Monday, February 27, 2023

Trying to remember

When I woke up this morning and went to find Dave in his study/indoor workshop, he was sitting at his computer reading about the poet Edwin Brock. He said he'd looked for our Penguin Modern Poets collection of Brock and two other poets and he couldn't find it.

"We must have lost it in the fire," he said. 

But I thought we still had it and padded downstairs to the poetry shelf. But he was right. It was missing. I had thought it was one of the half a dozen badly scorched books he'd miraculously recovered from the ashes, like his precious Ezra Pound 

that he used to carry around with him at uni along with his T.S.Eliot collection. 

"But it wasn't Brock I was really looking for," he said. "It was another depressive poet but I can't remember his name. I'm sure he was in the same anthology."

I myself have been struggling to find my copy of Olive Kitteridge. I think I must have lent it to a friend but can't remember who or when. I'm cross I don't remember because I want to read it again - now!

For a long time after the fire I couldn't lend my books to anyone. Then I began, but only to good friends and only books I could bear to let out of the house. There are six books that never leave. Olive Kitteridge is in my second tier of books i.e. books I expect to read several times but am not so attached to I never lend them out.

It's all silly of course. I could buy other copies of ones that go missing. But it's not rational - it's emotional.

As far as memory goes (and it definitely does go) I've read three pieces by neuroscientists lately saying that alcohol is a neurotoxin and the last piece said you should give up drinking by the time you're 70. 

For some odd reason I went off wine after Covid in December and so I've been making the most iof this and trying to consciously keep it at bay ever since. I have had perhaps one glass of wine a week since Christmas (instead one a night as before) and I've only occasionally missed it. I've not given up. I'm just going to be more abstemious in future, because I need all the brain cells I can manage to keep.

The best poem about forgetfulness is one by Billy Collins. Even people who don't like poetry like this poem. I don't have permission to share it on the blog.

But you can read it here.

And you can listen to the poet reading it here.

I've just finished a painting and tidied my studio because tomorrow I'm off to Colorado. Yay!

I can't wait to see my two Boulder girls.

Here's C with the banner she designed

And here's L off to her first school dance

I'll see you when I see you.

Monday, February 20, 2023


The spring is definitely here, and as of yesterday the sweet peas are on the windowsill

but the bad news keeps on coming, and because of the light mornings my battery powered DIY neon sign 

doesn't show up any more. I'm going to order a proper one online, but in the meantime I'm taking another tack.

I get all of my news from reading the Guardian online in the morning, apart from stuff about science and astrophysics, which comes from Dave - enthusiastically and sometimes overwhelmingly delivered. This morning I'm starting a week without news. 

It's 8.16 and I've done Wordle, Quordle and Wordiply, rearranged some paintings on the walls, spread a throw over my studio sofa because Dave keeps sitting on it in his grubby boilersuit when he comes in from the shed to tell me something he heard on the radio, and now I'm writing to you. See how much can be done when you ditch the news?

I've also put back on the bedside table this book:

Which today offered me this gem:

"Changing one thing can change everything. Let more light into your life by letting more light into this day. Then repeat, repeat, repeat. Keep moving."

I have finally managed to reach a place of equanimity with this painting, by changing the quilt and the background:

Acrylic on canvas board 
35 x 45 cm

It isn't perfect in my eyes, but only one of my paintings thus far is precisely how I envisioned it. 

I was pleased with this one last week, 

Acrylic on canvas board
66 x 40 cm

but now I think it needs more work. That's OK. The joy of acrylics is you can go on and on.

So now I'm going to do some cleaning, then make lemon curd, then paint. 

Here's wishing you a happy week.


Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Everyday life

I spent yesterday afternoon with my new baby granddaughter and the lovely Jaine. Ms X is 3 months old this week, and spending time with her is like a little holiday. 

