Tuesday, April 30, 2024


Friday, April 26, 2024


 Apart from Tuesday, which was mega-busy with three things in my diary, I’ve had a wonderfully empty week. Or perhaps that should be “clear week.” 

The older I get (currently 74) the more heavily things to be done weigh on my mind, even if I’m not worrying about them. I mean they take up mental and emotional space in my head, so my almost empty diary this week has felt like a relief. It’s felt spacious. I’ve been able to think more about my painting; I’ve been able to do more painting. And between the showers I’ve been able to dig over the patch of garden I’ve donated to Dave for his sunflowers. 

Dave did the heavy work with a spade and a mattock. And I’ve been clearing the roots that remained of the tall yellow daisies, the golden rod and the crocosmia lucifer that have flowered every summer for possibly 20 years.

He doesn’t realise what a sacrifice this was. He doesn’t know what takes up space in the garden unless it’s actually flowering at the time, and even then he doesn't notice it unless it's pointed out. But since he started growing sunflowers three years ago, it’s become an obsession. Last year he was disappointed because they didn’t do well. 

He was also disappointed because he couldn’t see them from the house. They were positioned in the top right hand corner of the back garden near the shed. There were 20 or so, but my painting shows only two, because it was the shadows on the shed I was interested in, and the blue and the yellow.

So I sacrificed my tall yellow daisies and we will have sunflowers this year instead, as long as it warms up. It is almost May and the temperature outside is 5° C. The leaves on the trees are not out yet, though our silver birch and rowan are leading the way.

I was so desperate to see some new beech leaves this week that I went to find some on a sheltered lane under the edge above the village. 

But our clematis is flowering.

My sweet peas are ready to be put outside to harden off, 

but it would be cruel to do it with the temperatures we’ve got. I can’t remember a colder spring.

I’ve just found this in my copy of KEEP MOVING which ties in nicely.

Forgive the wavy text - it’s a photo of an open page.

Wishing you a warm sunny day full of hope.

Please don’t forget the needs of Gaza.

You can donate to the UNICEF appeal for the children of GAZA here.

You can donate to MEDICAL AID FOR PALESTINIANS  here.

You can donate to MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES  here.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

A warm welcome

I slept badly last night. From 1- 4 am my mind was whirring and relentless. Yesterday was a refugee hospitality day in Bakewell and there is so much preparation beforehand and it’s so busy on the day that my mind takes at least a day to calm down when it’s over.

Our guests usually come from 25 miles away in Derby, where they are based. We pay for their transport and provide activities and a special lunch and afternoon tea. The most important part of the day, though, is a warm welcome.

For the last three weeks I’d been looking at the weather forecast because (for those of you who don’t live in the U.K.) this April has been horribly cold and wet - worse than any spring I can remember. And we need a dry day that is preferably sunny for our guests to really enjoy themselves.

The riverside walk is a highlight, for example…

And we like to play with the children outside 

Demo by Dave last summer

Everything is late coming out this spring, and for the last week I was walking round my garden everyday between the showers hoping to see if the bluebells were out, and checking what else I might pick to put in the posies for the lunch tables. This is a birds’ eye view of the posies in their jam jars (with just two bluebells) placed in a box to take to Bakewell yesterday, which I took with my food contributions to the lunch and all the oddments I’d forgotten to take down to the Meeting House the day before. 

Here they are on the lunch tables

We always provide craft activities for those who are interested. The children generally love to decorate trinket boxes. Look at this beauty painted and bejewelled by a 12 year old boy yesterday.

These days are such happy and friendly days. It feels so good to be able to give a warm, respectful and friendly welcome to people who have experienced so much trauma and hardship and whose current lives are full of uncertainty and anxiety. The government might show them no compassion, but we can. 

Friday, April 19, 2024

Peace in Palestine and Israel

A different future is possible: Quaker organizations share a vision for peace in Palestine and Israel

photo by Jon Krieg, AFSC

For centuries, Quakers have worked for peace. This mission is a practical expression of the nonviolent message of the gospels and the teaching reflected in the many religions around the world: love your neighbor as yourself.

Quakers believe in the inherent worth of every individual and have a history of supporting both Palestinian and Israeli communities in the region. One of our organizations, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), established the first refugee camps in Gaza in 1949 and continues to work in Gaza, the West Bank, and Israel today. Indeed, we have a longstanding presence in what is now Israel and Palestine, dating back to the 1800s. Quakers established the Ramallah Friends Schools over 150 years ago, one of the first institutions to educate Palestinian women. Palestinian Quakers continue to worship at the historic Friends Meeting House in Ramallah.

