Wednesday, May 31, 2023

My life right now

Oh gosh, I know it’s some time since I’ve blogged, and I’m sorry.

Because it was sunny and warm last week I spent a lot of time outside on my bike and in the garden and walking along the lane and back taking pictures of the cow parsley. It’s as tall as me on both sides of the lane now and I found out yesterday that some people in the village call it Fairy Lane.

This week things are busy. Dave and I are getting ready for the exhibition at the weekend. There’s been a lot of clearing and cleaning going on, the rearranging of  furniture, the taking of things upstairs out of the way, deciding which pictures to exhibit and where. I have 32 that I’m going to show. Around half are for sale.

I was chatting to my artist brother on Facetime and showing and discussing what I was going to exhibit, and every time I said "I'm not selling that, I love it too much," he laughed and said I should get over it. But I'm not trying to make a living here: I'm just trying to cover my painting and framing costs and raise some money for refugees  (plus maybe a treat: I'd like to own a cashmere hoodie before I die.)

Also I've been tidying up the garden, which has meant getting rid of the most visible weeds. I even swept the patio, because it promises to be sunny and I think people might take coffee and cake out there.

I love the house when it’s clean and tidy, but it takes so much time to get it like that! Imagine how little painting I would get done if I was cleaning every day. I have to make cakes for the weekend, which I do enjoy. I like licking out the bowl at the end.

Before I sign off I need to say that Dave’s been fantastic. I couldn’t do any of this without him.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

The state of play

It’s been a busy time, with preparations for another refugee hospitality day….cooking, preparing craft materials, picking flowers, last minute arrangements, worrying if everything will go OK, etc etc.

The day itself was wonderful for all concerned - visitors and hosts - but I was so exhausted I didn’t get up till 11.30 the following day, and was back in bed for a nap at 2.30. I feel as though I have aged 3 years since last summer. I’ve long thought aging goes in jumps, not gradually. 

But who cares? I love May. I love this long stretch of fine sunny days. I love living at Hepworth Towers. I’m in heaven this week. I think back to the misery of this year’s January and wonder at the extremes of the weather and of my related moods. But I recognise, again, that the rain is what gives us this lush and beautiful countryside. I would not swap Derbyshire for Colorado, no matter how blue the sky is there, no matter how many days of sunshine they get a year (300?), no matter how much I love certain specific inhabitants.

The back garden

Our lane

Our lane

The fields adjoining our lane

I sold two paintings yesterday to an old friend and I’m feeling a bit weird about it. I wasn’t expecting anyone to like the little one she bought so I hadn’t previously thought about how much I liked it. I’m going to have to think very carefully about each and every one of my pictures before my exhibition to make sure I don’t sell something and then regret it. In the meantime I have red dots stuck on the ones she’s bought, as she insisted on leaving them for the exhibition. Gosh, it all feels very real now.

I’m going to go for a bike ride this morning and think it all over. 

The Trail

Fields below our house

Thursday, May 18, 2023

Trouble is busy elsewhere

There were a lot of special moments during my trip to Boulder, but this morning, as I sit in bed and look at the trees, one stands out in my memory…

I was sitting in the sunshine chatting to Cece as she did tricks on the trampoline. After a while she stopped and lay down and said “Sue, will you come and lie with me on the trampoline?”

I took off my sandals and hauled myself up through the netting and we lay and looked at the sky and talked about nothing. The only one of many nothing topics that I can recall is which cloud in the mostly blue sky was dropping the few drops of rain?

Wendy, cooking the tea, saw us through the window and thinking we looked sweet, came to take our picture.

Dave said it rained for two weeks while I was away, and I believe him because the plants in the garden were two feet taller, and the fields looked lush and the fresh green leaves on the trees made me swoon.