I played with her, danced with her, talked to her, sang to her, fed her, burped her and took her for a walk in the pram in the bright spring sunshine. When I am with her my worries float away, the world and its horrors recede. All I am aware of is her. Her name for me is 'Gran' whereas the other four grandchildren know me as 'Sue.' I feel like a Gran now: when Tate was born, 18 plus years ago, I didn't. I discussed this different name thing with Lux and Cece and they said it was fine.

Now I know what fun it is to be a Gran, and how much easier it is than being a mother. And I also know how quickly time passes and how every moment of their development should be savoured. Babies are everyday miracles: I see that now. 

I am not allowed to share her picture on here so here's me as a toddler.

Meanwhile, back at Hepworth Towers, Dave's energy circuits have been on overdrive. He's always got twice as much get up and go as me, but lately it's as if someone has wound him up tight. He never stops...whether it's whittling about the noisy freezer at 6 a.m. and wanting me to drag myself out of bed to come and listen to it while I'm still drinking my first Yorkshire tea (WHAT?) or vacuuming behind the radiators at 8 in the evening. What's going on? 

I've just cut his hair so maybe that will calm him down a bit. (Remember Samson?)

As for me, I've been wrestling with this painting of my breakfast tray.


I'm happy with the tray and everything on it, though the sweet peas need more attention. But I am very dissatisfied with the quilt beyond the tray and I'm not sure about the background. It needs more work. It doesn't help that the quilt is my least favourite one - the sunset quilt - 

Oand there is not much joy in painting it. And when a painting gets to this stage and I still don't think it's right, it becomes a chore and a bore. Because of this, I've started another one (of my pandemic quilt that I would marry if I could) and I work on it in-between times to cheer myself up.

This whole riff about painting the quilt is ridiculous - it’s as if I don’t think I have any choice about what to paint under and behind the tray. 🙄

It was 8 years ago yesterday that Mary died, and before I went to visit Ms X I left some flowers on Mary's bench. 

Fortunately this time there was no-one around who wanted to talk to me.

Here's a poem I like that I have shared with you before. I love the last verse.


When my mother died,
one of her honey cakes remained in the freezer.
I couldn’t bear to see it vanish,
so it waited, pardoned,
in its ice cave behind the metal trays
for two more years.

On my forty-first birthday
I chipped it out,
a rectangular resurrection,
hefted the dead weight in my palm.

Before it thawed,
I sawed, with serrated knife,
the thinnest of slices —
Jewish Eucharist.

The amber squares
with their translucent panes of walnuts
tasted — even toasted — of freezer,
of frost,
a raisined delicacy delivered up
from a deli in the underworld.

I yearned to recall life, not death —
the still body in her pink nightgown on the bed,
how I lay in the shallow cradle of the scattered sheets
after they took it away,
inhaling her scent one last time.

I close my eyes, savor a wafer of
sacred cake on my tongue and
try to taste my mother, to discern
the message she baked in these loaves
when she was too ill to eat them:

I love you.
It will end.
Leave something of sweetness
and substance
in the mouth of the world.

Anna Belle Kaufman

(I have been unable to contact the poet for permission to share it.)

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Hold fast

I was going to write a funny post today but I have woken up and read the news and there is so much horror, even without the aftermath of the earthquake, that I am in no mood for humour.

Far right protesters in Liverpool have been terrorising asylum seekers in a hotel.

A Tory 'think tank' has proposed sidestepping the Human Rights Act and the Modern Slavery Act so that men, women and children who arrive in small boats seeking refuge can be stripped of their legal rights and deported. 

With the Home Secretary calling refugees an 'invasion' and the Prime Minister proclaiming that one of his top five priorities is to stop small boats, it's no wonder that hate is in the air. And when you add to it the desperate living conditions of millions of people who cannot afford to heat their houses and cannot afford three meals a day, while it seems to them that refugees are freely given both, I can understand how the violence can happen, even while I deplore it.

We need a government that looks after people and we need a more equal society.

And then there is the war.

I liked this letter in Saturday’s Guardian.

I recently heard a poem that I commend to you, and I urge you to listen to it, as I don't have permission to share it on here. The poet, Fiona Benson, reads her poem Eurofighter Typhoon on Youtube here.  

