Friday, March 29, 2024

Letter from home

Wensleydale has been on my mind this week. I always associate Easter with going  to stay with my parents at their home in Aysgarth. Daffodils, hot cross buns, lambs, blackthorn blossom, sleet, wind, snow, sunshine, rain. I miss Ma and Pa, and I miss the dale. I haven’t been for a couple of years, because the sibs’ reunion was at my sister Jen’s in Winchester last year instead.

And my big sister Kath just texted (we text early from our beds, Kath and me) to say she is up there in Askrigg with 16 of her family. Lucky Kath.

Photo by Rosemary Mann

This is Kath and me on one of our sib trips…ten years ago, early morning, reading the news.

Down here in the bleak Peak we have daffodils, blackthorn blossom

lambs, and all the same weather, and Dave is treating me to breakfast at Hassop station before the Easter tourists arrive. Yum.

I think I finished three paintings yesterday. I say ‘I think’ because they have to sit around for a week or so while I consider them. 

This is one, and since I took the photo I have realised the gull is too low so I need to paint another one higher up. The painting was inspired by a photo I took in Cornwall.

This is another I finished. It’s of Miller’s Dale, below the Monsal Trail. 

The news on the painting front is that the Royal Academy did not choose either of my submissions for the summer exhibition. When I texted Het to tell her I wasn’t picked, she texted back “This year.” Bless her.

I have to admit that it wasn’t exactly a gut punch like it was when I got rejections for my writing. Maybe I’m inured to rejection now, or maybe it’s because my feelings for my paintings are different from my feelings for my writing. I think it might be because I feel like such a beginner with my painting and the summer exhibition was a long shot. And as Het says, there is always next year. Also, it means I don’t have to cart a painting all the way down to London on the train to deliver it for the second round of judging and then go and pick up again later, either after it failed the second round, or didn’t sell at the end of the exhibition. There are so many bright sides and I must learn to see them in every sphere of my life. Listen to me: Mrs Philosophical.

When Dave made the oatcakes and the bread last weekend he made me some hot cross buns as well, because I told him I miss having nice ones, as supermarket ones aren’t up to scratch. I hope you have a lovely weekend, despite the weather, and maybe some treats as well. My other treat is that Zoë and family are coming tomorrow. 

But let us all remember the people of Gaza, and give what we can to help.

Link to the UNICEF Gaza appeal: here

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Today’s letter

 Todays letter to my MP:

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Don’t look away

How to blog about domestic life when the UN Security Council finally calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, and the Israelis ignore it and bomb a house in central Gaza killing yet more children.

There is a piece in the Guardian today asking us to keep looking at Gaza news and to keep reminding ourselves that this is not normal: that the war on Gaza has resulted in the biggest cohort of paediatric amputees in history, and that if nothing changes, Gaza will have the most intense famine since WW2.

It’s natural - and I do it myself - to protect ourselves from crippling sorrow at the plight of people in Gaza by avoiding the news. But let us not, in protecting ourselves from despair, forget to act - to protest to our representatives by writing and marching; to insist they give Israel no more support either moral or in terms of weaponry; to give to aid charities working in Gaza; to boycott Israeli goods as we did South African ones. 

The UN Security Council resolution is international law and Israel are sticking their finger up at everyone else in the world. 

Things are not OK.

Please do what you can. 

UNICEF appeal for GAZA here.

Medical Aid for Palestinians appeal is here

Boycott Divestment Sanctions here.

British Foreign Secretary email address here.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign National Demo on Easter Saturday here.

Friday, March 22, 2024

Make and mend

We got a new oil tank this week. Our old one was 28 years old and they do decay over time, and we didn’t want to be in the position in the next ten years of a sudden catastrophe of losing oil and contaminating the soil, both of which would have been difficult and expensive. So we decided to swap it now: we’re trying to make things easy for ourselves in the future, in view of our advancing age. Ahem.

The plumbing firm would have taken the old tank away as part of the deal, but Dave had one of his bright ideas. He would make it into two logstores. We still have four mountains of logs in the back garden with no home to go (remember the tree he cut down in December?) so we certainly need more storage.

First stage, cut the tank in half:

Second stage, consider a jacuzzi

Third stage, start stacking…

Meanwhile, I have been doing some make do and mending inside the house. I’ve been darning hiking socks which have a habit of wearing through near the heel, and I’ve been mending a jumper I knitted twenty years ago. It’s knitted in Aran wool and has worn well, but the elbow on one side developed a small hole. Have you seen those online videos of magic darning where the craftswoman makes an invisible mend? Those women (the only ones I have seen are women)  are my gods, but I can’t do it. As I still had a ball of wool and the pattern in the drawer from the original knit, I decided to unpick and unravel the sleeve with the hole and re-knit it. It’s almost done. Then I realised that if I swapped the sleeves round, the patch that was wearing thin on the other sleeve would be sited INSIDE the elbow, and wouldn’t wear though. All of this is a work in progress.