Jet lag this time has been bad, but I’ve enjoyed just sitting looking at the trees. This was the view from the bedroom window when I got home last week. It’s even more splendiforous now.

from The Way It Is, New and Selected Poems, William Stafford

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Leaving on a jet plane

I’m sad. I’m sad to be saying goodbye. In a couple of hours Isaac will be driving me to the airport. He’ll be flying off to Vancouver for work, and I’ll be flying home.

It’s not that I won’t be happy to see Dave, the greenness of Derbyshire in May and the cow parsley, but it’s such a wrench to leave my family. I love hanging out with them…the girls getting into bed with me most mornings, sitting down to eat as a family, watching films together, chatting to Wendy, cycling with Isaac.

Some of the things I will miss quite apart from the family are:

the warm sunshine, 

the blue blue skies, 

the cycling on paved trails, 

the fact that you can have a salad for lunch almost anywhere, 

the margaritas,

the coffee machine,

Grey’s Anatomy, to which I am now addicted,

the lack of responsibility,

being away from household worries,

the cats.

I will even miss the large rocks in the new front garden, which the girls have all given names to, and which I have memorised just to prove that I can…

Dwayne the rock Johnson, Depression, Lichen Rocky, Karen, Loathe, Malice, Styx, Patate, Flamboyance, Larry, Laurence and Loppip. And the new water feature Gaia. Cece wanted to give them all ages but I have refused to even listen, let alone memorise those.

The girls holding Gaia, who is now surrounded by comely pebbles

Monday, May 08, 2023

Letter from Colorado

 I’m winding down to saying goodbye to our Colorado family tomorrow, Tuesday.

It’s 9.a.m. MDT (Mountain Daylight Time) and I’m sitting outside in the garden in warm sunshine, thinking back over the weekend.

Saturday morning I watched the girls’ gym class, and then we walked over to Growing Gardens whose mission is “To enrich the lives of our community through urban regenerative agriculture.” They produce and donate food and teach people how to grow food. Lux is keen on gardening and wanted some seedlings. She chose cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumber, rosemary and basil and something else I can’t recall.

In the afternoon we drove up Boulder Canyon into the foothills of the Rockies to the small town of Nederland to have a go on the Carousel of Happiness. 

The girls hadn’t been since Covid and they’re now almost 11 and almost 13 but it doesn’t matter what age you are, once you’re riding on one of the hand carved wooden animals, going round and round and hearing the Wurlitzer, you can’t help smiling. 

Isaac and Wendy

Saturday night is home-movie night and Cece chose Matilda the Musical, which everyone enjoyed. Gosh, it’s dark. The girls can cope with more darkness than I can now. They are currently addicted to an Anime series called Spy Family, which they laugh at. When it’s explained to me, I can laugh at it too. 😊 My choice last Saturday was The Railway Children Return, which was pretty good for a sequel. 

Sunday morning saw Isaac and I cycle up the Canyon for a few miles. He doesn’t have an electric bike but he would have gone farther and faster than me even so. It was a really super ride, and long, and I arrived home invigorated and healthily tired.There are ‘multi-use’ paths all over Boulder and they are mostly paved. It’ll be hard to go back to the rough surface of the Monsal Trail. 

Isaac and Wendy went out on Sunday night and the girls made me Cornish pasties for tea. They’d made small ones before in a cooking class. Their recipe calls them British Welsh Pasties, which baffles me. I am amazed at their enthusiasm for cooking, but this - of course - merely reflects my disenchantment with it. Sitting chatting to them and chipping in with tentative suggestions as they eagerly prepped the vegetables and rolled out the pastry was a joy. The pasties were pretty good too. Actually, sitting here thinking about them is making me want to go and hoover up a chunk of a left-over.

This is the jigsaw that has been on the table for the last week and which Wendy and I just finished yesterday.

I wanted to tell you what I’ve been doing, but I’ve been thinking about aging. I can see it in myself and in Dave, and it’s a conundrum how to deal with it. I mean deal, as in work, rather than ‘cope.’ How forgiving should I be of myself when I forget things, or want to engage in sedentary activities rather than physical? There’s the whole ‘use it or lose it’ thing. And there’s the question of how much savings to keep for the future and how much to spend on enjoyment now, when you don’t know how long your future is going to be. 

