Friday, March 31, 2023

Goodbye March 2023

It's been such a difficult month and it's only now that it's almost over that I can talk about it.

I was due to travel to Heathrow on February 28th to fly to Colorado the next day. But on the morning of travel I was taken ill and it would have been impossible for me to travel anywhere, so I cancelled the trip.

When I was feeling better I claimed on my travel insurance for the cancelled trip. I don't know if it was because I was making a slow recovery or if my brain is disintegrating with age but coping with the admin for that was taxing, not least getting a signed declaration from my GP.

In the meantime I was waiting for an appointment to have something else checked at the hospital. Uncertainty takes up a lot of space in my brain and by the time my appointment came round a fortnight later I was beyond tense. But it was good news - all clear - so the minute I got home from the hospital I rang the insurance, expecting them to say fine, all systems go, but they said I needed to get an assurance from my GP that I was fit to travel in April. I lost my rag. 

"What? It took me two weeks of hassle and cost me £40 to get the declaration for the claim and you want me to do the same again?"

"No, no. A verbal assurance that you are fit to travel is all we need."

"But I am telling you I am fit to travel!"  Did they think I would want to travel to the USA alone if I wasn't well?

"We need to have word from your doctor. If she tells you and you tell us, that will be fine."

"Do you know how hard it is to get hold of a doctor?"  I really lost it; and then I apologised and rang off.

Surprisingly and fortunately an email and a text secured the assurance (bless my GP) so I am now re-insured at the same price as the transatlantic ticket, on top of the original premium. Being old and having been ill in the last three months is bloody expensive. 

You might ask "Why the rush? Wait a while and pay a bit less." But the thing is, not only am I getting older so premiums will continue to get more expensive, but also the girls are growing up fast, and I don't want to miss any more precious time before they sail off into adolescence.

All of the above set against the background of the UK government's dark and cruel oppression of people in need has brought me down this last month and I have been an out-and-out misery guts. 

Also I have been unable to paint. I have begun two paintings and discarded both because they weren't working, and I had no inspiration for anything else. 

But yesterday I took a train to the shining city of Sheffield 

and had a coffee and catch up with a friend and we went to see several exhibitions at the Graves gallery. It was inspiring and invigorating and I bought a helpful book about painting 

which I would recommend to any other beginner. I've already devoured half of it and I can't wait to get started on a new idea I have.

After the gallery I went to see the new and well-reviewed rom-com Rye Lane - which was upbeat and refreshing.

Meanwhile in March, Dave has been patient and forbearing through all my misery and hissy fits, and he’s continued to make wooden clocks. He has completed six and given them away, and although he has no homes for any more, he can't stop making them, because he loves the process and he is in love with the wood he was given. 

Yesterday he used the last piece, and this morning he is talking about dismantling a trolley he made for the shed because of the "delicious" cherry it's made of.

Once he has started doing something he enjoys he can't stop. We've been here before with tables and with signs saying Carpe Diem.

At breakfast we were talking about whether it was helpful to have a diagnosis of Asperger's when you're an adult. 

"It helped you, didn't it?" I said.

"No. It explained why my life was shit, but it didn't change my behaviour. Hence the clocks."

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Details, snapshots, trivia

There are artists I follow on Instagram, whose work I admire, but who are fixated on certain subjects and I get bored with looking at their work. I was thinking about this when half an hour ago I took yet another photo of my breakfast tray on the patchwork quilt I've just mended and which is now on the bed for the spring.

I am constantly fascinated by the way the light falls on the folds of the fabric and the patterns created. And that's what led me to paint my pandemic quilt again - this time with colours from my imagination.

It's large. I  took it to be framed last week and spent twenty minutes dithering over what frame to have and whether to save money by not having a mount. I chose as best I could and left the shop but then stopped on the way home to ring them and say "No. Stop. I've changed my mind. Please don't frame it. I'll put something else in the exhibition."

In terms of painting, choosing a frame is my Achilles heel. It's not just about the cost, it's about the colour, the size and the mount. Arrghh.

Other details of my life right now...

I told you about the 5 year diary I got for Christmas which has a question to be answered each day, didn't I?

These are the last two entries:


These are just some of the tulips that my lovely daughter gave me for Mother's Day:

I took the following photos last week. It was a cold grey day. Our daffodils had still not come out because they'd been flattened by the deep snow the previous week. I had cycled down to the bottom of the Trail and was sitting on a bench, longing for spring and looking at the sky, trying to decide if there was enough blue sky to make a sailor a pair of trousers.

 A woman walked by and I told her what I was doing. Yes, I am that person now - an utterly shameless old woman who accosts strangers with odd remarks. She played along. She was old as well.

Not enough blue sky...

Five minutes later, enough blue sky!

Today the sun is out and so are the daffs and my washing is blowing in a gutsy (sic) March wind.

And yesterday a dear woman on the refugee hospitality committee eagerly took some of my jobs from me - jobs I had been worrying about how to do if I manage to fit in a Colorado trip in late April. 

