Friday, May 31, 2024

I have only this heart

I am back in that dark place of shocked and tortured incredulity that the world can stand by while a so-called civilised country, a country regarded by the western world as an ally, can commit genocide.

And more than that, that a nation we live in - and our allies - can continue to supply the weapons to do it.

What kind of a world do we live in?

Please don't forget Gaza.

Please protest to all parliamentary candidates wanting your vote.
You can check how they’ve voted on Gaza here:

Please boycott Israeli goods. There is an app called No Thanks, which scans barcodes to tell you the origin of a product.

Please continue to support charities helping Palestinians.

UNICEF Gaza appeal

Medical Aid for Palestinians.


Wednesday, May 29, 2024


One month from today I shall be exhibiting and selling my paintings and cards in the Bonsall Art Trail. It's to be held in the Peak District village of Bonsall. The exhibits will be in homes, halls and marquees.

There are all kinds of things to see and do as well as looking at the art and crafts. There'll be workshops and demonstrations, competitions, music, and street food.

You'll find the car park and the hop-on hop-off bus at the top of the village as you approach from the north. 

I will be in the Anglican church - do come and see me! How amazing it would be to meet blog readers I have never met before.

Unless they’ve been sold before, the paintings on sale will include these…

Monday, May 27, 2024


There is something entrancing about toddlers. 

Yesterday afternoon our youngest granddaughter, MsX, came to visit.

She is 18 months old and learning several new words everyday. This is amazing to me, as her father - the family member who declines to be named - didn’t begin to speak until he was two. Once he was five he was pontificating like his father.

But it’s not just MsX’s rapid language acquisition that’s bewitching, it’s her focused interest and delight and concentration while playing. And playing with her is to escape from the world out there at the same time as digging deep into the present, the immediate. You really do live in the moment with toddlers and it’s so refreshing. I love spending time with all our grandchildren but it’s been ten years since we’ve had such a little one in the family, and it’s such a treat in these dark dark times - times when “civilised” countries can aid and abet a genocide.

MsX was on holiday at Easter and went for her first solo paddle, and I liked the photo her parents took of her so much that I painted it.

Meanwhile in Gaza, children are traumatised, injured, orphaned and starving.

Please don’t forget them.

You can donate to the UNICEF Gaza appeal here:


Friday, May 24, 2024

Radio silence

 All I will say about the election is this: I am sure we have already all made up our minds who we are going to vote for, so can we have radio silence from politicians for six weeks, and then vote?

And a propos of nothing…

Here is my latest painting:

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Poor toad

 I have a vivid memory of my father asking me to cut the bluebells back in his garden. I didn’t use sheers, I pulled the dead stems - which came out easily - and some of the leaves came off too. He was furious and said they wouldn’t grown as well the next year.

We have too many bluebells in our garden. They get everywhere. And every year when they’ve finished flowering I pull them out. And every year there are even more bluebells than the year before, and this is despite my throwing out the bulbs that I find when I’m digging. 

Yesterday I thought I’d use sheers to do the job, and it was going well. But something snagged, and a wounded a toad crawled out.

It was bleeding on the shoulder, and crawled away, and I was really sad. If I had pulled instead of cut, I wouldn’t have hurt the toad.

It made me think if this poem by Philip Larkin.

Friday, May 17, 2024


For some reason, the night before I came home from Belgium I managed only 5 hours of sleep, so I was pretty wrecked when Pete dropped me off at Genval station to catch the 8.28 to Brussels and the Eurostar.

I had plumped for a train half an hour earlier than was strictly necessary as I like to be early, and safe. This meant that when the train was suddenly cancelled I waited calmly for the subsequent one 30 minutes later. But that one did not arrive either and I panicked. I rang Pete, who fortunately was at home, and asked him to collect me and drive me into Brussels. This meant a nail biting drive through rush hour traffic and I arrived at the Eurostar just before the cut off time. (As with air travel, you have to be checked in and go through border control well ahead of departure time.)

So I slumped in a seat in the dark crowded waiting area to recover, longing for a mug of sugared tea to help me recover, but it’s an inhospitable space and there are no refreshments. 

Art nouveau piece at a museum we visited in Brussels 

My sister texted to ask what Pete and I had got up to, and I texted back - “I’ll tell you later too stressed now sorry.” I needed tea. Any tea. It didn’t have to be Yorkshire tea, it could be any old lily livered pathetic tea. Even PG Tips. Even Liptons. Well, perhaps not Liptons.

And then the Eurostar was late departing. By the time I was in my seat on the train I was utterly wrecked.

Sitting beside me, next to the aisle, was a friendly young Belgian woman who had just completed her PhD in sustainable architecture at Newcastle Uni. We had an interesting chat and then as the train set off, she opened her laptop to work. 

They don’t bring refreshments down the aisle on the Eurostar: you have to make your way up the train and fetch them. I was still feeling old and wrecked and I thought - I wonder what my companion would say if I said “If you fetch me a cuppa I’ll treat you to whatever you want.” 

Yes. I know. Ridiculous. What am I? 103?

I wondered if talking to my neighbour intelligently about her work made me seem more alive and younger than I felt.

Het recently told me about a 90 year old woman she met on a train who had just come back from New Zealand via Jedda, on her own. That is one feisty woman, and I am a pathetic creature by comparison.

I sat on the Eurostar looking out of the window and thinking…if I looked seriously decrepit and walked with a stick, I could probably ask my neighbour to fetch me a cuppa. I turned round and she’d upped and gone, and a few minutes later was back with a coke. Hey ho.

If I’d been next to the aisle I’d have gone myself: it was that extra effort of asking her to move and hauling myself out of the window seat that was just too much.