And how do some people carry on into their 80s with work inspired by a life passion? Is the answer actually in the question? I listened to a long interview with the film maker Ken Loach this morning, who is 86 and still going strong making films about social issues. But there’s Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, David Hockney and David Attenborough too. Do they all have afternoon naps? Do they suffer short term memory loss? Do other people have to be patient with them? Or do they have super duper genes that protect them from common aging frailties?

How is your aging going?

I know one thing. We shouldn’t delay joy. 

And now I’m going out in the electric bike one last time. 😊


Friday, May 05, 2023

Let them eat cake

Do you remember Noggin the Nog?

Sometimes the girls and I watch an ancient episode on YouTube. We love it’s quaintness, and the girls fall about laughing at the primitive animation. I love the dark tone of the narration.

In the lands of the north, where the dark rocks stand guard against the cold sea, in the dark night that is very long, the men of the north land sit by the great log fires and they tell a tale…they tell of…”

      But listen to this bit…

“…Now every morning as the sun rose, King Knut [the father of Noggin the Nog]  put on his crown and took his morning walk, up the steep path beside his castle to the rock above the town, the rock which was known as Knut’s seat. There he sat. And as the sun rose behind the mountains to melt away the black clouds of night, King Knut would begin to worry. He would look down on the harbour and the little wooden houses and he would worry about his people. And what they would eat in winter, and whether their roofs leaked, and whether they had warm socks this cold weather.”

King Knut

Is the new king of England concerned that people are in full time work and still have to go to food banks? That people can’t afford to heat their houses in cold weather? That people have to live in dank properties in disrepair because of the lack of affordable housing? That they have to wait 9 hours for an ambulance?

That this overblown and ridiculous coronation is completely at odds with the state of the country? 

If he wants such a ceremony he should be paying for it himself.

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Cycling options

 I used to ride Wendy‘s old bike when I came to Boulder, 

but Lux has grown, and claimed it for herself, which makes perfect sense. Lucky for me, Isaac has VERY kindly rented me an electric bike for my stay here. 

I rode up to school with Lux this morning and when I got home, Isaac asked me if I saw the bear.


“I’ve just had a text saying a bear has been spotted up near school.”

Hmm. That’s Boulder for you.

I’ve only tried an electric bike once before - I hired it from Hassop Station - and I thought it was rather clunky. This one is much heavier than my ordinary bike at home, but its great! It has meant I’ve been able to do longer and more interesting rides than I’ve done before. I can go as far as I want to explore, knowing that if I get tired on the way home, I can rely on the motor to help me along. 

I rode up the Boulder Creek Canyon the other day - something I’ve never attempted before - and it was lovely.

I’ve always thought that if I had an electric bike I’d get lazy and rely on the motor and I’d lose my (already dwindling) fitness. Dave has tried to persuade me otherwise, saying “It won’t move if you don’t pedal!” but I’ve been stubborn. Here I have no choice but to ride an electric bike and I’m liking it.

Because the Derbyshire Peak District is so damn hilly, my rides at home are severely restricted as I just don’t have the ‘go’ any more to tackle them. I’ve been saying “When I’m 75 I’ll get an electric bike” but now I’m thinking “Why wait?”

I have to admit that pride has also been a barrier. I haven’t wanted people to think I can’t cycle if I don’t have the assistance of an electric bike. Even this week, when passing walkers on the trail I have often switched off the motor, until I’ve been out of earshot. 🙄 

My brother said on FaceTime this morning “Good grief! You’re 75  (73 actually) - some people don’t cycle anything at your age!” 

So…when I get home I might dip into my savings and splurge.

Here are some photos from my ride this morning. The sky really is this blue. It’s astonishing.