Saturday, September 30, 2023

Addicted to colour

I bought a new winter raincoat from Seasalt in Bakewell last weekend (with £40 knocked off the price- woo hoo).  Except they didn’t have my size in stock so they said it would come in the post.

It arrived on Wednesday and I tried it on and thought…It fits, and it’s going to be warm and it’s well made and will probably last me 8 years like the last one did. But it did not bring me even the tiniest tingle of joy.

The one I bought 8 years ago that I’ve been wearing ever since, did bring me joy when it was new. It was an impulse buy. I was in John Lewis in Sheffield (oh halcyon days when we still had a John Lewis and a viable high street) buying vacuum cleaner bags and popped upstairs to the clothes department as per usual. 

I was not looking for a raincoat but there was this beautiful Seasalt one in turquoise with a gingham lining and I bought it on the spot. Shock horror! An impulse buy of a major item. But the colour made me feel happy and the purchase turned out to be one of my best, because it’s only in the last couple of years that it’s been looking tired. 

Back to the new coat…  it has been lying on the blanket chest in the bedroom since Wednesday. I have tried it on a couple of times and shown it to Dave but it does not make me feel anything other than...what a sensible purchase it is. It’s a very sludgy, very muted turquoise and I don’t like it.

I think I’m addicted to colour. Het has just bought the same coat in yellow, and as we rarely meet I considered swapping mine for yellow too, but it's not a good idea, because although I love yellow, it doesn't suit my colouring. 

Yes, I am addicted to colour. Remember that painting I showed you of the view from Embleton Beach?

Other people like it but I don’t, even though I think it works. I think I don’t like it because it lacks colour.

This is my latest work in progress: 

A field of oil seed rape with a turquoise gate I once saw in Northumberland.

And that is a whole other problem, because my brother pointed out that the trees would not have summer foliage in May, and he’s right. I had changed the trees because I thought it made a better composition, and now I am wondering if it matters. My colourful nasturtiums painting wasn’t horticulturally accurate. Does this one need to be? Who knows? 

What I do know is that I’m taking the coat back to the shop this morning.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Dave and I had decided to go on one last trip on the open-topped double decker sightseeing bus that runs from Chatsworth and calls in at Hassop Station, and on Monday, sunshine was forecast for the whole day, so we went. This time I had on two jumpers and my puffa jacket. The fresh blustery air and the way the bus rattles along the uneven roads makes it feel like a fairground ride, which is why i find it such fun. 

This time I came away with a wet bum. The plastic seat felt dry when I sat down, but the squishy upholstery had obviously absorbed rain from the last few days, probably through the seams. 

I told the bus driver and he laughed. 

Dave said 'It's a good job veruccas don't transmit through wet bums.'

I have to say it was not pleasant walking home with trousers and pants sopping wet, but still.

Dave has a habit of weighing up the fun or pleasure he gets from anything he’s had to pay for that is not a necessity. When we go on a narrowboat holiday he divides the cost of the rental by seven days and tells me we need to get that much fun out of each day. The bus cost us £4 each and I knew he’d enjoyed the ride so I asked him as we walked away at the end if he’d had £4 worth of fun. 

‘No,’ he said. ‘I don’t think I have.’

‘Really?’  I said. You have to understand that Dave rarely spends money on himself and never goes out for evening entertainment such as a meal out, or a trip to the pub or the cinema and he has no idea how much these things cost. I do, of course. 

‘Well I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘In that case we’ll walk home through the field of maize. That should make it worthwhile for you.’

On our way to the field, a local man cycled past us and I said 'I don’t know why but I find him incredibly irritating.’ This man - with whom I am not personally acquainted - has a cuddly toy fixed to the top of his cycling helmet which makes him look ridiculous, and he always shouts a greeting to me when I’m out on my bike. If I happen to stop for something he tries to engage me in conversation. 

'You shoudn't be irritated,' Dave said. 'He’s only doing his schtick.'

'I know. I feel ashamed.'

We reached the field of maize. Dave loves to walk on this public footpath.

I asked him to explain again why, and he did. He likes the heat gathered in the enclosed space, the foliage brushing in his face, the animal’s eye view of the plants, and the feeling he gets when we burst out into the wide open space at the end. He also likes the way it feels slightly transgressive.

