Thursday, November 30, 2023

Memory lane

Sorting out my digital archive and legacy this week has made me revisit my early publications, and remember the excitement of having my first pieces published in The Times. I've also been collecting and filing the digital texts of the books.

I've often dipped into sections of Plotting for Grown-ups when I’ve been feeling low and needed cheering up, but Plotting for Beginners has been closed to me. I think it’s because we rewrote it and edited it so many times, I couldn’t bear to look at it again once it had been published. This week, however, I did pick up the paperback and I’ve been amazed by how much I’ve enjoyed it.

At first I was struck by how unfamiliar my voice was from 20 years ago, and by how slow starting it is. But once it picks up speed and once you also realise and accept that it’s the journey not the destination that counts with this book, it’s fun. I’ve even been laughing out loud at my own jokes, much to Dave’s bemusement. Sometimes, of course, they were Jane’s jokes. 

There are definitely parts I would cut out or pare down if I were writing it now, and there were other bits I had forgotten, and that's weird. 

It’s also been a nostalgic trip. The thread of Sally's dealings with the newspaper she sends her pieces to has taken me back to my first exchanges with the editor of Times Weekend where most of my own pieces appeared. 

There was the time that my piece appeared in the place where Libby Purves usually had her regular column, and I was beyond excited. This is from Sally’s diary but it is exactly how I felt at the time.

Thursday 16th October


Bugger the moon! KayWh has accepted the piece I sent about talking at breakfast.

If I carry on like this I’ll soon have a column. The first stage I suppose is to understudy for a columnist when she’s on her hols. I’ve seen it—they put in a sentence in italics—Janina Lemon is away.

Friday 19th December

Janina Lemon is away. Janina Lemon is away.

I am on page three of the features section—in the place reserved for Janina Lemon. I am impossibly proud. At the end of my piece it says in italics Janina Lemon is away.

I am beside myself with excitement. Thank you KayWh for forwarding my piece, thank you Daphne Vicars for printing it. Thank you Janina Lemon for being away.

Janina Lemon is away!

And when she is invited to the Recorder (The Times in my case) drinks party and has kittens about what she is going to wear, and what she is going to say, etc, this is drawn completely from life. Actually that whole story line is as it happened to me, including the bad news.

But the bits I’ve enjoyed the most are the conversations Sally has with her brother Richard (dialogue straight out of Dave’s mouth); the emails from Sally’s writing buddy Kate (sometimes verbatim from life); and lastly the characterisation of Ian (Jane’s creation) and the development and denouement of Sally’s relationship with him. 

The whole experience has made me feel nostalgic for those exciting days of publishing success. “Dave, Dave! They’ve accepted another piece!”

But now I’m a painter. And here’s me yesterday, standing next to my painting in the current exhibition ‘Winter Warmers’ at The Fronteer Gallery in Sheffield.

The painting is called Landscape Quilt.

At home, I’ve begun a very tricky painting. It’s based on this photo I took of a corner of our garden in September. Please wish me luck…it’s hard!

Monday, November 27, 2023

Been and gone

They’ve been and gone and I am bereft. 

They left early on Friday and I spent the day breathing out and enjoying the peace. On Saturday everything felt bleak. I missed them terribly. It felt like a bereavement, dark and lonely, and made me think how I will feel if Dave dies before me. 

Late November is a strange time to come to England for a holiday…

The river in Bakewell
Photo by Isaac

but it happens to coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday, so we put up with the rain and the mud, and we smile.

Photo by Isaac (cropped by me)

Having said that, there was a little sunshine

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

And there was plenty of indoor fun as per usual - loads of games 

Playing crokinole
Photo by Isaac

and the yoghurt pots had probably their last outing until the girls’ one year old cousin, MsX, is much older 

There was the regular visit to Tabby Teas - the cat cafe in Sheffield.

Photo by Isaac

Photo by Isaac

And joy of joys, I had all the family together for a meal at home for the first time in seven years.

And despite his earlier protestations Dave managed to make a temporary table big enough for us all to sit around. He cut up our table tennis table which we’d earlier agreed needed replacing next spring, and did some magic with a couple of planks and some trestles…

This is him testing it for weight bearing properties.

With a couple of nice tablecloths covering it, it was perfect. 

The family are now ensconced back home in snowbound Colorado

Photo by Isaac

and we have relaunched our normal lives. Having done my Power of Attorney and my living will, I am now sorting out my digital legacy arrangements with Isaac (bless him) via Google docs. I hope you’re impressed.