Things feel better this week than last, and I'm thankful.

Sunday, March 19, 2023


'It's an odd feeling, farewell. There is such envy in it. Men go off to be tested, for courage. And if we're tested at all, it's for patience, for doing without, for how well we can endure loneliness.'       (from Out of Africa)

I am not a patient person. At present I'm being tested because I had to cancel my trip to see my Colorado family on account of illness, and now there is a delay because of health checks and insurance. 

Dave is still making wooden clocks - at present a cat clock for Cece. He made me one to hang on the bedroom wall with Courage inscribed in it.

I now think I need another one that says 'Patience.'

I'm not just impatient for travel, I'm impatient for sunshine, because although spring keeps peeping out from behind the greyness of winter, it's not here yet. 

I am also fighting apathy and/or tiredness, but that's enough about me. 

Let's move onto something inspiring...

Did you watch the Channel 4 series called The Piano? If not, I recommend it unreservedly: you can watch it on catch-up. The basic idea was to film members of the public playing those pianos in railway stations and find the four best ones to be in a concert at the Royal Festival Hall. The participants did not know it was a competition until after they'd played. They were playing for the joy of it.

One of the four chosen was a 13 year old girl called Lucy who is blind and autistic and has learning difficulties. She played sublimely and I can't stop watching videos of her playing various pieces of music - classical and jazz.

Here is her performance in the final concert. Watch and wonder and enjoy.

I am not just in awe of Lucy's talent, I am in awe of her teacher, and his patience. This video shows how he taught her. 

What a gift he has given to Lucy - enabling her to express herself and find joy in music - and what a gift he has given to the world through his gentle nurturing and teaching. 


Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Letters from home

"Are you OK this morning?" Dave just said.

"I’m fine, apart from the news." 

I think I’m finally better now. It’s taken two weeks. And the old patchwork quilt is better too. It took me a full week to mend, doing about three hours a day. Phew. And although The Repair Shop might have inspired me to fix it, I can’t say I did a Repair Shop quality job. I was so sick of it by the end I was what my mother would have called ‘cobbling it together.’ 

What else has been happening here?

Cece won an award for the banner she designed, and that is hanging up on the main shopping street in Boulder. Go Cece!

I did a crappy abstract painting called “Disappointment” one day, and painted over it the next. Now I’ve started a challenging painting based on this photo that Isaac took of me in November 2021. 

Get a load of those grasses!

Since I wrote my last post I have had several interchanges with my MP, who may not agree with me about anything at all, but who does respond to my letters with missives that are well thought out, if chilling.

I came across a tweet from Mr Sunak on Sunday which appalled me


and I wrote to my MP to say - this can’t be right can it? It doesn’t mean that someone escaping from modern slavery in a cannabis farm or a brothel and going to the police will be deported, does it? Please tell me I have got the wrong end of the stick. I got a reply the next day confirming the worst. 

We must speak out about this cruel policy which breaches our commitment to the 1951 United Nations convention. The Bill passed its second reading in the Commons last night. How can people vote for it and not be ashamed?

It is now the case that unless you are a Ukrainian or a very lucky Afghan, you cannot come to the U.K. as a refugee. And if you are an Afghan arriving by small boat, no chance. You will be deported, along with Syrians, and all the other desperate people who are fleeing war and persecution, the majority of whom would have a successful claim to asylum if the new law did not mean all bets are cancelled, all succour denied.

There are no safe legal routes. 

As the tattered postcard on our fridge says:

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Please write to your MP

Dear Friends

Please write to your MP as soon as you can about the cruel, inhumane and unhelpful new law the UK government is proposing in order to deter desperate people fleeing war and persecution from coming to these unfriendly shores via small boat.

There are no safe routes these people can access which is why they come this way. It is not illegal to travel via unconventional routes to claim asylum. 

As soon as I have posted this I am writing to my MP to protest and to ask the government to deal with these desperate people compassionately and constructively.

If you don't know what to say, you might take some ideas from Dave's letter. He wrote this to our MP yesterday:

You will know from our correspondence that I am not a fan of your government, which seems to me to be the worst in my lifetime: the least competent and the most venal and corrupt. Indeed it is hard to understand why refugees and asylum seekers wish to flee to the UK where everything is broken.

Nevertheless, it feels important to tell you that the approach to refugees and asylum seekers is lacking in principle and repugnant in practice.

The mantra of ‘Stop the boats’ is a cheap pitch to the nastiest populist sentiments, and unhelpful.

The approach headed by the Home Secretary is, by her own admission, likely to infringe the UK’s legal obligations. Is it not extraordinary that she can put forward legislation which has even the smallest chance of being illegal, and in breach of our international obligations?