I tell you this pathetic stuff because it’s the dark side of being 74 and a half and being me.

A friend told me yesterday I was an inspiration, but if everyone knew what went on in my head they would see me for the feeble creature I really am. Plus…I don’t like travelling on my own.

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Staying with Pete

 I have been staying with my brother Pete 

at his home in Belgium, in the town of Genval, which has a very pretty lake

and is within a few miles of the Chateau de la Hulpe, which is set in huge and beautiful grounds open free to the public. The trees are magnificent and at this time of year, breathtakingly beautiful. Strangely, I only took pictures worth sharing of ferns.

And of one of the lakes

We walked and talked and watched favourite old films, and had all but one of our meals outside - bliss. And we sat side by side in his excellent studio and tried different approaches to the same subject. Pete intends to paint a large picture in oils and this is his preparatory sketch.

I wanted to experiment with my oil pastels:

That road needs some adjustment.

When he picked me up from the Brussels Eurostar station on Friday evening Pete had driven me straight to a huge art shop where I could have spent a whole day, as well as a fortune. I splurged on oil pastels.

I love the rich colours, and they are so compact and portable so I can take them on my holidays. 

Through Pete’s studio window he can see his bird tables, which get a huge variety of visitors, including a daily visit from red squirrels. What a delight! 

When I was staying in Cornwall in February with Het I sent some of my photos to Pete, and he showed me a very large oil painting he’d done of one of them, which hangs in his sitting room:

Pete has been painting (not for a living) for 40 years. Maybe in 40 years I’ll be as good. 

It was a lovely break and a welcome change, and now I am home, sitting in bed glancing up at the beautiful trees I can see through the window,

feeling lucky, and fretting about the suffering in Gaza.

Please don’t forget Gaza.

You can donate to Medical Aid for Palestinians here

And to the UNICEF appeal for Gaza here

Friday, May 10, 2024


Tuesday, May 07, 2024

Red or blue?

Every morning I look online at the front pages of all the newspapers, and while the majority of them have serious stories, the Daily Star always has something that makes me laugh. And I love it’s irreverence.

This morning this was it:

In that vein, please tolerate the following post - which I have delayed writing on account of its triviality, when there is a genocide currently being tolerated by the West, and which rarely leaves my mind.


I needed a new coat, a raincoat, as I live in England. I have had the same one - made by Seasalt - for nine years. It is a beautiful soft turquoise colour that really suits me, and I bought it because of the colour, not because I was looking for a coat at the time. But it was a terrific buy and is still 100% waterproof. The trouble is that the cuffs and edges are looking shabby. The fact that a man on a galloping horse wouldn’t notice this has kept me from replacing the coat. Regular readers know by now that I LOVE clothes but am beset by a Quaker bent towards simplicity and frugality. Also, my clothes budget is small.

I am going to see my brother Pete in Belgium for a long weekend and we will be spending a day in Brussels while I’m there, so I felt that it was time, finally, to buy a new coat. I could waltz down the Eurostar platform towards him looking chic and feel fully confident in the Grand Place.

Amazingly, our small town of Bakewell, which has lost all its useful shops except a supermarket and a cobbler, does have a branch of Seasalt. So I popped in on Sunday after Meeting to buy a new coat. Why would I want anything but Seasalt when they make such colourful coats that are 100% waterproof and last for years?

Another side to this story is that after years and years of having a wardrobe full of blue and turquoise clothes I have been yearning to wear bright red. I used to wear it a lot when my hair was brown. I even had a bright red coat when I was 40. And I still have a bright red Biba dress in the back of the wardrobe.

I immediately found the coat I wanted, but… which colour should I have? Bright red, because it’s different and because it’s fun? or the classy Prussian blue that I would normally go for because I love the colour and because it suits me so well?

When you have been wearing variations of the same colour for twenty years it feels exciting but risky to make a change. I had in my mind that THIS coat would also have to last me nine years, though Dave said yesterday “Nine years? We’ll be dead in five! We won’t make 80!” But you know Dave.

The lovely assistant took a photo of me in each so that I could text Het and my daughter Z. Neither responded. Hey ho. I took the red and went to the counter and asked the assistant if she could save the blue till the next day in case I changed my mind, and she said yes.

By the time I had left the shop and was packing the coat into my bike pannier I had two texts. 

Het said “I like you in ❤️”. 

Z said “Either.” Then she said “Blue is classier.” I texted back “Blue is classier and a very nice blue but I thought the red was more fun” and she responded “My thoughts exactly.”

When I got home Dave said “Why didn’t you ask me?”

“Maybe because you don’t have a mobile phone and because you’re colour blind?”

I didn’t say “because you have zero fashion sense,” because that would have been mean and also it would have led to him saying he had a fine sense of style and didn’t I remember his tartan tam o shanter when we were students, and I would have said yes, precisely, that tam o shanter was DREADFUL.

I was still dithering over the colour however so I emailed Pete. He said “the blue is more discreet and the red is really classy, a gorgeous red.”

So, friends, what do you think?

Thursday, May 02, 2024

At last!

 It’s here! It’s come! It’s finally arrived!

The leaves on the lime trees across the road are out  - at last - and our copper beeches are following suit.

It’s warm enough for my sweet peas to be moved from the bedroom windowsill to the cold frame. I have a clear view again. Hooray!

Yesterday it was warm enough for me to eat my tea outside, and the day before I had to take off my jumper on a bike ride. 

Even our bluebells are out.

I don’t even care that something in the shed has eaten all my cosmos and marigold seedlings. I shall sow good old dependable nasturtiums in the front garden and to hell with my colour scheme.

It was the longest winter of my life and at last, at last, it’s over. Thank God.