Meanwhile Dave is busy collecting wood to keep us warm.

Archive photo

P.s. I may leave Twitter (X) in the future, so you won’t see me posting a link to my blog posts. If you google me when you want to check in, you can find a link to the blog and then, once on the blog, if you click on the blog title it will show you the latest post. 

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Clinging on


The  Monsal Trail

Monday, November 13, 2023

New day, new week

I was so upset on Saturday and so cross last evening with the lies of Braverman, that today when I woke up I decided I’d focus on things at home.

Het texted on Saturday

Wise and helpful words.

I took a flask of coffee to my favourite footpath above the village and it made me feel so much better.

So - home. That means shopping and cooking and baking and tidying up because the American family arrive on Thursday for a visit, and next Sunday the whole family - two sons and one daughter, two daughters in law and one son in law, two grandsons and three granddaughters - come for a meal. I have no idea how we are going to seat them all in even our largest room, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Dave rigs up an old door on trestles and throws a blanket and a white tablecloth over it and…he’s just come in and said the room isn’t large enough for that. 

It’s going to be fun!

And MsX will be in her high chair attended by Cece and Lux who are already exploding with excitement to see her at one year old when the last time they saw her she was six days old. 

I’m so lucky.

Photo from the last time the whole family was here, in November 2016

My other favourite footpath

Saturday, November 11, 2023

My baby granddaughter

Yesterday I went to see my youngest granddaughter, Ms X, who will be one year old next week. She is adorable - of course. 

Ms X has learned to play peek a boo. She puts a blanket over her head while we say "Where is MsX? Where is she?" and then she pulls the blanket away and we all say "There she is!" and she looks round at us all and laughs. and then it happens ten times more and how can I help but love her?

One of the wonderful things about babies and toddlers - from the point of view of a grandparent, I emphasise  - is that they demand your constant attention, and because of this, when you're with them, the world and all its troubles seem to float away. 

This was mostly the case yesterday, but once or twice as I looked at her I couldn't help thinking about the innocent babies and children in Gaza and the horrors and losses they are facing minute by minute. 

In August 2014 when the Israelis were on another killing spree in Gaza I couldn't write about anything else on the blog: 

One day I will get my blog back from the crazed, raging, heart-broken woman who has had to turn off the pictures in her tweetstream because she can’t bear to see another mutilated Palestinian child, and who has had to stop listening to BBC Radio 4 news programmes because she cannot take another Israeli spokesperson talking rubbish and being completely unchallenged by the pussyfooting interviewers.

There are several reasons why I am not in London on the protest march today. All of them valid and all of them surmountable and I feel disappointed in myself. One of the reasons was that I had no-one to go with, which is pretty feeble. It didn't stop me in 2014 when the Israelis were bombing Gaza with white phosphorus and flechettes.  

In 2009 when the Israelis were raining hell on Gaza I went on a Sheffield demo with a friend, who just texted me this morning

Bless you, M. I wish I'd known earlier, I'd have gone with you. Bless all of those who are standing up and saying the same. 

After the events of this week, it feels as though the demo is about more than the call for a ceasefire. It is also about challenging the right wing rhetoric that the demo is on some way disrespectful of the Armistice ceremonies. How is a protest for peace disrespectful of the memory of people who died in a war? If there is any violence today it will be 99.5% from right wing mobs whipped up by our appalling Home Secretary Braverman.

Primarily of course the demo is about the wish and actions of the Israeli government to wipe out all Palestinians i.e. genocide.

I feel sick. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2023

One thing on my mind

I keep thinking I could tell you about how Dave decorated the kitchen to freshen it up while I was away and how we hated the new colour and what happened afterwards, but all I can think about is the genocide being committed by the Israeli government and military.

I am glad I am 74, because if I were 13 like my granddaughter Lux, I’d be so traumatised by the news that I wouldn’t want to go on living in a world where this obscenity is allowed to happen, in a world where so many powerful governments support the Israelis in words and in bombs, including my own, including the opposition.

How can it be?

Well, the kitchen may have been repainted, but the notices on the fridge remain the same. 

Maybe I should paint two new copies to freshen up the fridge.

You can tell this is the kitchen of two aging hippies, two aging hippies who have just written to the Labour MP Imran Hussain to thank him for his moral courage and principled stand in resigning from the shadow cabinet because he cannot support Starmer’s position in refusing to call for a ceasefire. 

Monday, November 06, 2023

Please donate

I have taken the information below from the webpage of Medical Aid for Palestinians, a well respected British charity that has been working for years in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Lebanon. 