Meanwhile the two white cotton sheets I use on the bed have been needing attention. I bought them on Bakewell market for £20 each 20 years ago. They were sold as Egyptian cotton, hotel quality, with a gazillion thread count, and they have been in constant use. They’ve been fantastic but are getting a little thin in the middle while the edges are as thick as ever, and I remembered what my mother and my gran used to do: cut them down the middle and sew the two edges together to make a new middle. I ripped one down the middle and then pressed the hems on the new raw edges and stitched them. 

Then I placed the two selvedge edges together in a flat seam for the middle. It was all going swimmingly, but I did not pin these two edges together, partly because my pins are blunt and the selvedges are thick and partly because I am a lazy sewer. I stitched and stitched and got to the end of the seam and found this.

Hey ho. I am not a skilled seamstress. The fabric had stretched because I had not pinned it. At least I know when I fix the next sheet that pinning is a must. 🙄

Last item in the make-do list is this: my brother’s sweet peas, which he sows in rolled up newspaper. I think they look so much classier than mine do in yoghurt cartons.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024


It was a wise decision not to blog when I was ill. It was a virus - not a matter of life and death, though being the Prima Donna I am I thought at one point I would never get better. So you have been spared MUCH unseemly moaning. Now I am finally well but completely lacking in zip.


Spring finally arrived in the Peak District this week, and I found a self-seeded violet on the front path near the front door,

a sister companion to the self seeded feverfew by the front step, 

that I’m delighted has survived the winter. (The photo was taken last summer.)

And many of the sweet peas have germinated…

So on the domestic front everything is tickety boo, and I hope to be able to get back to my painting.

I don’t have anything else to say today so here’s a film recommendation: Past Lives. It was nominated for an Oscar but didn’t win, I think because it’s a quiet film with no razzamatazz. I watched it with Het in Cornwall and as soon as it had finished I wanted to watch it again. Now it’s on Netflix so I can. Watch it and tell me what you think. I think it’s wonderful. 

Ooh, I just thought you might like to see what the girls are getting up to in Boulder.



Friday, March 08, 2024

Taking a break

 I have been ill since Monday night, and I’m still ill, and so I don’t fret about the blog, I’m going to take a break for a week.

Here is a comforting poem I found recently.

And a photo I took in Cornwall


Monday, March 04, 2024

Letter from home

Long time blog readers - I hope you noticed I did not complain about it being February when it was February. 

Please give me credit, because this morning I woke up from thick heavy dreams and felt low. I am not sure why. I think it’s about the usual - the state of the country, the state of the world, Gaza. 

It also might be to do with feeling old. Sometimes it creeps over me. Or maybe it’s my sinuses? [Later: I became ill that night so obviously the low feelings were physical.]

But the freezing fog we woke up to soon cleared and I realised that the best medicine was to make myself a flask of coffee and go up to my thinking spot above the village.

I used to go there with a flask during lockdown, and the habit has stuck. I always feel better for it. 

Yesterday I got the pots ready to plant my sweet pea seeds, and as some of you have asked me how I grow them I took some photos.

I use a peat-free compost designed specifically to grow seeds in, such as these…

I save loo roll insides throughout the winter and use large yoghurt cartons with holes punched in the bottom. Sweet peas need tall pots.

If I have enough loo rolls I put two in each pot, but I usually don’t have enough. It still works well. The loo rolls separate the roots so when you take the seedlings out if the pots to plant them, the roots don’t get damaged.

Today I’ll put in the seeds (no more than 3 to a pot) and move the trays of pots to the bedroom windowsills.

When a seedling has at least 4 leaves on it I nip off the growing shoot which makes the plants bush out. I keep nipping out the growing tips until I plant them out. They need hardening off before planting. I usually plant them out towards the end of May, but it’s cold in the Peak District. If you’re in warmer climes and the seedlings are big enough it might be OK plant them out sooner. In my experience they are not susceptible to frost.

As an envoi, here’s a poem I came across lately that you might like.

Onward and upward, dear friends. Cheeringly the greeting cards I had printed to sell and raise money for the UNICEF appeal for Gaza are selling so well I’ve had to order some more.

These two have been the most popular