A beautiful day for walking. Green hillsides, bracken, heather and a vociferous sheep calling the rest of her flock. Obediently, they follow in single file.

Late afternoon in the garden and the midges are curious. One lands on my sketch of the landscape. I brush it away with the side of my hand, catching it too heavily. Stuck to the top of the page it could be a buzzard stopped in mid-circle above the sheep, the heather, the grass.

DO SOMETHING with a sketchbook.




What do you do when you’re travelling to a writing retreat and are obliged to do something with chains?  You find a swing, clutch the chains and soar into the air. That was my intention when I pulled the activity out of the vase. Except when I got to my destination the chains had gone and now there were ropes with a couple of links fixing them to the frame. Deconstructed chain, then. With rope.



And it came to pass that on the third day of her self-infliction Roberta considered cheating. Thus, George Fox and the mirror came to mind. Not at the same time. Roberta is fairly certain that GF and mirrors were things of rare coincidence unless mentioned in conjunction with clanging cymbals.

George Fox journalled, ‘I was under great temptations sometimes, and my inward sufferings were heavy’.  Doing sums isn’t Roberta’s forte but even she can manage this one. Cheating = Heavy Inward Sufferings.

And Roberta said unto herself, look about you. And her eyes lighted on a mirror, a mirror that has caused her many times to wish it elsewhere except for the beauty of its walnut and usefulness of its two small drawers wherein tooth floss and matches dwell.  But its capacity for catching and throwing back images she could do without.  

And thus, she sacrificed a scarf. The one she bought from a charity shop for a reason she can’t remember. Its pink clashes with the room’s lilac curtains and red towels but its drape is opaque and doesn’t interfere with the drawers’ usefulness.

Verily, nobody needs a mirror opposite the bath.



‘Do you want anything doing with a hammer?’

The dog-walker in the lane looked surprised, ‘No thanks, I’ve got a new fridge freezer coming this afternoon.’

Fair enough, not everyone’s comfortable with a hammer-happy granny. When I got home, I couldn’t find the sledgehammer so had to use a toffee-hammer to tap the plastic drainpipes back over their grids. It was probably the better option.


David is a brilliant gardener. He turns up when he feels the garden is ready for him and wields his strimmer and mower with terrifying speed and efficiency. If I catch him in time, I indicate with a sweep of my arm that the primroses planted under the apple tree need a gentle mow. To somebody as profoundly deaf as David a sweeping arm also means, ‘Please strim under the apple tree until the earth flies.’

This afternoon I hammered holes into the building rubble left by the house’s previous owner (he’d covered it in grass and called it a ‘lawn’). Then I slotted canes into the holes and leant them against the apple tree in a teepee kind of arrangement. Finishing off my anti-strim defence is a dangling sign – ‘Primroses sleeping’.  David might pause long enough to read it.



Let’s blame George Mahood. I’ve just finished reading several of his self-published books which I enjoyed greatly. Not only were they enjoyable but inspirational too, especially ‘Life’s a Beach’ which reminded me that the more you pack into a day, the fuller life becomes. Wisdom might come with age but so does apathy. It’s become far too easy to slump into my armchair after lunch and stay there.

It can’t go on. Every afternoon I need to DO SOMETHING. Whatever it is doesn’t have to be extraordinary but it does have to have scope for creativity and surprise. And to get a few of those I’ll-get-round-to-that-one-day jobs done. Okay, the things I’ve come up with might appear boring – but it will be my response to ‘Do something with a stepladder’ that matters. Perhaps I won’t do that one on a vertigo day.

So here we are, Day 1. What did I do? Well, I wrote this blog and I scribbled actions on 36 pieces of paper ready to pull one of them out of a hat (well, a vase) tomorrow. What excitement!

The Ego and I


So you’ve become a blogger?


On a sliding scale of 1 to 10 where do you place yourself on the narcissism spectrum?


Not got much to say for yourself, have you?


Is inarticulacy an adequate attribute for a blogger?

“Probably not.”

Ego raises its eyebrow.





