Tuesday, January 30, 2024

At home

The headline that struck me this morning at 6 am was that 1 in 9 UK children are reported to be disabled, and the politicians are worried. Are they worried in the way that they are worried about people starving and having to turn to food banks, and others dying because of mouldy accommodation? (ie not worried at all). 

They are worried because of the implications for the economy. Wouldn’t you know it?

After reading this I went down for my first cuppa and met Dave in the kitchen who said “I’m going to tell you two bits of exciting scientific news, one of which you’ll be interested in and one which you won’t.”

“Well, don’t tell me the one I won’t be interested in. That’s an Asperger thing.”

“I’ll tell you anyway because you OUGHT to be interested in it.”

Friends, it was about there being signs of past life on Mars. Not dull, after all. And very brief. 👍

The second was about Alzheimer’s and I’d already read it.

I then told Dave about the disabled children statistic and he said, “Well you know what the politicians will do, don’t you?” And before he’d said it I had jumped to the same conclusion. “They’ll do the Rwanda thing-“

“Yes!” I said, interrupting, “they’ll change the definition of disabled.”

“Yes, they’ll do a Humpty Dumpty and say this is true because I say it is true.”

All this before I had had my first restorative swig of Yorkshire Tea.

I am back in bed now and he has gone off for the day to help someone with DIY. I shall enjoy the quiet house and paint. 

Last week was unpleasant. I spent most of the week a tormented combination of angry and sad because of the western world’s insouciance about the genocide in Gaza. I feel the same now but I have my feelings under control so they’re not spilling out and ruining the days.

I got some paintings back from the framer on Friday and was really delighted with one in particular, one I hadn’t been that keen on before…

I like it but not enough to keep. Next time I am exhibiting it will be one I offer for sale. I’m currently trying to loosen up and be more impressionistic and am working on a painting without brushes, but using a palette knife, cotton buds, cocktail sticks and my fingers. It’s fun! And fun is what I need in these dark dark times.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

A spark of hope

Thank God for the chink of light that came from the International Court of Justice yesterday.

Perhaps it’s the beginning of the end of the lies that Israel tells the world and that the UK and US repeat.

So many dead. So many orphaned, homeless, injured, displaced and starving. Perhaps one day in the future there will be justice. There is a spark of hope. It is something.

Friday, January 26, 2024

Thursday, January 25, 2024


Please will you watch the prize-winning poet Fiona Benson read one of her poems on Youtube?

It's here

Tuesday, January 23, 2024


I expect you would prefer to arrive at my blog and find a cheery post about everyday life at Hepworth Towers and the harmless humorous skirmishes between the odd couple who live there. I much prefer writing such posts.

Today I can’t. All I can think about are the children, women and men in Gaza. 

The Israeli army continues to kill innocent civilians, to destroy their homes and to target hospitals. Yesterday I read in the news that they even arrested medics in one hospital and another hospital is under siege. Because of shortages of medical supplies, children are having limbs amputated without anaesthetics.

The majority of people in Gaza are starving, thousands upon thousands are wounded, and 1.9 million (the majority of the population) are displaced. Meanwhile western countries stand by and watch. 

In four days it will be International Holocaust Memorial Day. In years to come will there be a similar day for the obscenity that is happening in Gaza? No, because the western world does not care about Palestinians. If they did, they wouldn’t have supported Israel for years and years while they broke international law and created an apartheid state.

Please stand up for Palestine.

Please follow this link and donate to Medical Aid for Palestinians.


Thursday, January 18, 2024

Losing it

Last year I was given a five year diary/journal with a difference. On each day you are asked a question. Yesterday’s was ‘Do you prefer the sea or the mountains and why?’ The day before, I was asked ‘What do you want more than anything else?’ 

Today the question is ‘What is special about today?’ And my answer is:

‘There is nothing in my diary - which means I can paint. Also I can stay in bed and read as long as I like.’ 