He asked me why I didn’t like it. I explained that I found it fun the first time, but now I just find it annoying. After a week of rain the footpath is slippery squelchy mud, which our hiking boots get caked in, and I find the large leaves flapping in my face incredibly irritating. Also I am claustrophobic. 

'You’re very susceptible to irritation aren't you? Generally speaking?' he said.


I get irritated when I am listening to the radio and painting and have paint all over my hands and the phone rings. I get irritated when I am concentrating on something and Dave waltzes in and starts to tell me about the latest on Trump or Bennu.

'You’re like a storage heater,' he said. 'You soak up irritations and then when you reach a certain point, the next irritant will cause you to explode.'

He was right. I am an irritable person. Like my father.

'I’m sorry,' I said.

'It’s OK, you can’t help it. It’s in your genes.'

Later at home, when we were discussing the shape of the rest of the day he said ‘Does it irritate you when I go out on my bike?’ 

‘No,’ I said. ‘it never, ever irritates me when you’re out on your bike.’

‘Hmm,’ he said.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Battening down the hatches

Suddenly it’s here: autumn. It’s dark at 6 a.m - the time I wake up - and the evenings are closing in fast. The sweet peas are all but finished, the nasturtiums look depleted and sad and my 6 foot high, 6 foot square patch of cosmos still has no white flowers out and only six pink ones. Who knows what went wrong with them this year?

I’m putting my cool linen clothes away and thinking about jumpers, and when the Toast email plopped into my inbox I discovered this and rather liked it. 

Then I saw the price. £225. WHAT??!

I could knit it in my own repurposed and recycled wool for nothing, so I foraged in my two knitting drawers and got out this selection of oddments:

and tried and failed to find a pattern in my collection. So I am making it up. I just have to decide what size needles and how many stitches to begin with. It will be trial and error. I did it with my fair isle hoodie, I can surely do it with a tank top.

The other early preparation for winter has been the purchase of some proper cycling tights. I have been wearing ordinary tracksuit bottoms for years, but now I cycle further than ever before on my wonderful new bike, I decided I could do with some padding…

The next thing I need to do is find and buy a daylight lamp so I can extend my painting hours when the winter really sets in. By December, without a lamp, I won’t be able to paint beyond half past three in the afternoon.

This is my latest effort - it’s a collage of prints of nasturtium leaves and flowers. It was an experiment.

Lastly, I need to fit a new battery to my home made Courage neon sign

because this is me when I wake up to yet another wet winter day:

Saturday, September 16, 2023

The Sibs go South (well, three of them do)

I've been living it up with my sibs, which is why I have not posted.

Usually we meet up and stay together in Wensleydale, which is where our parents used to live, and where my brother Jonty still lives. This time we all went to stay with my sister Jen who lives with her husband in a village near Winchester. Jonty, Kath and I drove down south together, and Pete was over from Belgium.

We call my younger sister 'generous Jen.' She is a wonderful hostess, a terrific cook, and the home she has created is so attractive, tasteful and comfortable it could be a star feature in Country Living. Not for her an indoor workshop calling itself “a study,” or power tools kept in the bedroom because “they would go rusty in the shed.” Not for her rooms with old bits of carpet put down to catch the splashes of paint. Not for her, a jar of house paint brushes on the kitchen window sill because “it's a handy place to keep them.”

We had a wonderful time catching up. 

Pete, Jonty, me and Kath
Jen is on the left - she doesn't like having her photo taken.
Photo by Tony

I am so so lucky to have such a loving family who are also a lot of fun. During the day we were out and about in Winchester and Hampshire - where the trees are stately and lovely and the waterways are crystal clear. 

Feeding the trout

Looking for trout

Admiring yet another beautifully clear chalkstream

And we played Rummikub and hilarious games of no-holds-barred Cheat after tea. (Oops - I should say supper: it was down south.) 

One day we went to to the beach:      

photo by Jen

photo by Jen

And I was delighted when Jonty agreed with me that the water was far too warm to be resisted.

The other sibs call this shot "The Bodyguard"
photo by Jen

photo by Jen

photo by Jen

They are all keen ornithologists, whereas I am not. But I did enjoy seeing some beautifully marked starlings who came to visit at lunchtime. One or two even fed from Jonty's hand.

I'm now back home and dying to get back to painting, but there are a lot of jobs in the garden that need attending to. I've made a list and will try to work through it this week, in between everything else in my diary. 