Please donate to them here.

"On 7 October, Israel launched an extensive aerial bombardment across all areas of Gaza, hitting homes, hospitals, clinics, schools and essential infrastructure. This has resulted in mass casualties and destruction of civilian infrastructure:

  • More than 9,061 killed, including more than 3,760 children
  • More than 22,240 injured, including more than 40% children. More than 2000 remain missing under the rubble. 
  • 70% of the victims are children, women and the elderly 
  • 200,000 + housing units damaged or destroyed, roughly 45% of all homes in Gaza
  • The cumulative number of IDPs since the start of hostilities in Gaza is estimated at over 1.5 million. This figure includes nearly 690,400 sheltering in 149 UNRWA facilities. In recent days, tens of thousands of IDPs, who were previously staying with host families, have relocated into public shelters, seeking food and basic services. This has increased pressure on already overcrowded shelters. The average number of IDPs per UNRWA shelter is nearly four times their intended capacity. 
  • 101 attacks on healthcare, resulting in 16 health workers killed on duty, and 34 health facilities and 24 ambulances impacted

Israel’s military assault follows attacks in cities and towns surrounding Gaza by Palestinian armed groups which killed more than 1,400 Israelis and foreign nationals and injured more than 4,000, as well as the firing of rockets and taking of dozens of hostages into Gaza.

Since 9 October, Israeli authorities have imposed a total siege on Gaza, halting the entry of food, fuel, electricity, medical items and water, with the following effects:

  • ELECTRICITY: Gaza has been under full electricity blackout for more than 21 days. Hospitals are operating at a bare minimum capacity. Telecommunication in Gaza, including cellular lines and internet services were largely restored by the morning of 29 October, after being shut down on the evening of 27 October, as Israel shut down all internet and telecommunications in Gaza for about 36 hours. On November 1st, telecommunications and internet services were cut across Gaza for the second time for 12 hours. The telecommunication and internet services continue to go in and out of service throughout the day.
  • WATER: The operation of water wells and desalination plants in the southern half of Gaza stopped almost completely on 2 November, after their fuel reserves had been exhausted. Only one of three water pipelines supplying water from Israel is active. There is not enough clarity on access of people to water in northern Gaza.
  • FOOD: WFP estimates that current stocks of essential food commodities in Gaza are sufficient for about eight days. However, at the shop level, the available stock is expected to last for five days. Retailers are facing significant challenges when restocking from wholesalers due to widespread destruction and lack of security. Out of the 117 trucks that have entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing since 21 October, at least 57 carried food and three carried nutrition items, including ready-to-eat food such as canned tuna, canned meat, and other non-perishables. All food items are being distributed in UNRWA shelters. With delivery, WFP began the distribution of corned beef and canned tuna at a DES in the Khan Younis Training Center
  • HEALTHCARE: the MoH reported that the main electricity generator of the Indonesian Hospital, in northern Gaza, had ceased to operate due to lack of fuel. This hospital has been receiving hundreds of people injured during the recent hostilities in Jabalia camp. Exposing hundreds of patients with serious injuries to imminent risk of death or lifelong disabilities. Shifa Hospital in Gaza city is reportedly almost out of fuel. Since the start of hostilities, 14 out of 35 hospitals with inpatient capacities are not functioning and 51 (71 per cent) of all primary care facilities across Gaza (72) are not functioning due to damage or lack of fuel.
  • The humanitarian situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate. Amid Israel's indiscriminate bombardment and its siege on food, water, fuel and medical supplies, the healthcare system in Gaza is facing total collapse. According to UN OCHA hospitals are experiencing unprecedented devastation with an overwhelming number of injuries and dire shortages of vital resources.  
    The Turkish Friendship Hospital, Gaza's only dedicated cancer hospital, has ceased functioning today following having been damaged by bombing and now running out of fuel. The Ministry of Health warns that 70 patients are at risk of death as a result.  
  • Gaza's largest hospital, Al Shifa, reports that the lives of 42 premature babies in neonatal intensive care are at critical risk due to fuel shortages. If hospital generators cease to function, the electricity will be cut off from their oxygen devices. 57 kidney dialysis machines are also at risk of stopping, as well as all other oxygen generating machines. Only 12 primary healthcare centres are operating in Gaza. The MoH stated that 1/3 of the hospitals in Gaza have completely ceased to operate.  
    OCHA: For the third consecutive day, the vicinities of two hospitals in Gaza city and northern Gaza have reportedly been bombarded, resulting in damage. All 13 hospitals that are still operational in these areas have received repeated Israeli evacuation orders in recent days. Thousands of patients and medical staff, as well as about 117,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), are staying in these facilities. 

