Sunday, July 30, 2023

What we can do

Spending time with children is incredibly cheering.

We had a Refugee Hospitality Day yesterday and it did me so much good watching the children play swingball and make giant bubbles for the first time, and launch enthusiastically into painting trinket boxes in rainbow colours. 

Dave trying out bubble-making before the day

It was such a happy day, with all our visitors, young and old, enjoying Bakewell and responding with smiles to our warm welcome, and everything we had to offer.

When the coach arrived to take them back, it took an age to persuade them that it really was time to go

(I can’t show you photographs of our guests for confidentiality reasons.)

We do our best to make the day special, by providing interesting things to do and to make, and a lovely lunch and afternoon tea. My favourite bit of the preparations before they arrive is picking flowers from the garden and arranging them in posies in jam jars for the lunch tables.

The charity that supports our guests are making a difference by helping them on a day to day basis, in a town 27 miles from Bakewell. We can’t offer that kind of support on account of distance, but we can give them a day in lovely Bakewell, a brief time away from their worries and uncertainty, and away from their often substandard accommodation.

More than that, we can show them despite what the government and the tabloids say, there are many, many people in this country who wish them well and want to welcome them to a country that is safer than the one they left.

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well have to understand,

that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching...

extract from Home by Warsan Shire

If you follow the blue link you can hear the poet Warsan Shire reading the whole poem on Youtube.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023


How do we maintain hope in the future when extreme right wing administrations are springing up all over the world, and some very close to home?

How do we maintain hope when injustice and a lack of compassion is enshrined in law?

How do we maintain hope when companies - both national and multinational - get richer and richer and while the living conditions of ordinary people - even in ‘advanced’ countries - get worse and worse?

How do we maintain hope when even the main "opposition" party wants to continue with austerity policies?

How do we maintain hope when the world is on fire and politicians do NOTHING SIGNIFICANT about the climate emergency?

How will our grandchildren fare in this doomed world?

I feel desperate this morning, sitting here in bed with my second mug of Yorkshire tea while Dave listens to the morning news and does the ironing.

When I feel like this, I often turn to my screenshots. This is a selection I’m picking today to share with you. You’ll have seen one or two of them before.

Monday, July 24, 2023

My week

It has rained here forever. This has led to stretches of ‘wet playtime syndrome’ at Hepworth Towers, but there have been some interesting and/or pleasant happenings none the less. 

One day our new granddaughter’s other grandparents brought her, Ms X, over for the afternoon, and there was much admiration of this gorgeous baby who is now almost 9 months old and oh how I wish I was allowed to show you a picture of her because she looks so very different from all of the other grandchildren. She has a lot of curly brown hair - which she has had since birth - beautiful blue eyes, and a very serious expression a lot of the time, because - as we all agreed (!) 😊- she is so intelligent and is attentive to and absorbing every little thing in her environment and thinking about it. Imagine an intellectual baby drawn by Mabel Lucie Atwell.

One day I spent a lot of time pondering my book Even When They Know You, and wishing I’d made the main male character more likeable. I like everything else about the book, but there was something not entirely convincing about Joe. However, writing a book again, revising a novel,  isn’t a runner…well…I suppose I could rewrite it, making changes, but who is going to want to read it? 

It is, however, possible to paint a picture again. A friend wanted to buy one of my paintings that I wanted to keep, and I thought hmmm…if I painted a second version I might iron out what I saw as the imperfections and then she could have the first one. Halfway through painting the “replica” I got bored, and that convinced me never to paint a picture twice. And then when I’d finished, I liked the first one better - even though the second one was just as good. My friend bought this second one and was very happy.

On Friday I went to Mary’s bench and left her some flowers, as I was away in Anglesey on her birthday.

On Saturday Dave and I went to a wonderful exhibition in the Buxton Dome. It was built in 1880 and measures over 150 feet in diameter. It was then the largest unsupported dome of its type in the world and is still the largest in Europe. 

There was some super art there.

I had a chat with the artist Cath Dunn, who gave me some zoom lessons during lockdown on the basics of acrylics. Here she is talking to Craig Longmuir whose vigorous and vibrant work I see on Instagram. I was astonished at how large his pictures are in real life, especially as they are all painted en plein air. Those three at the back were eight foot tall. He goes out into the Peak District with his paints and brushes in a  rucksack and carries the canvases, which he lays out on the ground. Then he gets stuck in.