My siblings are stoical types, like Ma, and it's made me question my blogging habits again.  I may be nearing the end.

P.S.  Almost forgot…Jen even found time to give my hair a trim:


Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Sunshine days

Isn’t it wonderful knowing that there is going to be a whole week of hot sunny weather? 

I am loving it.

Yesterday Dave and I went on an open top double decker bus sightseeing tour, which we hopped onto at Hassop Station. The trip is an hour long and cost us £4 each with our ancient bods’ bus passes. The ticket allows you to hop on and off all day or just stay on for multiple rides.

Our current route to Hassop Station is along the lane and across a field of maize. This is a bona fide public footpath which has become more and more exciting for Dave as the weeks have gone by. We knew it when the corn was up to our ankles.

Dave loves it even when it’s been chucking it down and the path is claggy mud. 🙄

It was very hard to get any decent pictures from the bus as we were rattling along and I didn’t want to drop my phone over the edge. This is what I could manage.

On the bridge in Bakewell

The other big excitement yesterday was discovering that Neighbours is returning this month and will be on the Amazon freeview channel. Plus! There are some archived episodes already on there. Unfortunately, there are far too many weddings on there, and not enough excitement. My favourite so far is Izzy jilting Karl at the altar.

And while I’m talking about telly, I heartily recommend the new stylish drama series Transatlantic on Netflix, which is based on a true story. It’s so good in so many ways, and not least because it shows people caring about refugees and taking risks to help them. Check it out.

Finally, I recommend something on BBC Sounds which you can listen to on catch up if you missed it. Dave and I were in stitches listening on Saturday and I have already listened again and laughd all over again. It’s a wildly zany satirical programme called The Naked News. I particularly enjoyed their send-up of Cruella Braverman. Well I would, wouldn’t I?

Saturday, September 02, 2023

Letter from home

I’ve not found the change to autumn easy.

Remembering last winter and how difficult it was, I don’t look forward to another six months of cold weather and darkness. And my mood has been lowered on a daily basis by reading the news. 

Dave is sympathetic and has realised that his constantly talking politics and raging against the awfulness makes things worse for me, and - unasked - kindly said he will only talk politics in his study and in his shed and not in public areas of the house, so as not to bring me down. Just telling him I’m feeling low has made me feel a bit better. He hasn’t tried to cheer me up. He understands depression. He understands telling people to look on the bright side never helped anyone. What is necessary is to accept someone’s feelings and to sit with them.

It’s not as if I don’t enjoy anything. The best thing about my life at the moment is my new bike. I can’t help feeling happy when I’m cycling along a quiet country lane in the sunshine.

Anyway, I don’t feel too bad today, so that's enough of that.

I’ve already written to my MP and it’s only 8.35. This time it was about the Home Office defying a court order and continuing to put lone refugee children in hotels.

Yesterday I slipped  on a concrete slope in the garden next to Dave's shed and fell on my back. Fortunately I’m good at falling. For some reason I am quite relaxed when I fall, and also I have bones like rocks. My family has many problems but osteoporosis is not one of them. Dave has also slipped down the slope in the past, so last evening when he was baking oatcakes he was plotting, and when I went down in my pyjamas to get my breakfast this morning he was already outside in his boiler suit digging up the garden to change the slope into steps. 

I love this man if you haven’t already guessed.

Here he is with his sunflowers.

The other thing that’s been happening is the plum harvest. You've seen pictures of our plum harvest in previous years, haven’t you? Bucket loads and bucket loads of them. Well this year it's been rather more sedate and I'm thankful. I can enjoy them.

We have self-seeded flowers all over the garden, but my favourite this year is the one that’s popped up in the last couple of weeks by the front doorstep. It’s a camomile. I really love these little daisies, and this plant is going to be perfectly safe here. No one is going to pull it up (this autumn anyway.) The one on the right is a foxglove. That will stay too.

The news on the painting front is that I’ve had a picture in an exhibition in Sheffield

and I tried to paint a seascape for the first time. This is a painting of Dunstanburgh Castle from Embleton beach - one of my favourite places.

I hope you are enjoying the autumn, or the spring to friends in the southern hemisphere.  

While I've been writing this the lovely Jaine (daughter-in-law) has just sent me some new photos of the cute and adorable Ms X, who is now almost 10 months old.