How can we heal this broken world?

Thursday, February 09, 2023

On display

What do you blog about when the country is falling to pieces, there has been a disastrous earthquake, and Europe is on the brink of war and you can't do anything about any of it? 

You write about the preview evening of the exhibition in Sheffield which contains one of your paintings, and you whittle about clothes... 

What does an artist wear to a preview? I decided on something colourful and stylish, but when I took the only suitable garment from the wardrobe it was slightly creased. I put it on anyway and then foolishly asked Dave's opinion. 

'Do you notice these creases?' I asked him, knowing from the look on his face that he loathed said garment.

'Yes. It looks terrible.'

It is one of my few synthetic bits of clothing, and I should have listened to my inner fashion voice which was telling me the creases were minimal and would drop out from the heat of my body while I was wearing it. 

But instead I listened to Dave who (we have established over many blogging years) knows nothing about clothes. I took the thing off and ironed it. Then I drove to my daughter’s house because she'd kindly agreed to drive me into town and come with me. 

When I got out of the car the tunic was creased much more than before, and these creases were sharp. The hot iron followed by sitting in the car in a heavy winter coat had done for it.

None of it mattered. The gallery was cold and everyone had their coats on and even if this had not been the case, it was such a tiny space and so packed that you couldn't even stand back to look at the paintings, let alone see viewers' clothes, and there was no chance whatsoever of my daughter taking a photo of me standing next to my painting.

It was fun, though. 

Cece (10) is an artist too.

Students at three Boulder schools were asked to create the design for a banner that answered the questions: What do you do to lift your spirits? To keep you connected and happy? What brings you joy?

The best 40 designs would be printed as large scale banners and hung up on Boulder's main shopping street. Cece's was one of those chosen, and I am so, so proud of her.

She loves cats and Japanese food.

And here is the banner hanging on Pearl Street. 

I'll be there in 3 weeks and I can't wait to go and see it with her. 

We'll be wearing warm coats.

Monday, February 06, 2023

A quiet week

It has been a quiet week at Hepworth Towers, apart from the chainsawing and chopping of wood. Dave has been ‘processing’ the tree he chopped down. He’s been stacking it too. Boy he works hard. We now have enough for next winter. Let's just hope they don't ban wood burning stoves before then.

I, meanwhile, have been working on a still life which I am not yet happy to show you. It’s been a tough one to get right and while struggling with a particular section of it I got so fed up I put it in one side, thinking  I’ll paint something fun, something just for me. Why on earth did that thought run through my head? I’m free to paint whatever I like. 

So I began on another painting of my gorgeous pandemic quilt. I’m fascinated by the shapes and shades it makes when it’s rumpled. And of course I’m wild about the colours.

I'll finish the still life in a couple of days.

I've begun 'work' on the forms for lasting power of attorney. The most complicated bit seems to be getting the signatures signed from the right people in the right order, and working out who can be witnesses. Strangely, this latter requirement varies from signature to signature.

One highlight of the week was my new granddaughter smiling at me for the first time. She went on her first demo with her mother, the lovely Jaine. There’s so much to protest about and you can’t start too young. 

With widespread newspaper coverage of Happy Valley this month, and speculation about the final episode, I’ve felt left out. Sally Wainwright is a stonking writer and yet I have not watched HV because I know the drama has been brutal and I can’t do brutal. Then yesterday on FaceTime Isaac mentioned they’d all been watching something on Netflix called Wednesday, so I asked Lux (12) about it but she said “It’s not suitable for you, Sue. It’s too gory.” 

I’ve just looked it up and Wiki says it’s a coming-of-age supernatural comedy horror. Well, if it’s reached the stage when the girls’ TV tastes don’t overlap with mine, I’ll have to wait until I can watch Paw Patrol and Bluey with the new little granddaughter who cannot be named. 

This week I'm going to a preview of an exhibition in Sheffield in which one of my paintings figures. Guess what? It's one of my patchwork quilt.