Dave and I were particularly smitten with the work of Elizabeth Forrest, a calligrapher and paper maker. We were both very moved by her work. She makes the paper, then paints it, and then does the calligraphy with a brush. She only paints quotes that are meaningful to her. It was uncanny how many of her chosen quotations were on our wavelength. We decided we’d walk round the exhibition and then come back and see if we still wanted to buy one of her works. When we returned, I welled up - again.

We bought the original of this, which was my favourite, 

And a print of this, which Dave has now framed. 

Back home we had to find room to hang them, now my work is all over the house. This meant some rearrangements. And the introduction of a new method - thanks to Dave -  of assisting a person to decide how high to hang a picture. The picture can be raised and lowered by pulling on the string. Dave is incredibly patient with his pathologically indecisive wife.

On Saturday night I watched the film Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan, but had to break off in the middle to check on Google that it was going to end how I hoped it would. I couldn't have coped if it hadn't. Yes, I am that much of a wuss.

Sunday was rounded off with Facetimes with the beautiful granddaughters who I am allowed to show you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Another post in two parts

This post has two parts. In order to get to the second part I had to get the first (brief) part out of my system, but you are at liberty to skip it.

First part

The holiday was a real break from reality, but now I am home I am assaulted daily by the bleak political news, and I am struggling not to sink.

First there is the passing of the illegal immigration bill, which means individuals and families fleeing war and persecution will be treated like criminals. The reprehensible U.K. government could speed up the assessment of asylum claims (which would mean, incidentally, that refugees could work and help solve the labour shortage) but they prefer to incarcerate refugees in detention centres and then deport them.

Three quarters of people whose asylum claims were processed last year were found to have a valid claim, and if you just consider refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea and Sudan, at least 80% have a valid claim.

I am ashamed of this government.

And there is no hope of an improvement when “Labour” wins the election next year. No-one would recognise the current Labour Party as a socialist one that cares about the living conditions and welfare of ordinary people. They look set to keep all the austerity policies of this last despicable administration. I despair. 

Second part

Since getting home I’ve been picking and processing fruit - making jam out of blackcurrants with Dave’s help 

and freezing (and eating) raspberries. As an aside, has anyone got a recipe for raspberry and white chocolate tiffin? I saw some on sale in a cafe in Wales, but I failed to find a recipe on the net yesterday.

We’ve had rain every day at home for a fortnight and the garden looks a mess. Full of colour, but a mess. I am bamboozled as to how to make the crocosmia look more attractive. This picture shows it/them AFTER we tried to tie them back.

Back in the studio I finished this painting 

and although I am half way through one of ferns on a rocky outcrop, I feel in dire need of a break from all kinds of vegetation. This morning in bed I had an idea for an abstract, so if it rains again today that’s what I’ll be working on.

Lastly - books. For a month or so I have not been able to find a novel I want to read*  so I turned to my huge collection of Anne Tyler and chose Ladder of Years to read again. It’s been at least 25 years since I read it and I’m enjoying it immensely. One of the few perks of age-related memory loss is forgetting the plots of novels, though it’s not plot that is the real delight of a Tyler novel. As far as the plot goes, I still retain a sketchy knowledge of where the main character ends up geographically but not how she gets there emotionally. And isn’t that what really matters? 

*all recommendations welcome - no crime, no violence, no child abuse, and no nature writing. Apart from Anne Tyler, my favourite writers are Carol Shields, Helen Dunmore,  and Kent Haruf, but they're all dead now, so I need of some new favourite authors.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Last day, lovely day


Last paddle - photo by Liz

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Each to her own

No scarey cliff walks yesterday but a walk near Cemlyn Bay that delighted us both and tired us out.

Liz is a keen and excitable birdwatcher.

“Is that an egret or a white heron?” 

I like birds up close, and birds I know personally like my blackbird at home, and the tits that nest in our dovecote, and I have a soft spot for the call of curlews, but I’d rather look at flowers, 

potential paintings


and pretty flattened pebbles in the car park, than at birds through binoculars.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Picture postcards

Liz and I are staying in Cemaes, the most northern village in Anglesey (and Wales).

We had a wonderful and exhausting sunny day yesterday ( our first full day here), with a cliff walk, which at times was nerve wracking. After the walk I fell asleep on the beach. 

I’m feeling too lazy/relaxed this morning to write a proper post, but here are some photos…with big thanks to Liz for all of hers.

Cemaes harbour


On the balcony of our Airbnb

A nearby bay

Picnic lunch spot

Trying to decide what these daisies big as moonpennies but with camomile foliage

All photos of me, courtesy of Liz