucky enough to have a brother-in-law and son who live there.

Sue Hepworth said...

Thank you, Rowantree for your warm welcome.
I’m glad you like the painting. I’m thinking of having some cards printed with the design.