Thursday, 14 January 2016


Talking to my daughter first thing this morning we started discussing how people often don't understand how much work goes into a project, especially when you have to do do it all by yourself. As somebody who feels she has been holding up the world single handedly forever I agreed that nobody understands the sweat, hours, solitude, boredom, sheer bloody hell of doing what my writing friend, Leah Fleming calls, 'turning up at the page.  The terror of the computer screen, those nights when you wait for an idea to end up with sleeplessness. That morning when you know that you may have 80,000 words but as James Joyce said 'I have no idea which order they should be in.'  He was talking about a single sentence but you get the drift.
My daughter was organising a huge party at work and in typical family fashion she wanted it to be perfect and had knocked her socks off for it. This on top of her usual work.
And people won't appreciate or even see the effort and then I realised that that is the point. You don't want to watch Andy Murray practising.  What you want is the performance, not even to think how easy it was for the person involved, you want to see the shine and the polish, when it is so well done that it's a treat to watch, to listen to, to read, to view, that every polished performance is those years and years of sheer unadulterated work brought to a fine hone has nothing to do with you.
I always admired the effortless performance of Jimmy Connors, or watching McEnroe serve, seeing Stephen Hendry or Ronnie O'Sullivan making snooker look like a child's game.
It's for all of us to strive, to want to be the best, to dazzle with our brilliance or as my agent says, 'to write the book that only you can write.'
It's the only way to perfect performance though we are all very slightly short of perfection and even though we know that Shakespeare is the most brilliant writer who ever lived he didn't always get it right. i.e.  at the end of The Winter's Tale everything appears to be all jolly hockey sticks but you can't think beyond the fact that the king had his young son murdered. I know Will used other people's plots but I think if he had looked at it again, beautiful though the language is and choice the characters, the plot doesn't quite work and even if the original story ended that way he could have changed it suit himself.
Is there another way to look at this?  It's nice to know that none of us is perfect, that even Will's work could be improved or is it that, like the monks who wrote the Lindisfarne Gospels and left a deliberate mistake on each page because only God is perfect, William Shakespeare deliberately did that sometimes so that forgetting the work and sweat we would be able to say afterwards, perhaps smugly, that even Shakespeare didn't get it right all the time, that even Ronnie O'Sullican has bad days and the joy of it is when you see him on a good day. That is when you marvel and rightly so at the performance.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

When I'm old and Grey

My mother used to sing that song and I keep thinking when I get old and grey I'll move up to a remote part of Weardale, a gorgeous stone cottage and have dogs and cats and an open fire and drink lots of whisky. This was such a lovely dream except for several things.

Firstly, I would be grey if it wasn't for Julie at Saks in Durham.

Secondly I live five walking minutes away from the hospital, a mile from the fire station and just up the road from the police station. Five minutes from the train station and the bus station.

Thirdly, I don't want cats and dogs. I keep forgetting how much work they are, how much they cost and how generally fed up I would be at having to make extra plans every time I wanted to leave the house.

Fourthly, I love all the restaurants, the gala theatre, being ten minutes walk from Chiquitos and all the student productions, and the concerts and the Shakespeare, NT live.

Fifthly, I wouldn't be able to see the cathedral every day.

Sixthly I do have my caravan and go walking up in the dale and since I'm only there in the summer I feel as if I have the best everything.

After that, there isn't  a Majestic wine warehouse up there or M&S food or New Look.

I can remember being desperate to live in the city and I have a beautiful house with original fireplaces and lots of lovely stained glass. I have a gardener, a lady who sorts out the house and the window cleaner turns up once a month. The Rington's tea man would keep leaving tea by the door even after I moved because I never seem to be in when he calls.

Also I have very good neighbours.

My friends live here.  That's it. Town Girl Wins!!

ps I am writing  a series of books about Weardale!!!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Charity Begins Where?

I give to charity, I like to think freely. Over the years I've been involved in various kinds of fund raising and volunteering to help other people and I like giving, it makes me feel good to benefit other people so it isn't all one way traffic, how could that ever be but I am so tired of being besieged on television by famous actors showing me horrific scenes of children dying on cancer, dying of lack of clean water, dying of cold, hunger and poverty and abused children lying in corners.
Yesterday over about an hour and a half I got oxfam, British Red Cross, NSPCC, dogs chained up and skinny or being put out of cars and left by the side of the road.
Must I be made to feel guilty because people abuse their children and turn out their pets? The fact that we are dropping bombs on Syria ( not in my name or my MP's ) and an advert is asking me to help the children there seems such a stupid contradiction and although I have given to all of the above charities and dozens more in the past and will in the future I am so tired of watching children huddled in corners, crying and dying and the looks in their mothers' eyes.
Communication has never been so good. I have to save the planet, I know. I am giving as much as I can. I recycle, I hardly go anywhere, I walk places. I eat locally grown vegetables, locally caught fish, local butchered animals though less and less meat being now aware of the energy and food it takes to get that far though I eat lamb because I'm surrounded by farms and if I don't eat the bloody lambs half the farmers in the dale will go without.
My car runs on unleaded fuel. I give away books, clothes. I keep a lawn at the back of the house because it's better for the air than paving.
I am becoming more and more aware that the narrowness of religion has meant that contraception is unavailable to millions of women, that war which men create causes huge problems, that women in most countries have very little voice and no power and the world around me allows white middle class men to get fat and own big houses and their own jets and because there is never enough to go around they are so greedy, so proud of themselves or too stupid to think that they can only sleep in one bed, eat so much, drink so much, their insecurity causes division and yet I know that it is a silly argument in many ways. We have to make money, we have to trade, we have to let people go ahead and try to make us richer, I just want there to be a fairer way to go, that there is no corruption in the churches and in the industries and that people will be employed because of the ability they have and not because of their background, their colour, their gender or the way that they speak.
Power without morals is corrupt and causes huge problems and I will not solve them by donating three pounds for a hat and gloves to a child in Syria though I have already given such a thousand times.
I am sponsoring a guide dog so that a blind person in my area can take a job. That's what I like, an object, a future of some kind for somebody who  needs this help. My guide dog's name is Goldie. It will take two years and £30,000 before she is ready to stop somebody stepping off a curb and being run down by a motorist because the disabled person can't see or can't hear or can't understand.
I  have given extensively to Water Aid, which is my favourite charity because if you have no clean water it doesn't really matter what you do have.
I give to people who live on the streets in Durham. I give to the old man who limps and plays the penny whistle so beautifully in the town. I haven't seen him in ages. Perhaps he died. I miss him.
I give to the accordionist who plays on Framwellgate Bridge because he can't play and was mocked by local young idiots. I wanted to smash their teeth in so I helped him.
I give to Christian Aid and the British Red Cross and Help the Heroes but I know that I cannot save the whole planet and I do wish that people would leave me my choices, impossible though they are, between hunger, pain, abuse and neglect. I am doing what I can and almost everyone I know does the same and we can do without the adverts on  television. They would do better to give that money directly to those who need it. We can all do without any more guilt, we feel bad enough as it is.