I have had some good things in my diary lately - such as trying out a class of QiGong yesterday, run by a friend, and having breakfast with Liz at Hassop Station last week. There have also been quite a few errands and appointments and duties, not hardships, but not fun either. 

Dave’s brain is wired differently from mine. I relish the idea of an ‘empty’ day when I don’t have to schedule, and I can please myself. He likes to have the day buttoned up, parcelled out, ordered. Certainly he likes it when no one comes and when he can please himself, but he likes to have a plan. And he wants to know what my plan is - phrased as the shape of the day - and at 6.30 in the morning when I have stumbled downstairs for my first mug of Yorkshire Tea, I am in no fit state to be thinking of plans or shapes even if I wanted to.

I know this is a rambling post but there we are. I have an empty day, and possibly an empty mind as well. All that is on my mind right now is that the turquoise in the painting I am working on is far too intense. 

Dave has just come in the bedroom and said I left the (sliding) back door open on the car last night. On Monday he left his wallet in full view in the car when he parked in a hospital car park. On Tuesday I left the hot tap running by mistake. Last week I left the kitchen light on all night, two nights in a row, although I was sure I had switched it off.

We are both losing it.

After two weeks of scattered, ill ordered and desultory hunting for it, accompanied by the wailing and gnashing of teeth, Dave has now completed rigorous crime scene searches of two of our sheds to find the bazooka he uses for splitting logs. The first shed - where he does all his woodwork - is so full and cluttered, it took two days to search. I wish he would let me show you what the inside of this shed looks like. 

What I can show you is the new bazooka he just bought from Chesterfield while I have been cosy in bed.

A bazooka. 
Not an Oscar.

Saturday, January 13, 2024


What should I write on this blog?

That I am glad that there is at least one country - South Africa - that will not only condemn Israel for its genocide but will follow through and take the matter to court?

That I don’t have a steady hand when I am painting? I watch videos of people painting and see their hand half way up the long handle of a brush and marvel at their incredible control. I don’t have that control. I have been working and reworking the kitchen shelves and their contents on my latest painting for a week now. Finally it is getting near to where I want it and I can move on to the next section of the painting. 

That I have just broken off from reading The Group by Mary McCarthy to read the last two thirds of Plotting for Grownups because it makes me laugh* in these dark days of January when evil is everywhere in the news? Whereas I find The Group heavy going and I am only continuing with it because I am trying to read more fiction outside my usual zone of choice.

That the reindeer Dave made are still here

That this week I have been worrying about the deterioration of my brain because I have had such immense difficulty in understanding how split ticketing works on rail fares, and the websites were no help and hard to use. It was driving me bonkers and making me think I was completely past it. I want to visit Het in Cornwall and the ordinary return ticket price was £230. Now, finally, I have found a website (Split my Fare) that was straightforward to use, and I have got a journey that suits me and with as little stress as possible for £136. Phew. 

That I have been reading Keep Moving again because I needed help.

That I went with two friends to see One Life, a new film about Nicholas Winton, one man behind the Czech kindertransport, and it made me weep. Despite saving over 600 children, he carried guilt and regret for years and years because of the children he didn’t save. 

And the next day we received a letter from Lux (13), who was thanking us for giving her money to buy things for refugees on the Choose Love site.

She said this

“…I love doing Choose Love because I read a book about a refugee and how even a little bit of money can make a difference.”

What a lesson. Do what you can, and do not fret about what you cannot do.

I will add it to the advice that Het gave me when I was in pieces over the plight of people in Gaza:  “They want us to care, not to suffer.”

Onward and upward.

*it may be shocking and/or infra dig to admit that I read my Plotting books to cheer myself up, but then if I thought it was funny enough to write it in the first place, why wouldn’t it make me laugh now? After all, I watch repeats of screen comedies because they still make me laugh e.g. Ross in Friends having difficulty with his leather trousers, Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle saying “Thank God my life is in place” and Barbara in The Good Life pouring gravy down her chest saying “Because this is what Barbaras do.”

Tuesday, January 09, 2024

Letter from home

I like Meryl Streep.