With these deep roots, we speak with firsthand knowledge. In a context where entrenched inequality, violence, and injustice have persisted for decades, we anticipated that desperation would eventually boil over - and sadly, it has.

The last six months have been marked by constant grief. The devastating attack by Hamas on October 7th in Israel claimed the lives of 1,163 Israelis and resulted in over 250 people being taken hostage. As of early April 2024, Israel's subsequent attacks on Gaza have killed at least 33,000 Palestinians, with thousands missing and presumed dead under the rubble.  Since October 7th, over 7,500 Palestinians from the West Bank and thousands more from Gaza, including children, have been imprisoned, many without charge or trial. Shockingly, more than 40 percent of those killed in Gaza have been children, surpassing the global count of child casualties in all other conflicts from 2019 to 2022. Countless children have been orphaned and maimed as a result.

In Gaza, hospitals, schools, universities, aid distribution centers, mosques, and churches have all been bombed and destroyed, leaving no safe space. Over 70% of homes have been damaged or destroyed, with more than 1.9 million people displaced.

Essential systems such as healthcare, water, and sanitation have collapsed, leading to preventable deaths, surgeries without anesthesia, and pregnant women giving birth in tents and without proper care. 

AFSC staff in Gaza have shared horrendous accounts of starvation used as a tool of war. Children in Gaza are starving to death. The World Health Organization predicts that up to 80,000 more lives will be lost to disease and starvation if no immediate action is taken. This crisis surpasses anything many of us have witnessed in our decades of responding to disasters worldwide.

The continued restrictions on aid access and Israel's failure to respect and protect humanitarian workers have created an environment where it is nearly impossible for organizations to provide assistance. This dire situation has pushed the Gaza population to the brink of extreme food insecurity and imminent famine. Hundreds of local and foreign aid workers have been targeted and killed, and AFSC's relief staff continue to face extreme insecurity, sharing with us that they are “still alive by chance.”

Disturbingly, instead of increasing aid provisions, major actors such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and other members of the international community have cut off or delayed funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Unproven Israeli allegations linking UNRWA employees to the October 7th attack have had severe repercussions on the welfare of the most vulnerable population the agency serves.

Immediate action is needed so that killings and suffering can end. That starts with a permanent ceasefire, the release of hostages and prisoners, and unrestricted
humanitarian access in Gaza. 

In January, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel's actions in Gaza might constitute genocide. Regrettably, Israel has taken no steps to change its behavior since this ruling, ignoring the court’s provisional measures. Western governments, especially the United States, the United Kingdom, and key European states, continue to provide arms and support to Israel. Their complicity, along with unilateral vetoes preventing repeated ceasefire resolutions at the UN Security Council, raises concerns about international commitments to multilateralism and respect for international legal frameworks. 

Finally, Western leaders must look beyond this moment and work towards achieving a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel. Violence is not limited to Gaza. More than 500 Palestinians, including more than 100 children, have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli soldiers and settlers since October 7. Settler and military violence has resulted in the complete depopulation of 16 Palestinian villages, causing fear and tension to permeate the whole population. Restricting worship and access to mosques and churches further infringes on freedom of worship and exacerbates tensions.

Over the last several years, a growing number of international human rights organizations have recognized Israel's treatment of Palestinians as meeting the legal definition of apartheid. In the face of this pervasive injustice, Quakers stand firm in our witness, as we have throughout history against racial inequality, South African apartheid, and all forms of war. 

Even in this time of violence and pain, we hold the belief that a different future, free from injustice and violence, is possible. Lasting peace and reconciliation will be realized when both past and ongoing injustices are acknowledged and addressed, ensuring freedom, dignity, equal rights, and justice for all people living in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Let us work together to make this vision a reality.

Now is the time for action. As Quakers and as peacemakers we are called to actively live into our testimonies of equality and peace. To this end, we urgently put forward these calls to action:

To the Israeli government:
1.    End attacks on Gaza, commit to a permanent ceasefire, withdraw from reoccupied areas of Gaza, and end the Gaza blockade.
2.    Cease settler and military violence in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
3.    Guarantee uninterrupted, unconditional, swift, and adequate humanitarian access in Gaza and open land crossings.
4.    Hold accountable those who have violated the law or committed human rights abuses, including settlers.
5.    Release Palestinian political prisoners and hostages and provide fair trials following international standards free from coercion, torture, and abuse.
6.    Guarantee the self-determination of Palestinians by ending its occupation of all Palestinian territory and ensure Palestinians and Israelis share equal human, political, and civil rights currently denied under Israeli Occupation. 