The problem, for me, is that the proposals are inhumane, and lacking in basic human decency. If the people arriving here in small boats were giraffes, bonobos, dogs or stray cats, there would be a public outcry and we would have a national campaign for their comfort and safety. As it is, we have an approach which has already been complicit in, and teleologically responsible for, the deaths of so many in the Channel. These people on small boats are people, people like us but less fortunate.

For too long the UK turned a blind eye to the plight of Jews fleeing oppression before the second world war. That looks like a national stain now, as the current approach to people seeking refuge in the UK will seem in the future.

The traffic of small boats could be reduced by making legal routes here more numerous and more accessible. And if the Home Office was more effective, the long delays in processing incomers’ applications could be usefully expedited.

Your government is successfully turning the UK into a hostile and xenophobic environment, and pursuing policies which are simply shameful.

If only the government could do something – anything – which appeared neither crass nor callous. It is an increasingly desperate hope.

Dave Hepworth

This is my letter, just written:

I am writing to object to your inhumane new law which plans to detain and deport genuine refugees who arrive here by small boat.

These people are forced to use small boats because there are insufficient safe routes to the UK.

There are other ways to stop small boats.

One way would be to set up a processing centre in Calais to assess whether people are likely to be eligible for asylum BEFORE they attempt the dangerous journey. And then provide a safe route for those likely to succeed.

The figures show that Afghans make up the largest group by nationality. These people were unable to leave their country because of the failures of the British government schemes. Other countries represented are Syria, Eritrea, and Sudan. Home Office figures show that 98% of applications for asylum from these three groups are granted.

Your new law refuses to recognise these facts.

Not only do we need more safe routes, the Home Office needs better organisation and funding so that asylum applications can be dealt with both fairly and efficiently so that refugee status can be granted swiftly where it is deserved, and these people can start to contribute to our economy while they are trying to settle here. Do we not have a labour shortage in this country?

If the asylum process were fit for purpose you wouldn’t be having to pay to house refugees in hotels; and Ms Braverman wouldn’t need to inflame populist racist and ill informed views with her rhetoric. The latter causes ugly and threatening behaviour towards refugees from people who are suffering themselves through food and fuel poverty.

I object to your cruel and shameful policies.

The UK was instrumental in setting up the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention. We should stick by our honourable history and lead the world in compassion and justice, not in cruelty and law-breaking.

Yours sincerely

Sue Hepworth


Monday, March 06, 2023


Antibiotics are obviously wonderful but I do wish they would come without the side effects. My combination of pills this last week has given me the usual nausea, but also aching muscles, sleeplessness and when I do get to sleep - nightmares. 

On Saturday night I had three. One was of that unpleasant man Clarkson heading a new craze for skateboarding on downhill pavements, facing backwards, and counting any knocked down pedestrians as inconsequential collateral.

Then I woke up and read the news. Real life contains sufficient nightmares -  Rishi Sunak, planning to detain and deport all those desperate people arriving by small boat; the settler violence against Palestinians in Huwara, which I notice that neither the "Labour Party" nor Keir Starmer has yet condemned.

On another tack...I realised on Friday night that every time a friend or family member had asked me how I was, I had moaned about how bad I felt  (as well as saying that Dave has been better than Florence Nightingale in the caring stakes.) So on Saturday morning, the first time I showered and came downstairs for the day, I decided I would try to improve my stoicism rating. Now I just say to everyone "I am getting stronger everyday, thank you." It's not so hard.  

In any case, I have no right to complain. I don't live in a war or earthquake zone, I have a good GP, a caring partner, a warm sitting room and enough to eat, when there are plenty of people even in this country with none of those.

Since Saturday morning I've been sitting by the fire in the daytime mending my second favourite patchwork quilt. It looked like this when it was new: a classic Shaker design. 

I think it's about 18 years old. Whatever, a lot of the white pieces round the edges are badly worn because I used an ancient family counterpane for them. I thought mending it would be a nice convalescent activity, sitting by the fire, and that it would probably take a couple of days to complete. But the more I unpick to replace, the more worn pieces I see, and it's turned into a big project. I can't deny that I've been inspired by The Repair Shop. But also by Dave, who has been making clocks with wooden faces out of discarded new worktop pieces for the three children. He sees them as ‘legacy items.’

Yes, that is his stained glass on the windowsill behind him.

Thinking of ‘legacy items’ made me realise that I am fond of this patchwork, because it’s pretty even though it's faded, and I couldn't bear to leave it in such a poor condition when I die that no-one in the family - or even a charity shop - would want it and it would be thrown away. 

I’ll be continuing with the work on it today. I’m hoping to be well enough for a walk by Friday. 😊 

How am I doing in the stoicism stakes?

Thursday, March 02, 2023

My news

The good news is that 45 of my sweet pea seeds have germinated and sprouted.

The lovely news is that I’ve sold this painting. It was in an exhibition in Sheffield.

The bad news is that I was taken ill on the day of my flight to Colorado and had to cancel the trip. I am still ill. And pretty fed up.  Although it makes me laugh that I’ve sold a painting!