I liked her in Out of Africa 

and I liked her in Little Women.

So I hope it’s clear - I like Meryl Streep.

And I love Nora Ephron - you know that.

But I do not like Meryl Streep reading Nora Ephron. I bought the audiobook of Heartburn and the narrator is Ms Streep and I cannot stand her narration! It is so mannered. Maybe she knew Nora, and Nora was mannered when she read her stuff out loud, but I cannot imagine it. I have always imagined the narrator/main  character of Heartburn to be casual, offhand, deadpan. But Meryl Streep reading Heartburn is like those actors who read poetry and put so much of themselves into the reading that the poem and the poet’s voice get lost. It is incredibly annoying. 

So, I have given up on that audiobook with some harrumphing, and have returned to listening to series after series of Ed Reardon’s Week while I paint. I LOVE Ed Reardon, he is outrageous in his mockery of modern culture and successful writers and he is wonderfully grumpy. I love it when he’s writing and someone comes to the door or calls on the phone and he groans. He expresses my inner grumpiness. (If Dave were reading this he’d say what do you mean “inner” grumpiness?)

But Dave has his own problems.

We needed a new cooker and after flirting with the idea of buying one for months and not being able to find what we wanted (a freestanding double electric that was white or cream and had an induction hob, and with a specific height) we bought one in a hurry last week. It is stainless steel with a black hob. 

And one of Dave’s Aspergery quirks is a hatred of black. Is drives him nuts. The first time he was sold a desktop screen with a black frame he hated it so much he made a white cardboard frame to slot over the top to obscure it.

Yesterday he bought an aluminium offcut to fit on top of the hob when it’s not in use, and it’s pretty effective in hiding the black. Thank goodness. An Aspie in full complaint mode is not someone you’d enjoy meeting, let alone live with.

So what else has been happening?

Yesterday I saw a wonderful video of a mouse tidying someone’s shed.

I must find this mouse and set him loose on Dave's shed. Then his study.

And last week we had hundreds of twitchers surrounding Hassop Station and clogging up the Monsal Trail with cameras the size of vacuum cleaners (said twitchers oblivious to the fact that the Trail is a thoroughfare for walkers and cyclists) because a flock of waxwings had decided to visit. It was very exciting…for the birdwatchers. As you know, I am not a birdwatcher. Here is a link to the video in case you are.

Something more exciting for me personally has been entering two of my paintings into the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2024. I shall have to wait a couple of months to find out if they want them. As my only remaining painting ambition is to be exhibited in the RA, my virtual fingers are crossed, and crossed again

In the meantime I am working on one of our kitchen (without the offending hob) and after that I am going to attempt a painting of the view from the bedroom window on a January morning.

Wednesday, January 03, 2024


You know I said I'd been reading the beginnings of my novels?

Well...I got sucked into Zuzu's Petals and I have just finished reading it this morning. I haven't read it for 15 years and I enjoyed it. There is some good writing in there, some important themes, some terrific dialogue and unfortunately there's some imagery that makes me cringe a little and that I would now delete.

Have you ever read it? The paperback cover was so awful that when the publisher emailed it to me, I cried, and immediately emailed back, begging her not to use it. She insisted. Who knows if that is why it did no sell?

This was the hardback cover, which is not dreadful, but neither is it enticing.

Anyway, in case you never read it, I thought I'd share a scene from it that really amused me this morning.

Corinne, the narrator, is visiting her friend, an old lady called Mrs Galway. Mrs Galway insists on calling Corinne Caroline, because she likes the name better and thinks it is more "stately."

On the way back from Broomhill the next day I called in to see Mrs Galway.   She looked fantastic. She had the heating cranked up and a fire lit and she was wearing a scarlet silk blouse with short sleeves, and a flowery skirt in black, yellow and red, and a fancy leather belt.

“You’re all dressed up – you look fab,” I said. “And the room smells lovely. Or is it you? Is it lavender?”

“Thank you for the imprimatur, Caroline.”


“How did you guess?”