Powered by words


I need to write to you, John-Paul Flintoff. I need to type you into the fabric of the last two weeks. I need to tell you this:

I dislike sewing and for over a decade my machine has lived with my daughter two hundred miles away making everyone happy. Then I find your book in the Quaker library: ‘Sew Your Own – being one man’s attempt to survive economic meltdown, tackle climate change and find the meaning of life, by making his own clothes’. It’s a great book – funny, thoughtful, inspiring – and I love your chapter headings:

‘13: A DEPRESSING CHAPTER, in which the author gets worried about peak oil, mass starvation and suchlike;

‘24: UNDERPANTS, and a lament on their declining quality;

‘25: MAKE DO AND MEND, the author buys a treadle-powered sewing machine, guaranteed to work even when the lights go out’.

That was the one. Chapter 25. It had me scouring Ebay, putting in a winning bid and doing a 172 mile round trip to pick up a Treadle Singer (not terribly eco-friendly but I reckon it was worth it). When I say ‘pick up’ I mean it was the extremely kind and helpful sellers who put it in the back of my car. And my cousin and her husband who offloaded it. There are some things a 5’ 1” woman of a certain age can’t tackle.

That was just the start. In the past week you’ve inspired me to learn the intricacies of treadling, to take up scissors again, to MAKE A SKIRT! Emboldened by this DIY mania, I mended my garden seat with four lengths of chain and my late husband’s socket set. I laid a timed watering system to the veg plot for holiday periods. I tackled rats. Not in the same way as you, I didn’t wriggle under floorboards with traps. But I did move the rats’ habitat – my compost bin – to the other side of the garden where it now stands empty-bellied and filling a gap in my almost-rabbit-proof fence.

Some things still have me beat. What makes those one inch diameter tunnels in my border? Rats, adders, voles? Best just to weed around them and put their existence to the back of my mind. Like I did with the mouse who scuttled behind the shed (but not the dead one inside the watering can’s spout).

So I’ve done what you said. I’ve gone a little bit further towards a more sustainable world. I’ve sourced an organic fabric company in Machynlleth who do Fair-trade. I’ve got plans for yoga pants. But mainly, John-Paul Flintoff, I’ve had so much fun!



Grumpy Monday

I often sign petitions on the internet, all of them attempting to counteract injustice. I study the latest outrage and I sign. Immediately my inbox pings with a thank-you email requesting – or demanding – that I ‘share’ my participation with Facebook/ Twitter/other friends.

Similar stuff is circulated on Facebook, stuff like ‘If you think children shouldn’t be abused, share this post.’ Or, ‘If you love your granddaughter, share this…’ Or ‘If you’ve lost someone to cancer, share…’.

Do you remember chain letters back in the days of twice-a-day postal deliveries? ‘Send this letter to ten of your friends. If you don’t the world will end.’

This blog post isn’t a condemnation of conformism or a celebration of individualism. But really…

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it was the hysterectomy way back when. Maybe it’s because for the last seven years I’ve been living alone. Maybe it’s because I’ve become a Quaker and have learned to make up my own mind. Whatever. These demands to ‘share’ make me want to shout very loudly, ‘Please Do Not Tell Me What To Do!’.

There, I’ve said it.

Even though the petitions are full of good intentions, even though I love my granddaughter, even though I lost my husband to cancer.

I do not need to be told what to do.



The power of a name

The act of writing thoughts down can do peculiar things. One might wander off and get itself into bother. Another might fall into bad company and never come home again. Some make you shiver. They’re the ones screaming and shouting, ‘Don’t write about me!’ because they’re afraid of fate.

I wanted to tell you some thoughts I had this morning. About the man and his German Shepherd who stepped into a hedge to let me drive past. About squirrels and chaffinches and primroses. About the hummock above the village where I always stop the car so I can pick out familiar houses, including my own.

I wanted to start by saying, ‘A drive to the doctor’s used to mean traffic lights and roundabouts and slow-moving buses. But now it means crossing Hope Mountain…’.

You see what the thought did when I wrote it down.