To Hamas and other armed Palestinian groups:
1.    Release Israeli hostages.
2.    Commit to and maintain a permanent ceasefire as a long-term, just, and sustainable peace is sought.
3.    Hold accountable those who have violated the law or committed human rights abuses. 

To Western leaders and the US and UK governments in particular:
1.    Urgently press for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and Israel.
2.    End complicity in Israeli human rights violations and exert levers of power with immediate economic and political pressure on the government of Israel, including imposing an arms embargo.
3.    Actively work to ensure uninterrupted humanitarian access in Gaza, especially through ground entry points, and commit to funding and protecting UNRWA.
4.    Hold accountable those who have violated the law or committed human rights abuses.
5.    Uphold international law, demand equal accountability for State and non-state actors, and enforce the ICJ provisions imposed on Israel.
6.    Support an end to Israel’s occupation and equal protection and rights for all.
7.    Ensure an inclusive political process for peace that incorporates all voices, perspectives, and political factions, especially those marginalized or acting as potential spoilers and those most affected by injustice and violence.

As Friends, we will continue to support the global community of Quakers to:
1.    Urgently call and fervently work for a permanent ceasefire and amplify our voices in our communities and at the local, state, and national levels.
2.    Encourage decision-makers calling for a ceasefire and working for peace.
3.    Organize and participate in teach-ins, actions, and protests until a ceasefire and a just and lasting peace are realized.
4.    Actively support an end to Israel’s occupation and equal protection and rights for all people living under Israeli control and commit to actions as meetings/churches until this reality is realized.
5.    Divest from corporations profiting from militarism, including the occupation of Palestine.
6.    Support those in Israel and Palestine who are working for peace.


American Friends Service Committee
Canadian Friends Service Committee
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Friends World Committee for Consultation
Quakers in Britain
Quaker Council on European Affairs
Quaker Peace and Social Witness 
Quaker United Nations Office

The above Quaker organizations jointly drafted this statement. We invite all Friends meetings, churches, schools, and organizations to join us in endorsing this call for peace with justice. Sign onto the statement.

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

All war is failure

I am too distressed to blog about my everyday.

All over the world millions of ordinary people can see that a ceasefire in Gaza is urgent and necessary but apart from a few exceptions - Ireland and Spain - western politicians don’t care. 

Starving Palestinians are leaving Rafah to avoid the upcoming Israeli onslaught and travelling north, only to be turned back with gunfire.

Insufficient food aid is getting into Gaza, and now the US is more interested in Iran’s attack on Israel than on the starvation and famine in Gaza.

The west is rallying around Israel after they bombed the Iranian consulate in Syria, and Iran retaliated. Apparently it is only Israel who has the right to ‘self defence.’ Every other country’s actions are ‘unprovoked attacks’ or ‘retaliation.’

I care nothing for any of these terms. 

All war is a failure, whoever is perpetrating it.

All war represents a failure of diplomacy. Tony Benn

All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal. Steinbeck

The ultimate failure of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Martin Luther King.

This is the 21st Century. You’d have hoped by now that politicians would see that instead of investing in more and more sophisticated and powerful weapons, we should be investing in diplomacy, and building bridges, not making war. It has to come to talking in the end. Why not start with talking and avoid the killing?

Friday, April 12, 2024


What I feel like doing is having a rant about Keir Starmer’s militaristic and right wing agenda, but I am sure you didn’t come here to read that, so…

Remember my last post about the six months of rain driving me bonkers and inducing me to start a crazy patchwork project by unpicking an old failed one and remaking it with new pieces?

The sun came out yesterday when I was in the middle of arranging and sewing patches and I lost interest in the whole project.

I despaired of the mess cluttering up the room where I paint 

And went out on my bike.

This morning the sun is out again and a dry day is forecast and I’ve decided to pack away the patchwork project with notes on what I had decided on the design, and get it out next winter. I fully admit I have a love-hate relationship with patchwork in that I love the colour and the design and hate the sewing. 