“Is it a special day? Blimey, it’s hot in here.” I took off my jacket and then my cardigan and sat down in the corner, away from the fire.

Mrs Galway picked up a duster from the sideboard and started polishing the brass drawer handles. “I am expecting a gentleman caller,” she said. “Someone I know from years ago. I was chatting to the young blood who delivered my computer from Finch Electronics, and-”

“What, Derek Finch? He’s the same age as me!”

“Don’t interrupt. I was chatting to him while he was fannying around with all the plugs and sockets, and I asked him how his father was. I know his father from years ago. Years and years. I used to go dancing with his sister. And Derek said his father’s wife - second wife as was – she’d died, and his dad was lonely. So I said You tell your dad that I’m lonely too. So he-”

Are you lonely?”

“No, but…anyway, he rang me up and I invited him round to tea. And now I’m wishing I hadn’t.” She moved over to the fireplace and started lifting up ornaments and dusting underneath them.

“But why?” I said.

“I’m perfectly happy as I am. Why would I want a man in my life?”

“For a bit of company?”

“But that’s not what he’ll be wanting. There’ll be a lot more on his shopping list, you can be sure.”

“Do you mean sex?”

“I was already including that in the company equation.”

“What then?”

“He’ll want to move in. I can’t be doing with that. A fancy man is all very well, but I’m not wanting another husband.”

“I thought you and Mr Galway had a happy marriage.”

“We did. And there you have it,” she said, turning round to face me. “I don’t want another man in my life mucking up my memories of him. Muddying the clear water of my happy past. And quite apart from that…I can’t be bothered with sharing my house with someone else. I have my friends. And now I’m wired up and on the internet, I’m connected to the world. Why do I want a sad old man in my life?”

“Poor Mr Finch, is all I can say. You’ve raised his hopes, and now you’ll be dashing them again.”

There was a knock at the door.

“Oh my God, he’s here already.”

“Shall I go and answer it for you?”

“Thank you.” She hobbled over to the sideboard and shoved the duster in the top drawer.

It was Viv. Between the front door and Mrs G’s sitting room I filled her in on what was going on.

“Oh, Vivien. Hello.” Mrs G took the duster out again.

“What are you going to do with this man, then?” said Viv.

“I’ll show him my computer. I know. I can show him some on-line dating sites. That’ll keep him quiet. Talking of sites, did I tell you I found one all about graves? It’s this man, and he goes about taking photographs of graves. There’s a nice churchyard in Cornwall – right on the cliffs, it is. I’m thinking of being buried there when I die.”       

“What about your children?” said Viv. “It will be hard for them to visit, if it’s all the way down in the West Country.”

“They never come home from Australia as it is. When I’m dead, they definitely won’t come home, so what’s the difference?”

“What about us?” said Viv. “What about me? I thought I was your adopted daughter. Don’t you think I’d like to come and visit your grave?”

“Don’t be silly,” said Mrs G. She was still pottering round the room with her duster, re-arranging ornaments and tweaking anti-macassars.

“I wasn’t joking about you being my mum,” said Viv. “I told you my childhood was rubbish. No room to play, no space to be boisterous. It was full of old people in various stages of gangrenous decay.”

“Viv!” I said, shocked, but unable to stop myself from laughing.

“A constant stream of ancient relatives came to stay and then died – Auntie Edith, Auntie Kitty, Great Grandma, Auntie Jessie,” she said. “They weren’t like you, Mrs G – hale and hearty. If a relative arrived at the door with a suitcase, you knew that death was just round the corner. If an auntie came and just brought a sponge cake, you had a fighting chance she might leave again. Auntie Kathleen always brought a cake, and she always got out safely. Sometimes she brought a salad in a green plastic box.”

“Stop telling us stories, Vivien. Here, just straighten that curtain, will you? It’s caught on the radiator.”

Viv smoothed the folds of the curtain. “But it’s true,” she said. “It was like a stacking system for the crematorium. Great Grandma used to whittle on about what would happen at the resurrection. She had several missing digits and a wooden leg. She was worried about how she would manage.”