On 13 October, Israel ordered 1.1 million people in northern areas of Gaza to evacuate their homes, despite ongoing bombardment across all areas, and lack of adequate safe shelter for them to move to. Given the historic Palestinian experience of displacement, there are credible fears this may become permanent – amounting to the crime of forcible transfer. 

On 31 October, 59 trucks carrying water, food and medicines entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing with Egypt. This is the largest convoy since delivery of aid resumed on 21 October, bringing the total number of trucks that entered to 217. Entry of fuel, which is desperately needed to operate life-saving equipment, remains banned. Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel, which prior to the hostilities was the main entry point for goods, remains closed. OCHA reported that this is equivalent to about three percent of the daily average volume of commodities entering Gaza prior to the hostilities. 
On November 1, ambulances carrying wounded Palestinians entered Egypt from Gaza through Rafah crossing that opened for first time since October 7, also some foreign nationals or dual passport holders were allowed to leave as well. 

This escalation is spilling over into the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Since 7 October:

  • 132 Palestinians, including 34 children have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers
  • More than 2,281 people have been injured, including at least 168 children. Israel detained around 1,500 Palestinians across the West Bank 
  • The WHO has documented 118 attacks on health care, 99 ambulances and including 67 attacks involving obstruction to delivery of health care; 61 involving physical violence towards health teams; 19 involving detention of health staff and ambulances; and 12 involving militarised search of health assets. 
  • Nearly 1000 people have been displaced 
  • Severely tightened movement restrictions across all areas, obstructing access to healthcare

Medical Aid for Palestinians has a permanent team in Gaza and they were the first to respond  to the current emergency by releasing more than US$570,000 worth of pre-positioned stocks of drugs, medical disposables, and other humanitarian supplies held in our warehouses to hospitals and shelters.  

Working in the most challenging of circumstances, MAP's team have sourced and delivered more than US$1 million of humanitarian supplies from the local market. This includes medicines, disposables and lab reagents for hospitals, and mattresses, blankets and hygiene kits for thousands of people displaced from their homes and sheltering elsewhere. 

Where local stocks are unavailable, we are seeking to procure from outside Gaza to be brought in as soon as crossings open and aid is allowed in safely. We are working with UN and NGO partners to advocate for immediate, unimpeded, and safe access for humanitarian supplies and personnel into Gaza."

Please donate to MAP.

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

My last day

It’s my last day in Boulder. I am due to fly home tonight if Storm Ciaran doesn’t mean the flight is cancelled.

I’ve glanced at the news as I always do to see if anything has changed in Gaza and it hasn’t. The genocide continues. 

And Starmer continues to be the most disappointing figure on the British political scene.

But I am keeping in mind that line from Jack Gilbert’s poem Brief for the Defence - “To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the Devil….We must admit there will be music despite everything.”

So with that thought, let me tell you about Halloween in Boulder. It’s the first time I’ve been here for it and I really liked it.

The house above is on the next street and these ‘decorations’ are not unusual, though possibly bigger than most.

We carved pumpkins on Monday,

Photo by Wendy

Photo by Wendy

And on Tuesday we went trick or treating.

I sent the photo below to Dave and he said “Why didn’t you dress up?” And I said “I did! I was a hippie! Note the bandanna and the long hair and the big dangly earrings and the tie-dyed T shirt and the floaty trousers.” Hey ho.

Photo by Isaac

Wendy is Weird Barbie, Cece is Kenough and Lux is a Care Bear.

It was fun! The householders who answered their doors were so happy to see us, and so generous. The feel of the whole event was old fashioned, wholesome conviviality. It was lovely.

I arrived here to hot sunshine and I leave with snow on the ground. It’s a good job I know how to pack for a trip here now.

Cece hopes my flight is at the very least delayed, so she will see me again after school. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing Dave, and anyway, the family here is booked to come over for a week at Thanksgiving so I will see them in a fortnight. And they will see Dave and the youngest member of the Hepworth family Ms X, who will be one year old this month. 

Goodbye for now.

Ooh, oooh, I forgot to tell you that after we got back from trick or treating, Wendy took Cece to a Halloween party and when they got to the end of the drive in the car there were two baby bear cubs and their mother in the road! 

Photo by Isaac