Having said that, I realise today that the idea of doing horizontal stripes of triangular patches doesn’t have to be repeated, and indeed, probably shouldn’t be. It was laziness that made me think I’d do it again, because it would mean less work. But who measures time and effort in a creative project? I don’t when I’m painting. 

It's not a lost hope. It took me six years to knit my fair isle hoodie - another project involving (my own) colour and design - and it got done in the end. This might well come out of the cupboard one winter time.

Now I’ve discovered painting, which is a much more direct way to play with colour and design.

And I also have my electric bike, which means that views like this are so much easier to achieve.

Oh yes.

Friday, April 05, 2024

Going bonkers

My friend Gill and I agreed yesterday that it has been raining here for six months. The Trail is too muddy to ride a bike on, you need wellies to walk over the fields, the garden is too waterlogged to dig, and I am getting fed up with indoor occupations that I love, such as painting.

Actually I think the rain has driven me a little bit bonkers. Otherwise why would I be unpicking a double bed patchwork quilt with the intention of remaking it? The quilt in question is my sunset quilt:

Actually, it was always a failure as a quilt, though as a wall hanging it might have passed muster.

But it doesn’t look like this any more because some of the colours are so faded, and also, of course, because I am unpicking it. 

Here is an example of the fade. This is the binding: it started as dark blue and is now a weird faded pinky orange:

I could have given it away to a pet shelter, I suppose, but there are some tasty bits of fabric in it that haven’t faded. And if I remake it in a new design and with new fresh pieces added, I can re-use the wadding and the back. Actually, the more I think about it the more mad the project seems. It will probably take me all summer to unpick it, if we actually have a summer. Who knows if the climate has changed for good? 

Dave meanwhile is also behaving strangely. You know I said he made me some hot cross buns for Easter as a treat? Well they were so delicious I asked him if he’d make me some more. 

Dave makes our bread and our oatcakes, even though he hates baking. And he doesn’t eat hot cross buns, but he is making me another batch.  I said it was the taste that mattered and he really didn’t need to bother about the cross on the top or the glaze, but he’s just come upstairs and asked if we have a metal nozzle because the hole in the plastic bag approach made the cross too wide last time.

“What’s going on?” I said. “I said I don’t care about the crosses.”

“I care about the crosses.”

“But why? You’re an atheist, you’re not going to eat them, and you hate baking, so why make it more of a faff than you need to?”

He then admitted that when our children were still at home and I was baker-in-chief, he was always disappointed by my hot cross buns (which in those days he ate) because I just made the cross with the knife, which meant they weren’t like the ones he had as a child. 

We don’t have a metal nozzle (a casualty of the fire that I never restocked) so I suggested he wash out the nozzle on a washing up liquid bottle, but he thought he'd never get rid of the taste of the detergent.

What do you know…he has just come upstairs to show me this:

It’s the unused nozzle from a silicon sealant dispenser tied on with a plastic tie. Let’s hope he likes the crosses this time.

And let us also hope the rain stops soon. We have a Refugee Hospitality Day in a couple of weeks and we really really need some sunshine for that. 

No, I haven’t forgotten about Gaza. 

My latest painting is entitled Spring 2024. It’s one that came straight from the gut, like this one, The Dancers

This is Spring 2024

The link for the UNICEF Gaza appeal is here 

The link for Medical Aid for Palestinians is here

Monday, April 01, 2024

Good and evil

Every morning when I wake up and read the news, the only thing I can think about is the suffering in Gaza: it really distresses me. This is not surprising - I have been thinking and blogging about Gaza off and on since December 2008. I do what’s in my power to support Palestinians, which doesn’t feel like much, but all we can do in any situation is do our best to work for the good. We can’t control the outcome.

In any case, continuing to pay attention to the situation in Gaza is better than not.

In an email yesterday a friend mentioned Gaza and said “…Gaza, which is beyond belief, and I feel is also bringing a new sense of powerlessness, resignation and callousness into the world.”

Let us not be resigned to brutality and injustice. 

Let’s do what we can to make the world a better place, but we can also remember what my friend Het said “They want us to care, not to suffer,” and also to remember the Jack Gilbert poem I’ve shared with you before, Brief for the Defence. Here’s a quote

“To make injustice the only measure of our attention is to praise the devil.” 

Lastly, here is a poem by Maggie Smith called Good Bones:

Let’s do it - let’s make this place beautiful.

UNICEF GAZA appeal link here