“I take it she hadn’t read her Bible,” said Mrs Galway. “At the resurrection we’re all going to get a new body. Personally, I’d like a new nose. I’ve never liked my nose.”

“Oh she knew about the new body thing, but she saw it as a straight trade rather than new for old.”

 Mrs Galway seemed to have the room to her liking, now. She was sitting in an arm chair next to the fire. “Talking of trade-ins,” she said, “to keep costs down for my funeral, I searched for second-hand coffins on the internet - but I couldn’t find any.”

“Did you Google for them – sorry – you know – use a search engine to-”

“Don’t be so patronising, Caroline – I know perfectly well what Googling is. Yes, I Googled for them, but they’re as rare as… I don’t know what. The only place you can get second-hand ones is in Muslim countries, and that’s because they use the coffins just to carry the body to the grave. Then they take it out to bury it. So the second-hand idea is out of the window. But then I had another idea. If I pay for my funeral now, and I do it with the Co-op, I’ll be able to collect the divi on it and spend it before I go. How about that?"

Monday, January 01, 2024

Beginnings and endings - musings

I’ve just listened to a fascinating edition of Open Book on BBC iPlayer about the beginnings and endings in fiction. Three writers were choosing and discussing their favourites. It made me go and find my own novels and read the beginnings again to  check them out. 

I decided that (strangely) my favourite beginning was that in Zuzu’s Petals, the least popular of my novels. And the weakest beginning, I decided, was the one in Even When They Know You.

I used to find the beginning of a novel the hardest part to write, and if I were writing now I think I’d start part way in and write the beginning later. The writers on the programme agreed that they don’t know what the beginning is until they have written the ending. This was because the beginning must contain the equivalent of the DNA of the novel. 

One of Kurt Vonnegut’s rules of writing was to “Start as close to the end as possible.” I wish I had taken his advice.

Yesterday after Quaker meeting when we were drinking coffee, someone I don’t know well took But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You from the library shelf and said to me “Are you this Sue Hepworth? I didn’t know you were a writer.”

“Yes, it’s me,” I said, “but I’m a painter now.”

The Friend standing next to me said generously “She’s a very good writer. You should read it.”

In the afternoon I had some work to do on my laptop and it was chilly in the bedroom so I carried it down to what used to be my study, now my studio, because the log burning stove was lit in there. 

I cleared the paints to the back of the desk and began to write, and a wave of comfort swept over me. I remembered how much I used to enjoy sitting there in that room, at the desk, facing the wall, writing. And I wished I had been sitting there writing another novel. It was very strange. 

I think perhaps I should write again. Not for public consumption - because this enterprise is so demanding and because there are so many strands to being a novelist which are nothing but hassle. But I could write for personal pleasure, and also for my mental health. I really should write in my journal more often than once a season.

When I first joined Instagram, in order to post my paintings on there, the only thing I had on my profile was ‘A writer becoming a painter.’ Last week I changed it to ‘Painter, based in the UK.’

Dave and I ignore New Year celebrations. We see it as an arbitrary marker. And anyway, when you look at the world, what is there to celebrate?

But I do have a list of things I want to achieve in 2024, and some of them are concerned with our endings…inspired by the bit in the Quaker Advices and Queries that says 

“Approach old age with courage and hope. As far as possible make arrangements for your care in good time so that an undue burden does not fall on others…”

Other aims this coming year are to catch up with old friends, to read more challenging fiction, and to become a better painter.

When I’ve posted this, I’m going to put a new battery in my Courage sign for the darkest days to come - January.

Thank you for sticking with me during this last unhappy period since October 7th. I wish you all contentment and courage for the coming year.

As I am signing off, 13 year old Lux in Colorado just exploded onto my iPad screen with “Happy New Year!” And I responded as required - of course! And we went on exchanging love and ❤️❤️❤️. 

She has put such a big smile on my face. Oh, young people are our hope and our consolation.